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How To Be A Wrap Star This Christmas

It’s only a week to go before Christmas Day (where does time go?), and it’s time to indulge in my favourite part of Christmas preparations. Yep, you guessed it, GIFT WRAPPING! Okay, maybe you didn’t guess that, but I’m sure it probably comes as no surprise that I absolutely love wrapping gifts and arranging them beautifully on tables, under the Christmas tree, and on any available surface around the house. I enjoy gift wrapping so much, that I’m always happy to wrap everyone’s pressies for them. When they get worried about me ruining the surprise, I say, “Just wrap it in tissue paper and I’ll finish it up beautifully for you”.

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There’s just something so very satisfying about gift wrapping. Well, a few things really. Luxurious ribbons, double-sided papers, and tasteful little charms are definitely my jam. Oh, and nothing beats the look on someone’s face when they receive a beautifully wrapped gift. I find it so endearing and rather amusing when they say things like, “Its so beautiful, I don’t want to open it”.

How about you? Do you like wrapping gifts too? Whether you do or you don’t, it one of those necessary things you’re likely to end up doing at some point during the year. So because I’m very excited about gift wrapping in general, I decided to share a few tips on how to be a wrap star this Christmas. This is not a tutorial, but rather inspirational ideas for adding your own creative flair in making the gift of giving (and the gift you’re giving) that much more special. Follow my ideas and you’ll be the most respected gangster wrapper of the year. Ha-ha! Cheesy I know, but I just couldn’t resist.

THIS ONE’S FOR ALL THE PAPER HATERS – USE FABRIC!: I’m a real paper lover, but I really like using fabrics as gift wrap because I find them way more forgiving than paper. If you’re not very good at handling wrapping paper, this is the perfect option for you. It’s also the best option if your gift has an unusual shape, as it provides the flexibility that paper lacks. Check out this Ndebele inspired beauty I created by simply wrapping a bottle of bubbly with a brightly coloured cloth napkin. I wrapped a gold string around the neck of the bottle to secure the fabric, then added a pink bauble for a fun and elf-ish appeal. For extra credit, why not use a gorgeous Liberty hanky, or a vintage scarf to wrap a small gift for someone you really want to impress? That’ll be two gifts in one for the lucky recipient!

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TURN ON THE CHARM: It gives me the giggles when the recipient of a gift is so in love with the wrapping that they hesitate to open it for a moment. It’s like they’re scared of ruining the ‘art’ so instead of ripping it open as they should, they just stare at it for a while. For those types of people, I like to add something extra special as a gift topper, something they can keep to remind them of “That one time when the wrapping was so gorgeous, that I was scared the gift might disappoint…” KIDDING! But I’m sure there will always be someone who likes the wrapping more than they like the gift.

Here’s an idea that will give you some credit. Top the gift with a unique and beautifully made Christmas ornament, like I’ve done here with this super fine flamingo, so they can have it for adding to their Christmas tree every year. They’ll definitely think of you when dressing the tree with that special ornament in years to come. Okay, maybe that only works for hopeless romantic and sentimental like me, but I still think it’s a damn cool idea. Other good gift toppers are pom-poms, die-cut letters (choose recipients initial), tiny photo frames with their favourite image or quote, or just a sprig of their favourite herb (Rosemary is pretty hardy) to make it smell amazing. If all else fails, just put a ribbon on it! 😉

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THE CANDY SHOP INSPIRATION: I’m not a fan of giving money as gifts, but hey, sometimes that’s just what works. If you happen to be giving cash for Christmas, you can keep the recipient guessing with your unique presentation. Standard money envelopes are a little boring, so perhaps give them a miss this year. How about you just roll up the moolah and stick it in an empty loo roll and wrap it like pretty candy. Those will undoubtedly be the sweetest notes they’ll ever receive. This is also a great way to wrap gift vouchers and other tiny gift items.

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THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX: Over the years, I’ve realised that I really enjoy the challenge of wrapping awkwardly shaped gifts. You know, the ones that are not a perfect cube/cuboid, the gifts that everyone gets overwhelmed and annoyed with wrapping.

My failsafe approach to wrapping awkwardly shaped gifts when there’s no box available is as follows:
Choose a bit of card stock wider than the widest part of the gift (ensuring it’s sturdy enough to hold the weight of your gift), then place the card in the middle of a wide piece of fabric or paper. Centre the gift on top of the card, then bring the sides of the fabric/paper up and close by tying at the top. Fabric is more suitable for this technique because it will gather nicely. However, if you’re using paper, you might want to consider using deliberate folds and creases to compensate for its less forgiving qualities.

