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

July 01, 2020

The Beginners Guide to Sustainable Fashion

If you've been a long time reader of Northern Blood then you will know that I've been trying to maintain an ethical, sustainable, and somewhat curated slow fashion wardrobe since 2017. I started to educate myself on the problems with fast fashion and it made me take a step back and assess my own consumption and bad shopping habits. It's all well and good that I've shared that change of heart but, I haven't really provided you all with any information on how I made that change; how I started on my journey.

It's not you, it's m- nope, it's definitely you
First things first: you need to break up with fast fashion. Obviously that's the overall goal anyway but, you need to be prepared for changing spending and consuming habits that you may have had all of your life up until this point. Regardless of how you adapt sustainable et al. fashion to fit your needs and lifestyle, you will need to make changes as no matter what, one of the main principles behind making these changes relies on less consumption.

Statistically, we consume more fashion now than ever before and the only way we can tackle that is if we minimise how many items of clothing we're actually purchasing. People often mistakenly believe that to buy into a more sustainable, ethical, and/or slow fashion lifestyle that you must also become quite minimalist and that's simply not true. Finding what works for you is vital as you need to make changes that you will stick to. If the thought of having only 30 items in your wardrobe fills you with dread, you're not going to stick to a capsule wardrobe idea so it's not worth it. Make it work for you, whatever that may look like - as long as you're knocking that over-consumption of bad quality fast fashion on the head.

Look for inspiration in the right places
So, breaking up with fast fashion might seem daunting at first but, one of the best things you can do is give your personal style a chance to breathe and really work out what items you want to own and love but also find new sources of inspiration that will encourage to shop with consideration.

One of the best decisions I made at the start of my journey was unsubscribing from all of the mailing lists and promotional emails I got for high street brands and big online retailers. No longer did I receive those tempting "20% off for 24 hours only! Don't miss out!" style emails every other week that almost always resulted in purchases I didn't need. Another great tip is to stop following brands/influencers which encourage you to impulse buy. You don't need to get rid of what you find inspirational of course but, if you know following X will make you hop on over to Asos to order that skirt they had on in that post, oh and those shoes, oh and that bag that was on their IG stories yesterday... yeah, you get the picture.

Educate yourself
I know it sounds obvious but, read all that you can about sustainable fashion; what it means, where to buy it, what the different terms are that get thrown around under the umbrella of sustainability... There's a lot of information out there and although not all of it is good and/or accurate, there's plenty there to help you work out how you want to change your spending habits and how to go about it.

The reason I say research is important is because you need to understand what your standpoint on sustainable fashion is. I use the term "sustainable" and mean it in liberal terms, encompassing "ethical", "slow fashion", and "eco-friendly" within that buzz word but the reality is, those things are all so very different so it's important you decide what your outlook on fashion is and what you will and won't buy.

As a brief starting point, remember that:
- Sustainable fashion is garments made from materials that are natural and/or don't harm the environment in their harvesting/production process. I have a whole post on natural and synthetic materials which may help!
- Ethical fashion is from brands who ensure all workers, from the picking of materials to the finished garment being sold are paid fair and at least minimum wages. Their working environment, shift hours etc. are all taken into account too.
- Eco-friendly fashion is garments which are made of natural fibres such as bamboo, organic cotton, linen, hemp etc. Most eco-friendly garments are sustainable but sometimes, some brands aren't too transparent about the production process of their garments but, they are happy to share that the fabrics/materials are eco-friendly or conscious.
- Slow fashion is garments which are timeless and meant to last you a lifetime due to their classic colours, cuts, and styles! They don't follow seasonal trends and should be versatile for years to come.

If you don't really know where to start, searching for ethical and sustainable fashion blogs and YouTubers is a good shout. Documentaries such as the very popular The True Cost also help demonstrate the consequences of our fast fashion consumer demands and is eyeopening for anyone who is new to the realm of ethical fashion. Fashion Revolution is also a great site for delving deeper into the ethics of fashion and big brands taking advantage of garment workers (as well as providing you with some shocking environmental impact statistics!).

Carry on learning and gain confidence with your ethics and sustainability!
Lastly (and most importantly) don't be too hard on yourself! It's a huge change to make as for many of us, it's a way of life that we've known all of our lives that we're trying to completely overhaul and unlearn. There will be times you might slip up and impulse buy or you might buy from a brand who you thought were ethical and it turns out they don't pay their workers fair wages (usually greenwashing can be to blame!) - it will happen and it's more than okay.

Some good support out there that is impartial and will never judge you are apps such as Good on You and Not My Style. These apps do a lot of the hard work for you by rating brands on their transparency about the materials they use, their production methods, their wages, suppliers etc etc. If you're feeling unsure about what brands to buy from, try searching your usual favourite brand names on these apps and see what they have to say - if it's not good things, look at the brands they suggest who are similar but who have good ratings and that way you can start to make small changes that you will be confident and happy with.

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May 29, 2020

AD | Things I've Learnt so Far From my Etsy Small Business

*sponsored post in collaboration with Lil Packaging.
all views are my own.*

I really didn't mean to take a month away from here but, if you follow me on any of my socials, you may know that I have an Etsy shop and a recent embroidery project that have been stealing a lot of my time away!

I've been loving embroidering and creating fibre art pieces for my shop for the last few months and feel like even in that short time, there's some things I've learned that has helped me improve my work ethic, my attitude to small businesses, and also my creativity. As so many people are taking up new creative hobbies and considering starting up their own new ventures during lockdown, I thought I'd share some things I've learned over these months - from one novice seller and creator to another!

Everything comes in waves
How many orders you get, interest in your shop/social media pages, even how you feel about your business... It's a complete rollercoaster and still not something I've got a total grasp on. I find that I can feel in a massive self-critical slump whilst also sewing 10 orders. I can be feeling really great about what I create when I haven't had any orders. It's a whole mixed bag and completely unpredictable. As someone who works quite well under pressure and likes to feel busy, I try to just fill my time with creating - regardless of if someone is buying it or not!

People will want something for nothing
Wow, okay. Sometimes things happen and it helps me understand why bloggers and influencers get the stereotyped, completely ill-informed and frankly wrong reputation that they do. Despite still being a very small business, I have had my fair share of people messaging, asking for free products to "review" to their couple of thousand followers. Often, these people don't even follow the shop's social media or have even liked the Etsy shop on facebook or Etsy itself.

