Thursday, 14 June 2018

The Life Changing Magic of KonMari

In my twenties I used to love nothing more than reading works of great fiction. Valley of the Dolls, The New York Trilogy & Wuthering Heights were among some of my favourite reads. However, since turning thirty a few years ago I have found myself reaching for books that awaken my spirit and speak to me on a personal level on my quest for self improvement. Some of the most notable books I’ve read of this genre include Secrets of the Worlds Healthiest Children by Naomi Moriyama & William Doyle, Happy by Fearne Cotton, The Danish Way of Parenting by Jessica Joelle Alexander & Iben Dissing Sandahl, Pretty Honest by Sali Hughes and The Life Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo. 

It is with reference to the last book that I am writing today, as I was so profoundly affected by the words of this wise-beyond-her-years Japanese lady that I’ve talked all my friends into beginning their own tidying journeys as well. I call it a journey, because as anyone who has read the book knows, it’s about far more than tidying. In following her process start to finish (and for once I followed instructions WORD FOR WORD) and tidying by category in the order she suggests (Clothes, Books, Papers, Miscellaneous and Sentimental) you will find that in putting your home in order, you are putting your life in order as well. Essentially, by keeping only those possessions you actually love and discarding ABSOLUTELY everything else, you can hone your decision making skills, gain self belief and confidence as you trust your ability to make those decisions and confront your past when you let things go that no longer bring your current self any joy. 

Here I am sharing some of the absolute best things I discovered and did on my tidying journey and how they have had a hugely positive impact on my life;

1. Clothes

My friend told me the other day she was always quite surprised by how small my selection of clothes is. She was shocked when I then told her I got rid of about two thirds of that while adopting the KonMari method. I am a simple girl; I like my clothes made of cotton or viscose,  and as my friend pointed out I like white black and grey. There isn’t an awful lot of room for anything else in my clothes life. I don’t need it. She asked me but don’t i end up wearing the same things all the time? Yes. I do. But I explained that I also recently read 'The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck' by Sarah Knight and quite simply, I no longer give a f*ck about what anyone else thinks of my limited wardrobe. I own a washing machine. I can wash and re-wear my clothes. That’s a perfectly OK thing to do. Except now compared to before I always feel good in what I’m wearing and without exception. And thanks to Marie Kondo’s method of folding I now have space for everything and can easily see what I have in one glance and that’s not just because I don’t have very much :)

I also liked Marie Kondo's method for storing clothes hanging in a wardrobe. The basic concept is to hang long and heavy garments on the left, and light and shorter garments on the right, in the order of coats, dresses, jackets, skirts & trousers then blouses. Also, hang anything that looks like it would be happier hung. Intuition plays a part here. I also decided to hang everything on the same style coat hanger, cause, you know. 

Finally, even my two boys didn't escape my tidy. By adopting Marie Kondo's suggestion to fold everything vertically I was finally able to restore some order to their clothes drawers. They have more clothes than I do, so it was necessary.

2. Books

This is the only instance where it’s OK to judge a book by its cover. You can read books not based on their cover, but when it comes to a decision of what to keep and what to discard you should only keep the ones you love to look at, or pick up and hold. The content is entirely irrelevant. Keeping books based on content is pointless. That’s what libraries are for. The point of books is to read the content and then retain something of that content, inside your head. Not on your shelves. 

3. Papers

I have only three folders for paperwork now based on the advice in this book. One for 'Currently in use' (Jesse’s passport application, an appointment letter for the hospital, Father’s Day cards to write), one for 'Needed for a limited period of time' (Lease contracts, water bills, mobile phone contracts, receipts and product warranties) and 'Needed Indefinitely' (Decree Absolute, My Will etc). These folders all sit on a shelf in my storage cupboard. 

4. Miscellaneous 

This was the most fun category for me! It includes...well pretty much everything not covered by the other four categories (sentimental comes last). Once I had decided what dvds, cds, bathroom supplies, hair accessories, perfumes, gifts, baking trays etc I loved and wanted to keep, I found my home just kind of ‘offered up’ storage though the things were telling me where they wanted to be stored and how. By this stage in the process my decision making skills were getting quite refined and I just instinctively started to know where everything wanted to belong. 

