How I am reducing clutter in my house

img_9788

If you follow me over on Insta, you’ll know that one of my 2017 new year resolutions is to reduce the clutter in my house.  It’s like my nesting phase has come early and I am determined to only have items in my home that we love and need before the new baby comes in May!

The items to be disposed of need to have lived in the house for a while (catalogues, newsletters and the occasional drawings don’t necessarily count unless they have been kept for a long period of time) and they don’t necessarily go in the bin.  We have made countless trips to our local charity bins and many other items have been given to family or friends we know will make good use of them.

Here are some of the tips and benefits I have come across so far:

  • Dispose of 10 items a day: this whole idea was to help me not feel overwhelmed by the daunting task.  I am not limited to 10 items and sometimes if I remove 20 or more things, I count that for the following day.  It has helped me take this challenge in bite sized pieces and to helps me avoid spending hours trying to clean a section with the end result of me leaving a bigger mess once complete.  Sometimes I clean a bathroom drawer while the kids are in the shower, a kitchen cupboard while dinner is cooking or even the a shelf while the kids get ready for bed.  It also ensures our bin isn’t overflowing come bin night!
  • Introduced capsule wardrobes for the children: I have loved having a capsule wardrobe for over 2 years now (my Winter and Autumn wardrobes for 2016 can be found here and here), where I only have about 37 items in my seasonal closet.  I have since done the same for my two children.  They are the grateful recipients of great hand me downs so by going through what they have before the season starts, I know exactly what they need and don’t need.  I have consequently curbed the amount of money I’ve spent on kids’ clothing which means less items in the house.  Win-win!
  • Reduced my shopping habit: Because I am consciously trying to reduce the amount of stuff in our house, I am more reluctant to bring more into it.  Therefore, I am a lot more picky when buying things and when I do, I make sure we need it and I truly love it.
  • Ensure everything has a home: Reading Marie Kondo’s book has really changed the way I live (you can click here to see how she has helped me reorganise my drawers!).  One of her great suggestions is that everything in your house needs a home i.e. a designated space for it to live.  Not only does that mean you will always know where to store it and where to find it, but it also means that it belongs.  Often I have items that I like, don’t really like but for some reason, want to keep.  If I can’t find an appropriate home for it, then I know it’s time to let it go.
  • Re-evaluate the toys and books for my children: I have always wanted to be clever with my storage solutions and was keen to have a living room with toys out of sight.  We got rid of 98% of our DVDs and now use our TV cabinet as toy storage.  Each child has a 40cm x 25cm box filled with a few activity and reading books as well as educational and fun toys that encourage imaginary play.  I did this with my children so they chose what they wanted and removed what they didn’t.  I am yet to do their bedroom but I will use a similar strategy.  I have, however, re-done their Montessori shelf in the spare room which I will share shortly!

I am still learning through this process but I feel so much lighter and happier even though I’ve only done a small percentage of our house.  Because I do things in bite sized pieces, I know exactly which area I want to tackle next and how to do it.  It’s great feeling that you can conquer a challenge you have wanted to do for years… and feel like you can actually achieve it too!

Our approved list of homemade Christmas treats!

img_8342

Every year, we try to make some homemade goodies to give to family and friends.  We have made some massive failures over the years but with some practice (like our gingerbread men this year… but our third attempt worked!), we have compiled a list of Christmas treats that are not only easy to make but are always gratefully received by our loved ones:

  1. Salted caramel sauce – I love recipes where I can chuck ingredients into my Thermomix and then walk away.  This is one such recipe where I can just pour the ingredients in and then 12 minutes later, not only do I have delicious sauce to share but I also have my bottles sterilised!  I often get asked for this recipe so here it is!  One tip is to double the batch… I haven’t tried tripling it but doubling it works a treat.
  2. Tomato Chutney – This is a gorgeous chutney.  There is a little more work involved vs the salted caramel sauce, but it is worth it!
  3. Peppermint Chocolate bark – Who doesn’t love to receive chocolate for Christmas?  This recipe is made easier with Thermie too.  The addition of candy canes make it a beautiful Christmas treat.
  4. Salted caramel ice cream – We usually have a Christmas gathering with friends each year and I’m usually asked to make this.  I’d make this more often for myself if it wasn’t so bad for you (but it tastes so goooood!)
  5. Gingerbread men – My kids requested to decorate gingerbread weeks before December so for the past three Sunday mornings, we have made gingerbread!  We gave some away to Xavier’s kinder friends today and two mums came up to me requesting the recipe!  It is a soft gingerbread which my family (and friends) love.

And there you have it!  Our top 5 homemade Christmas gifts tried and tested by our family.  And here are a couple photos of last Sunday morning while having fun with our gingerbread…

::cheekily sneaking in M&M’s::

img_8322img_8325

We hope you are having a wonderful lead up to Christmas too! xx

Why I don’t buy Christmas gifts for my nieces and nephews

IMG_4258.jpg

While Christmas is usually the season for family, joy and giving, it is also a crazy time when your ‘to-do’ and ‘to-go’ lists are filled with end of year concerts, celebrations, who to buy gifts for and who is hosting and cooking what for Christmas that year.

The days following Christmas, families usually do a stock take of what toys they currently have in the home.  Consequently, if you pass any local opp shop late December, you will often see charity bins overflowing with unwanted items with countless garbage bags next to them.  We have found ourselves in a similar situation.  While we have been the grateful recipients of great presents, Christmas usually brought in many little trinkets which our children may have played with for a day, but then quickly got bored of.

One year after the festive season, I caught up with a friend and we discussed how our Christmases were.  She  shared her sister’s request which made Christmas a little easier but all the more memorable.  No one was to buy gifts for her children.  Instead, if family wanted to give her children something, she requested the gift of their time.  Take them to the zoo for the afternoon, the movies, a sports game – anything that would allow the children to not only have fun, but to ensure they have happy memories with family.

I loved this idea so shared it with my family.  Interestingly enough, this was something my brother and now wife had always done for my children for birthdays and Christmas.  They would take the kids out to somewhere of their choice (usually McDonalds for lunch then a movie or fun play centre) and Joel and I have a rare morning or afternoon to ourselves to enjoy with each other.  Honestly – it’s the gift which everyone in the family loves.

On Joel’s side, there are 10 grandchildren and 10 adults.  It consequently worked out perfectly for each adult to take a child out on a special date of their choice for Christmas.  Last year, dates included a beach day, body boarding followed by fish and chips, a photography walk after high tea, a morning filled with painting, a bush walk then a trip to the Chocolatier, bike riding… so many fun activities.  This has not only been a great way for us to get to know our nieces and nephews on a deeper level, the fun memories made I know will last a long time.

I’m so grateful that we have the gift of time and am able to spend it with our loved ones.  And I’m also grateful that my children have wonderful family who are willing to take the time out of their busy schedules to spend with them so their childhood memories of family Christmas time will be filled with the fun dates they had with the people they love.

Paper dolls and Vogue Kit

A few weeks ago, Grace and I sat down and read some books together, including ‘The Paper Dolls‘ by Julia Donaldson, who wrote the children classic, ‘The Gruffalo.’  It’s a beautiful story of a little girl who makes a set of paper dolls and has a fun time playing with them.  It ends with the same little girl grown up as a mother, making paper dolls with her daughter and then watching her happily play with them.

Reading it was so nostalgic for me, as memories of making paper dolls then playing them filled my memory.  Grace immediately loved the idea of making paper dolls so luckily, we had some kindly sent to us from the team over at Vogue Kit so Grace eagerly opened them up and played with them for hours.  It comes with two dolls with many outfits so we had fun pretending to have different functions, outings and appointments to go to which required a change in clothes!

