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Living life with good intention, loving with soul, and consuming with a conscience

December 30, 2018

Getting Clutter-Free for 2019

Heading into a new year is always a good excuse to wipe the slate clean and start afresh in my opinion. So many people are made fun of as each year comes to a close for having plans, resolutions, promises they want to keep for themselves but is there any harm in them? If people use the start of a new year happening as an excuse to give themself a kick up the butt in some shape or form, I will be the last person to shoot down that kind of positivity. I like to set myself some goals each year that I know are attainable (and a couple that are designed to make me push myself out of my comfort zone) but I've realised over the last couple of years that it's really quite hard to just wake up in this fresh mindset, ready to face all of these new challenges you have set for yourself. That's why this year I'm doing a few things to shut down 2018 and bring it to a healthy, obvious close in the hopes that I can move forward with more clarity and certainty.

I don't believe having this sort of attitude requires too much from an individual, but by already doing some of these things, I feel like I am preparing myself for the future in a good way and starting things off on the right foot - it's helping me provide the best environment possible to reap the best benefit as possible. I've just got my fingers and toes crossed that I can keep this motivation up! So here's some of the small last-minute changes I am making to my life and world around me in order to start January 2019 in the best light (and simply some other suggestions that might suit some more common NY resolutions!):

Sort out your bookcase. If your household is anything like mine, your bookshelves will be bursting at the seams with a wide variety of literature that doesn't always get the attention it all deserves. Bookcases seem to have a knack for collecting clutter because we tend to place things there then forget about them so I'm making an effort to tidy them up heading into the first week of January. I know for a fact our bookshelves have doubles of some books and there's things there that I don't even care about owning anymore therefore, having a declutter and knowing I can donate some nice books to my local charity shops is a positive way to head into the new year.

Sort out your spice rack.... and your kitchen cupboards in general. Another place that hordes clutter for me is our kitchen. There's lots of tins, jars, half-opened items etc. that seem to linger in the kitchen for months on end and it brings that positive environment rating down. Something I am doing as the year draws to a close and the new year starts is using up this clutter in new recipes which means not only are food items not being wasted, but I'm testing and trying new recipes, cuisines, and meals I otherwise wouldn't have experienced or researched for. The big major tidy-up in this area for me is the spice cupboard. I am very much a spices and herbs kinda gal when it comes to cooking so it should be no surprise that one whole cupboard is dedicated to just these ingredients alone, but when your 5ft 2 on a tall day, you can imagine the dilemma I have trying to find anything in there without everything coming crashing down around me. Having a system, some organisers, and just a general clear out of this space is going to vastly improve my kitchen and minimise clutter!

Get rid of food that might hinder you. Before anyone berates me, I am very firmly situated in the camp "eat what you want and do what makes you happy" but I know for many people heading into the New Year, a goal of weight loss or gain, fitness, health etc. is often on the cards so setting yourself up for the start of the year the right way is the best way to kickstart it all. After Christmas my house tends to have a lot of junk lingering around in the form of chocolate, excess booze, savoury snacks... you get the jist. By donating anything to food banks, neighbours, the local church, or simply using it up before 2019 rolls around can be helpful for those of you who might have goals in mind which rely in some part on your eating/drinking habits. Particularly those of you who are trying Veganuary this January (well done to *any* and all of you who are trying this - I really wanted to this year but can't due to some health reasons!), ensuring your kitchen cupboards and fridges are only stocked full of vegan foods etc. can make the transition easier as there's less temptation and less opportunity for you to be swayed by other items.