Now let’s address those gifts that are so darn cute and fancy already, you can’t bear to hide them away in a box. For those, my good friends, I give you my well known solution to making just about anything look better. Yep, you’ve heard it here before… Stick a ribbon on it! It’s works perfectly for this bottle of Hennessy right? 🙂

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Okay beautiful people, that’s a wrap!

I wish you all a magical Christmas, filled with love, happiness and extra special moments shared with family and friends.

xoxo

Coping With Loss During The Holiday Season

It’s crazy how you never quite know what’s coming at you from one minute to the next. Two weeks ago I got all excited about putting up the Christmas tree. Given my penchant for all things bright and beautiful, and the huge progress I’ve made in my healing over the years, I relished the level of excitement I felt. I had the best time decorating the tree with the prettiest ornaments in my signature non-traditional Christmas colours of course, then I jazzed it up with glittery gold letters, which are the initials of my nearest and dearest loved ones (yes, I included mine too). Finally, I added the most beautiful tree topper which I customised with my precious daughter’s name (my angel is real!), and the tree was complete.

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Now, I’ve decorated Christmas trees before, and have always been very happy with the beauty of my handiwork afterwards. Only this time around, the end result was different. Moments after I finished, I was overcome by an immense feeling of sadness. I was suddenly missing the sight of my little girl prancing around the Christmas tree with the boundless level of excitement that only children can generate. I wept, while repeatedly asking myself, “How can I miss an experience I never really had?”. Then it dawned on me that although Robyn’s life was cut so painfully short, her spirit is still very much here with me, and because I carry her in my heart, it feels like we are still growing together. This Christmas, Robyn would be at an age where she could understand the idea of celebrating Christmas. If she turned out to be anything like her Mama (highly likely I think), she would indeed be prancing around the Christmas tree, all googly-eyed by the lights, and curiously touching every ornament within reach. The painful feeling that I’m missing out on that experience with her really floored me. Okay, she may have disliked it too… but this is the trouble when you’re a hopeless sentimental like I am, you never imagine that as a likely outcome. The truth is, I think and speak about Robyn EVERYDAY, so it’s not that being reminded of her is difficult – because I NEVER forget. It’s just that sometimes even the tiniest, seemingly most insignificant activities and events can trigger a tidal wave of painful emotions when I least expect it. I’m very proud of how far I’ve come on my journey of healing, but the past two weeks have definitely reminded me that there will always be these special times when I need to be a lot more gentle with myself than others (times).

The good news is, I didn’t try to fight the feelings. Instead, I owned them, and truly felt them. Then I scooped myself up, gathered my thoughts, and dedicated time to planning some special things to do in Robyn’s memory during the holiday season. Despite the pain of living without her physical presence, I’m still incredibly happy that I now know the indescribable feeling of unconditional love, which grew from carrying her within me all her life.

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If you are struggling with loss and grief this holiday season, here are a few useful tips that can help you cope.

Express Yourself: Don’t suppress your emotions and suffer in silence, and never worry that you are ‘spoiling the mood’ with your sadness. Allow yourself time with your emotions, and cry as much as you need to. Sometimes a good cry really helps to ease the pain. If you’re the type who needs to talk about your feelings, reach out to the friends and family you feel most comfortable talking to, find a grief group, or arrange to see a therapist. Having the freedom to express my thoughts and feelings about Robyn really keeps me sane.

Practice Self-Care: Make an extra effort to be gentle and kind to yourself. Treat yourself to something that will help you relax, or something that will give you an energy boost. We’re all different types, so choose your ‘remedy’ accordingly. Remember, every little helps, so go for walks, eat well, read inspirational material, listen to uplifting music, or book yourself a pampering session. Listen to your body because it often tells you what it really needs. During my early stages of grief, I went through several phases of self-neglect, but whenever I found the impetus to do even the smallest thing for myself, I felt significantly better following my activity of choice. Of course, the sadness was still there, but I managed to relax my mind a bit, and that always helped.

Pay Close Attention To The Children: Sadly, loss and grief are not partial to adults, children have these experiences too. Depending on their age/maturity, they may not really understand what they’re going through. This often results in a myriad of behavioural changes, some of which may be quite unpleasant and troubling. As such, it is very important to exercise patience with them, spend quality time engaging in activities they enjoy, and encourage open communication. Extra doses of cuddles can do everyone a world of good, but also remember they may want to have ‘alone time’ too.

Practice Self-Preservation: Protect yourself! Don’t allow yourself to be forced into feeling festive. It’s okay if you’re not in the mood for celebrating the holidays, so don’t be afraid to politely decline invitations to the usual holiday events/gatherings. Sometimes you just need more time out from ‘normal’ life. Heck, cancel the holiday celebrations this year if you need to, it will come around again when you’re feeling less fragile. From my experience, it always helped to be direct, so people knew what to expect from me. Being honest about how I was feeling resulted in a more respectful, compassionate and caring attitude from others.