Individuals who do that totally devalue your shop and products by suggesting that the one grid post they might do on IG (and let's face it, I wouldn't trust any of them to actually do it) is going to boost your sales despite their audience often not being remotely interested in what you're selling in the first place. You absolutely have the right to be quite abrupt with these requests because often, they've shown no politeness in messaging you in the first place and you are too busy to be worrying about what one person who's out for freebies thinks of you on the internet.

Sourcing eco-packaging is important
Not something that might apply to everyone but, something that was very important to me when my shop first gained some traction was making sure that what I packaged my items in was as eco-friendly as possible. Over time, I think I've managed to make each piece of packaging as eco-friendly as I can and it's thanks to great companies out there who realise that packaging can become incredibly wasteful.

One of these great companies is Lil Packaging who offer sustainably sourced, biodegradable, and plastic-free packaging options from boxes to bags to tape! They're also incredibly affordable making it not-so taxing to source eco-friendly packaging. Allowing you to purchase packaging in larger quantities also helps you cut down on your carbon footprint as you can make one large order at once, rather than multiple smaller ones.

People will undercut and copy
An unfortunate thing that happens - particularly on Etsy - is other similar shops undercutting each other and copying ideas. It's really hard to know how to price your items, even when there's a general "rule of thumb" formula because more often than not, if you actually use that formula, no one would buy your products because they'd be so expensive!

Of course, there's the battle of knowing your worth but also wanting to be affordable for your customers so it can be tricky to navigate. But, when you know the rough price of materials/labour/shipping etc. and similar shops to yours are selling things much much cheaper, it's unfair not only for you but it's also sad to see someone else be that motivated to make such little profit. It makes things harder for every small business and can cause customers to feel like small business prices should be competing with high street big corporations and that will never be possible - nor should it happen because a lot of love hasn't gone into those high street cheaply made knock offs!

Support for small business comes in all shapes and sizes
Nowadays - especially with social media - supporting small businesses has become a lot easier but a small business staying afloat also relies on it so much more. Simple things like people sharing posts, interacting with them, giving discount codes and business cards to friends and family after you've purchased something, leaving a review of a product... All of this really helps support someone immeasurably!

There's so many positives
I promise it's not all doom and gloom. Starting this small business has been one of the best decisions I've ever made. Not only does it push my creativity and help me keep that side of my hobbies active, it gives me a chance to give back to people and I've discovered so many fellow creators and friends through it. It's hard, it's time consuming, and it's full of continuous trial and error lessons but, if you've been thinking of starting something up - don't be intimidated! You'll find your own groove and balance with whatever it is you're creating and/or selling and you'll reap the benefits.

Seeing people receive my products and be happy with them and come back to order more is such a wonderful indescribable feeling. Whenever I'm full of self-doubt or feeling a bit low, I take a step back from everything and remind myself that my artwork is out there, in people's homes, bought for themselves or even given as gifts and that is so so heartwarming. That's why I'll continue sewing and making.

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April 20, 2020

Tips & Tricks for Buying Secondhand Fashion on eBay and Apps

A few weeks ago now, I posted a poll on Twitter and asked over on Instagram if any of you would be interested in the ways I use the likes of eBay, Depop, and Vinted to snag those secondhand fashion items to add to my wardrobe and a lot of you said yes. It's also Fashion Revolution Week this week (20th April - 26th April 2020) so this is a fitting time to share how to shop secondhand instead of buying new - especially boycotting those fast fashion brands. I've blogged about Fashion Revolution Week for the past two years so check out those posts if you want a little more of an idea of what it is and what it involves!

Before we get into it properly, I'm going to pop a little disclaimer here on my attitude towards sourcing fast fashion secondhand: I can be influenced by trends just as much as the next person. I still check fast fashion sites and stores to see what new things are in - particularly when my wardrobe is lacking something. I use them as inspiration for what I want to find secondhand. I have no issues with giving fast fashion a place in my wardrobe. To me, it's better off in my wardrobe where it will be well worn and well loved than going to landfill. It's that simple. So if I know there's a certain brand who are smashing the styles I like currently or someone I follow on Instagram has recently worn something that is exactly what I've been looking for, I will 100% search for that brand or item.

I have massively downsized my wardrobe over the last few years but I am in no way a minimalist with it. And that's okay, as long as everything is being worn. So enough of this; let's get into how I find what I'm looking for:

Know what you're searching for
That might sound obvious but, knowing different phrases and words to search for when looking for something specific really helps. If it's something that's been incredibly popular on the high street for instance, knowing what it was called on it's original place of sale will help, along with descriptive words. For example, the Zara "poplin" dress was extremely popular last summer. If you were to search for it, it would narrow your search if you include "poplin" in your search words.

Also knowing things such as the fabric, colour, and season can help boost your search results. If it's an item that you've seen all over your Instagram feed or all over your favourite fashion blogs, add "blogger favourite" or "on trend" or "this season" or "sold out" into the mix - it will definitely boost your chances of finding it! Is it something a celebrity has had on on TV? Searching that person's name will also help (think things like "Holly Willoughby" or "Made in Chelsea" and you might find what you're looking for.

Know what you're happy to overlook
Another thing to bear in mind when you're searching for a particular item is to know what elements of it you're not so bothered about being perfect. For instance, if you're searching for an oversized dress or you're in-between sizes, are you happy to get the next size up or down from your ideal size?

If so, search for those sizes too! Another great way to find something similar to what you're looking for is adding the word "style" to your search. Many items sold with a brand name and "style" added after it means that it is a dupe of that popular sell out item. It might be slightly different in colour, size, style, etc. but if you're happy to compromise, you can potentially find something equally as nice that ticks the box.

Get ready for auctions
Okay so, eBay has been around for some time but, it's always good to know how to fight those auctions in the right way. When you're searching for something, sort your search into "ending soonest" and the auctions which are soon to end will be listed first. This is especially helpful if you're searching during the day. I have found that some complete gems have gone under other people's radars because their sale ends at an awkward time (e.g. at 2pm on a weekday afternoon when a lot of people are at work). This means you can slide on in there with not a lot of chance of being outbid.

If you miss an auction and the item didn't sell - contact the seller! I've done this a couple of times with both clothing and toys for Teddy and it's usually worked in my favour. If you offer to take an item off a seller's hands at a reasonable price you both agree on, both parties are happy.

