Bagging It

Days 18
Items 108

That’s right – 108 items have been sent packing!!!

The seemingly hairy challenge of purging 150 things is now basically in the bag. The scary thing is, I still haven’t progressed out of the one corner of the living room I vowed to tackle. How on Earth could so much stuff be hiding in 5m2???

 

I hurt my bbrown paper bagack last week and was feeling a bit on the sorry side. In typical fashion, I launched myself into each day at full speed, only to collapse on the couch by early afternoon. My mood wasn’t exactly lifted by the continued sight of a messy desk, and I have to admit to beating myself up a bit for not progressing as planned. Nevertheless, I decided to let the project go for a few days as putting undue pressure on myself only served to make me feel worse.

 

Taking a break also gave me time to think about how to avoid the inevitable ‘recluttering’. One of the reasons my desk is always piled high is that I have neither system nor desire for dealing with paperwork. Therefore it all gets deposited in the vainglorious hope that one magic day it will take care of itself. (haha, who am I kidding?!)

So I started by setting myself up a sweet little file for collecting those stray papers, with one tab for ‘action’ and one for ‘file’, ever hopeful that these actions would actually be performed rather than simply creating an orderly way to stash paperwork out of sight, out of mind.

IMG_1321

But the problem is that I don’t file. So what I really needed was a creative and compelling reason not to let papers congregate into mountains.

 

In a stroke of genius, I decided to make my filing system my vision board. I had been dragging my feet about doing a new one for 2013 – in hindsight with good reason!

 

First, I set myself up with the base ingredients, including an audience (optional) and refreshments (optional, but highly recommended):

  IMG_1339   IMG_1342   IMG_1338    

A few quality hours on the floor later,  meet the finished product:

IMG_1343   IMG_1371

I love this file so much, I wanna hug and take it to bed with me!

 

Funnily enough, with a creative element thrown into the mix, my decluttering efforts regained momentum.

 

First stop – clean desk:

BEFOREIMG_1290AFTERIMG_1369  IMG_1366  IMG_1364

 

Second stop – bagging the bags:

BEFORE IMG_1293        AFTER IMG_1360

 

I thought this area would be pretty hard as I love (used to love?) my handbags, and I had some pretty sweet brands hidden in there. But then I remembered my money mentor saying that

The things you don’t use have no value, no matter how much you once paid for them.

Incidentally, this downgraded most of my beloved bags from invaluable to valueless, and they were duly put up for adoption at the local dress agency/consignment shop. After all, you don’t really need a Mulberry or Gucci adorning your arm on the playground. Well, you might do in Hampstead Heath, but in my humble part of London, I can still pull off ‘yummy’ without a Hindmarch to accessorize my Hunters.

 

IMG_1357Technically, this concluded last week’s goals but seeing that I had diddled, I went straight into the next challenge – clearing a closet full of dresses, skirts, suits and coats that had escaped previous culling stints. I dutifully dragged its contents to the bed before both two and four-legged life reclaimed my attention so on the bed they remained – for two days and two nights. The bedroom is home to our only full length mirror, so trying anything on ‘after hours’ (aka Lilly’s bedtime) was out. Equally, I couldn’t face shifting the pile back onto the sofa to have it stare me down all evening. Instead I shifted myself to sleeping on Rob’s side of the bed.

IMG_1359

The man’s impending return propelled me back into action; aided by a bit of soulful Norah Jones, a cup of tea, a sneaky chocolate biscuit (mercifully undetected by my hawk-eyed attaché) and another guiding mantra by the lovely Sarah Phipp, who coincidentally inspired this project:

Only put in your wardrobe what is worthy of you.

Well, according to this, my wardrobe may have shrunk in size, whilst considerable going up in value.

 

This now leaves to me shift discarded clothes, and tackle the rest of the living room.

 

Although with all this newly created breathing space, where oh where is that poor Easter bunny going to hide his eggs?

Happy Easter everyone!

 

Images: pedestriantype.blogspot.com, author's own

 

 

 

All Of Lilly

childrenI went to Ikea with a friend and her toddler last week.