If you are feeling strong enough to join the festivities, and decide to attend some events, planning your own transportation is a good idea. This gives you more control over how long you’ll be there. That way, if there’s a sudden shift in your mood and you feel the need to leave early, you can do so without having to wait around for others or feeling like a ‘party-pooper’.

Make a New Holiday Tradition: It doesn’t have to be a ‘major production’. It could be as simple as lighting a candle at the dinner table for them, or making a special holiday wreath to lay at their resting place. I create a wreath for Robyn every Christmas, and I find the entire process (from sourcing and gathering the flowers, to making and placing the finished wreath) very cathartic. Perhaps its a good idea to still hang a stocking for someone you’ve lost this Christmas, encourage everyone to fill it with funny stories and fond memories of them so you can all share your stories throughout Christmas Day. Don’t be afraid to also skip a tradition if it’s too painful after your loss.

Give Back in Honour of The One(s) You’ve Lost: Doing something charitable in honour of a loved one can be very satisfying. Spend some time at an orphanage caring for little ones, volunteer at a children’s hospital, feed the homeless. Some of these suggestions are quite relevant to the nature of my loss, but there are really no limits to what you can do as a meaningful way of honouring the memory of your loved ones. Whatever you choose to do, simply do it with love, and you’ll be sure to feel some level of comfort streaming in like a ray of light. Service is a powerful healer. This won’t miraculously take the pain away, but it certainly helps with the healing. Yes we all grieve in different ways, and we’re all at different stages, but I’ve always found that doing even the smallest things in Robyn’s honour often brings me a significant amount of joy.

©ALL CONTENTS OF THIS BLOG ARE ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY ME, NOVA WILLIAMS OF 18 CHELSEA MEWS LTD, AND ARE MY PERSONAL OPINIONS AND VIEWS, UNLESS OTHERWISE STATED.

Hey, I’m Back At My Desk!

Hey, I’m back at my desk!

It’s been six months since I’ve written anything here. Apologies for dashing off without prior notice but I’m sure you all know that life has a tendency to get in the way sometimes. Despite the radio silence right here on the blog, I’ve had quite a few things happening. Some more exciting than others, but all very interesting nonetheless. If you’re following me on Instagram and AtMine, then you may have noticed that I’ve become more focussed on developing my skills as an interior and prop stylist. I’ve been doing plenty of styling and photography behind the scenes, and as I was having so much fun, I decided to take a little break from writing so I could devote more time to that for a while.

As if by magic, all this styling I’ve been doing already earned me a few rewards, one of which I will now share with you here. So, earlier this year I received an email from the Deputy Editor of an interiors magazine, requesting to do a tour of my home for one of their upcoming issues! I was most excited, especially because this was no industry ‘hook-up’! She had just found images of my home on AtMine.com, liked what she saw and decided to get in touch. After doing Google searches of her name a few times to be quite sure this wasn’t a hoax (I just couldn’t believe this was really happening), I replied to her with a resounding YES! Those who know me personally are fully aware of how I am about this stuff, so of course she didn’t escape me gushing about how I’ve wanted my home featured in a magazine since I was a little girl. Ha-ha! After a few email exchanges and telephone conversations, we agreed on a date for the photoshoot and which month’s issue I will appear in. It turns out I got the August issue which comes out next month; fingers-crossed I’ll get the cover! 😉 I’ll let you all know when it hits the shelves.

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The photoshoot itself was quite an amazing learning experience! They sent a professional photographer who has over 16 years of industry experience, and let me just say, I was like a sponge, soaking up all the wealth of knowledge he was unknowingly spilling everywhere around my home with every word he said and every move he made! Nothing I could ever learn on a course! I did ALL the styling for the entire shoot, and it was my perfect ‘A full day in the life of a stylist’ experience. It’s not nearly as glamorous as it sounds, and it’s certainly not for those who are ‘on the fence’ about this stuff, but I would do it again, everyday, all day from now on, if given half the chance. That’s how passionate I am about it, and that how much I enjoyed it. We were both responsible for postponing lunch break a good few times…you know when you get to that ‘sweet spot’ where you just want to finish before taking a break? Apparently I was the record breaker, as he’d never spent such a long time on a shoot for a home tour! Yep, That’s what you get when the photographer are the stylists are both stickler for details I guess! 🙂 I sometimes annoy myself with how meticulous I can be about these things! I’m working on that too…

Now, before all that fun and exciting stuff, I received a big pink letter from HM Court Services…JURY SUMMONS! Yes, I had to do it. I got a pretty serious case that lasted a whole week and I’m pleased to say that justice was served thanks in part to me fulfilling my civic duty. I was fortunate enough to see how things work with both outcomes as we arrived at different verdicts for the two on trial. Goodness me, it’s no joke to watch! It got pretty intense when the verdicts and sentencing were being given! Ah well, if you do the crime you’ve got to be prepared to do the time…right? Overall I found this stuff quite traumatising really, and I sincerely hope that I’ll never be summoned for jury service ever again.