My major wins in sorting this category were; 
a) I found tucked away inside my iPhone packaging a little cable to convert the pesky phone jack into one that is compatible to the aux lead for my Roberts radio. This makes me happy on so many levels, namely being that I was going to buy an iPhone dock, which is now no longer necessary. Also it means I get more use out of two things I have paid good money for; my radio and my Spotify subscription. Amen to that. 
b) The empty iPhone box became the perfect storage solution for all my favourite hair accessories and the need for the fussy, porcelain butterfly shaped tray that I used to keep just because was removed. 
c) I came across a washing machine in my storage cupboard. Laugh all you will, this is an actual thing I was storing in my cupboard for the last three years because the kitchen where I live was fitted with one already when I moved in. The crazy part? I LOVE my washing machine. It is black, it is silent, it treats my clothes well, it is Hotpoint...and it is brand new. I used it for a grand total of seven or eight months before I moved and I decided it was superfluous. I actually chose to use the old, unknown white cheap brand washing machine that my landlady clearly said I could dispose of...for no reason. I just do not know why I did this. The moral of the story is how crazy people can be when they fail to think things through and just let their stuff accumulate around them and settle for second best. The very best part of the whole washing machine gate was actually selling the old machine for spares and repairs the same day I decided to get rid of it to a bloke who actually came and took it off my hands. I used the money to buy my favourite face wash by Clarins. Literally, if you can’t see the magic by now I think you may be immune...

5. Sentimental

Saving the hardest til last. Picking up every sentimental thing I had kept, hoarded or saved over the years and deciding to keep only what I loved was hard to say the least. But I love it all! I can’t possibly throw that away, it’s irreplaceable? Several statements running through my mind before I tackled this category. But you know what? I DON’T love it all. The entire folder of, for want of a better word, sh*t that I kept from a trip to NYC? No I don’t love that. I love NYC. I love my memories of it. But I do not love subway tickets, Knicks tickets, nor any other piece of paper with words written on them. The exception was my copy of the New York Times, which is a joy to hold, touch and look at. So I kept that. 

Another pile I found hard was all my old sketchbooks. But Marie Kondo suggests that as most people won’t be routing around inside your cupboards you can decorate them to make them attractive and boost your spirit. So I tore out my favourite old sketches along with my favourite greetings cards and stuck them around the home inside various cupboards. Now I smile every time I look at them and they get seen every day, as opposed to...well, never. The most amazing feeling from getting rid of all this old stuff is looking under my bed and seeing the light at the other side. There is nothing under there anymore, and all that light and energy is free to flow around me while I sleep.

By far the hardest jobs lot of emotional crap I got rid of (and friends who know me well will confirm this book must really have affected me for me to go this far), was twenty years worth of diaries and journals. I’ve been keeping the damn things since I was ten years old. Sweet in places, amazingly happy in others, and downright miserable in parts..they needed to go. I do not need a physical written reminder of a past relationship anymore than I do a hole in the head. So the last to face the judge, jury & executioner was my enormous weighty pile of hardback diaries and they pretty much all went on the  ‘to burn’ pile. Every last detail gone into the fire and now only accessible in the way I can recall them as memories in my mind. And in my opinion that’s the best way to remember things - the way I want to remember them. I kept only two; based on the fact that they are leather bound gold leaf Aspinal ones that incidentally tell the full story of my pregnancy with Leonardo (2015) and the one I’m using now which documents daily life during Jesse’s first year. The weight that has lifted from my shoulders in making this realisation, at the end of my festival of tidying is the true Life Changing Magic. Truly putting your home in order is confronting your past, letting it go and finally being able to move forwards as a free spirit open to the boundless opportunities life has to offer.