Use your watchlist effectively
So, you've been searching the auctions and the exact item you want is on there but it's auction doesn't finish for another 6 days. Add it to your watchlist and keep an eye on it! If you have the eBay app, you can set up notifications so the app will remind you when an auction listing is about to end if you have it in your watchlist. Think of your watchlist as a curated pinterest board or the same as a wishlist on a fast fashion site. Use it to your advantage to collect the items you want to bid on and let eBay keep an eye on it all for you.

If you're using the likes of Depop or Vinted to find items, the same principle applies. "Like" the item and often sellers will be notified of this. They then might make you an offer to try and get a quick sale (I know I always do when I'm selling on Vinted). Not only does this help you keep track of what you've got your eye on but it means you might save a few quid too!

Can't find what you're looking for? No problem...
... Set up search notifications! You can do this for search terms on eBay or even particular sellers. When I was pregnant for example, there was a darling granny who sold her hand-knitted creations on eBay as a little hobby. I had her shop/user name saved as an alert so every time she put something new on for sale, I would get an alert notification on my phone. If you're trying to get your hands on something that's really popular, this is a great way to keep tabs on everything that is being added for sale that is similar to or exactly what you're looking for.

Depop and Vinted also keep track of what you've recently searched for so you can check back again and again.

Make sure you're misspelling things too
Yep, you read me right. If you're looking for a specific item, think about how some of the words could be spelt differently or what spelling mistakes could have been made. Simple silly things like "white" being spelt "qhite" because it's next to it on the keyboard could make your perfect item go under your search bar radar.

Another "spelling error" to keep in mind is autocorrect. Say you're looking for something from the Topshop Moto collection: type "moto" on your phone and see what autocorrect might try and change it to. That same thing could have happened to the seller who listed said item and they may not have realised! Searching for these errors can help you find gems that no one else is aware of because they might not come up in a search.

Searching for similar brands is also a good idea - especially on Depop. Often sellers will state similar brands in terms of style/price bracket etc. in their listings so say for example you searched "& Other Stories", you may get items pop up from Cos, H&M etc. because they're similar.

Tailor your searches to fit you
On the likes of Depop and Vinted, you can set up your searches to only include your sizes so you don't get your hopes up and find your dream shoes in a size 8 when you're a size 3 (story of my life). I like Vinted a lot for this as the "feed" only shows me items that are in the sizes I want to look for. It can make browsing much easier and more streamline.

Use the change of seasons to your advantage
If you're looking for summer dresses or things to wear for you next beach getaway, start searching for these things in spring. Many sellers will wait until the weather starts to warm up to list these sorts of items and again, may choose to list things like big coats and chunky jumpers at the end of summer/start of autumn as the weather starts to change. If you're not looking for any specifics or you don't *need* to find something by a certain deadline, search out of season too. I've sometimes made the mistake of selling summery items during the middle of winter and it's meant they've sold for next to nothing because they're out of season so not many people are looking for them.

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April 08, 2020

The Best Montessori Toys: 0-6 Months

One of the philosophies of Montessori play is that toys shouldn't do the entertaining for the child - the child should be able to use them to entertain themselves and have open-ended play meaning that they can be used in a multitude of ways. When we first started implementing the Montessori lifestyle into our home, I couldn't think of how a baby could have such toys. I'd been used to younger relatives having flashy lights, things that sung if you pressed a button, and things that provided the entertainment for you. After doing a bit of reading and research, I started to find things that suited us and suited my baby and I'm pleased to say he's gotten so much use out of everything he's gotten so far.

Most toys he has haven't just suddenly become null and void now that he's 8 months old - he's still actively playing with everything on this list and that's how I know they're good! That's not to say any other type of toys aren't - as long as your baby is stimulated and happy, anything will do (I mean, we all know they seem to enjoy playing with cardboard boxes and kitchen utensils more than any *actual* toys anyway!). So now that we are at the 7 month mark, I thought I'd share with you all the Montessori or Montessori-inspired toys that Teddy has loved using during his first 6 months so if Montessori is something you're interested in for your own baby or need some gift ideas for a newborn of a family member or friend, hopefully this post will help:

Manhattan Toy Skwish Activity Toy | £14.00
This toy is one of Teddy's favourites and has been since he was around 4 months old. It's quite a big size but is lightweight enough for even a young baby to pick up and hold. Due to the shape, it helps teach little ones how to grasp and also has a rattle element to it so they can enjoy giving it a good shake! Teddy also likes to use it as a teether so it's an all-round great product as it's so versatile! You can get it in a range of colourways too and it's made from durable wood.

Manhattan Toy Baby Beads | £12.99
Another great toy from Manhattan Toy. These wooden beads are pretty hefty - they're quite a big size so there's no chance of choking and are made from solid wood so they have a great weight to them. Teddy only really started to take a proper interest in these when he was around 5.5 months because of this. Again, they come in a range of colour ways and the ones which are painted (like ours) are still absolutely safe for teething babies to lick and chop on! Due to the shape, these are great for further developing a baby's grasping skills.

Wooden Interlocking Discs | £10+
One of Teddy's most simple toys but that has seen him through the months as he develops has been this wooden interlocking double disc toy. This very simple toy (which I bought from an Etsy seller here) has helped with his hand-eye coordination, his grasping, teething, and is fantastic for tummy time and encouraging babies to start to crawl. Due to the shape, when a baby knocks the discs, they will roll in an unusual way which is very stimulating for a baby. They're a good size for babies to hold too!

HABA Fabric Rainbow Ball | £17.99-£24.99
Not all of Teddy's toys are wooden! One that has again been a firm favourite for him since he was 4 months (and is being used more and more now that he is 7 months and trying to crawl!) is this fabric ball from HABA. Not only is it interesting for a baby to look at due to the patterns and contrasting colours but, it's great for tactile play. Teddy loves textures and likes to have a scratch of everything so the fact that this ball has velvet-style fabric, corduroy, crinkle sounds, a squeaker - it's got a bit of everything. It's quite a large size but due to the ridged style, it's easy for baby to handle even when they're small. It also comes in handy for tummy time and encouraging them to crawl after something!