To end on a more positive note, I’m very excited to be back here blogging again and I look forward to sharing interesting and useful content with you as I have done in the past. Thanks a million for your patience with me while I took a break!

Urban Jungle Bloggers: The Plant Shelfie

I love taking shelfies! Which is just great as I never take selfies…it’s just not my thing. Lucky for me, the avid shelfie snapper, November’s Urban Jungle Bloggers focus is the ‘Plant Shelfie’. This couldn’t be more perfectly timed because my houseplant count has increased significantly over the past month as a result of two gifts and a few purchases. So what better way to show off  a few of them than with a few shelfies?

Of course, the perfect little green newcomers to the Mews deserve an equally perfect spot to thrive and stay healthy here, so I’ve been changing things around a bit, much to my own delight. My current favourite newcomer is this cutesy little terrarium I made two days ago at the Heal’s Store Christmas Party, under the supervision of Emma & Tom from London Terrariums. I think I did pretty well, considering it’s my first, and I made it after having a few glasses of Processo and Sipsmith Damson Vodka! Given my obsession with ribbons and bows, I’m sure it isn’t surprising that I’ve since dressed up the little gem with pink and green velvet ribbons and turned it into the first sign of Christmas in my living room.

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You may have noticed in the images I’ve shown of my living room previously, that the windows are in alcoves/recesses, and are also quite generous in size, making them the perfect little stage for shelfies of all sorts. The arrival of my new plants triggered some lovely ideas of how I could jazz-up my windows with a colourful display.

In the early summer of this year, I bought a few MT Casa products including a 200mm wide roll of pretty pink stripe Washi Tape without having a clue what I was going to use it for. Then 2 weeks ago I decided to use it as a backdrop for my window shelfie, which turned out to be quite a satisfying little styling session. I usually change things around at home very often but I’m thinking these shelves might stay this way for a while, at least until Christmas decor comes rushing in.

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This is my second Urban Jungle Bloggers submission (see my first here), and I thoroughly enjoyed styling and photographing my plants, even the ones that didn’t make the cut for this post. I hope you like my plant shelfies as much as I do, and be sure to look out for future posts with other fabulous shelfie ideas for your home.

 Urban Jungle Bloggers is a monthly series run by Igor of Happy Interior Blog and Judith of JOELIX.com, with the aim of highlighting the beauty and benefits of houseplants and other greeneries in urban spaces. To find out more, visit the website or search #urbanjunglebloggers.

Light a Candle Today for International Wave of Light

Once upon a time, I welcomed the month of October purely for its natural beauty. The enchanting splendour of autumn leaves, atop the trees, floating weightlessly through the air and scattered all around us like golden confetti. Of course I still appreciate its beauty, but the significance of October is forever changed for me now. If fate had been more kind to me, October 2012 would have been the month I welcomed my precious daughter, Robyn Reese, into this world as a healthy, happy and beautiful baby girl… But sadly, she came silently, 3 months before. Now, October is the month I join the millions of families across the globe, participating in International Wave of Light, a worldwide lighting of candles in observation of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.

 

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October 15th, is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day (PAILRD). In observation of PAILRD, everyone is invited to participate in the International Wave of Light, by lighting a candle at 7pm on October 15th in their respective time-zones, and keep it burning for at least one hour. This will result in a continuous chain of light around the world for at least 24 hours in honour and remembrance of the babies who died before, during or shortly after birth.

Thanks to 3 American women, Robyn Bear, Lisa Brown and Tammy Novak, who petitioned the Federal Government and governors across the 50 States, National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day was passed in the House of Representatives on September 28, 2006. Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, is now observed annually on October 15th in The USA, Canada, the UK, Italy and parts of Australia. Through the legislative campaigns of individuals worldwide, it’s only a matter of time before PAILRD becomes an international day of observation.

 

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“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers. It would be terrible if we just skipped from September to November, wouldn’t it?” Here I am reflecting on the words of Anne of Green Gables, as I saunter along this magnificent golden avenue in the park. Thoughts of my precious little love make all my Octobers much more special. Although I appear to walk alone, she’s always with me…IN MY HEART.

 

Visit the the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death (SANDS) Charity website for useful information on how best to support someone dealing with baby loss.