Tuesday, 12 June 2018

A Week In The Life of Mama

It's been nineteen weeks and three days since this little angel came into the world and blessed our lives with more happiness than we thought we had room for. Leonardo adores his new baby brother and I am thankful to say has settled into life with an extra family member with surprising ease. Then because he was so young when I explained Jesse was in my tummy I guess to him it feels as though he has always been there as part of our family. I'm certainly struggling to remember a time when I was mama to one babe. How easy it must have all been back then..! (Kidding, I know any amount of babies is hard work. Lets just say with two it gets a bit like spinning plates.)

Here's how my typical week of mama life looks;


8am -Leonardo goes off to nursery 8am-6pm. It's a long day for him but it's so good for him to go and experience things he wouldn't do at home. Leo's nursery has it's own vegetable garden where the children can help grow their own veggies which they use in their cookery classes each week. The nursery has a lovely big garden and he can enjoy things like painting and other messy play that he can't do at home (..because you know, the mess)

11am -I use this time to make the most of having Jesse all to myself and we go to a baby music group run by local volunteers in the morning. It's a lovely group that I took Leo to when he was a baby and then he moved into the toddler group before he started attending nursery on a Monday after Jesse was born. The group focuses on classic children's nursery rhymes and songs in a sensory setting (think sign language, musical instruments, bubbles, finger puppets and singing). We love this group and the best part is it's absolutely free!

2pm - The afternoon normally sees me out on a long walk with Jesse in the stroller, my favourite route is up through the park and back home along the seafront. Earphones in, Frank Sinatra on and a sleeping baby - bliss.


8am - Leonardo has been attending nursery on a Tuesday 8am-6pm since he was eleven months old and I had to return to work. Luckily my mum was able to help out on the other day I worked as I didn't feel ready to let him go more than that at the time. Now I know he loves it and gets a lot out of it I'm happy for him to go two full days a week. It is really helping his development and socialization and will build up his stamina ready for school five days a week in a few years time.

10.30am - Jesse & I have been attending a baby sensory class run in a local village hall. We did a ten week course which has just come to an end but in the early weeks after Jesse was born I found this class was a truly lovely way to bond with my son. One hour, just for us where I could focus solely on him and his needs and forget about the madness of having a life to run. The classes, run by Becky at Baby Sensory have a different theme every week and again focus on lots of sign language and other sensory stimuli such as bubbles, lights, and things to touch and feel. Our favourite class was the ocean theme where Becky made an underwater world filled with sparkly sea coral, dolphins and bubbles :) 

1pm - Jesse & I also now go swimming every Tuesday as it's very hard to take two babies swimming at the same time! So far Jesse has loved it and kicks his arms and legs the second his body hits the water. Of all the activities I do with my children, swimming has always been my favourite. The smile it brings to my face is such a wonderful feeling. True happiness comes from being in the water with my baby. We attend classes with Ducklings which were run at Risebridge over at Goudhurst. As a qualified Water Babies Teacher I had wanted to take him to classes run by my own but unfortunately couldn't catch a suitable time slot until September term. I was very impressed by the Ducklings classes however and we have enjoyed these sessions in the interim while we wait for a class at St Marys with Water Babies.


5am - Well, most days in the summer start at around 5am. I actually prefer winter and not just for the reason that my days start at a more reasonable hour (7 if I'm very lucky...).

11.30am - Leo usually has a nap around mid morning for an hour and while he's down I pack up a lunch and once he's up I bust out my double stroller and we head down to the seafront. It's only a five minute walk from my front door to the beach and our favourite thing to do is sit on the beach eating our lunch before heading off to the old town to see what we can get up to. I have recently purchased an annual membership to the Blue Reef Aquarium which means we can nip in there any time we like without paying and if Leo gets fed up after ten minutes at least I don't feel as though I've wasted any money! The membership card also includes The Smugglers Adventure at St Clements Caves on the West Hill so sometimes we might go there and have our lunch on the hill afterwards over looking the sea. Down the old town, we sometimes pop in to Discovery Play Ground, which although a little more on the pricey side I have to say is unique and I've not yet found anywhere like it. An indoor two storey discovery center suitable for any age up to around eight or nine I guess - they have it all! A HUGE rice pit with diggers and scales, a builders yard of blocks, Leo's favourite - a floor to ceiling air machine that sucks up coloured chiffon scarves and sends them through a winding see-through tunnel before blowing them out the top...the place is just lovely. Chalkboards, a wooden play house,a sensory garden for younger ones...this place is one of our faves.
As we have to walk right past it on our way home, we usually always stop at Di Polas for Italian style gelato before we head home. I love these days spent with both my boys.