Ikea LEKA Wooden Baby Gym | £19
One of the best and most affordable baby gyms out there. This solid birch play gym is aesthetically pleasing to a baby due to the bright contrasting colours but it also is using some more natural materials than many other play gyms out there. This one is great because it's not too big so if you're limited on space, this one will suit you. As it doesn't have an attached mat for the baby to lie on, it can be used on the floor, on a bed (when baby is very small and obviously supervised), or over a baby chair etc. It's really versatile and Teddy has played with it far more than he played with the one he had before this one. It also has some spinning discs on the sides which he's showing a growing interest in the older he gets!

Wooden Bell Rattle | £3+
A really inexpensive option that has honestly been one of his most used toys during these first 6 months has been a simple wooden bell rattle. You can get a variety of different shapes and styles and some are as little as £2-£3 so if you're on a tight budget, this is a great one! Teddy has liked using this one from around 3 months as it's slim design made it very easy to grasp and then of course, he realised if he gave it a shake or smacked it off something it would make a lot of noise! The bells are nice and large so there's no worries of a choking hazard (of course babies should still be supervised) and its the one toy that I would say is a must-have for this age range.

Rainbow Ribbon Ring | £2+
The other inexpensive "must-have" is a ribbon ring. These are fab for sensory play and can be bought for very cheap or you can make your own! They just consist of a wooden teether ring with ribbons tied to it. Teddy enjoyed having this attached to his Ikea LEKA play gym (as the wooden ring fits well over the top of the gym parts!) but also has just enjoyed having a good chew on it and feeling the ribbons - a great one for when babies go through the stage of touching tags!

Infantino Sensory Ball Set |£9.99
Lastly, sensory balls are so so good for babies aged 0-6 months (and beyond!). These packs of rubberised balls help develop baby grasping and clutching techniques but also just let them explore textures both with their hands and their mouths. The variety in shape and colour helps keep a baby entertained but also learning. I typically let Teddy play with 3 balls at any given time just so he doesn't get overwhelmed with choice but, they can obviously be used in a variety of ways and could be used for tummy time (storing them in shallow basket or bowl is very interesting to a tummy time tot!) or could even be popped in the bath with a little one.

Hopefully this post has helped you get some ideas of what make some great simple Montessori toys for newborns. Other toys that are also good options are different types of wooden rattles, different shaped teethers, and child-safe mirrors as babies do love to look at faces! I'll be sharing some DIY Montessori toys soon so if you need super budget options, make sure you keep an eye out for that post! I'll also be sharing our favourite 6-12 month toys just as soon as we reach that point (he's growing up too fast and I hate it).

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April 04, 2020

Self-isolation Self Care

(T-shirt and briefs: previously gifted from Organic Basics)

Hey, how are you doing? This isolation/social distancing stuff sucks, huh? I feel like a bit of a "pro" at it at this point due to maternity leave. I've been somewhat social distancing (unintentionally) for around 8 months. Living at the other end of the country from your family and not living close to friends will do that to you but, it's made me really think about what I've done over these past months to make it not feel so lonely and what coping mechanisms I've developed or let fall into place.

With what's going on at moment, I thought I'd share a (hopefully) helpful post on how to take care of yourself if you're isolating or social distancing and it's drastically different from your usual life, you struggle spending time on your own, or you're just simply find this whole thing bloody difficult!

Years ago (I really mean years ago!) I blogged about how it's okay to be an introvert, enjoy your own company, and like spending time at home so I mean, you could say that self-isolating would be easier for me but, as someone who craves the outdoors and likes having the autonomy to do what I want (y'know, like all of us do), it's been something I've had to adjust to just as much as anyone else. So here's some ways I feel make the whole thing feel less daunting, more rewarding, and most importantly - relaxing!

Have a loose routine
I'm not saying you have to have a regimented, hour by hour, structure to your day but, having some sort of routine can be handy. Whether you're someone who is currently working from home for the first time or someone who can't work right now, giving your day some structure can help you feel more in control and also stop you from sinking into those "I've achieved nothing" thoughts.

Although my morning routine has changed somewhat since having a baby, having one in place every morning really helps me not feel like I'm stuck in a slump - both mentally and physically. Even if I plan on having a lazy day, I stick to my morning routine just to stop myself from slipping into days blurring into each other and feeling down about it. As for an evening bedtime routine, I also think it's great to have a handle on this. As these days can blur into each other, making sure you don't mess up your sleeping pattern will help you keep a handle on your "regular" lifestyle and ensure you get enough rest!

It's okay to do absolutely nothing
Fellow millennials - this is especially for you: stop putting pressure on yourself to *do* something! I'm guilty of doing this myself but I cannot stress enough how important it is to not feel like you have to achieve a lot during this time. I know I've just said it's good to have a routine but, it's also good to throw that to the wind sometimes. If you wake up and you're feeling shit and just want to lie on the sofa all day watching movies - do it. If you wake up okay but by midday you feel like everything has been going wrong and just want to play video games for the rest of the day - do it!

Something a lot of us have on our hands right now is time and that doesn't need to be daunting. It can be used for leisure and recuperation just as much for productivity and getting shit done.

Plan and prep some food
If you're anything like me, when everything is getting a bit much or you're not feeling motivated/you're feeling down, eating and eating well/actual meals in particular can become a second thought. When you're feeling motivated or when it's your day off, try checking what food you have in your cupboards/fridge and see what you can make from it. Batch cooking can ensure that you don't skip meals or just eat rubbish (she says, eating a whole pack of biscuits at 11am but I digress). Having tupperware or sachets of food stored in the fridge or freezer that can just be heated up on the hob or in the microwave makes it really easy for when you've got some mental fatigue and just don't want to deal with cooking. It also means you can get the most out of what you have and not waste any food!

Embrace what comforts you
Self care looks different for everyone. For one person it might be a hot bath with a face mask, for someone else it might be an hour of intense cardio, and someone else might just want an hour or two with a good book! Whatever it is that is bringing you comfort during this time, actively do it. For me, working on my embroidery and fibre art, playing video games, and reading are really helping me chill out.

Of course, if you have been wanting to do something new and you're not pressuring yourself, now is a great time to explore it! Whether it's been learning a new language, starting a blog, or learning to watercolour paint - give yourself the opportunity to try new things and be comfortable in the knowledge that it doesn't matter if it doesn't go to plan!

Separate life and work spaces
If you're working from home, it can be hard to separate your work and life balance a little bit, especially if you're not used to it. If you have the space, dedicating a room or an area of a room as your "work" or "office" space can be really helpful. Whenever you're sat there, it's work mode. If you're blessed with even more space, having a space or room dedicated for working out/exercise can help too. Having some segregation can help you get into the right frame of mind for work and for switching off. If it hits 5pm and that's the end of your usual work day, you can just leave that area/space and go back to it the next morning.