To be honest, I’ve never been a devout fan of worshiping at the mother church of cheap Scandinavian design. Yes, it’s handy to find just about anything you might need under one roof, especially when you’re either short of time or money, or both.

But the experience of going to Ikea is normally not my idea of fun. Therefore even the mere thought of doing it with two toddlers in tow should have been pretty much my idea of hell. To my surprise, it was actually the most fun I’ve ever had walking through the mighty doors of the blue and yellow emporium.

 

As we were cuddled up in bed later that evening, Rob asked me how Lilly was that day. I thought about it for a while before replying:

Well, she was Lilly, in all of her many facets.

 

I had a broken picture frame to return, so our first port of call was taking a ticket at the downstairs customer service area. In my limited experience, all Ikeas pretty much have the same layout. This means that once liberated from her buggy, little miss had free range to roam, and a fervent desire to exercise that option. Exiting back out into the parking lot as well as venturing past the tills and straight into the store were her first ports of call. Basically anywhere the opposite direction of where I might have wanted her to be held a magnetic pull of attraction.

Cue mean mommy standing in her way, or worse, interfering with the stunt of throwing herself down the escalator, and her displeasure was quickly voiced with a series of all-out-flailing-on-the-floor tantrums. Lilly does not enjoy having her free will curbed in any way.

Matters vastly improved with the goodwill gesture of food, alleviating the unmistakable first signs of a pre-lunch serotonin crash (basically, to quote the link, ‘when serotonin levels are low, we’re more depressed, and when they’re high, we’re happier’).  An empty stomach does not a happy toddler make. Thus fortified, we proceeded in peace, albeit at a snail’s pace, through the various display areas in search of the children’s section.

Our progress was undeniably similar to how people often describe success:

success

There was lots of toing-and-froing, exploring, admiring one’s small self in mirrors, dashing into crevices and charming other shoppers with a hugely excited ‘I am ever so pleased with myself’ grin. Her ultimate triumph was to hide between two closets, proudly shouting ‘Boo!’ (or ‘Baa!’ in Lilly’s world) when discovered.

Once we made it into the mecca of Children’s Ikea, there was more exploring (duh!), kitchen playing, rocking horse, or, to be accurate, rocking moose riding, running around, pushing chairs and dancing on tables (a move that significantly diminished in cuteness when replicated at home).

If you can brave it, the children’s section of Ikea is actually a great place to spend a few hours with your kids, although you’d better keep an eye on your wallet with the same resolve as you do on your offspring, or its contents are likely to disappear faster than a toddler in the toy section. I mean, really, Lilly can’t possibly survive another day without a workbench to play with, right?

                                                  children in ikea          more children in ikea

I experienced all of Lilly that day, as I do most other days. I had curious, inquisitive, strong-willed, free-spirited, funny, playful, outraged, loving, compassionate, adventurous, I-can’t-stand-for-the-utter-injustice-of-being-put-back-into-my-buggy. I had sleepy cuddles, and mischievous chasing-Jack-with-anything-that-has-wheels. I had utter delight and bottomless despair (well, for a few minutes, anyway).

And I love Lilly for all of who she is. She amazes and exhausts me in equal measures. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Images: ivychild.org
        outlawnorth.com
        ecouterre.com 
        images.ikea.com

Let’s Get It Started

Days 4
Items 13

 

 

 

Getting_StartedOk, so we’re a few days into this decluttering challenge – have you started yet?

Do you even know where to start?

Unless you have a looming deadline (like a move, or a collective challenge!), getting started can often be the hardest thing. Why?

Well, for starters, you can pretty much guarantee that things will get worse before they get better. The very nature of decluttering will have you dragging things out from musty corners, from the back of closets, from underneath sofas, or wherever it is that you stash away what you don’t really need. Out of sight, out of mind, right?

Maybe. But just like unwanted emotions or past traumas that we compartmentalize in our psyche, the stagnant energy attached to unwanted or superfluous things continues to loom in our space whether we see it or not. To quote Ann Wilson, The Wealth Chef:

I really believe there is some strange quantum physics thing that happens in cupboards, lofts, garages, wendy houses, garden sheds and bascially all those places where stuff gets stuffed. Stuff in these spaces and places breeds and as it does, it causes a negative vaccumn in our lives, not just sucking our money quicker and quicker into a black hole but our energy and vitality too.