1-3pm - Thursdays tends to be the day all the mum friends I know go to Tumble Gym. Tumble Gym at Sumerfields Gymnastics Club runs pretty much every day of the week at various times, and yet Thursday must be the day that works best for a lot of the mums I know as even though we never arrange it I always bump into them here. It's nice that when you have babies and then toddlers at similar ages that you all tend to run in the same circles so even if I don't have the numbers of other mums I usually always see the same ones at the different groups. Tumble Gym (or Tumble Jim's as Leo calls it) is like soft play only better. First of all, it's cheaper. At around £3.50 a session I think it is the children get up to two hours to use gymnastic equipment, mini trampolines and a foam pit, as well as balance bars and standard soft play equipment too. Afternoon sorted, and there's a cafe upstairs although with two on the bounce now I have to be honest and say I've never made it up there.


9am - Help arrives! I've been so lucky that my mum has been able to give up her Fridays every week since Leo came along two and half years ago. Leo always knows that "Nanny comes at 9". This is always a bit of a miscellaneous day. Sometimes I get mum to take the boys out so I can catch up on some housework, or life admin I didn't manage to get done during the week. Sometimes we go out together to some of the more tricky places for me to get to with two babies, for example we have been to Bewel Water and Knole Park; both places that require a little extra packing and planning as they are a bit of a drive away for me. Sometimes I might nip out to do things I would otherwise find impossible with two children. It's all the extra baggage and car seats that makes everyday things so damn hard when you're a mum! My lovely mum usually stays and cooks us all a nice meal before helping me to bath the boys and get them both ready for bed at seven before she goes home.


12pm - Leonardo has his swimming lesson with Water Babies at noon. He has been swimming since he was sixteen weeks old and has now completed eight chapters of Water Babies. That's eighty lessons, although I'm holding my hands up to the fact that he has probably only been to about 75% of those. I try so hard to get in the water with him on a weekly basis, but last year he went through a wobble and my pregnancy with Jesse took it's toll on me in the first trimester and we ended up skipping an entire term and staying back a chapter. I think the break did him the world of good though and he loves his time in the water with me and his teacher Sam now. We have swum at three different pools with three different teachers and I have also found that this has kept the journey interesting and meant I have met SO many other parents within different groups. Every teacher has their own style and I want Leo to be versatile in his approach to life and not get upset when things inevitably have to change.

2pm - Leo goes off for a sleepover at his Daddy's house and I get the afternoon to chill out with Jesse and do a bit of tidying. 

7pm - I forgot how portable babies are and I sometimes go out and see friends with Jesse in the car seat as it's so easy to jump in a taxi and head out for a few hours, even if it's just for a take away and wine with one of the girls. Sometimes one of the girls will come to me and we can just sit and chill and drink wine and chat without worrying about waking Leo up. Jesse is always either wide awake, or so asleep the apocalypse couldn't wake him up so either way it's all good :)


9am - Once i have woken myself up with one or two coffees theres nothing I love more on a Sunday than sitting, feeding Jesse and reading a book while listening to the radio or my favourite playlist on Spotify. This is perfection, and something I do every week. It's becoming my sacred routine. 

3pm - Leo comes steamrolling in after his night away from home happy to see me and ready for his dinner, bath and bed before the week starts over again :)

Thanks for reading, I have a question though - has anyone else noticed how there is always one brass popper at the bottom of their baby grows? What is that all about?


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