Doing this can also help you make sure you're not trying to do things at 10pm at night because your laptop is *right there* so you could just get it done now. Give yourself clear boundaries and give yourself time to chill out. We all need time to switch off right now whether you're working or not.

(T-shirt and briefs: gifted from Organic Basics)

Get yourself moving
Something that I feel is the most important form of self care, no matter the circumstances, is to get some form of exercise. I've talked about the benefits of the likes of yoga and getting outside into the fresh air can have on our health before but obviously, during lockdown we're somewhat limited as to what we can do. If you're comfortable with going out for a run, walk, bike ride etc. then absolutely do it. The fresh air is an added bonus alongside the exercise. If you're staying more housebound like myself however, doing some exercise indoors can still keep you healthy and keep your mood on the up.

I've personally been enjoying doing a mix of yoga (see this post for my favourite videos to follow!), just daily stretches, and also The Body Coach Joe Wick's PE lessons on YouTube (don't be fooled - they're actually pretty tiring and hard in a good way!). We all know that exercise can help give you that boost in mood and especially when a lot of us are feeling the days drag, a distraction from that is more than welcomed.

If you'd like some more "tips" for effective self care and also how to spend time alone without feeling lonely, check out these posts:
- A Self Care Routine You Can Stick To
- 5 Ways to Relax
- Fighting Feeling Lonely
- It's Okay to Have a Bad Day
- 5 Daily Self Care Tips
- "Have You Tried Doing Yoga?"

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March 31, 2020

#10x10 Wardrobe Challenge: March

Hello folks! It's finally the end of what feels like the longest and most dramatic month we've ever had. At the start of March, I was looking forward to seeing friends, celebrating my first ever Mother's Day and also celebrating my birthday but, due to everything going on right now, a lot of the month was spent indoors, not knowing what day it is.

That being said, my 10x10 this month was pretty good. Just a quick refresh: my 10x10 is 10 items of clothing, 10 outfits, over 10 days! I got wear out of some items that I don't usually wear, got to put some new-to-my-wardrobe pieces on and take them for a test drive, and it also helped me decide which items I'm actually no longer a fan of and will be rehoming to someone else in future. So here's what I wore this past month:

1. One thick tan brown mock neck jumper: eBay (Zara)
2. One knitted navy tank top/vest: eBay (unbranded)
3. One linen white button shirt: old (Topshop)
4. One pair of mid wash blue jeans: old (Asos)
5. One pair of black culottes: old (unbranded)
6. One pair of dark grey/charcoal wool masculine trousers: The British Heart Foundation (vintage)
7. One cream needlecord dress: Barnardos (Olive)
8. One pair of checkerboard Vans: christmas gift (Vans)
9. One pair of black leather O-ring detail brogues/loafers: Save the Children (Marks & Spencer)
10. One pair of black zip up chunky boots: Depop (Zara)

Additional accessories:
- Black tights: Swedish Stockings
- Black socks: Organic Basics
- Beige mac: Vinted (Primark)
- Black bumbag: The British Heart Foundation (unbranded)
- Black crossbody bag: Christmas gift (Charles & Keith)
- Beige crossbody bag: old (unknown brand)
- Snake print bumbag: eBay (Mango)
- Navy padded tote bag: Depop (Cos)

Planning for April feels a little impossible - I asked those of you who follow me over on Instagram if you still wanted to see a 10x10 for this next month and you said yes but, let's be real - I'm wearing an awful lot of pyjamas and yoga pants at the moment with being stuck indoors! However, I do feel that this will help me get dressed each day for a couple of weeks and therefore might ignite some enthusiasm/motivation in me that I seem to have lost over the last two weeks.

So far I'm thinking comfort that is truly reflective of reality for many of us right now but, also something I'd happily just throw a pair of shoes on with and a coat and go out for essentials shopping. So if you want to see what mismatch Spring fashion I come up with this April, make sure to follow along on Instagram then check back here at the end of the month for all the fine details on the items.

Stay safe, stay indoors, I hope you're all doing well!

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March 26, 2020

Remaining Sustainable during the Pandemic: It's Tough!

I've been in two minds about posting about COVID-19 here because although I've passionately been shouting my opinion into the voids of Twitter and on my Instagram stories, I didn't want to appear like I was gaining anything from discussing it. I mean, I'm not, but I didn't want others to see me as using it for page views etc. but you know what? It's damn important that we talk about what's going on right now but it's also important that we address a bit of an elephant in the room right now. That elephant is sustainability.

I've seen a few people online discussing whether or not sustainability can actually be sustainable during this crisis and it got me thinking. I know that I for one have loosened my usual ethics when it comes to consuming over the past few weeks because of the pandemic. In the UK, we've seen a huge surge in panic-buying and it has left supermarket shelves bare with no stock, online orders not being available for over 10 days, and websites having to put customers in a queuing system like they're buying gig tickets not their groceries. "The world's gone mad!" is being thrown around and amongst the hysteria, being sustainable has been forgotten about.

I'll be the first to say that I am not being my best sustainable self right now. I am buying whatever food is available and not giving a second thought to the packaging it comes in. I've had to buy products from the supermarket that I would usually order online that are more eco-friendly and/or cruelty free etc. but due to the delays in delivery times, I've had no other choice. This isn't meant to come across as a "woe is me" post but rather a comfort for those of you who are also trying to live as low waste and consciously as possible. You're not in this alone. This global pandemic is reeking havoc everywhere and you should not feel guilty for having to set aside your usual ethics during this time. Whether it's consuming some dairy right now despite your usual vegan diet or buying regular tampons because you can't get ahold of organic - you need to get what you can and if these things are a necessity to you or provide some form of comfort/security, and that's okay. Don't attach guilt to them. Guilt is not welcomed here.