Honouring My Baby’s Memory

Here is a photo of some playful bubbles my sister blew for my precious little girl, as we marked her 3rd birthday at her memorial picnic on July 1st. Which 3 year-old wouldn’t be fascinated by bubbles? When it comes to honouring my baby’s memory, even the smallest acts such as blowing bubbles count… I generally don’t share much about my daughter Robyn publicly, in fact, this is the most I’ve said on a public forum in the 3 years since her transition. I make exceptions around her birthday for 3 reasons:

  1. Although Robyn is no longer on this earth, I realise I’m no different from any proud mother who likes to talk about their child. I embrace that, and I still honour the very real relationship I had with my baby.
  2. To help eliminate the silence and shame associated with baby loss, as well as the cultural confusion and discomfort that often surrounds a mother’s grieving process.
  3. To encourage survivors (who really want to) to speak openly and guilt-free to friends and families about their beloved little ones who have gone before them, while finding the most beautiful ways to mark the milestones and keep their memories alive.

Bubbles For Robyn

 

In my experience, being able to talk about Robyn has been hugely beneficial to my healing process. It’s shocking how many women I already knew, had suffered miscarriages/stillbirths but I had no idea because they kept it a deep dark secret. What’s even more shocking is that many of them have kept it a secret, not because they really want to, but because they worried about how people would react to them talking  about their child who is no longer alive. One of my deepest fears was that everyone would forget my baby, and I unashamedly confess, that my friends and family haven’t really been given the option of forgetting little Robyn because I really just can’t shut up about her. I’m now forever grateful that I have the most supportive and understanding family and friends, who have openly expressed that they have no desire to forget.

Now, it’s not all doom and gloom, I often have pleasant conversations about my daughter too. My precious girl filled me with a love I never knew existed from the moment I learned I was carrying her, and that love has only intensified since. So it’s probably not surprising that I still think about what she may have been like at different ages and stages of her life, which personality traits she may have adopted, which toy we might have had to buy in multiples because ‘all hell would break loose’ if it mistakenly got left behind at Grandma’s house, and even the foods she may have liked or disliked very much growing up. I don’t know whether there’s a connection here, but I shockingly lost my obsession with cake during the early stages of pregnancy, and it never returned since. Meanwhile, my tolerance for pepper and spicy foods skyrocketed…it was already VERY high to begin with! I remember having high hopes of her being an exceptionally well-behaved baby, just like her Auntie Toni (my sister, 16 years my junior, deserved Best Behaved Baby of the Millennium Award, if ever there was one), and to this very day I wonder whether that would have been the case.

There is no greater love than the love I feel for my daughter. I’ve accepted that my life is now changed forever. To anyone who have experienced baby loss or child loss, never feel afraid to celebrate your child’s life, regardless of how short it was. If it’s helpful to you, then share your thoughts and memories with your loved ones who want to be involved in preserving your child’s memory, keep a journal, write poems, or even write letters to your child. Honour your child in a way that makes you happy. My little Robyn was born on July 1st, but this year I’ve chosen to celebrate her short life for the entire month of July, because it just feels right.

I’m doing this in a number of ways, but here are a few of the many things I’ve done which may inspire you to do something special for your dear child too:

  1. A colourful picnic by her side on her 3rd birthday followed by the release of 3 gorgeous pink balloons.
  2. Lighting candles to mark other special and important dates surrounding my loss – It’s 3 years today since I saw my baby girl for the very last time, and took her to her final resting place. These are small details many won’t remember, but it helps me to mark this day too.
  3. I’ve decorated a special space at home with little mementos, making it the perfect place to sit and write to her, while I reflect on the best memories of the experience of carrying her.
  4. All year round, there’s also a shelf dedicated to Robyn in my home. It always has the letter R, some flowers and something pretty girly with a bit of sparkle.
  5. I’ve created a memory box for Robyn. It holds photos and other items belonging to her, cards/letters of support I’ve receive over the years, dried pressed petals from the flowers from her funeral and anniversaries and a myriad of other keepsakes.

I find living without Robyn immensely painful, but there’s still a sense of beauty shining through in her memory, so I continue to mark the precious milestones in the most meaningful and beautiful ways I can, and I keep a record of it all so she too has a legacy. For me, it’s about preserving her memory in a way that brings me even the tiniest moments of joy, despite how deeply unhappy I am that she’s no longer physically here. Although little Robyn was stillborn, there’s no denying nor forgetting that she was still born. She was born silent, perfect and beautiful.

Nova

©ALL CONTENTS OF THIS BLOG ARE ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY ME, NOVA WILLIAMS OF 18 CHELSEA MEWS LTD, AND ARE MY PERSONAL OPINIONS AND VIEWS, UNLESS OTHERWISE STATED. 

5 Ways to Make Your Home Cleaner And Greener

I was never too crazy over new year’s resolutions as such but I’ve always, in my own little way, made the effort to ensure that my ‘todays’ are better than my ‘yesterdays’, and that feels like enough. Of course I make important plans for the future too, but I just find it a lot easier to take it one day at a time with most things these days; it just works better for me. Right now my focus is on living a greener and cleaner life so it seems fitting that my very first post of the year is to share with you 5 easy ways make your home cleaner and greener.