So yes, in the process of unearthing your hidden ‘treasures’, you might create more mess than you signed up for, initially making you feel worse than before you even started.

If that’s the case for you, STOP. BREATHE. RELAX… and trust that it will be worth it in the end.

One of the best things a mentor told me about avoiding overwhelm is to start with just one space at a time: one specific cupboard, closet, or even drawer. One corner of one room. Start with a small space, and you’ll quickly see progress whilst avoiding turning your entire house into a tip and becoming despondent with the project.

Keep it fun by putting on some funky music (Black Eyed Peas, anyone?), get your groove on, and stay hydrated. Shifting your body as opposed to getting cramps crouched on the floor will help you shift and sift your belongings. Lilly is just learning to rock it out to Sleeping Bunnies – perfect time to widen her repertoire! (sorry, insider parent joke)

Also remember that our goal is about 5 things a day (or whatever target you have set for yourself). Keep it simple, focus on the end result, and celebrate your successes, no matter how small.

 

On my end, I was quickly able to shift a dozen items of clothing and a pair of boots to the charity shop. These were items that I had previously slated for disposal, but never actually gotten rid of. A job half done, basically.

As for my next move, I have set my sights on my desk, aka my residential dumping ground, and the top of a closet, home to my collection of handbags.

IMG_1290     IMG_1293

So far today, I’ve succumbed to the avoidance bug, mainly getting distracted changing sheets, doing laundry and other thieving little things.

I am confident I am not contagious across the ether though, so don’t let yourself get infected, share your successes… and watch this space for progress!

 

PS: I also have five items listed on eBay but the auctions are still live so not counting them just yet!

 

Images: elca.org, author's own

 

 

 

Challenging Stuff

cluttercartoonAs I mentioned before, I am on a perpetual decluttering mission. But I feel as though I am being tasked to take things to a new level.

The message to shift stuff that is no longer of use to me is coming at me from all angles. And for good reason, as the things we hoard are both a physical space drainer as well as a metaphor for everything we hold on to that no longer serves us.

 

 

My latest reminder on the subject came via a Facebook post from this excellent site:

HEALTH TIP:

If like me the thought of doing a spring cleanse and detox just doesn’t feel right with the cold weather then there is another way…

If you want to regain some lost energy, removing broken, unused and unwanted items from your home and work area is just what you need, even if it’s just sifting through that mound of paperwork or admin. For each and every item that is brought into your home, there is some type of energy attached to it. Start de-cluttering and thinking more carefully about items you choose to have in your home.

Why not try committing to getting 100 items out of your house in the next month or so. It sounds a lot but I promise you, once you get started it will be so cleansing.

 

In addition to this making complete sense, I am always up for a challenge, so I am upping the ante to getting rid of 150 things between now and April 15.

Yes, 150 is a lot, basically 5 things a day, but I am kind of excited. I already have some thoughts on what will be moving out over the next 30 days, but more on that later.

 

For now, how about if we support each other in this? After all, what better time to do a little spring cleaning, knowing that spring will come eventually, even in the UK?

Post your personal target for items to get rid of by April 15 either here or on Facebook, and let’s keep each other motivated and on track.

Cluttered-House

From clutter HQ, I shall be reporting on progress!

 

Images: dailyteacher.wordpress.com
        agourahillsmom.com

Thieving Little Things

Thomas_Crown_Affair_thief‘I’m just gonna do that one little thing…’

Huh?

You know, I’m just quickly gonna hang up the laundry, do the dishes, vacuum the house, fix myself a snack…. before I sit down and cherish this God-given time when Lilly naps.

 

I used to be much more ‘productive’ (in a non-domestic way!) when Lilly was rubbing her eyes by 9.45am. I could never quite work out how on earth she was ready for a two-hour nap after having been awake for barely that amount of time, but who the hell was I to argue?

It actually worked great – I would either sneak away to the local coffee shop to write, or promptly set up office on the sofa. It was early and I was still fresh, and there was plenty of time to deal with the needs of the day after lunch.

