Organised Chaos: Keeping a Clean Family Home

For many busy families, keeping a home clean feels as unattainable a goal as walking on Mars. Kids are brutally messy: from their perpetually muddying garments to the way they throw everything they ever touch on the floor. It’s tough keeping them on-side too. But your home needn’t descend into squalor just because you have a busy life. Here are some ideas for getting back your domestic bliss, one room at a time.

The kitchen

At the end of every meal, make it a policy to do the dishes. If you have to, hang a rota for designated washers and dryers, and establish a family routine. You can make cleaning and tidying pots easier with dishwashers, as long as you empty them at the end of every cycle, and have a rule that every dish is rinsed and racked, not left on the side. Be sure to read up on the things you can put in the dishwasher, you might be surprised to learn that the baby’s high chair tray can go in, along with any forsaken plastic toys found under the dining table.

The living room

You can prevent carpets and rugs from getting destroyed by controlling the amount of dirt that can be trailed through from outside: operate a strict no-shoe policy. As for the sofas, if you have rambunctious little ones or pets, use throw covers during the day to minimise fabric damage over time. Forget dusting: save time by hoovering everything. With the right attachment you can bust allergens from upholstery, curtains and bookcases.

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The bathroom

Keeping the family bathroom clean is a constant job, so instead of trying to find time to give it a thorough blitz once per week, adopt a clean-as-you-go policy. Leave a sponge in the bathroom cabinet and wipe over the sink and any surfaces while you’re cleaning your teeth. Store some antibacterial wipes by the toilet to swipe over the handle and rim before you use it. You’ll soon see how easy it can be to maintain a germ-free WC.

The bedrooms

If the kids’ bedrooms have become biohazards, it’s time to set a good example and give them a bedroom cleaning checklist. Expecting them to attain spotlessness is a little unrealistic, but they should at least be shown how to make their beds and hang up their clothes once in a while.

A clean home is a haven everyone can look forward to at the end of a tough day, so instil some house-pride in your kids, remember not to put off the little tasks which can become monstrous, and you’ll soon see an improvement.

Image by abbamouse, used under Creative Commons license 

Perfect Floors

Since embarking on a rather epic home improvement mission since the end of last year, it’s somewhat of an understatement to say I’ve become rather keen on all this decor and DIY. I can now spend hours comparing paint charts, different window coverings and fancy furniture hacks.

I’m beginning to realise now that it’s not just polished walls, perfect colour palettes and a smattering of carefully chosen furnishings that can transform your home – there’s something else I know for a fact I tend to neglect and forget about, something closer to the ground… The flooring.

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Now while I love the idea of sinking my toes into sumptuously thick and luxuriously soft carpet, the practicalities of keeping it clean and beautiful and OH MY GOD – TAKE OFF YOUR SHOES, makes my teeth itch just thinking about it. With a five year old intent on ruining anything vaguely nice, two cats who are not as clean as they’d like you to believe and a partner with a unnerving talent for knocking over cups of tea… My nerves wouldn’t be able to stand pristine, plush carpets.

How about laminate?  Laminate’s moved a hell of a long way from the standard, bright beech effect of 10 – 15 years ago. There are now countless effects and finishes, from parquet flooring, whitewashed floorboards, tile effects to rustic, aged boards complete with all the perfect imperfections you’d expect from the real thing.  And did you know Carpetright stock an extensive range of laminates ideal for any room, any style and any budget.

I’ve currently got my heart set on some rich teak laminate for my open-plan living room / dining room to create a sort of effortless, chic and timeless look. Obvs a plus point being it’s a darker wood and will hide the small child detritus a little better than what I have at the moment.

What are your thoughts on laminate? Did you know you could buy it from Carpetright?

 

 

And Repeat

A year ago, to the day in fact (thanks to that smug little animated dinosaur that prances onto my phone to merrily remind of my annual failings each and every morning) I wrote this post. It was nothing special, but the point is I could’ve written dozens more exactly like it. The ominous assessment, the dreaded GP review, the painful therapist appointment. Where the texture or tone or composition might be slightly different, but they’d still essentially be a snapshot of the exact same thing.

Me, perched on the edge of a padded chair that’s too low to the ground in grey room, panic racing through me, eyes darting methodically. The generic box of tissues. The certificates on the wall. The grubby mark on the wall by the door. My fingernails. Dust motes dancing in the ever decreasing sunlight creeping through the vertical blinds. The ill-chosen printed artwork on the wall. Back to the tissues.

