Monday, 7 August 2017

Let's get crafty! (Tips to create and maintain your craft room.)

Pinterest is full of gorgeous images of beautifully curated craft rooms. Not a thing out of place. Big rooms, small rooms, cupboards and corners, the possibilities are endless but they are always beautiful, colourful and spotless.

Added to this there are many blogs out there detailing how to set up a craft room, how to curate your stuff, beautiful storage solutions - both bespoke and off the shelf but what none of them tell you is how to maintain the space once you've set it up. Most fail to plan for future purchases or even the practicality of creating in the space.

Systems fail when they're too complex to maintain. Simple is best. But how does that work in a room that is like an Aladdin’s cave? A room stuffed to the gills with every craft material you've ever bought but perhaps never used?

After we moved house three years ago, I achieved the unthinkable – a whole room of my own for crafting and creating.

To start with I used the furniture we had, a motley collection of storage cubes teamed with a desk and credenza bought for an entirely different shaped room. And I made these things work while I dreamed of a Pinterest-worthy space. I was happy here and spent many hours creating.

Meanwhile I planned my ultimate craft room for over a year. I measured my space and drew up plans, then I redrew them. I visited IKEA and Howard’s Storage World and redrew my plans again.

I planned and re-planned. I took stock of what I had and then planned again.

Before I bought a single piece of furniture I revisited every item in my crafting supplies from rulers to fabric squares and scraps of paper to ribbon and wool. I knew exactly what I owned and what I was never going to use. I attended a crafting event and sold my unwanted supplies to raise money for charity. I donated the rest of my still over-abundant supplies to various school and church groups and I felt lighter and more focussed. I was ready to build my dream room.

My existing furniture went into my husband’s studio and suddenly I was faced with an empty room. My hours of dreaming and planning were put to the test as I bought and assembled the storage units I had decided upon.

I mounted these cubes to the wall. They are both functional and decorative

I have to admit feeling a level of fear and trepidation as I filled my shelves with my carefully chosen supplies but everything fitted, with space to spare and the room was beautiful – Pinterest-worthy even. And just between us, for a while I was too scared to use it in case things got out of place. But I soon got over that and I can now spend hours happily crafting and creating.

IKEA's kitchen shelves and rails are a great addition to your craft room

So, what did I learn?

  •  Take stock of what you have. Cull and donate. Be ruthless if you haven’t used it in 12 months are you going to?
  •  Shop smart - stop auto subscriptions. Whilst beautiful these subscriptions tend to be the very things that are stashed away and never used because they weren’t bought with a particular project in mind.
  •  Be clever and creative with storage ideas. Use what you have. A successful room is one that suits your needs not something from the pages of a magazine.
  •  Future proof. Don’t plan a craft room that can only house the supplies you have now. Like any good storage solution, it should only be 70 per cent full.


And the key to maintaining the craft room of your dreams?

Simple.

Put stuff away.

Make sure everything has a home, even those works in progress. Only too often I hear the words – my craft room is a disgrace! And the messier a room becomes the less likely you are to use it and the less likely you are to use it, the more likely it is to become a dumping ground. Stop the cycle before it begins.

The finishing touches

 And now it’s time to go and live a creative life.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

The room of requirement

We have a room adjacent to our kitchen. It's lovely big room, full of light, with views to the deck on one side and garden on the other. It's a room where people gather, it's warm, welcoming and spacious. But strangely, it's a room without a name. All of the other rooms in the house have titles - lounge, dining, bedroom, laundry - based on their primary use.


Sometimes we talk about the Red Room, based on its decor but even this doesn't stick. Its the hub of our home, a that room matches our ever-changing needs, it's the room where anything can happen. A room where variety is the spice of life, the room of requirement. 

Depending on the time of day it can the breakfast room, a quiet reading room, an extra bedroom, a games room - this is where the Xbox and play station live and the room can be brimming with teenage boys vying for supremacy in soccer or rugby. It was also the dance floor, complete with DJ, for my son's 18th Birthday. For a month it was the room where my mum convalesced after her back surgery. It's also been a massage room! 