With all that being said, there's some small things you can do to keep your sustainable self afloat throughout this pandemic whilst you're social distancing or isolating. Of course there are bigger things to worry about but, hopefully this post will give you some food for thought and again, bring you some comfort. I know a lot of people - myself included - are struggling with the change in their day-to-day life and knowing that it has become more restricted, so this is a way for me to keep a handle and form of control over what I can. It gives me a sense of normality during a very abnormal time:

COVID-19 Mutual Aid
COVID-19 Mutual Aid is for volunteers who want to help those most in need during this time. The outbreak of this virus has given many of us a glimpse into what it is like to truly be a marginalised member of society. For me, it has made me appreciate more so why individuals may not show concern for the planet because poverty means it can't even be on your radar. If you're financially strained due to loss of work, you're not going to be buying the eco-friendly options which tend to be a bit pricier. You're not going to be rejecting certain foods based on their packaging when just knowing you will have a meal is good enough.

With that being said, use this time to appreciate what you have, what you've had up until now, and what others might need. If you can help as a volunteer, that's great! Check what neighbours might need, friends, family, and please let someone else know if you're in need too! Donate to charities which are helping and be available for others if you can be.

Support independent business
Supporting people on an individual ground-level basis is great but, so many small and independent businesses are going to struggle in the coming weeks and months. If you need to buy anything - whether it's food, homeware, a birthday present - please consider shopping small and independent.

Check if local farm shops are doing online deliveries and get your groceries from there. Check if your local independent cafes are doing the same. If you're worried about things not turning up in time for a special event or if you're worried about contact with delivery drivers/the postman or don't want to give them more deliveries to do, you can always see if the brand have a gift card option. This means you can support them with your dollar now and reap the benefits for yourself later. Get a gift card for your favourite local restaurant. Get one for your mum's birthday from a nice handmade skincare company. Buy your friend's new baby a gift card for nursery decor or baby essentials.

Consume "stuff" consciously
During our isolation, no one should feel pressured to be productive or start the 578 pastimes they'd like to try but, what you can do is access all the good things we have available to us. Things such as eBooks on Audible, or watching shit tons of Netflix shows, or listening to those albums you've been meaning to get through... Those who work in the entertainment industry have been hit hard during this pandemic so instead of buying needless things such as clothing or makeup during this time, think about buying a band's album or an audio book - you're helping those who need a lift in their income right now whilst also not accumulating more physical stuff (necessarily).

Challenge ecofascism
Some social media accounts and individuals have been celebrating environmental changes which have occurred in the wake of this outbreak of coronavirus and rightly so, it has left a sour taste in a lot of people's mouths. Whilst these changes may be positive, it's important to remember that this virus is claiming a lot of people's lives and any celebration of the "side effects" of that is not okay. Hopefully these environmental changes will make big corporations and businesses realise the impact they are having on the planet but that's all we can (and should) hope for.

Meal prep
Although we might be having to buy whatever is available at the moment, making sure you actually use everything you buy can help you be more sustainable during your isolation. If there's lots of fresh fruit or veg available when you go to do a restock of your cupboards, don't be put off by them being perishable items. Using fresh veg to make an abundance of soup that can be kept in the freezer is a safe bet. Roast lots of veggies and again, pop them in the freezer until they're needed.

If you need recipe recommendations or inspiration, Jack Monroe is using her Twitter hashtag #JackMonroesLockdownLarder and you can tweet any food you have lying around and Jack will give you some ideas of what to do with it!

Stock-take your pantry
Sticking with food as it's become a major concern for many during the pandemic: stock-take your own cupboards and fridge to see what you're missing. This was something that I saw Jack Monroe tweet about and I think it's excellent advice, particularly if you're trying to be as sustainable as possible. We all know that panic buying is contagious and we could all be victims to buying things "just because" so by stock-taking what you have, you can properly work out what you're lacking or what you may need to make a full meal.

Jack's advice is to fold a piece of A4 into 4s and have: Carbs, Fruit & Veg, Protein, and Flavours as your sections so you can see if you really need certain products and also so you can work out how many meals you may have over the next few days without buying more. This will ultimately help you get the most out of what you have and stop food waste.

Re-purpose whilst you're home
Do you have things lying around that are no longer serving their purpose? Do you have socks with holes in them, skincare tubs that are destined for recycling, food waste that could be actually be put to good use? Those socks could be used as dusting cloths around the house. Those tubs could be used to store things like half a lemon in the fridge or a DIY face mask that you've made. That food waste could put in a container to break down to then be used in the garden as a compost aid. Whilst we may be stuck inside the box, we have a little more time to think outside of it!

Re-wear your clothes!
Although I'm someone who likes to shower everyday, I will re-wear clothing until it doesn't feel clean to. This is going to save you money on your energy bill and also is helping you be just a little more sustainable. It will also increase the longevity in your clothing in the long run as items won't lose their shape or pill/bobble as much. If you're comfortable with not showering everyday too - absolutely go for it! Again, save energy and also money by not using up your products as quickly.

Make a list of the sustainable changes you'd like to make in future
Planning for when this is all over can be a nice escape for some. If you're one of those people, maybe make a list of some things you'd like to change going forward. Maybe you'd like to use more "naked" packaging free products. Maybe you'd like to start shopping exclusively secondhand for fashion. Maybe you'd like to try a vegan diet. Feeling positive about your future and things you want to do to feel more sustainable is absolutely a step in the right direction right now.

The best thing to remember is this should be temporary. Any changes you've had to make to your usual ethics and lifestyle can be changed back once we're out the other side of this. Please look after yourselves whereever you are, listen and follow guidelines and protocol, and maybe we'll be out the other side of this in time for summer.

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March 23, 2020

Book Club No.22

I know, I know... It's March 2020 and I'm only just posting about my last two reads of 2019 - I've been busy okay? Okay. I finished my year of reading on a high and although I didn't hit my 2019 reading challenge on Goodreads, I at least read some great books and that's what it's all about!

My last two reads of 2019 were so completely opposite of each other but were both fantastic in their own rights. Whether it's extremely immersive fiction you like or contemporary non-fiction that *everyone* should read, I've got you covered:

Monsters of Men: The Third Novel of Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness
I reviewed Book One and Book Two last year of this trilogy so of course, here is the third and final instalment to finish off the most epic of stories. The Chaos Walking trilogy is easily some of the best of Ness' work and the whole series has become a firm favourite for me. I'm a huge fan of Ness due to his writing style and fantastic range of worlds, characters, and stories but, this one just knocks so much out of the park.