The dolls are made out of are cardboard so after a few days of play, Grace needed to open a new packet of dolls so the tags on the clothes would stay on.  However, Grace absolutely loves them.  I also like them because the outfits aren’t skimpy – something I dislike about some dolls and their outfits.  They also easily fit in a little zip lock bag so they are compact and transportable – a great ‘go-to’ toy for on the go.

img_7663img_7637img_7639img_7644img_7647

So if you’re in need for Christmas stocking filler ideas, these will definitely be a hit!  You can also score free shipping with the code “DRESS” at checkout!

Thank you, Vogue Kit  for sponsoring this post.

Go serve

IMG_7976.jpg

The other day I had the privilege of catching up with a good friend.  I’ve watched her grow up (I remember the days I used to hold her with cute little curly pig tails bouncing up and down) and now, as a young woman, I see so much of myself in her as she tries to navigate her way in this big world.  As we discussed life and other things, I felt impressed to share with her a very trying period in my youth when school, relationships, my volunteer work… all were riddled with problems and I could see no light at the end of the tunnel.

I clearly remember, at one particular low point, standing in the middle of my room after studying seemed a waste of time as my problems consumed my thoughts.  I then slumped against my wardrobe and started to sob uncontrollably.  I felt helpless, I felt useless, I felt worthless.  In a state of desperation, I started to pray and I asked what Heavenly Father wanted me to do.  The answer came instantly.  “Go serve.”  It wasn’t the answer I expected and it took me by surprise.  But after some careful consideration, it made complete sense.

When I’m helping someone, I feel an immense love for them.  I am fully engaged in their welfare and as corny as it sounds, I completely lose myself in the cause.  Soon after my answer to serve came, I went out and found so many opportunities to serve so close to home.  Once in service, my thoughts immediately shifted from myself to the others who genuinely needed help.  So even though my situation did not change (although time did eventually heal the wounds), my attitude and perspective did.  Consequently, I was able to go through those trials in a better frame of mind.  Don’t get me wrong, it was still extremely challenging but shifting my focus from myself to others around me, helped greatly.

A quote my Carl B. Cook sums the power of service perfectly:

“As we serve… our problems are put into perspective. Life becomes more satisfying. Our love for others increases, as well as our desire to serve.”

Now, when I feel that life is getting the better of me, I am quick to remember what I can do to help me face them.  I know that service brings joy and satisfaction but it not only benefits the people we are helping, as we too, are greatly blessed.

My organised bag with Bellhop files!

img_6751

If your kids are like mine, if they are hungry, bored or thirsty and we are not at home, they go straight to my bag.  There, they know they’ll find exactly what they are looking for.  They know where the snacks will be, the games and the drink bottles.

I moved from baby bags to regular bags once Xavier turned one but I don’t have just one ‘go-to’ bag – I actually have four!  My first bag is my large, black tote.  There is only a zip pocket which I usually keep my phones (work and personal) and keys easily accessible.  If we are out and about and I know I’ll need both hands free, I use my backpack which can fit two large Tupperware divided lunchboxes as well as our other essentials.  My third bag is my work bag and my fourth, is a medium sized brown leather tote.

My kids and I know where everything is because we use our Bellhop files.  I ordered mine with two friends and we all went in for a friend’s baby shower present (to be included in the baby bag we also gifted her).  At her baby shower, our friend opened her gifts in front of friends and family and she when opened our gift, I kid you not, everyone was impressed by the simple, yet extremely functional design!

Essentially, Bellhop files are four zipped mesh files with tabs at the top so you can easily identify which file contains what.  All files are clipped onto a handy carabiner clip so you can quickly remove files if needed.  When my Mum or MIL take the kids, I just give them the ‘snacks’ file (which I top up every night before bed) and the ‘essentials’ file (which contain bandaids, wet wipes, sunscreen, tissues and hand sanitizer).  There is no need for them to lug around a baby bag, they just take the two files and slip them easily into their own bags. When Xavier wasn’t toilet trained and needed to be changed, I could easily unclip the ‘change’ file and go to the restrooms without taking my entire bag.  I still have a ‘change’ file and keep spare clothes for X man and my fourth file contains travel sized games, handy when in waiting rooms or when traveling long distances. Either way, it’s so easy for me to change between my four bags because everything is already packed and organised.