These days, the girl doesn’t nap much before 1pm. It’s still great, and even though sleeps shortened considerable for a while, we now seem to be back on a fairly reliable routine.

But somehow bad habits are creeping in, like rats nibbling away at my time pantry. ‘I’ll just quickly do this one thing’, I tell myself as I emerge from the bedroom, having seen Lilly off to the land of nod.

For surely I will be better equipped for creativity with the laundry on the line rather than lingering inside the machine, with the kitchen cleaned instead of cluttered. And hey presto, before I know it, one ‘little’ thing has lead to another ‘little’ thing, and another one after that, and 45 minutes have passed in a flash. By the time I sink into my chair, I am exhausted, still haven’t eaten and am acutely aware of all the ‘stuff’ that still needs doing even after Lilly wakes up.

Unsurprisingly, I end up more tired rather than more creative.  I find each little thing rarely ever takes the ‘just 5 minutes’ I mentally allocate to the task. I am also concluding that the energy I may have freed up by again seeing my living room carpet has been deducted from my own energy level in equal if not greater proportion, with the bottom line benefit equalling a big fat zero.

Worse, these energy-thieving activities are also alive and well during Lilly’s waking hours. ‘I’ll just quickly empty the dishwasher’, I tell her, ‘and then I’ll pick you up for cuddles’, or ‘I’ll just do X before we can Y.’

I know there’s a saying that your kids will remember time spent with you rather than a clean kitchen floor, but still, just how high is my tolerance for piles of dog hair in corners? Even so, I have often moaned that my house is hardly sparkling clean despite the time I devote to the task, so the scales of effort vs. result are already well out of balance. And the stinker is that domestic chores undo themselves practically as soon as they are done.

MISSION IMPOSSIBLESo my resolution going forward is to do less of what doesn’t matter, and to focus on activities that boost rather than drain my energy. So far, I’m doing good – despite the fact that my sheets need changing, there are porridge bowls piled in the sink and the dog’s infected foot needs a saltwater bath.

Ok, maybe the latter shouldn’t the put off for too long, and neither should the olfactory clue of a dirty nappy be ignored for any length of time.

 

But as for the rest, well, I say let sleeping dogs (and dust bunnies, and complaining husbands) lie…

 

 

Images: cinemademerde.com
        ronyablog.wordpress.com

5 Top Tips For Expecting Parents

expecting-parentsI ran into one of Rob’s friends the other day.

He and his wife are expecting their first baby, so inevitably the infamous ‘So, what is it like?’ crept into conversation.

I find that one tricky.

On one hand, I want to convey the joy and fun of spending time with your child, of watching them grow and discover new things, interacting with their environment and developing their own personality.

On the other, I think it’s grossly unfair to gloss over the tiredness, frustration and mind-numbing routine that is an inevitable part of parenting.

It’s not that I welcome the outlet to moan about how bad it all is. It’s just that if you only focus on the fun, and ditch all the drudgery, I feel you are setting new parents up to fail. And there are already enough parents feeling like they are ‘not enough’ because they can’t live up to their desired parenting ideals 100% of the time.

On top of these considerations, there’s the danger of imparting too much information to someone who quite frankly has no frame of reference for being a full-time parent, the ever-present conundrum being that you don’t get a trial run in having kids.

A few months ago, I wrote about my experience of giving too much unsolicited parenting advice. A friend suggested afterwards that maybe the best advice I could have given instead is for expecting parents is to just enjoy themselves.

 

So here are my ‘5 Top Tips For Expecting Parents’:

 

1.  Enjoy yourself!

Just enjoy your pregnancy, and cherish your time as an individual as well as a couple.

Even though a certain amount of ‘nesting’ is part of the deal, there’s no need to spend the majority of your maternity leave cleaning every crevice, or batch cooking until your freezer is bursting.

Sleep late, go for walks, people watch in your favourite coffee shop, visit a museum. Do whatever makes your heart sing. Go out for dinners and do things as a couple. See your friends.

Becoming a parent of course does not permanently prevent you from doing any of this, but it will require more organization, and often more cost. The last time Rob and I had a dinner & movie date, we spent £120. Half of that was for the babysitter, and the emergency taxi home.