I was so worried about starting this because A) it's a hell of a hefty read and B) it would be the end of a series I had so thoroughly enjoyed but, I was not disappointed. Just like Book 2, Ness has Book 3 pick up right where 2 left off and kept the chaotic story rolling. It doesn't have the same pace as the previous books and isn't as shocking as Book 2 but, because the pace and shock-factor slow slightly, it helps create this build up of tension towards the world-ending war that's about to begin.

This final book sees the start of a vicious war - the humans are fighting amongst themselves: the Mayor/President fighting the Answer, the humans fighting the native Spackle, and Todd and Viola are caught up in the middle of it all; unsure of who to trust. Ness manages to write the characters in even more depth in this final book. Mistress Coyle for example could be a freedom-fighter on one page then come across as a terrorist who has become consumed by the idea of power. The Mayor is almost likeable at points and you feel yourself siding with his logic then you remember how much of an awful person he has been up until now. It can leave you as the reader feeling frustrated (in a good way), wanting to shout at characters and give them a good shake and honestly? The whole ride is just as emotionally exhausting as the two previous books.

The Spackle play a much bigger part this time around and they're added into the story really well. 1017 becomes a third narrator and at first, I found his chapters hard to delve into because they changed the tempo and pace of the book but I quickly warmed up to them and realised that change was necessary to demonstrate and drive the idea home how different the Spackle race are to the humans. There's a great development in all the characters which helps illustrate maturity for Todd and Viola and of course, their relationship blossoming adds to this (and I for one didn't hate the romance blooming - it was predictable but a glimpse of something lovely in such a miserable and grey storyline).

Yet again, Ness has managed to create a story that you can't put down. You have to know what's going to happen next. It makes you cry, get angry, feel relieved, grieve... it made me feel it all. Although I think Ness hit it out of the park again with this final instalment, I still think Book 2 is my favourite of the 3. One of the reasons for this is because Book 3 reaches a point of surprise and shock but then didn't follow through (I'm about to give away a big part of the plot so spoiler warning!).

At a scene towards the end, Todd dies. The Mayor/President kills him - Viola and and Ben see it unfold and as the reader, it honestly ripped my fucking heart out. Although it could have been predictable, Ness somehow lulls you into a false sense of security that Todd has become invincible and he couldn't possibly kill off the main character. When it happened, I remember reading it in bed and turning to my boyfriend to say "what the actual fuck. Oh my God". But, I carried on reading and it turns out Todd is clinging on, he gets help. He is on the mend towards the end of the book and Viola is a big help in this recovery. It was then that it actually felt predictable and because the ride until now has been so dark, I actually felt that the loss of Todd may have made the story better; it would keep the bleakness until the very end.

The ending also arrives so abruptly, I felt like I was on a high-speed rollercoaster from just a few pages into Book One right up until the end of Book 3 and it just suddenly stops - just like when a rollercoaster halts in speed. It gave the ride authenticity but, I guess I would have just loved for the story to continue see more unfold. If you need a new trilogy to truly get lost and invested in, this is the one that will tick every box for you. You can pick up the trilogy for around £10 here

No One is too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg
A collection of the wonderful Greta Thunberg's speeches on the climate crisis, the environment, and how we all need to be holding big corporations, our government, and really - each other - more accountable for making positive changes. I'm a big fan of Greta and feel that she is a fantastically spirited young woman who speaks more sense than many individuals twice her age.

I love that her speeches are gathered in a little book like this because they're accessible for all. I hope my little boy will read them when he's older and learn more about the world through them. I feel that Greta can get a lot of flack in the mass media for her fight against the climate crisis we currently face but, she never seems to let the criticism dampen her spirit or principles. She's passionate and that passion is palpable through her words; they're just as powerful printed on paper as they are to listen to her speak them.

This is obviously a great book for anyone who is eco-conscious at all or would even make a great gift for someone who isn't - it may get them thinking about the environment more and now they can positively make changes to benefit it in their everyday life. The one downside of the book is that to read, it can be repetitive at times. This is at no fault of Greta - speeches are always going to reiterate the same points (especially when nothing is changing!) but reading it is a little different to hearing it. I still very much recommend this quick read though to all ages. Plus, it's under £2.50 to buy. Bargain. You can pick it up here

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February 29, 2020

#10x10 Wardrobe Challenge: February

It's the end of February already - I hate to be ~*that guy*~ but can you believe we're heading into the third month of 2020 already?! I feel like this year is running away from me already but the end of the month marks the end of another 10x10 challenge. If you didn't catch last month's post and/or my Instagram posts over the month of February, the 10x10 challenge is simply 10 clothing items, to creat 10 outfits, over 10 days.

The month of February has been a bit of a cold one and I'm pleased that my choices covered the coldness whilst still letting me feel like I'd made a bit of an effort! If y'all know me, I live in a good tee and jeans combo so this month's challenge further highlighted to me that I have more than just those fail-safe items in my wardrobe and better yet, I actually enjoy wearing them! After chatting with you guys on Instagram, I've decided to start including where my items "originally" came from. This is in no way to encourage you to shop from these fast fashion retailers but, to simply help in case you're searching for these particular items secondhand or to give you an idea of which fast fashion brands I gravitate towards style-wise. So here's what my February 10x10 consisted of:

1. One thin beige jumper: old (Zara)
2. One thick funnel neck dark brown jumper: Depop (H&M)
3. One thick cream ribbed tunic t-shirt: Depop (Uniqlo)
4. One pair of black leggings: Finisterre
5. One pair of light wash blue jeans: Depop (Topshop)
6. One cream needlecord midi dress: Depop (Zara)
7. One brown print midi dress: eBay (unknown brand)
8. One houndstooth relaxed blazer: Vinted (H&M)
9. One pair of black flat masculine shoes: Naomi's House & Jack's Place charity shop (unknown brand)
10.One pair of black hiking boots: Depop (Missguided)

Additional accessories:
- Black bamboo tights: Thought
- Black socks: Organic Basics
- Beige and green ribbed beanies: old (ASOS)
- Grey scarf: old (H&M)
- Olive green hairband: charity shop
- Black crossbody bag: Christmas gift (Charles & Keith)
- Beige crossbody bag: old (unknown brand)
- Cream crossbody bag: Depop (Charles & Keith)
- Snake print bumbag: eBay (Mango)

For next month, I'm trying to think a little more outside the box as I'm well aware that my two comfort zones are midi dresses and a jeans and tee combo. Obviously, these sort of items are common in my wardrobe but, I feel that I could try and do more with what I own and push myself to get the most out of my clothes by wearing some items in new ways I wouldn't normally. Although I'm hoping that Spring will kick in in March, the snow forecasts we've had recently may put a halt to the spring sun making an appearance. Therefore, I need to really think about making my next 10x10 as versatile as possible to suit whatever weather comes my way!