And repeat.

The doctor / therapist /  psychologist / psychiatrist (delete applicable) absent-mindedly twirling to and fro in their swivel chair, fingers poised over their keyboard and mouse, ready to type unknown words I can’t see or churn another prescription out.

I ask for help. I say the things I don’t want to say. I nod silently.

I’m handed another prescription with a disingenuous head-tilt, complete with what they’re probably aiming for as empathy in their tired, slow eyes. I’m given instructions to call 999 if “things get bad”.

I leave.

I go home. I hide in my bed. I refuse to speak.

And repeat.

This well-trodden and anti-climatic routine led to “things getting bad” with a crescendo of me having a breakdown and being admitted to a psychiatric hospital last summer which I’m only starting to process now. Apparently, a breakdown isn’t a fix. It’s not a cure. It’s not the excuse to surround yourself with inspirational quotes and self-care and cross your fingers really hard that the same thing won’t happen again.

It’s a huge, ugly, jagged event that towers above everything else, where you start to remember things Pre-Breakdown and Post-Breakdown. You can’t talk about it because, well, if you’ve had a breakdown, you’ve got it out of your system now at least, yeah? Now let’s change the subject. There’s no “Sorry about your breakdown” cards. You’re just surrounded by concerned eyes watching you when they think you’re not looking, an avalanche of *hugs* and more dissatisfied appointments in grey rooms.

In the Post-Breakdown haze, the local crisis-team visited me at home. Although, they weren’t really the proper crisis team, I’d have to wait months for that, these people were more the mildly problematic team. I didn’t want to talk to them. I no longer trusted myself and felt if I said a trigger-word, they’d be sectioning me. They intimated that I might be dealing with more than just your common house depression.

The words “personality disorder” seeped through before my defenses shot into the atmosphere. I didn’t listen to another word they said.

The private psychiatrist I paid over 150 quid to see for fifteen minutes, shrugged off the suggestion while my other half saw a chance of getting somewhere, a breakthrough and I refused him it.

I didn’t know what to think, who to trust, denying that anything was wrong. The words, the lingering, leading questions were invisible rain, sinking through my protection, my clothes, making me colder and colder while I pretended it was OK as my teeth chattered and my skin was covered in goose-flesh.

Until one night, I told my best friend. I told her about the exhausting, unpredictable switches in mood. The compulsions. The sensory overload. The panic I felt at being asked if I was OK, because honestly, I had no idea. I told her the seemingly tedious details. I told her everything.

She’d asked questions, she’d said the scary Personality Disorder words, she asked if I was sure I was just dealing with depression, but it was OK. I realised then  that it was alright to listen to other people’s opinion and myself, that a personality disorder didn’t have to be a terrifying unknown.

From next week I’ll be going back to the grey rooms with the dirty marks on the walls. I’ll be asking to be re-diagnosed, for a second opinion. Most likely I’ll be nodding silently, leaving with a prescription pressed into my palm and not much else.

And repeat.

A Fresh Start with Farrow & Ball

A little while ago I was totally thrilled to be asked by Mumsnet and Farrow & Ball to makeover my home with Farrow & Ball’s gorgeously luxurious decorating products and paints. Now not only was I excited because my house looked a right state, ya know, tired and grubby (we shall not mention the bogies and peanut butter I had to clean from the walls prior to painting – cheers kiddo. They were so caked on that I’ll need an industrial cleaning company next time. ) but also, I’d never actually tried their products before, I didn’t feel worthy enough, as though my home was worthy enough for beautifully obscure paint names and eggshell – EGGSHELL! THIS IS POSH STUFF, RIGHT?

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Now, Mumsnet and F&B (it is cool that I call them that, right?) put on a lovely event in Chelsea at the end of October, to introduce themselves, discuss and demonstrate the paints and colours and techniques with us etc. However I couldn’t make it due to a virus, and didn’t manage to get any further than Fenchurch Street Station’s loos – soz about that. I was gutted and felt I’d ruined my chances of making my house vaguely nice ever again and creating a good impression with Farrow & Ball. Luckily they took pity on me and still allowed me to continue with the project (Thank you again, you lovely people). Obvs I missed the talks and advice so I sort of did my own thing when it came to deciding on colours.

Shall we get down to business and look at some before photos now? Yeah? Yeah.

before1

No, I’ve not put a filter over that to make it look vintage or anything. It really is that dark in my living room – AT MIDDAY. I have a south-facing garden, therefore the front of my house is always dark and gloomy, even though the whole of downstairs is open-plan.