 

2.  Listen to parenting advice with one ear only

When you’re pushing a bump around (or a pram in due time!), everybody will be keen on giving you advice, including non-parents.

Listen politely, but be selective on retention. Take any advice with a grain of salt, especially when coming from people who do not even have children.

Noone can give you an accurate point of reference for understanding an experience you have not yet had, so inevitably you will listen and think

‘Yeah… but that won’t be me!’

That’s cool.

Enjoy it.

 

3.  Trust yourself

This is your experience. You’re a novice, but you can trust your intuition.

Parenting is confusing, but it’s also instinctual, even though we live in a world where trusting your instincts isn’t widely encouraged.

For everything you do, there’ll be someone, or some book or some website, telling you to do it differently. Do what feels right.

When you don’t know what to do, be ok with that, too.

Breathe.

 

4.  Accept help

It has taken my fierce ‘ I can cope’ mentality a while to come around to this one.

As a matter of fact, my mantra for 2013 is

‘Every time help is offered, I am saying yes’

You might not feel like you really need the help that is being offered right in this moment. You may worry about being a burden by accepting the help, or you may think you should be able to manage on your own.

Doesn’t matter. Take it anyway.

Give yourself a break, and let someone support you. Accepting help does not mean you have failed.

There’s no prize for doing it all alone. Parenting is not a job you do in isolation. Above all, you need to take care of yourself – for your benefit, and that of your family.

So let yourself be supported.

 

5. Ask for help

If no help seems immediately available or forthcoming, ask for it.

Again, asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It takes courage and self-awareness to know when you need support outside of yourself.

Do it.

If you have to pay for it, do that too. It’s worth it.

Something else I’m working on…

 

But above all, refer back to tip #2 and don’t listen to me!

And please, do enjoy yourself, now and as a new parent!

Bon courage!

 

Image: www.forbes.com

GUEST POST: One For You And One For You… eh? Me!

one for me and one for you

When I entered into motherhood nearly eleven years ago I never expected to be so guilt ridden most of the time. I think it is fair to say that women in general carry a heavier load when it comes to feeling guilty about all sorts of things but becoming a mother has definitely turned the volume up.

 

Things that I feel guilty about now, but never did before I had children:

  • Eating the last bit of …. anything
  • Going out in the evening and missing part of the children’s night time routine
  • Spending any time away from the children pursuing my own interests
  • Going food shopping with the children, and going food shopping without the children
  • Cooking a meal that I like and the children don’t
  • Having a lie-in
  • Spending money on myself
  • Allowing the children sweets, crisps and fishfingers
  • Knitting or crocheting in the evening instead of folding washing
  • Leaving the housework and spending time with the children or leaving the children to themselves and doing the housework

 

It is difficult to call the changes in my life ‘sacrifices’ when most of the time my choices were made out of love and an innate instinct of being a mother. I do know, however, that it has been much easier for me to let go of something for myself than consciously claim something at the apparent cost of my family.

My life after children has changed so much that for years I did not remember or know who I was beyond being a mother. The routine that was established in our house – which by the way has been life and sanity saving whilst trying to physically cope with four young children – goes mostly against my natural preferences.

Just to mention a few examples:

  • I like to take the day as it comes … try it with children and disaster is guaranteed
  • If I have a ‘low’ day I would take things easy, read, sleep and just have a little time to reflect and re-generate from within … try this with children and your home is turned upside down.
  • I like holidays where solitude is imperative: reading, exercise, nice meals out, sunshine, peace and quiet … try this with young children and you find out what it means to have an anti-holiday-hell!
  • I like peace and quiet but in trying to get it, I shout at the children!

 

So having changed my/our lives completely round to make sure that our children have a loving home, routine, rhythm and a feeling of security I have to admit (with a huge amount of guilt) that I feel utterly trapped at times.