Grace can read the tabs but X man just looks through the mesh part of the files and easily finds what he’s looking for.  As you will see below, I keep my phone, keys and wallet in my pouch so absolutely everything has a home (Marie Kondo has changed my life!!).  It’s the little things in life that make me feel more in control… like having an organised bag! (Scroll down below for your exclusive discount code and a chance to win a set of files for yourself!)

And now for some photos from our Sunday afternoon…

::aaah sunshine… you’re supposed to be out more often now it’s Spring!::

img_6715

::park play::

img_6736img_6741img_6748

::what’s in the bag!::

img_6728

::the kids always get excited when it’s snack time!::img_6753

img_6756

We love Bellhop files so much, we’ve decided to offer all LittleBlueLiving readers an exclusive 20% discount code!  Just enter ‘LITTLEBLUE20’ at checkout!  Please note that the discount code expires 31st October 2016.

We also want to giveaway one set of Bellhop files files to a lucky reader!  Stay tuned to our Instagram tomorrow for details!  Xx

The importance of play and our Sudio Sweden review!

img_6523

Good old ‘mum guilt’ has constantly got me thinking of the long list I need to work on, not only in our routines, the house, the food, etc., but also in my behaviour.  One thing I’m currently working on is making more time to ‘play’ with my children, especially Grace.

Grace usually enjoys playing by herself when she’s at home but lately, she’s been asking Joel or I to play with her on a frequent basis.  Usually, it’s during dinner prep time, when I’m ironing, cleaning or even when I’m dying for a Sunday nap.  I want Grace to have fond memories of us playing together so when possible, I comply.

The more chances I’ve had to play with her (it’s usually Shopkins, Barbies or Lego Friends), the more I’ve realised that these moments are also great teaching opportunities.  One time, her dolls were being mean to one particular doll (I think Disney movies have made Grace think every situation needs a bad guy!) so instead of being mean, the doll I was playing with stood up to the bully and helped the sad doll.  Another time, some characters were commenting on how beautiful the dress was on my character.  I thanked them their kind comments, but then steered the conversation towards other topics like our favourite subjects at school, how we love to be kind and help people.

The last time Grace and I did something she wanted to do, we did a sticker activity book.  Part of the activity was to describe the picture so Grace proceeded to do so. I challenged her to think of it as telling a story to a person who cannot see the picture, to describe as much as she can so the person listening, can visualise the picture.  By the third time, Grace improved so much and I loved seeing how her sweet mind saw the picture at hand.

Another activity we love to do together is playing different educational games together on the iPad.  I gain so much joy watching her love for learning and from time to time, I do help her in certain games.  Since receiving my Sudio Sweeden earphones though, Grace sometimes likes to use them instead of her own!  I usually let her wear earphones since I’m fine not listening to kid game music! I must say, the Sudio earphones have been great.  Not only are they cordless (which I know why Grace loves them), they have amazing sound.  I primarily use them when I’m at work (I have the Vasa Blå which have an in-built microphone so I can easily go from listening to my favourite music to answering calls).  I also love how they are discrete as they easily hide behind my hair but most of all, the sound quality is amazing.  Sure, I am used to my earphones which come with my mobile, but the difference is extraordinary.  Either way, when I’m at home, Grace always requests them if they are needed!

I’m so grateful that Grace is at an age where she wants to play with me.  I know, all too quickly, that this will change so whenever possible, I should grab these opportunities not only to spend some quality time with my baby girl, but to teach her things I want her to learn.

On a side note, I’ve decided to team up with Sudio Sweeden and offer you guys 15% off your first order!  All you have to do is enter ‘LITTLEBLUELIVING’ at checkout.  Oh – and shipping is free!