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I wanted to keep things as simple and light as possible as I could with the walls and chose to paint all the walls with Dimpse (modern emulsion) – advertised as a cool grey on the F&B website. I also wanted to update my tired pine dining table and chairs so I decided on Blue Gray (in estate eggshell) – as the name suggests it’s a beautiful muted blue / grey. As it turned out, Dimpse is very similar to the original colour I had on the walls, only cooler and brighter. I don’t actually mind at all, as I don’t think the room could handle an overpowering / vibrant palette due to the lighting.

Once the paint and accessories arrived the high quality was unquestionable from just simply looking at them – no plastic paint pots or roller handles here, no ma’am.

On opening the tins I was a little nervous, having only ever used the paint with the famous Old English sheepdog on the adverts – the Farrow & Ball paints consistency was rich, runny and highly pigmented (no stirring – plus plus) as opposed to a big, thick mass of congealed paint that I was used to. Another thing is the scent – there is none. Not even with the eggshell paint or primer I used with the table and chairs. Yes, you can smell it ever so slightly while you’re using it but it’s virtually gone once the paint has dried (which is very quick btw) and leaves none of that “newly painted” smell that usually hangs around forever with other brands.

Ready for some afters? Yeah? Go on then.

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after 2

Farrow & Ball’s paint is an absolute dream to use, the thinner consistency glides on walls with total ease and if your walls are ever so slightly textured it clings in all the right places with little effort. I was stunned to find I didn’t need to use a second coat, and even more surprised to find I only used around 3 litres for my entire living room and dining room – a little goes a VERY long way and the finish is unlike any other paint I’ve used.

I honestly couldn’t be happier with the end result. This project has breathed new life into my home and my family, I’m constantly thinking of other things I can improve and fancy up now. I can feel my mood being lifted while sat in my living room, rather than feeling gloomy and oppressed as it used to, it’s fresh, bright and I can actually enjoy just being in here.

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Would I recommend Farrow & Ball to friends and family? Yes. Absolutely yes. Initially I was put off by the price (2.5 litres of emulsion retails for around £42). HOWEVER – taking into consideration the ease of use, quality of the product, lack of chemical smells and just how far 2.5 litres stretches. It’s worth it, without question.

Disclaimer: Farrow & Ball very kindly provided me with all the paints and materials needed for this project for the purpose of this review, however all opinions are completely my own and 100% honest.

Please note: Absolutely no camera trickery or filters were used in any of the photos above to alter the result of before and after shots.

How Your Bedroom Can Help You Sleep

From having a warm bath to avoiding caffeine late at night, most of us have heard a few tips or tricks for getting a good night’s sleep. However, while many people are strict about refraining from certain foods or getting the right amount of exercise before bedtime, the impact that a person’s bedroom can have on the quantity and quality of their sleep is often overlooked. Perhaps surprisingly, creating the right environment is one the most effective ways of ensuring you get enough shut-eye on a nightly basis. If you’re having problems drifting off, here are some simple tips on making your bedroom more slumber-inducing:

The right bed and mattress

Far too often, poor quality beds and mattresses are the culprit of sleep deprivation. Having a well-made bed that doesn’t creak every time you move and a comfortable mattress that supports your preferred sleeping position can be the difference between a peaceful slumber and a restless night of tossing and turning. If your bed is in need of an upgrade, don’t be tempted to compromise on quality. To find out about the latest beds and mattresses on the market, it’s a good idea to visit the websites and showrooms of bedroom furniture providers. When making a big purchase, there’s no substitute for getting personalised advice from an expert. Specialists at companies like And So To Bed can make recommendations on what you should consider when choosing the right bed and mattress for you.

The right environment

Once you’ve got your bed sorted, you will need to think about the rest of your bedroom. Most people sleep best in darkness, so it’s a good idea to invest in thick curtains or blackout blinds to prevent any light from getting in. You should also try to make the room as quiet as possible. If you’re being kept awake by noisy neighbours, nearby traffic or barking dogs, consider using earplugs or blocking out the noise with relaxing music. Temperature also plays an important role in sleep quality, so make sure that your room is neither too hot or too cold and that it has enough ventilation.