Get ready to donate! I mentioned donating food earlier if you can, but something I think people wildly overlook after the Christmas period is donating unwanted Christmas gifts. Now, that's not me saying that anyone is ungrateful, but receiving gifts that you know you are not going to use or don't suit you, aren't your cup of tea etc. is commonplace during Christmas and seeing those things just cluttering up your home and gathering dust when someone else may absolutely *love* them is reason enough in my book to get donating. It's never too soon to donated unwanted gifts and of course, your local high street charity shops will take more things gladly. However, also investigate things like your local homeless shelters, women's shelters and children's hospitals in case they are in need of anything. Items like clothing and accessories are easily managed and moved onto loving homes but organisations such as Toiletries Amnesty help share unwanted toiletries and cosmetics with those who may need them most. Even if you've opened something and tested it out or you're sat there with 8 Lynx Africa gift sets and at your whits end, places such as Toiletries Amnesty can take it all off your hands and help you put it to good use elsewhere.

Get back on that capsule wardrobe wagon. Back in September, I pledged to minimise my spending habits when it came to fashion once again and revisited the idea of sustaining a capsule wardrobe. I honestly believe that even if you're not interested in a minimal lifestyle, having a basic capsule wardrobe to build on can be extremely beneficial - even if you find it difficult to stick to like me! I find I give myself a hard reset with my wardrobe at certain points throughout the year and always follow my capsule wardrobe rules to achieve this. Having a big clear out can be very cleansing for the soul and the act of organising this part of my life always impacts me positively which has a ripple effect into other areas of my life. Get organising, get donating, and get bettering yourself via a clean and tidy wardrobe and I promise you'll see some benefits.

Hit that budgeting and/or planning hard. Something I'm very keen to do from the get-go this year is plan plan plan. I'm quite an organised person generally anyway, but when I can efficiently plan things out, I always feel so much more collected and also more confident with what's going on in my life and managing any hurdles that may come my way. One thing I always struggle with however is budgeting and thus, this is one of my big focuses and motivators this year. I find I can budget really well when I know I have something particular to save towards and whilst I know I have some big things planned this coming year that definitely need some savings behind them, creating smaller, more monthly budgeting goals is also going to help me keep that focus. I've already pledged to only buy a small number of fashion items that I need this year and not to buy anything else other than the items of that very concise list. Another way I'm aiming to budget is to plan and prep meals thoroughly so I can try to minimise expensive meals - both in and out the house - to see how much of a difference this makes. Planning can often get a bad rep as people see it as "boring" and try to take the mick out of those who do it but when you see just how much you can achieve with a little bit of organisation to back you up, it should only ever boost you and your life in a good way - ignore the Negative Nigels!

Shut down any and all negative relationships. Lastly, something I wanted to touch on is something I have thought I needed to do in the past but never did, only for things to blow up in my face further down the line anyway. Decluttering your life doesn't need to include just physical objects or materialistic things, it can also relate to any relationships you have. These can be with family members, friends, partners... if you're not happy parties on both sides of the fence, then it may be time to step back and ask yourself why and also question whether things can improve or not. I'm not suggesting here that if you're going through any sort of difficulties with a loved one right now that you just completely stop speaking to them - that's often not the right course of action for anyone and doesn't always result in the right response. However, if you feel a relationship of any sort has run it's course, it's feeling like a lot of effort (and not the good kind), or it's simply turning toxic, don't bring that bad energy into your new year that you're shaping with so much promise. Relationships of all types can be tricky to manage and sustain but those that are genuine and reciprocated can get through a lot. Those in which an individual (which could be them or you) is toxic where it is effecting the happiness of either party or the relationship as a whole may not be the best idea to drag into your new year which could hold so much for you. Cutting ties isn't a sign of weakness or heartlessness, but this sense of "decluttering" could be so rewarding for you.

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December 27, 2018

Looking Back on 2018

2018 - what a year it's been huh? I feel like I can speak for most of us and say that it's been one hell of year; one which has been pretty negative and that just seems to be a general consensus. I don't know why that seems to be the case, but it seems this year has been hard for many of us - myself included - for a number of reasons and most of seem happy to say goodbye to it ASAP so we can move onto new ventures and hopefully more positive things. In terms of NB, blogging has been a huge positive for me this year as I've not put pressure on myself to post regularly, to post things I don't want to etc. and that has definitely helped in the overall quality of my posts and how pleased I am of the content I've put together. My photography has improved over the past 12 months, my writing is something I take more time with to ensure it's as true to me as possible and comes across as passionate and thoughtful, and my interests are shared more openly across this safe space because if blogging isn't for your own benefit, then is it really worth it?