And yes, I too tried to get back into my old job when my first two children were of toddler age and we had the ‘live-in-nanny’ look after them. Unfortunately I could never quite rid myself of the guilt then either: at work I felt guilty because I felt I needed to be at home, and at home I felt guilty because I felt I needed to be at work. Peer pressure from any camp (those who advocate for mums to be at home versus those who advocate for mums to return back to work) was utterly unhelpful and confused me more and more in knowing what I need to/have to/should do to serve my family… and, ah yes – here it comes – to serve MYSELF well.

 

I don’t have the magic answer but I have found a way to address every situation where I feel torn in a calm and considered way. I simply ask and check with myself:

‘Whose needs are greater?’

And yes, of course I am biased, as I am the judge of it, but I also trust that I know my children and myself.

It also helps to be conscious that there might be a conflict of interest, which in itself can help to move things on. I don’t feel I am the slave of my guilt when I take a moment to check internally that what I am/we are about to do is serving the need of those whose need is greater in that particular context. I can make a conscious decision, and work with the possible consequences.

 

I don’t think I will ever be guilt free (show me any woman who is!) and I don’t claim that I always get it right (come on, we need to keep our psychotherapists in work). I know when I have gone wrong ‘things just don’t feel right’ despite what the rest of the world might think. I believe that every situation warrants individuality and every family makes their own choices. However I hope that they can make them by trusting their instincts and intuition rather than following peer pressure, a sense of guilt or what other people might think of them.

I am sharing this in the hope that those who suffer like me from guilt may find a way to make choices that leave you feeling good.

Just remember we are all trying our best and maybe I am not the perfect mother but maybe trying to be a ‘good mother’ is enough?!

 

Steffi Stern lives with five chickens, four children, three dogs, two cats, one husband, and still finds time to run the Mother Goose shop in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire. She can be contacted at steffi@mothergooseonline.co.uk.

This article was originally published in the May/Jun 2012 edition of Goose Life.

 

Image: flickr.com

Top Of The Pops

top_of_the_popsI recently went to Copenhagen – on my own.

As previously mentioned, I was due to have a weekend away in November. When that failed to materialize, I hesitantly concluded that something better must be on the horizon.

Turns out something far better was!

Not only did I get double the time off, I got to go on a chilled girly trip with one of my best friends. In a foreign country. Can’t beat travel, you know.

I had already planned a long weekend in Copenhagen to meet Lilly’s godmother en route from South America to Australia via a wedding in Sweden (don’t you just love the sound of that!).

Copenhagen seemed the ideal location for the Fairy Goddaughter (FGD) to connect with the Fairy Godmother (FGM). Significantly closer than ‘down under’, although a trip to Oz will undeniable be in the cards at some point.

Anyway, when I went into a general funk at the end of last year, Rob casually floated the idea of me going on my own. Yes, it defeated the objective of the planned FGM/FGD reunion, but the prospect of a much-needed parenting break was just too good to refuse. I have a reasonably strong belief in putting my own needs first, so that decision was relatively easily made. (sorry Rachael!)

 

Next came the greater dilemma:

Was I gonna be able to actually see it through, and trust that Rob and Lilly would be ok?

Like any good woman, I hashed this out with two of my good friends:

Friend #1 mainly shared my concern about Rob being able to cope with four days of full-on parenting.

Friend #2 threw me a curve ball, asking how Lilly would cope. ‘She’ll be fine’, was my instinctive response. ‘Yes, she’ll be physically fine’, friend #2 concurred. ‘But have you considered any potential long-term psychological damage if she really misses you, and Rob cannot handle it?’

Well, no – I hadn’t. Instant mummy guilt on steroids!

 

I guess balancing your needs with those of your child(ren) is an ongoing mothering dilemma. My take is that it’s absolutely critical for me not to get lost in the process – for MY sake even more than for Lilly’s.

What I mean is that I need time for me for me, and not simply because recharging will make me a better, more refreshed parent. An incidental fringe benefit, no doubt; but never my main motivator.

 

A friend of mine wrote an excellent article (that I will feature as a guest post later this week). She says

… having changed my/our lives completely round to make sure that our children have a loving home, routine, rhythm and a feeling of security I have to admit (with a huge amount of guilt) that I feel utterly trapped at times.