Decor

The way you decorate your bedroom can also affect your ability to drift off at night. As a general rule of thumb, soothing decor and clutter-free rooms are conducive to sleep. It is also a good idea to avoid having too many electrical items with LED displays in the bedroom. To help you get into ‘sleep mode’, dim light switches or low-wattage lamps can help create a calming atmosphere.

Find what works for you

When it comes to creating a relaxing bedroom, it’s important to find what works best for you. This may involve experimenting with different lighting, colour schemes, or even rearranging the furniture. While this may be time-consuming, once you’ve got the perfect arrangement, you can look forward to plenty of peaceful nights.

 

Finding Time for the Things You Love

It’s not unusual after a long, tiring, frankly strange Saturday or Sunday wrangling my exhausting five year old that my other half will casually drop a bomb.

Him (sheepish): …erm, there might be some boxing / football / horse racing on tonight..? (Delete applicable)

Me (somewhat strained): Oh! Erm. OK!

(Silently: WHAT?! I WANT TO WATCH RANDOM SORT OF CELEBRITIES DANCING BADLY. That’s all that’s got me through today. WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME.)

And no. I’m not THAT girlfriend. I’ll happily watch it. As long as I know who’s fighting. And where they’re from and who they last fought and which title they’re fighting for and… OK. Yeah. You probably wouldn’t want to watch boxing with me either. Fair point. I try, though. I do. They’re just not my thing, ya know? I end up with the same vague, slightly bewildered expression HE has when I’m watching tediously famous people trying to do an awkward foxtrot.

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It was a very pleasant surprise to receive a gorgeous parcel from Betfair as an antidote for all the sport that’s been foisted upon me during the festive season. So rather than waiting for him to inevitably and not-so-subtly tell me what will blaring from the television for the next few hours, I immersed myself in luxuriously lovely things and indulgent treats tucked inside my Pamper Parcel. I even ran myself a BATH. A BATH I tell you. With a bath bomb and posh smellies – no time for being the normally frugal, practical me and using up the last bit of whatever no one else wants to use. I never have time for a bath. This was BIG. As you can see from this post – I’m notoriously bad at taking care of myself.

After wallowing in the bath until my fingers and toes were thoroughly wrinkled, I returned to the sofa so blissfully relaxed I couldn’t even hear the ruckus ensuing on the TV and my other half shouting at the sporting drama. I curled up in fresh pyjamas with a bucket of tea, gloriously fancy biscuits and immersed myself completely in my book.

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In fact I’m pretty sure it’s the first time I’d sat down, utterly relaxed in weeks after the chaos of Christmas. And what made it even better, was knowing not only was I perfectly content in my little blissed out bubble, but my other half was happy enjoying the things he loves too. We don’t need to drive each other round the proverbial while trying to tolerate one another’s hobbies and interests, it’s totally cool to do things alone too – so thank you Betfair for giving me the opportunity to relax!

Disclosure: Betfair very kindly sent me the beautiful Pamper Parcel to enjoy for the purpose of this post. However all editorial and opinion is my own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top 12 Things to See at Christmas

Ah yes. It’s Christmas. And while you may be thinking PLEASE DON’T GIVE ME ANYTHING ELSE TO DO, between the shopping, wrapping, obsessive cleaning, preparing and cooking and generally trying to stay sane while all manners of festivity pelt towards you at full throttle. But keeping the kids entertained unfortunately isn’t as simple as hoping the new, shiny presents they open on C Day will do the job for the new 2 weeks.

Mega-bus have put together a really handy map infographic of things to do and see near you to keep you all happy, with full details on locations and costs on the map. It’s a little extra cost and more to organise, but let’s face it, if we’re not at home, at least we’re not cooking, tidying or eating ourselves out of entire wardrobes, eh? OK, if you insist, just one more fancy chocolate from the selection box…

Personally I love the look of Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park and I’m desperate for Bean to get into Harry Potter ASAP so we can visit the studios. All I’ve personally managed to do is take him to the local, somewhat overpriced Santa’s Grotto at the garden centre and even though he was beside himself with excitement, I felt that there was more out there. More magic, more twinkly lights and more enjoyment somewhere to be had.

Each listing is a fun family day out that is a must see this Christmas, Mega-bus travel to many of the destinations for mega low prices, and seats can be booked through the Mega-bus website.

So between the dreaded family visits, 12 gallons of Irish cream, approximately a years worth of television crammed and squeezed into two weeks and more magical reindeer food than you shake a turkey drumstick at – which attraction do you think you’ll see this Christmas?

 

 

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