As this awful year draws to a close, I thought I'd compile some of my favourite posts I've written during 2018 to prove to myself that not every aspect of the year has been negative or bad and that actually? Northern Blood can be a gem sometimes and I'm very proud of the work I produce with this wee hobby of mine:

Me & My Other Interests: Serial Killers I'd have a Cuppa With
Back in 2016, I started a series discussing all of my different interests that I may have not spoken about on the blog before but for some reason, this year I didn't really write many of this kind of post - except these ones about serial killers. I've always had a strong interest in serial killers and true crime but I've always felt like it didn't "fit in" with my blog content. It took until 2018 for me to realise that that's ridiculous and I can post about whatever I want on this wee blog and so, I did. After writing the first post I quickly realised that I could write essay after essay about various different serial killers I've shown an interest in researching and knowing more about over the years so Part Two and Part Three were born out of this "hobby". I had *so* much fun collecting information for these posts and writing them (and loved the fact that you guys enjoyed reading them so much too!).

Sustainable Sundays: Making an Eco-Friendly Home
2018 saw a continuation of the sustainability posts here on NB. Becoming more eco-friendly, ethical, sustainable etc. has been a huge passion of mine and I've definitely been learning and growing more and more in these realms over the last few months and documented this along the way. One post in particular that I enjoyed writing (and photographing) was some tips on how to have a more eco-friendly home that might not be initially obvious to anyone making a more conscious effort/switch to be more sustainable. Finding ways to make it easy for myself and others to make better decisions which have a better, more positive impact on our planet will always be something I enjoy publishing on this blog.

Astrology for Beginners - a Little Guide
One hobby/interest of mine that I talk about a lot over on my Instagram stories is astrology and horoscopes/birth charts but for some reason, I had never really discussed here on NB. So I threw together this introductory post into the world of astrology and what it all means, how it can be used, and why I have such an intense fascination with it all. I am 100% *that guy* who asks new people I meet what their sign is and boy oh boy, does it get some reactions. But, I absolutely adore exploring people's personalities and traits based on their signs and simply wanted to share the love in a fool-proof way. I also really loved the photos from this crisp and clear post!

Go Outside
Another big passion of mine is nature. I adore being in the great outdoors whether it takes the form of the woods, the seashore, the mountains - I love it all and honestly believe it is a form of medication, spirituality, and more. Nature is incredibly important to me and often, like so many of us, I can take it for granted or simply overlook how wonderful it is. Discussing how beautiful nature is and all of what it has to offer for us all was a nice breath of fresh air on my blog and I look forward to bringing more nature into my blog in 2019.

Sustainable Sundays: Stop Suppressing Sustainablity
Another Sustainable Sundays post I have to mention in this round-up is a bit of a rant I had. Sustainability definitely had it's moment in the spotlight in 2018 and I hope it continues well into future years, but it's not necessarily an easy decision and lifestyle for people to fully delve into as it can be expensive, reliant on external factors, and expectant of good health/dedication amongst many other things. Having an outlet to talk about the stigmas of sustainability and the struggles it can produce was healthy for me because I feel that it's very easy to promote such a clean and kind lifestyle but as someone who actively encourages such a lifestyle, I see myself as being extremely responsible to also be completely transparent so sharing the negatives of sustainability is also important, y'know?

Real Talk: It's just Nipples
Although I didn't post many Real Talk posts this year, I did post on topics I had a lot of feelings on and therefore I'm quite proud of. One of those topics was the oppression we are still facing with "Free the Nipple". I, as much as the next person, don't see the issue with nipples, regardless of the gender attached to them and find that the rules and regulations of the autonomy of our bodies - in both real life and virtually online - is sad to still see in 2018. I can only hope it carries on changing in 2019 and we see more and more freedom, but having a good ol' rant about those changes I would like to see happening was very therapeutic.

