Things I’m loving at the moment

Lama Cushion
The White Company Beaumont Four Poster Bed
Padded Cloud Wall Art
Juno Scandi Dresser & Changer – Natural Oak & White
Distressed Metal Shelf Unit
Rattan Butlers Tray
Timsbury Velvet Mustard Sofa
Iron Window Mirror
New Trapeze Chandelier
Long Ear Hook
Easton Baskets
Chambray Towel
Stamford Single Bed

My life cleanse and why I don’t need things to make me happy

This may sound ridiculous, but living in the caravan has been up there with one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Seriously. But I have also learn’t so much about myself that I don’t think I would have otherwise. It was small, oppressive, cramped, depressing, boiling hot or freezing cold, uncomfortable, stuffy and no matter how much I cleaned it, it was never to my standards! We had to be super organised, tidy and mindful of keeping anything we didn’t use or need. Otherwise it’d be in the way. But in the last 12 months or so I feel like I have had an epiphany and I feel quite liberated!

I would never in my wildest dreams (or should I say nightmares), imagine living in a caravan with our children. It’s not how I would have ever planned or pictured family life. I imagined us all sat round a big kitchen table, in a nice country kitchen surrounded by lots of nice things. Not Luke’s makeshift table (made out of up cycled scaffolding), our food stored in plastic boxes, just one plate and bowl each and several blow heaters or fans.

I remember being pregnant with Wilf and trying to explain to the midwife that we lived in a caravan and that it was only temporary. I was so worried she’d think we’d be incapable of looking after our baby properly in such a small space. I’m pretty sure this wasn’t what she thought at all, and seemed more concerned about me and my health and where my permanent residence was! I guess you could live in the most incredible house in the world but be the worst parent ever. Both my children are well loved, healthy and happy, and the caravan is nothing to do with this. That’s because of us.

If I ask Arthur now ‘did you like living in the caravan?’ his answer is yes! So for me, that says it all. We’ve had some fun times in there, including his 2nd birthday when we successfully fitted most of the family in the lounge and even Father Christmas managed to visit! Arthur’s had all he’s ever wanted and needed in there, (including lots of love), so whether we lived in a house or a caravan. It doesn’t matter. As long as your children are safe, happy and loved. That’s all that’s important.

It’s not ‘things’ that make us happy. Okay. Obvious isn’t it?! But it’s so easy to get caught up and carried away buying things we don’t need that give you that temporary high. That excitement when you press ‘add to basket’ and ‘checkout.’ Don’t get me wrong, I’m every marketers dream, I’m the first in the queue, the sucker buying something I don’t really need but must have because of the nice packaging. But you’ll soon forget that new jumper, put it to the back of the wardrobe and then buy another one. And if you’re anything like me it’ll be the same one in a slightly different colour that only you’d know is ever so slightly different because of the way the sleeve is cut or the detail on the hem!

When we packed up our old house I knew how many clothes and ‘stuff’ I had, but I didn’t really think much of it. I never once thought ‘do I really need all of these things?’ But living in the caravan I wasn’t able to have even a quarter of my possessions with me. I had to seriously downsize my wardrobe, my toiletries, handbags, scarfs… you get the gist. I was so worried how I’d cope, how could I possibly survive without all these things? But I had no choice! I guess I also had other priorities. I had to ensure Arthur had everything he needed. Space was limited, so I wanted to make sure any space we did have was for the essentials that we really couldn’t live without. Then I got pregnant and we’d need to make even more room for baby paraphernalia.