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1. DE-CLUTTER

How lovely would it be to have a simplified, uncluttered life? Extremely lovely I think! Which is why I’m trying to achieve that, starting with my home. I’ll admit that I have no original or failsafe ideas for you on decluttering, as I’m still trying to master this myself. The general rule is, if you you haven’t used it in months, then you probably no longer need it. If you no longer need it, then it’s time to get rid of it. But it’s not always that simple right?

Last year, I made numerous trips to the my local charity shops to donate bags of things I no longer needed. Yet somehow I still have lots of stuff to go! I’ve now decided on a strict new strategy and given myself a deadline for getting rid of the remaining items I no longer use. I learned this one from Apartment Therapy’s The January Cure, which is a realistic and manageable ‘one day at a time’ approach to getting your home fresh, clean and organised throughout the month of January. In Assignment #3 of the January Cure, Janel Laban – Executive Editor of Apartment Therapy suggested that we all need a clutter collector which she calls ‘The Outbox’.

The Outbox – We’re encouraged to choose a clearly defined space in our home that is out of the way of daily activities and can be allowed to get a little chaotic. This space will serve as a ‘halfway house’ for items while you decide their fate. There are rules for managing the outbox, there will be prompts to use the outbox throughout the duration of The January Cure and you will be given a date to empty it. My outbox is the spare bedroom, which is perfect given the amount of stuff I plan to drop in that halfway house! I’m confident that this method will help me to get rid of the excess baggage I’ve got around here. Wish me luck!

It’s not too late to join the January Cure, just hop over to Apartment Therapy to subscribe and you will get your assignments via email. Good luck!

 

2. REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the three Rs which are fundamental to environmental stewardship. It’s pretty self explanatory and really important to practice in the correct order as mentioned here.

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Reduce – the most effective of the 3 Rs. We’ve all fallen into the trap of purchasing items we don’t really need at one point or another, and if you’re a sucker for packaging like I am, then it’s likely that you too have bought products being sold in more packaging than necessary. While I’m very good at carrying around my reusable shopping bags in my handbag, I’m fully aware that I need to pay a bit more attention to what I’m purchasing and how it is packaged.

Here are a few easy ways to start reducing waste at home now:

  • Eliminate the use of paper towels by investing in good quality reusable cleaning cloths and fabric napkins. Mabu Cleaning Cloths are an excellent choice. They don’t get smelly, they’re super absorbent and they’re biodegradable too
  • Avoid using disposable cups, flatware and cutlery even for your summer BBQs and garden parties
  • Avoid using plastic shopping bags by carrying your own reusable bag when shopping. There are a myriad of styles of reusable shopping bags out there, many of them fold up into a nifty little bundle that you can easily take with you everywhere. I love this one I found on Etsy with the cheeky print below.
  • Avoid buying products in excess packaging where possible

Reuse – Let’s face it, sometimes you’ve just gotta get those items. After all, this is not about stopping the circle of life, it’s quite the contrary. I’ve got into the habit of choosing what to buy based on how I can reuse its packaging or the item itself and I can be a major show-off when I find a clever way to reuse just about anything. A perfect example of that is how I reuse my Aesop Mouthwash packaging.

  • Think of different ways to use items or packaging before throwing them in the bin
  • Donate your unwanted goods (in good condition) to charity/seconhand shops, this could mean less items going to the landfill. You might also find some pretty awesome things you could buy from there too. One man’s trash is indeed another man’s treasure!
  • Buy products that are made from recycled materials

groceries n shitRecycle – Recycling gives new life to materials. Although there’s always a huge drive for recycling, this should really be the last resort after you’ve made your best efforts to reduce and reuse. It’s easy to recycle most materials these days. Glass, plastics, aluminium, and paper can all be broken down to make new products.

You can make or buy partitioned recycle bins to make the process easier at home. You might even be able to get free recycle bins from your local council at no extra cost; I returned home to find they delivered recycle bags for my neighbours and I without our request. It’s pretty good too, a sturdy rectangular shaped bag with a wide base so it stands on its own, with 2 labeled sections so you can sort your recycling right from the start.

Two good tips to get you into the habit of recycling at home:

  • Start thinking about recycling when you’re out shopping and try to choose items that are recyclable, or at the very least, packaged in recyclable materials.
  • Invest in a recycle bin. Whether you decide to make one or buy one, it’s a good idea to allocate specific sections for specific materials so you can sort items immediately after use

 

3. USE NATURAL AND NON-TOXIC CLEANERS

I’ve always been more than a little irritated by the harsh residual scent of regular store-bought cleaning products. I mostly felt I should be wearing a hazmat suit while using  many of them, so there’s a long list of brands and products that I’ve completely avoided over the years.