How to be a Fashion Revolutionary & Ask #whomademyclothes
Back in April, it was Fashion Revolution Week and people were asking #whomademyclothes. I think FRW is extremely necessary as I'm a firm believer that fast fashion brands, particularly those big names on the highstreet, should be held accountable for how their products are made and sourced and should be completely transparent. It's important for people to know where their clothing, shoes, accessories etc. come from, who made them, and in what environment. By asking these brands #whomademyclothes, they can see how interested people are in ethical work environments, equal pay and rights etc. and that many feel more strongly about these things than they do about the latest fashion trends. So if you are someone who wants to know more, this might be the post for you.

Reasons to Thrift & Shop Second Hand
Following the clothing theme, another post I loved preparing and posting was the reasons why you should thrift/shop second hand more because boy oh boy, do I love a good charity shop rummage. Being someone who has been consciously avoiding fast fashion for the past year and a half, writing this post was so much fun because it gave me a chance to share the love and explain just how beneficial secondhand shopping can be on the environment, for charity, and even on your bank balance!

Real Talk: You are Enough
The last post I wanted to mention is the only other Real Talk post I published this year. Self love is something I always struggle with - I'm very good at convincing others that they are worthy of all the love in the world (especially their own) but not so good at practicing what I preach. It was very calming to compile this post and just completely write from the heart and convince myself that I'm worth some self love. I'm going to make sure I read it when I feel I need a pick-me-up and ensure I practice little forms of self love whenever I can.
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I'm excited to see what 2019 brings for me in terms of Northern Blood, my life generally, my career, and family. 2018 has certainly been a hard one and there's many things that happened and many feelings that were expressed that I am more than happy to be saying goodbye to and hoping that I won't ever see again. But now that I'm heading into 2019, I'm *so much* happier than I'd ever thought I could be - within myself and also with decisions/plans I am making - but I'm also much more optimistic. It's easy to slip into a nostalgic stupor as the year draws to a close or you can take the reins and steer that close into a positive ending and ensure you start January right. I'm definitely backing that latter mindset.

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December 05, 2018

Have Yourself a Sustainable Little Christmas

It's just 20 days to go until Christmas Day and who is as excited as me?! As you may know if you are a regular reader or if you follow me anywhere on my social media, I am trying my best to be a little more sustainable and thoughtful this Christmas (check out this post for sustainable gift ideas). Aside from the gifts I have chosen, I've realised there's lots of other little things you can do this Christmas to still keep the festive spirit very much alive but also ensure that you're not costing the planet - so here we go!

Use brown parcel/kraft paper for wrapping your gifts. A really simple switch to make but completely overlooked. I only just found out this year that many wrapping papers are not actually recyclable due to the coatings and treatments they have had (even if they seem like ol' regular paper!). Therefore kraft paper or parcel paper is a fab alternative that keeps your gift wrapping completely eco-friendly. This also gives you the chance to be really creative as you can paint, draw, or stamp your own designs onto the paper or buy some recyclable twine or reuse any ribbons you may have already from previous parcels and do some simple ribbon work around your parcels. Kraft paper is really cheap and you can often get quite a few metres of it in one lot. If you don't fancy using kraft paper, why not try plain and simple newspaper instead and use colourful ink and stamps to make it look festive? You can add brown paper or card gift tags too!

Try fabric wrapping too. So, this is a new one for me, but hear me out. Furoshiki is a Japanese knot wrapping technique and I am obsessed. There's lots of instructional how-to videos on YouTube for this technique and I'm really keen to give it a go this year. Lush are always a brand that have done the scarf wrap really well with their bathbomb gift sets, but I never thought of doing something like that myself. This is a great way to use up any old fabric you may have lying around or if you are inspired by the likes of Lush, you could totally buy a bandana or scarf to try this idea out. This is a particularly good idea for anyone in your life that may use the scarf too as it's technically an extra gift!