Rob had to fight the cat for his turn!
It's where we gather when we all come home, to chat, debrief and shrug off the day. At Christmas time we move the dining table in so the extended family can fit. It's a room that invites laughter and conversation. But it's also a room that lifts you up when you need it most.

I've spent a lot of time in here over the past few years. Central to the room is a sofa bed that also converts into a chaise. And it's here that I've recovered from my various surgeries. 

A flashback to the time I spent six weeks in this contraption as it bent and straightened my knee.
I'm in the room right now, writing this post. so, now the room is an office too. This is how the room currently looks, complete with pets, washing and an abundance of lemons. This room is real life. 

Xena has a red blanket and Sparky has a red beanbag and they don't like to share.


What room is the hub of your home? Do you have a room that changes with your needs? What do you call it? I'd love to hear about it.  

Monday, 19 June 2017

Tell me a story...

Everyone has a story to tell and each of us is in charge of shaping that story, of writing the next chapter through the choices we make and the actions we take. 

Every time someone decides to engage me they're choosing to change their story, to shake off the physical burden of their stuff, to write a new chapter that is lighter and more lively. Each client's journey and story is different and the emotional and sometimes physical changes that accompany decluttering and simplifying one's life can be both unexpected and challenging. I love working with clients as they move through these changes and delight in sharing their discoveries.



But, today, let me tell you a different story...

Ten days ago an experienced surgeon performed a type of operation he'd never undertaken before. He discussed this unique case with his learned colleagues. They'd never seen anything like it before either. So, together they formulated a plan to undertake a surgery that took them into uncharted territory.

It sounds like a story featured in a documentary. One which you read about in a textbook or research journal. But, for me, the strangest part of this story is that the patient with this bizarre and unique issue was me.

For the past two and half years I've lived with chronic pain. A pain that has become more and more debilitating. A pain that has refused to be diminished with medication. A pain that crept into every pore of my being and impacted every facet of my life. 

My world became, at times, very dark. I would wake every morning, in pain, wondering if this would be the day I gave up, pulled the covers over my head, admitted defeat and took to my bed for the rest my of natural life. I wondered when the day came, would it be a Monday or perhaps a Thursday? Maybe even a Sunday? But then each day I thought of what I'd miss. There was so much more of my life to be lived and so every morning I gritted my teeth and greeted the day. 

Over time I learnt to live within the confines of my pain and refused to allow it to completely rule me. But this effort came at great cost. I couldn't handle both the pain and my job and the pain showed no signs of easing. But sometimes opportunities come when you least expect them and whilst battling my demon I forged myself a new career complete with a fledgling business all of my own.

I'm proud of what I've achieved, of how I've overcome issues that seemed insurmountable. But mostly, I'm feeling a rising tide of excitement as I acknowledge that my pain, the demon that lodged itself deep within me, has gone or at the very least is sleeping. 

Everyone has a story to tell and its time to write the next chapter of mine. 

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Let's make up

Being a minimalist isn't about going without, it's about deliberately choosing less of the unimportant stuff so you can choose more of the things you love.

Recently, I watched an interesting spat play out on a well-known Minimalist's blog when he shared a post from another well known Minimalist who wrote, among other things, about her make up purchases. 

Readers immediately jumped up and down about that point and that point alone, as if she had committed some huge minimalist faux pas as well as crimes against feminism. To the original blogger's credit he rose to her defence and commented that everyone's vision was different and if she found joy in make up that was her deal. And it really is.

My favourite minimalists are the ones who seek to live a simplified life or one with intention. The lives they have chosen appear to be full of family, friends and simple joy. They're not just getting rid of stuff because it's the latest trend. Nor are they single people living in a room with just one chair and a macbook.

I've never been a heavy make-up user but let's face it, I'm not in the first flush of youth anymore and we all know women of a certain age start to fade - literally. Sure I could choose to fade to beige but since a pale washed out version of myself does not bring me joy, I like to colour things up a bit. And that means choosing make up that suits me and my lifestyle.

I'm not willing to use cheap products, ones that are bad for the environment or most importantly have been tested on animals. So I choose my products carefully and when I like something I tend to stick with it. I like to think I'm opting for style over fashion but maybe I'm just staid!