So what about all the clothes and ‘stuff’ that’s been stored away? Well it’s just been sat there, unused, and the majority of it I’ve completely forgotten about and I haven’t missed it at all. Moving into the house I’ve now started to unpack a lot of these boxes and realised I just don’t need it. I can’t possibly wear all the clothes I have. So I have packed up all of the unwanted, duplicates (sometimes quadruples) and taken them to a local shop, Exchange and Smart, that sells your clothes on your behalf. They get 50% from the sale which I thought was quite a lot, but it takes out the hassle doing it yourself. It also prevents me from changing my mind about things! I’m terrible for making excuses to keep things and holding onto things because of an emotional attachment like the top I wore on my first date with Luke (15 years ago) or a jumper my mum gave me (that never fit) but it reminds me of that day she gave it to me. Neither of which I will probably ever wear, but just keep, because. If I take it somewhere, its not so easy to take it back! I did start to photograph a lot myself and sell it, but I just haven’t got the time, and there’s so much! Anything the shop doesn’t want I’m going to take to a car boot next spring alongside all the other things I’ve cleared out that we don’t need or use. Then this can go towards something we do need.

At the moment we’ve got two temporary enormous freestanding rails. My clothes still over spill both these rails. So I set myself a challenge that I could only have one rail for all my clothes. I still have a lot to get rid of, but I’m pretty proud of myself so far. I’m trying to completely change my mindset. If I buy something new, something existing has to go.

I have so much storage, baskets and nice boxes which I’ve bought over time (to store all the things I don’t need). Ridiculous isn’t it?!

Whilst we’ve been living in the house and using the caravan to cook and eat we’ve left a lot of toys in there so that Arthur and Wilf can play whilst we cook. So, packing up the caravan to completely move out this week (ready for it to go once and for all). I’ve also realised how many toys we have. And I didn’t think we had that much as we’ve not had the room… I limited the toys to two large storage bags and a large storage chest. But over time the toys just kept creeping their way in. Arthur plays with the same toys over and over, and gets bored very quickly. He forgets what he has unless I pull it out and put it in front of him, so I am going to start periodically rotating his toys, making sure he plays with everything he’s got.

According to the British Toy and Hobby Association and NPD Group, the average UK child aged nine or under received £350 worth of toys last year (2016). And major toy buying doesn’t just happen at Christmas apparently. The UK trend of year-round toy buying is said to be ‘relatively unique’ in comparison to the continent. I feel a bit embarrassed about this. Why are we buying our children so many toys for no real reason? Is it necessary? Arthur is perfectly happy with a cardboard box, and Wilf loves hair bobbles and coat hangers!

One thing that is really important to me, that I feel my parents instilled into me and my sisters, was to ensure we understood the value of money and we weren’t spoilt. We had a comfortable childhood, nice holidays and never really wanted for much. Something I feel very fortunate for. But, we certainly weren’t spoilt and never had pocket money. We had to go out and earn our own money if we wanted things and I had a Saturday job by the age of 12. I want to pass this approach and mindset on to my children. And one thing I’ve decided I’m going to do is ensure my children don’t just get toys or treats whenever they want. Arthur has already started to say ‘I want that mummy’ when he sees something on the television. He’s only 3! So, from now on, anymore toys he has he’s got to choose a toy he already has to replace it with, and we will give the old one to a charity for children less fortunate than him. I want him to understand he is fortunate, but there are others that aren’t.

This epiphany has got me thinking, and reading! I came across this article about Minimalist Living, which is all about living with less. The benefits of minimalist living includes less financial burdens, such as debt and unnecessary expenses, and most importantly happiness. I really like this approach. I feel like we’ve all started to lose our way with buying unnecessary things and cluttering up our homes, cupboards or sheds, and we’re passing this way of living – frivolous spending and ‘treating’ our children to the new ‘in’ toy to the next generation. This over consumption is contributing to damaging our planet too. I think it’s also costing us our happiness. We put so much pressure on ourselves to have the next big thing, often the ‘thing’ we can’t afford, don’t need or even have anywhere to put it.

I am not ashamed to say that I have got myself into unnecessary debt when I was younger (and had little or no responsibilities), to buy clothes, shoes and handbags and other things, that I didn’t really need. And looking back I feel really stupid. ‘That dress’ I had to have, well I probably wore it once for a few hours, it’s been put in a dust bag and never seen the light of day again. How awful is that?! Then I struggle to part with it because it’s so expensive and I might need it again one day.