I can relate. Undoubtedly, life with kids is different, and providing for their needs is just part of being a parent. But you need to ensure the scales don’t tip in their favour altogether. I was so much running on empty at the end of 2012 that I was basically a walking volcano ready to erupt about every 30 seconds.

 

Maybe it had to get that bad for me to have an entirely guilt-free trip, and to create better balance in 2013! I don’t mind admitting that I thoroughly enjoyed not being a mother for a few days. I don’t mind admitting that I didn’t miss Lilly, although knowing Daddy and her were having a grand time surely made that easier.

Don’t get me wrong, I was looking forward to coming home. But beyond the first twenty minutes at the airport, when it mostly felt strange not be navigating a buggy, I was loving not having to consider anyone else’s requirements for food, sleep or entertainment.

 

P1040847     P1040810     IMG_3612

 

So I guess balance is the name of the game.

I know that it’s no longer possible to put myself first ALL the time, or even most of the time. Yes, it is about finding joy in the time you spend with your little one. But it’s also about never losing sight of your own needs, dreams and desires, and making sure they are prioritized and nurtured.

It’s about being top of your own pop chart, your own biggest fan.

 

I can do that. For me, and for the rest of my family, too.

 

Images: neoncircus.com, 
        Copenhagen images author's own

Busting My Clutter

ClutterI am on a decluttering mission. Again.

The undeniable benefit of moving at regular intervals is that you have a built-in excuse to assess your belongings. Quite uncharacteristically, I have now been in the same place for six years. Over time, stuff inevitably builds up.

It seems that in the last 18 months, however, I am permanently shifting, rearranging and disposing of things.

Like most expectant moms, I went through a late-pregnancy nesting phase. My house had never been so clean.

In the absence of a nursery, this was accompanied by the prerequisite furniture shuffle to accommodate Lilly’s gear. It never ceases to amaze me just how much more will fit into our one bedroom flat. Maybe if I keep adding stuff, it will just continue to magically expand – like in a fairy tale or something?

But I seriously thought this whole ‘nesting’ thing was meant to be over and done with once your child is born. Yet I am forever reconfiguring and getting rid of bits ever since Lilly came along. That’s not a bad thing.

The problem with decluttering is of course that it doesn’t last. Much like cleaning or doing laundry, it’s not a permanent achievement. And if you leave it long enough, like I do, then the process actually is a whole load of work. But I still haven’t figured out how to do it ‘regularly’.

Because let’s face it, I actually don’t feel the need to declutter until things get pretty out of control. I am reasonably comfortable with a certain amount of disorder. Basically anything that involves detail and repetitiveness isn’t my thing. I suck at admin. Until two days ago, I hadn’t done any filing in three years. You think I am kidding but rest assured, I am not.

For better or worse, however, the point of no return comes around more frequently these days, mainly due to Lilly’s ever-changing needs.

The move from co-sleeper to cot for example meant that half our bedroom needed to be rearranged. Up until now, her growing toy collection slotted reasonably well under my desk – until Santa brought a table and chairs, that is.

toy clutter

So my latest domestic re-org was prompted by the growing threat of said toy collection. That combined with the fact that I could no longer see my desk for all the paper piles. Too much clutter and I feel like I can’t think, much less work and be productive.

Besides, it’s the start of a new year, which seems as good a time as any to ‘start’ over.

Sadly, as confirmed by Jill Pollack, ‘there is no such thing as a declutter fairy, who works while you sleep’. So one (painful!) trip to Ikea later, I now have toys stored in boxes, a clean desk, and paperwork in folders. I’m a long way off from ever living in a pristine place like this…

imageseurope.com      declutter

…but at least I feel like I am breathe and think again.

There’s a lot more to be done, but I feel I am off to a good start.

 

I’d love to think I can keep it up… but just in case, I’d better get a date into my 2016 diary for my next filing session.