I love these products, they colour my day. Subtly, of course!

As part of my minimalist journey I sought to rationalise my personal expenditure. Changing careers played a key factor in this decision-making process too. Not even in the name of self-care could I justify spending vast amounts at the hairdresser every five weeks. 

So I grew my hair into a slightly longer style that could go for longer periods between cuts and changed from getting a full head of foils each time to a half head. I also decided to embrace the naturally-occurring silver streaks that are growing in number with each passing day. 

My hair still looks great but is costing about a third less over the course of a year. The longer style also reduced the need to wash it every second day or use daily styling product. I've halved the amount of of shampoo and conditioner I use. 

The silver streaks are all natural!

Something else still I do routinely is get my eyebrows waxed. In the past I'd buy three different products to darken and/or highlight them. Now I get them tinted at the same time as waxing and the savings are adding up. I remember thinking tinting was an added expense I didn't need but really I was just investing in a false economy by purchasing multiple (beautifully packaged) products instead. 

Still the point remains, what minimalism looks like to me probably isn't what it looks like to you. You might think my continued support of the beauty industry is a waste of money and a crime against minimalism. And that's ok.

What is important is that you choose the life you live and live it with intention and joy. And let others do the same.



Friday, 3 February 2017

Books are my lifeline

I've long been a minimalist. Way before it even had a name, I was one of those people who just preferred less. Less stuff crowding my spaces, less stuff to look after, less stuff to move from house to house, just less! 

Unless that stuff was books. 

Books hold a special place in my heart. As a child books were expensive and going to the library was the norm. We had a precious collection of books from my mum's childhood and received books at Christmas and on our birthdays. But there wasn't the casual ability to pop to a bookshop to buy a book let alone an entire series.

Then sometime in my young adulthood, the publishing world changed and books became affordable. Bookshops were plentiful and I delighted in buying the tomes I desired. My bookcases groaned under the weight. But still the books kept coming. I married a reader and we gave life to the next generation of voracious readers. In short, this family loves books. 

But how many books are too many?

A few years ago I read Marie Kondo's book - before she was a worldwide sensation and everyone was konmaring their stuff - and what she said about books made sense. We had amassed a huge collection of crime fiction that we were never going to read again - we knew who did it. Our books had been shared amongst family and friends, they were dog-eared and well-loved but they had served their purpose, they'd given me joy and it was time to thank them for their service and let them go. 

I originally purchased and read this as an ebook but my father in-law saw this copy in a bookshop recently and thought I'd like it.
BUT!

My family was not ready, in fact they were horrified when I packed up several boxes of books and sent them to a book-loving charity. Marie advises that you should never get rid of anyone else's stuff and she's right. I had to be very careful only to jettison my books.

Fast forward to 2017 and Marie Kondo is a household name, minimalism is the new black and almost everyone knows what a professional organiser does (which is lucky or I'd be unemployed). Suddenly my husband and daughter were ready to take the leap and move their books on. Suddenly there were boxes of books jostling for space in our garage. And their readiness gave me licence to get rid of the books that were shared or of unknown providence.  Unused recipe books and how to guides soon joined their fiction counterparts.

Books going begging
But fear not, we are still at the very core of our beings a book-loving family. Our cherished childhood books still have homes along side classics that will be reread with pleasure. And to an outsider our home still looks like it is weighed down with books but those books lift us up not weigh us down. 

An empty shelf!
Today I packed the car to bursting and took all those boxes of books to Lifeline where they'll begin a new life bringing joy to another book-lover and really it doesn't get any better than that.

Surround yourself with things that bring you joy or perform a service that brings you joy and your life will be more with less.





Thursday, 19 January 2017

Switching off

Sometimes you need to switch off completely.

Rob and I were lucky enough to have five days at the beach last week without the kids. Sure they’re both adults and they were at home tending the garden and spoiling the pets but it was weird to go away without them for that long.

It meant that we only had the two of us to consider. Meals were easy, any mess was created by us alone and quickly tidied away. There were no external pressures to consider and even better Rob had no phone or data signal at the house so he was completely cut off from his workplace.