Don’t get me wrong, getting rid of stuff isn’t easy. That’s probably why I have so much stuff! But the caravan has really helped me as I’ve had no other choice than to try and live with minimal items. Without really trying too hard, I’ve had to change my mindset. Having lived in the caravan now I know I can live without these unnecessary things, and forget about it if it’s not important. It’s almost been forced on me with no choice, but it’s made me so grateful of what I do have and appreciate things more. I don’t think you can possibly enjoy something if you have lots of it.

I still haven’t got the answer to how many pairs of jeans, bras or fluffy jumpers I need, but I do know there are only 7 days in a week, so unless I wear 20 pairs of knickers and 32 bras all at once… then when will I wear them all?

There are professionals who can do the leg work and deciding for you, one of those is actually a friend of mine, Rachel, aka the Declutter Darling, who specialises in decluttering your life! She’s got some impressive A list clients who she’s helped organise and declutter homes for. She is also a strong advocate for the Marie Kondo way, a Japanese art of decluttering. This will honestly revolutionise the way you tidy!

Advice from the Minamilist article is ‘look at a possession. Pick something. Anything. Have you used that item in the last 90 days? If you haven’t, will you use it in the next 90? If not, then it’s okay to let go.’

I know I’m not saying anything radical here, but I can honestly say that since shifting my way of thinking. Making myself get rid of stuff I don’t need or use has almost lifted a weight off my shoulders. I feel like it’s also cleared not just my bedroom drawers, but almost my mind. It’s quite liberating. It also makes your house a lot easier to keep clean and tidy!

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Tough times don’t last, but tough people do…

“Tough times don’t last. Tough people do” Unknown Author

I’m sure (and hope) I’m not alone here, I’m talking about when you go through those periods when everything just seems like such a struggle and you just can’t see any end in sight. To anything. Well I’ve recently been going through this!

Everything feels like an uphill battle and I feel like I can’t make any clear or final decisions and start doubting everything. Even what to have for breakfast! And for me a big part of this is living in such a mess, with absolutely no order. For someone that likes order and everything in its place… that’s me! I’m one of those people that arrives somewhere to stay and can’t do anything until I’ve unpacked, hung up my clothes, put out my toothbrush, toiletries and ensured things are where they should be. Yep, that is me.

I feel a bit as if there’s an expectation to have your s%^t together these days. Or is that just me?! I feel it’s my duty, and my job as a parent, that I have to be ok and look like everything’s alright (even if our morning has been like world war 2 trying to get Arthur to brush his teeth and I couldn’t find my knickers because they’re in a box somewhere amongst the pile of clothes and other stuff in our bedroom that looks like it’s been burgaled.) No one wants to hear about your awful morning or why you’re late. But sometimes I think when you’re trying to keep it all together it makes things feel worse.

Our way of life for the past 3 years has been somewhat of a challenge. Our lives have, and a lot of it still is, in boxes. I have completely and utterly surprised myself though, I mean I never for one second thought I could live in a caravan. But I did! Don’t get me wrong though, it’s not been easy. And I’m feeling fed up.

We are so close now to having the cottage fully live-able, we are sleeping in there, the main family bathroom is functional (however it’s not finished!) but we’ve still got no kitchen/ living area, downstairs toilet, utility room, ensuite or anywhere in our bedroom to store our clothes (apart from two humongous free standing rails.) The bedroom looks a little like we’ve been burgled. That’s another blog on how I am currently going through a life cleanse and throwing out all clutter, including half my wardrobe.

I feel like our life has been in limbo for so long… practically the whole of Arthur’s life (he is now 3!) and so far all of Wilf’s. I didn’t plan this in my head. It wasn’t how I thought things would be.

I remember thinking when I found out I was pregnant again with Wilf, how I couldn’t wait to enjoy my maternity leave in our new home, having all of his things in one place, and lots of time to dress it and make it just how I wanted it. I felt like I had a difficult time when Arthur was born, we were packing up our old house, moving in with my parents (which you’d think would have been easy with grandparents on tap), it wasn’t. Living back at your parents as a proper grown up with your own family, is hard. My mum was poorly too, which made things all the more difficult and upsetting. Then when we decided to rent, it was just another upheaval that at first was a welcome relief to have our own space, but then the house sold, so that’s when we had our bright idea to buy a static and live on site during the renovation of the cottage.