 

Images: savvybrown.com, bodyenlightenment.me
        straighten-up-now.com, jillpollack.wordpress.com

Transporting Toddlers – The Danish Way

I recently spent four fabulous days in Copenhagen – sans enfant. Needless to say, it was BLISS!           (but more on that in another post)

Despite having a much-needed break from the whole mummy thing, I couldn’t help but make several kid-related observations. Four days in the nation’s capital clearly don’t make me an expert in all things Danish, but here’s what stood out to me in the (mostly) ingenious way Copenhageners transport their offspring:

 

Rear-facing Car Seats

I already knew about these contraptions because I spent a lot of time and money tracking one down for Lilly. There is a lot of research to suggest that it is up to 5 times safer for children to be in rear-facing car seats until they are 4-5 years old. The fact that rear-facing seats are safer is still relatively little-known in the UK, whereas in Scandinavia most children continue traveling ‘backwards’ once they’ve outgrown their infant carriers.

One of the supposed reasons for the lack of popularity of these seats here is that they take up more space in your car than the forward facing alternative. I witnessed this first-hand when I was told that my chosen seat would not fit into my reasonable-sized car (it did when properly installed!), however, to my amazement Danes seemed to squeeze two or more of these seats into the back of compact cars without effort.

rear-facing car seats     rearfacingtoddlers

 

Bikes

Not unlike Amsterdam, bikes in Copenhagen are EVERYWHERE! Unlike Amsterdam, where I went mostly on business trips and was therefore taking my life into my own hands, my trusted friend Rachael spent the first 24 hours or so pulling me out of the way of unsuspecting two-wheelers. After that, the fact that when you step off the pavement, you are likely to step onto a bicycle lane slowly began to sink in.

I have a keen interest in transporting Lilly on a bicycle. I am, however, not in the least keen on having her on my bike in a proper kiddie seat. Too much pressure to keep my balance while keeping up with London traffic. Earlier this year, I went to great length to plot taking my friend’s tried and trusted bicycle trailer back home on a plane from Frankfurt. After carefully calculating dimensions, packaging and getting it back on Lilly’s luggage allowance, however, I had to admit defeat in the face of its undeniable bulk. I have been planning a replacement ever since, only temporarily delayed by Rob’s insistence that we wait until spring before adding a new acquisition to our already space-challenged flat.

But forget all that, because I have now discovered the true answer to transporting toddlers:

The Christiana Bike!

         christiania bike

Basically a cargo three-wheeler, with the kiddie-trailer not only built in, but in the front! Much more appealing not only for keeping an eye on your little one and being able to engage in conversation, but most importantly for adding a four-legged friend to the mix!

Of course this trike stands no chance of ever fitting into our tiny back yard, but that, to quote the aspiring little drummer boy from the movie Love Actually, is ‘a tiny, insignificant detail’.

 

Prams

Whilst rear-facing car seats and cargo bikes rank highly on my list of kid-friendly discoveries, I have to admit I did not at all get the Danish obsession with big prams.

And I mean BIG. Not a slim-line travel system in sight. Compared to what you see pushed around London, it was a case of David and Goliath, Mini vs. 4×4. We are talking big, bulky, and fitted with enormous wheels. We didn’t take any buses, but these Chelsea tractors apparently posed no problem on Metro or trains. I did notice that most stations seemed to have lifts from street level down to the platform. They better, ‘cause there’s NO chance of asking an unsuspecting stranger to help you down the stairs with one of these hulks!

Clearly Bugaboo and iCandy have no market share on Copenhagen’s streets.

And seemingly these plus-sized prams aren’t just for babes. No, even toddlers were happily pushed around, sitting up against a little backrest. No wonder they are so large then, considering the requirement for extra legroom. How they fit into the back of the average Copenhagen compact car though remains a mystery, especially with all that space already taken up by the car seats.

Copenhagen pram       Copenhagen prams

I definitely can’t see this trend catching on with the image-conscious London mummies.

 

Those bikes on the other hand – they have real potential!

 

A comment spotted about the Danish love affair with bicycles went as far as to suggest that there are

…girls who consciously match their outfit to the style and colour of their bike. When buying a pair of shoes they’ll briefly pop out of the store to check if they complement the look of the bike.

I can see that happening in Primrose Hill.

 

But never mind the shoes, I’m gonna check what it will take to enlarge the width of my back gate…

 

 


Images: www.carseat.se/swedish-car-seats, the-mom-blog.com
        danishlife.wordpress.com, realcycling.blogspot.com