For me, this was the easiest switch to make; I started by discarding all the toxic cleaners from my cupboards and I have no regrets. Now armed with lemons, vinegar and baking soda, I can make the whole apartment sparkle! You can do the same. Just scour the internet for ways to make natural household cleaners, you’ll find that most of what you need is already in your pantry. One of my favourite places for natural cleaning recipes is the Hello Natural website. Don’t forget to check out the green beauty tips and delicious food recipes over there too by the way!

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Not too keen on DIYs or creating your own cleaning products? As you’re probably already aware, there are many environmentally friendly, non-toxic plant-based cleaning products readily available in stores these days. While I’m happy to make my own natural cleaners for daily use, my go-to eco-friendly brands for hardcore cleaning days are Method, Ecover and Earth Friendly Products. When making the switch, bear in mind that product performance may vary across different brands so it’s worth trying items from a few different brands to find what’s most suitable for your needs. For example, I like Method for the kitchen, hand wash and laundry liquids, Ecover for the bathroom and laundry liquids, and Earth Friendly Products for laundry liquids. I recently tried and liked the Fruit & Veggie Wash from Earth Friendly Products which is 100% biodegradable, natural, non-polluting and most importantly, non-toxic. Another good thing worth noting is that all these brands are available in refill and bulk sizes which helps you save money and reduce  waste.

method products

 

4. INVEST IN AIR-PURIFYING HOUSE PLANTS

Believe it or not, there are a wide variety of toxic substances lurking around our homes and compromising the quality of the air we breathe. One of the most prevalent chemicals in the household is formaldehyde, a volatile organic compound (VOC) emitted in low levels by various household building materials and furniture. It is found in carpet, flooring and furniture glues, sealants, paints, furniture finishes and even in water/stain-repellent finishes of upholstery and clothing. That said, our exposure to VOCs is virtually unavoidable, but lucky for us, in 1989 some trusty NASA scientists discovered that having specific types of plants indoors can eliminate this and other chemicals from the air.

bostonfern

My non-existent green-thumb always made me too scared to buy indoor plants in the past but I’m finally ready to give it a good try. While I vow to care for them the best I possibly can, I think it’s only wise to do a little research to find the more hardy types air-purifying plants first…it just makes sense, given my history.

I’ll be posting my top picks here next week but for now, let good ol’ Google be your guide or get a copy of the book How to Grow Fresh Air by Dr. B C Wolverton.

 

5. STAY ORGANISED

Once you’ve de-cluttered, deep cleaned and finally got everything in its place, the challenge at hand will be to maintain your newly organised home. Naturally, some of our days are busier than others, and we won’t always have time to clear up after ourselves and each other every day. However, it’s worth remembering that if you make a habit of returning things to their rightful place after use, your next scheduled cleaning day will be far quicker and easier than your last.

stay organised

Here are a few things you can do to help yourself along:

  • Return books to the shelves once you’re through with your research or browsing
  • Spare a few minutes before bedtime to tidy the sofa and cushions in the living room
  • Return outfits to the closet once you have decided against wearing it
  • Return cosmetics to the bathroom cabinet immediately after use; if they’re empty, bin immediately unless you plan to reuse it.
  • Keep your dining table clear and tidy between meal times. Somehow dining tables and kitchen surface areas become an automatic hoarding place for random items like water bottles, books, spectacles, keys, mobile phones, and other gadgets. If your household struggles with this problem, see the next point below
  • Have a designated ‘hold-all’ tray or ‘tidy’ basket near your kitchen or dining area where you can drop the random items mentioned above. Be careful not to turn it into a ‘junk’ basket by returning the contents to their rightful place once you no longer need to have them at hand
  • Place items in the dishwasher immediately after use. They’re going to end up there anyway so you’re only providing more work for yourself by making the sink and worktop (or any other piece of furniture) their half-way house. The same reasoning applies to your dirty laundry
  • Fold and put away the clean laundry once they’re dry

I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea. If you can get into the habit of doing these simple things, then cleaning day can be reserved for actual cleaning and will take only half the time and energy than before. Even better, you won’t feel so stressed about tidying up when your Mommy’s coming over to visit on short notice!

Make your home cleaner and greener today. You can do it!

Happy green cleaning!

Nova xo

IMAGE SOURCE: Method Product Still Life by Annabelle Breakey Photography. Groceries & Sh*t Canvas Bag from Emily McDowell Draws Etsy Shop. All other images from Pinterest

©ALL CONTENTS OF THIS BLOG ARE ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY ME, NOVA WILLIAMS OF 18 CHELSEA MEWS LTD, AND ARE MY PERSONAL OPINIONS AND VIEWS, UNLESS OTHERWISE STATED.