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This meant my entire pregnancy with Wilf and up until very recently were spent living in the caravan, through two heatwaves and a freezing cold winter complete with some serious snow, not to mention a few storms when I actually lay awake at night convinced the roof was going to blow off or imagining the caravan being swept away (with us in it) and landing in a field! Luckily we are all still here to tell the tale, albeit a few of my beloved coats that were discovered to have mould on them from damp in the caravan over the winter.

I should look back on these times now and be thankful they are over. And yes I am, but now I feel like we have new trials and tribulations to face. I haven’t yet completely managed to rid ourselves of ‘that’ caravan, we are still cooking and eating in it. I’m sure we could manage if we didn’t have small children, but preparing their meals and milk etc requires a working kitchen! Wilf is also weaning now so I’m trying to save our new cream carpet. The kitchen/living area has no flooring down so with a little one on the move, it’s just not safe (or comfortable) to be eating in right now.

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Over the weekend, I went to visit my 100 year old nan (very nearly 101!) who always asks about everything that’s going on in my life, including the house. She is one of the most grateful people I know, (alongside both my children) which is something I absolutely adore and admire about the innocence of children! My nan has lived through two world wars, losing the father of her child (my dad) at war before my dad was born, a few recessions and probably seen things in her lifetime we can’t even begin to imagine, and she is so optimistic. Nothing seems to phase her.

I pulled out some clean clothes for her when I visited and helped her into them. She was admiring the jumper I said I was going to dress her in, and she just kept saying how wonderful it was; the quality and the colour. She thought I had just bought it for her, I didn’t have the heart to tell her the clothes were hers already. But it made me think how I have never heard her say ‘I don’t like that’ or ‘I’m not sure about that’ or ‘isn’t there something else I could wear’. She is more than happy with whatever she is given. Completely content. She doesn’t complain. She just gets on with it.

I’m in complete awe of her, as I only wish I could be this grateful and content with life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not unhappy, I’m not ungrateful with my life. Not at all. I am so fortunate for what I have, and know it’s more than most. Just sometimes I need to step back and remind myself how lucky I really am.

My nan kept saying to me at the weekend, ‘aren’t you lucky you have your own home though’ after she’d asked me how it was coming along and I’d replied to say ‘slowly, and feeling a bit fed up’. We are so lucky, whether it has a kitchen or not, it’s somewhere we are fortunate enough to be able to call our home. So thank you nanny for reminding me of that.

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Recently, I also lost my mum, as you can imagine it’s been a very difficult time and I feel like it’s only very recently starting to sink in that’s she’s not here. That I’ll never see her again and I can’t just pick up the phone to her or pop and see her. I saw her most days. I don’t think you can always account for how much your emotions can exhaust you. Dealing with something like the death of a loved one, in my case, my mum, is, hands down one the hardest most life changing things I’ve ever had to face. They say it gets easier or you learn to live with it, but right now, I can’t see that.

A lot of the decisions and reasons for buying this house is because of my mum (and dad.) The village we live in has always been somewhere we’ve wanted to buy in, and a big factor in that is because of how close my parents live to the village (about 5 minutes away). We keep our horses and (used to) keep our pig, Bazz there (sadly he also recently died). So just popping to see to the horses and visit my parents was easier than ever before. Now things feel very unfair, mum isn’t just down the road anymore. She was also my go to with the house. I have said in a couple of my Instagram posts about how my mum often advised and heavily influenced a lot of my interior choices, and knew all the best brands to buy.

I’m sad she’ll never see the progress with the house now. We had just made the main family bathroom functional before she died, so she at least got to see that. I sent her photos of the boys having their first bath in the cottage which I’m sure she loved seeing. I just wish I could send her photos of all the other adventures we’ll have in the house.