Life slowed down, we took time to walk slowly and admire the view, we savoured our food and drinks, we read books for hours. We paddled in the waves and scrunched our toes in the sand. We had real and sustained conversations. We took drives along the coast and into the hinterland and paused again to admire the view. We enjoyed long afternoon siestas.

Reflections of sun,sand and sea

I felt calmer than I had for a long time. The run up to Christmas had been a busy one with lots of clients wanting sessions to help them prepare for the festive season. And then I got a cold. I was shocked. I hadn’t had one in three years and had forgotten just how lousy it can make you feel. And then it lingered on and on for over two weeks. It hung around for all of Christmas and with 10 people in the house it was not an ideal time to be sick. In fact, it made me very cross!

I rolled straight back into the new year with a week of bookings, which was great, my clients are always good fun but I was tired. My knee and its associated medications mean that I just don’t function at the level I did in the past. I tire easily and become very vague. Usually I perk up again after a nap or a good night’s sleep but according to Rob it was like living with a person in the early stages of Dementia. In short, I was at the point where if I didn’t stop and acknowledge my physical health, my mental wellbeing would suffer too.


I came home rested and recharged. I’m keen to get out and work with my clients but I’m also really excited about plans to build my business. It’s amazing what a little bit of self-care can do!

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Combatting the post-Christmas {decorating} blues

I love decorating for Christmas, each and every ornament holds special meaning, a moment in time to be savoured. We don’t subscribe to a Christmas with a narrowly defined and carefully orchestrated colour scheme. In this house we celebrate in full colour with all the noise and mess that goes with it - our tree star is never straight!
The tree before Xena began removing one decoration at a time.

But…packing up post-Christmas is definitely not a favourite activity. You know it’s time when there are more pine needles on the carpet than on the tree and even the cat has given up her daily foraging for decorations.

Yup, can’t ignore it anymore, so begins the collection of Christmas stuff from around the house. The bell on the door, the bells hanging next to the door, the garlands decorating the family room. Even the family of reindeer get evicted.

It really is a bell, not a spoon on a string as Rob insists.

But still…the tree. You feel its presence every time you enter the lounge room. It lurks in the corner mocking you with its many decorations and complex lighting arrangement. But still, you refuse to acknowledge it, viewing it out of the corner of your eye as if it is some alien being from Dr Who. Still, surely but slowly it wears you down. You know what you have to do (after all its poor naked corpse needs to be thrown out on the street for collection in two days’ time).

It’s horrid being guilty of a love/hate relationship especially when your tree knows it’s being taken advantage of. 

But still you hesitate, taking time to arrange the reindeer around the Christmas cake. Even the cat looks at you in disapproval but you are amused with your delaying shenanigans.

In the cool dawn, reindeer big and small come to feast on Christmas cake.
You know the time has come, the tree must go. 

And then inspiration strikes! You select the best ever Christmas collection on You Tube and the undressing begins.
Re-creating that Christmas feeling courtesy of You Tube.
Singing along to jingle bells and frosty the snowman, the tree is getting naked. We take it slowly, the tree and I. Each decoration has its own story, a dragon from Hong Kong, a Babushka from Russia, a magpie from Bowning, a pickle from Germany. And of course the handmade ornaments, survivors from another time when the kids were little and Christmas was crafty. 

I’m in the zone now, down to the star on top, bead garlands and lights. And then suddenly, I’m done. I circle the tree checking for missed decorations, heaven forbid I throw away a small wooden Santa or a glass star.


Nope nothing to see here, just a disrobed tree that is a little worse for wear but still smells divine. Suddenly, I can’t wait until December when the Christmas Tree Truck makes its next delivery!

But wait! What is this? A lone survivor of the de-decorating? Buying that huge string-covered reindeer seemed like such a good idea at the time and, admittedly, he looked very cool presiding over the table but how on earth to store him for the next 11 months? 

Surely reindeer are inter-seasonal decor?
Judging by his reading material, Rudi has no intention of being stuffed into a plastic bag!