Life Lately: I Won! Thank you!

Hello again!

I’m sure you noticed it’s been a little quieter than usual around here lately. Well, that’s because I’ve been very busy making preparations for a lovely Christmas dinner party I hosted at home for my dear friends last Friday, while trying to get the most out of a 4-week photography course which I’m now VERY happy I joined. You’ll be pleased to know that all went well on Friday and we had an amazing evening together! As a reward for your patience with me while I get some fun stuff done in my real life, I will be sharing some photos from the evening with you here, once I manage to sift through and find the best shots.

Now, before we get to that, I’d like to share the good news that I am the very proud winner of the ‘I’m Dreaming of Debenhams Dinnerware’ Competition hosted by Jen Stanbrook over at Love Chic Living blog in association with Debenhams department store! I won £250 to spend at Debenhams plus a Christmas Food Hamper worth £150. Yay me! A massive thank you to Jen Stanbrook and Debenhams for choosing my entry post as the winning post!

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My next post will be a DIY guide for the gorgeous handmade invitations I sent my friends for last Friday’s dinner party. I hope you’ll like it as much as they did!

Toodles!

IMAGE SOURCE: Pinterest

Fragrant Pot Simmer Potpourri Recipe For The Holidays

With Thanksgiving just a day away and only 4 weeks to go before Christmas, many of us are busy making plans for hosting and attending numerous holiday gatherings with friends and family near and far.

I love that the holiday season kind of forces us to make time to catch up with friends and relatives we haven’t seen in a while, but one of my favourite things about the holidays, is the delightful aroma of spices and baked goodies meandering through the air as preparations are being made for the next gathering. Nowadays, it evokes acute nostalgia, transporting me back to those childhood days when everyone would gather at Mama’s (my maternal grandmother) house for a reunion buzzing with laughter and fun. A brief thought about this yesterday, then I was off to buy cranberries, so I could make a classic holiday pot simmer potpourri at home.

18CHESLEAMEWS-simmerfragrance

The best thing about a simmering potpourri is that you get to use all natural ingredients of your choice and it leaves a lasting pleasant fragrance in your home for a reasonably long time after you’ve stopped the simmer. Follow this recipe to get the smell of warming holiday spices wafting through your home.

WHAT YOU NEED:

  • 1 orange
  • 1 lemon
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons whole cloves
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 cups of water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

18chelseamews-potpourri-simmer1

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Slice orange and lemons, add to pot with all other ingredients, bring to a vigorous boil then set on low heat and let simmer.

2. Please ensure you keep an eye on the water level; simply add more if needed, to keep the simmer going for longer.

3. Follow your nose, feel free to go lighter or heavier on specific ingredients listed above, the idea here is that you tailor the combination to suit your own needs. For example, when I want the fragrance to remain more spicy than sweet, I avoid using the vanilla on that occasion.

4. Relax, enjoy, repeat!

Happy Thanksgiving to all my USA readers and others observing the day!

Life Lately: Blog Boss e-Course

Hello lovelies! I hope you’re enjoying your day.

It’s been a bit quiet around here lately but it’s all for a good reason. Since October 10, I’ve been doing the Blog Boss: The Business of Blogging e-Course, an amazing 4-week course run by Holly Becker, founder of Decor8 blog and Blogging Your Way e-Courses. I’m having such a great time learning so much about colour psychology, branding, monetising, story-telling and so much more about the business of blogging! The course turned out to be a lot more than I expected in both quality and quantity, so after the first few lessons, I decided it would be in my best interest to just focus on my lessons and assignments until November 10 when the course ends. You might also notice a few small changes in the appearance of the blog as I’m also making a few changes behind the scenes to get it looking and functioning the way I’ve always wanted it to.

So as not to appear selfish by keeping you completely locked out of my journey on this course, today I’m sharing a mood board I submitted for one of my recent class assignments.

SPRING moodboard 18CHELSEAMEWS

This mood board reflects my seasonal personality, as well as the general aesthetic and subject of my blog. For those of you who are unsure, my seasonal personality is Spring, and my blog falls under the same category.

As this is a paid course, I’m not allowed to divulge details of the lessons, but my hope is that I will be able to improve the quality of my blog by applying the knowledge I’ve gained upon completion of this course. Not long now!

Thanks for stopping by!

Nova

Photography by Nova Williams for 18 Chelsea Mews

©ALL CONTENTS OF THIS BLOG ARE ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY ME, NOVA WILLIAMS OF 18 CHELSEA MEWS LTD, AND ARE MY PERSONAL OPINIONS AND VIEWS, UNLESS OTHERWISE STATED.