I know we’ll finish the house. People tell you how hard a renovation is. Most people say they’d never do it again. Then people ask why you did that or you should have done it like this. Well it’s not your house! Then people ask why you bought that now rather than do something they see as more important. It’s us that lives here, surely it’s our choice what we do and when. People also constantly say how lovely it’ll be when it’s all finished. I know that. But there’s times when you just don’t see this. And this is one of them.

But I thank my Nan for bringing me back down to earth and reminding me that yes, I am so lucky to have my own home and such a beautiful family. And I know she’s not here, but I know my mum is watching over us and can see the progress on the house. She’d also probably tell me to stop being silly and that everything will be ok, ‘it won’t be long’. Even though she’s not here to ask, I feel like my choices I make now on the house are still heavily influenced by her and in a way she’s part of our journey to finishing Our Pink Project. I hope so anyway. I don’t feel very tough at the moment. Far from it in fact. Living in chaos doesn’t suit me. But hopefully I won’t feel like this for much longer and normal service will resume.

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Last week we all took a very welcomed break to Cornwall. To be honest, very unlike me who could quite happily holiday every month of the year, I wasn’t keen to go away at all this year. We’re nearing the end of the renovation works (well sort of), boxes are everywhere, I haven’t seen our suitcases for about 12 months and god knows where my bikinis are (priorities and all!) so a holiday was the last thing I felt like doing.

Everything’s been feeling a bit of an effort at the moment, with things everywhere and two small children, I’ve been feeling a bit sorry for myself. The caravan isn’t all that bad in the grand scheme of things, it’s kept us all with a roof over our heads which I know is more than those less fortunate can say, but it has started to get me down. It can all feel a bit oppressive in there, cramped, freezing in winter and an oven in summer. I also hate the disorganisation of everything. Paperwork is everywhere, and clothes are bursting out of every cupboard. But, I put my big girl pants on, and embraced our first foursome family holiday, minus the bikini, and agreed to go along.

And we couldn’t have picked a better week! The week the UK was experiencing the start of an extreme heatwave with temperatures in the 30’s. Cornwall felt like we were somewhere tropical. I love Cornwall whatever the weather. We’ve now been for the last three years as one of Luke’s friends has a Chalet there, which is a stones throw from the beach and it’s perfect for little people!

We had initially booked two weeks but cancelled the second as we thought we might go abroad somewhere later in the year, but I’m not sure we will now as there’s still so much to be done on the house and we really need to plough all our money into that rather than a holiday (as much as it pains me to say).

We spent everyday on the beach, and visited a local animal sanctuary on the last day, driving home that same evening (thinking Arthur and Wilf would sleep the whole way home) … didn’t work out that way, and took us an extra couple of hours longer to get home but we’ve now visited most service stations in the south west.

I was always very fortunate when growing up. I have two sisters and we’re all very close. They’re my best friends. Amidst the odd squabble about someone else wearing each other’s top, I have some wonderful memories from our family holidays. My parents loved holidays, which is probably where I’ve got my love for travel from. We went every year, sometimes twice or even three times, and we always went abroad. We stayed in villas and then hotels as we were older and became harder to please.

We never really holiday’d in this country though, so until I met Luke, I hadn’t really been anywhere in the UK to experience places much longer than a day or two. And how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful country!

I have still only visited Wales, Devon and Cornwall, so have a few more destinations to do in this country but once the house is done we’ve said we are going to do lots of long weekends which I’m already looking forward to. I read something the other day that has really stuck with me, which said ‘make every second count when your children are young, you only have 18 summers with them’ (that’s if they stop holidaying with you when they’re 18!) I hope they don’t! But when you put it like that… it’s not much at all is it?! So make the most of it. Every moment, every day, and every single holiday.

So I think whether it’s a few days, a week or longer, some sort of family break altogether is really important. Sometimes the monotony of that daily routine and passing like ships on the night can get you down. For us, with the added stress of the house it can be difficult to enjoy your time together at home sometimes when you’ve got a million and one things on your mind and a to do list as long as the channel tunnel, getting away with a change of scenery can do wonders for your relationships with each other and time to relax.

I’m so pleased we went. Although it now seems like a distant memory!

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