Buy things in bulk and spread them out. Something that is a great way to be more eco-friendly but that will also save you some pennies is bulk buying an item then spreading it across many recipients. For example, you could buy a really large bag of bath salts, a large bottle of body lotion or bath oil etc. and a set of smaller jars or bottles (or even get them secondhand in a charity shop!) and spread the product out amongst the smaller containers. This may seem cheeky to some people, but this is a great way to make little stock fillers or an extra small gift to go with other things. You can then decorate the containers however you wish (with twine, ribbon, artwork etc.) and give it a handmade feel. This also gives you a chance to experiment so you could mix together bath salts and bath petals for example and make your own concoctions for others to enjoy.

Make things yourself! In-keeping with what I just mentioned, if you're crafty or a good baker, why not make things?! I probably should have included this in my gift guide but, if you have a natural flare for something, definitely utilise it at Christmas time as not only will it save you some money, but you can also make your gifts more personalise and sentimental to the person you're making the present for. An example of this for me would be the fact that I could make someone an embroidery hoop, some cookies, or a natural face mask. There's tons of things out there you could make whether it's a drawing, painting, a homemade candle, a room spray, a cake, Christmas tree decorations for the next year, jams or marmalade, knitted gloves scarves and hats... the possibilities are endless.

Create your own hamper. Who out there has someone tricky to buy for each year? I know I do but, a great way to get around this is by creating your own personalised hamper for that person. Of course you can buy a variety of hampers and gift sets/boxes, but by creating your own version, you can make sure that every single product included in it is something the receiver likes and will use. You could include food items, drinks, beauty products, jewellery, home decor... there's so many great things you can throw in a hamper! You can also make them very specific to a particular hobby (gardening, favourite movie, sport, music etc.) so you have so many potential avenues to go down. Although the individual gifts may not be necessarily sustainable, you absolutely can try to make the hamper itself purse-friendly and sustainable instead. Scouting out baskets and boxes in charity shops is the best for this and it means you can display the items you've hand-selected for this gift in the best way possible.

Don't just stop there with charity shops. Think decorations, too. If you're on a budget or simply want to source things second-hand so you're not buying into a high street Christmas, charity shops can be goldmines for second-hand Christmas goodies - especially decorations. Things such as garlands, bunting, baubles, and tinsel can be found in charity shops if you check regularly and closely during this time of year - even whole Christmas trees can be found in some of them!

Use what's naturally available and completely free! If you're really struck for cash or you want to really try to be zero waste and eco-friendly, use what nature might be available to you to create a festive home and gifts. You could collect pine cones from the local park and sprigs of Christmas tree if your local flower shop sell them or if you have a real tree in your home. These pine sprigs could be used in your gift wrap decoration or could be added to decor around the home. They can also be plopped into some hot water to create a lovely room fragrance if you have people visiting. If you have time before Christmas, you could also dry out and press some flowers and leaves to use for decoration or even for gifts - placing pressed plants in photo frames can make pretty gifts.

Up-cycle the old to make it the new. Lastly, I wanted to mention another thing that we can overlook and that is upcycling some of our old Christmas decorations to refresh them and give them a new breath of life. Using the same decorations can get boring and they can begin to look tatty and tired, but by giving them a makeover you can save yourself some serious money and minimise your waste as you won't be tempted to throw old decorations out. An easy way to do this is by buying spray paint or glue and glitter and transforming your tree decorations. This year is seeing a grow in the popularity of very garish bright decorations as well as the classic millennial rose gold, so you could always spray old baubles a fresh new colour or even dip lightweight toys you might have (such as small dinosaurs, army men etc.) in glue and glitter to make your tree very Paperchase-chic. You could cover old pillar candles in glitter too to make them more festive looking or add one to a large bowl with some old tinsel or pine cones to give your dining table some Christmas spirit. Another favourite of mine is using old books to create new pieces - Matt made some beautiful flowers from pages of old books and you absolutely could use the same resources to make a garland of stars, snowflakes, or other festive shapes for your fireplace (or use that leftover kraft paper from your gift wrapping to give it some variety!)

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