If you want to keep up with my March 10x10, head over to my Instagram otherwise, I'll see you at the end of March for my 10x10 review of the month!

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February 26, 2020

Soap Daze: Natural, Eco-friendly and Handmade Skincare

This year I've set myself the task of using more eco-friendly and low/zero waste beauty brands for anything from haircare to cosmetics. One thing I'm determined to do during this time is use lesser known brands. We all know brands such as Lush as a go-to when trying new things for skincare etc. but, I'd like to try out all those smaller brands who are doing good things because they're often a small team or one individual who has put a whole lot of passion into creating their products. So, with that being said, let's make a start with this post shall we?

Soap Daze are a handmade, natural and eco-friendly skincare brand based in Devon. They create a range of products but have a strength in vegan soaps and use natural botanical and essential oil ingredients. As their products are natural, they are kind to the skin and great for those of us who have sensitive skin issues. All of their products are also plastic-free so they're a great option if you're trying to make low/zero waste choices.

The first time I heard about Soap Daze was at Christmas last year - my partner bought me a lovely gift set from the brand and now that I've tried, tested, and used up! almost everything I got, I figured now would be the best time to give you a full review of the products and my thoughts on the brand as a result.

Vegan Cleansing Grains | 30g | £12.50 - These vegan exfoliating grains are everything. A mix clays, botanicals, and grains are ground to a powder to create this product and it can be used a few different ways. By adding some water to the mix, you can use it as a weekly exfoliant which is incredibly gentle yet leaves the skin super smooth and soft or you can apply it as a mask and leave it to work it's magic for a little longer if you want to.

I was most excited to try these out of all the products as I really love to do a weekly exfoliation and they didn't disappoint. My skin instantly looks healthier every time I use these and the morning after I've buffed away dead skin, my face looks more radiant. They help my oils and serums absorb better and more effectively too. One thing I will say about this product is that I had to use a lot more of the grains and water to get the desired consistency for a deep clean of my face. This is in no way a criticism, just a preference!

The grains come packaged in a lovely amber glass bottle with an aluminium screw top lid so it can be easily repurposed to store zero waste DIY recipes and recycled easily too.

Oatmylk Natural Unscented Soap | 112g/4oz | £6.50 - I didn't even get a detailed shot of this soap before I used it all up. This soap is perfect for any and every skin type but, especially if you have very sensitive skin as it has no fragrance and gentle ingredients. With a base of olive oil, coconut oil, and shea butter with the added oatmylk instead of water, this soap is incredibly creamy to lather and nourishing for the skin. These 112g/4oz soaps are equivalent to 700ml of liquid soap making them amazing value for money.

I really enjoyed using this soap and I'd love to try some of their others but with an added scent. This has been a great soap for me during the colder months for helping my skin stay soft and hydrated. The soap lasted really well and the packaging is fully recyclable making it a great option for a gift however, you can also buy it without packaging or on a rope so there's plenty of options for every type of zero waster!

Handknitted Recycled Cotton/Flax Facecloth | 23cm x 23cm | £9.95 - This facecloth comes in a range of 4 neutral colours and is so incredibly soft! With a mix of cotton and linen textile waste, it is helping give purpose to materials that would otherwise be discarded. It's great to see Flax being used in a product like this because environmentally, it is a great crop as it does not take as much water to grow as cotton and the whole plant can be harvested and used as a material.

This facecloth is great again for those of us with sensitive skin as it's very gentle but still effective. I'll be honest, facecloths are something I don't use every day but, this has been a go-to the couple of days after I exfoliate each week as it has helped me make sure I don't pull and tug too much as fresh new skin on the surface.

Organic Rosehip Facial Oil | 30ml | £12.50 - I've tried rosehip oil before but didn't like it all that much. As my gift box included this oil I thought it was time I tried it again and I'm pleased to say, I had much better results this time around.

I don't use this product every morning and night - or even everyday for that matter - but I do like to use it after I've exfoliated and toned my skin. It absorbs really well and doesn't leave the skin greasy or oily. I find using this the nights I exfoliate help my skin look more plump and smooth the next morning. With anti-ageing properties and the ability to lock in hydration, this is a great choice for the colder months. Soap Daze also ensure their rosehip oil is pure rosehip - no preservatives or emulsifiers in sight!

Lemon & Lime and Lavender & Orange Guest Soaps | 20g+ | £1.50 each - These smaller cuts of soap are available in a "12 Guest Soap" bundle or in some of the gift sets and are a great way to try out different scents before committing to one of the large, full soaps. Both of these soaps lathered really well and had a nice subtle scent - nothing too overpowering but fragrant enough to help wake me up in the mornings!

I personally liked the Lemon & Lime more than the Lavender & Orange which I was surprised about as I love lavender scents. The Lemon & Lime was really zingy and great for those 5:30am showers. Although the previously mentioned unfragranced Oatmylk soap is marketed for sensitive skin, I found that both of these scents were also great and didn't irritate my skin at all.

After receiving a Soap Daze gift box, I can honestly say they make wonderful gifts either for a loved one or simply as a treat to yourself! The brand have really perfected the minimal, zero waste packaging and are producing lovely soaps that can suit all preferences in terms of fragrance whilst also suiting all skin types due to their natural and nourishing ingredients. Now that I've used up all of the soaps, I'm keen to buy some more and have my eye on the Frankincense soap (for the delicious-sounding smell) and the Black Pepper and Ginger soap (for the anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties to help with my "t-shirt" acne).

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February 13, 2020

Montessori Living: What it is and How we're doing it

I don't post a great deal about being a parent on here because wow well, it's a ride. As a first time mother, I'm very much just muddling along and just taking each day as it comes and let's be real - everyone likes to try and dish out unsolicited parenting advice! This has made me a little reluctant to share what we're doing as a new family because I have zero tolerance for others telling me how to parent (and I would hope if I ever tried to do the same with others that they would also shoot me down and tell me to stop!).

That being said however, there is a "philosophy" that I've grown very involved in and have been practicing at home that I want to share more of on both this blog and my Instagram because at the end of the day, it's part of my lifestyle and I found online resources *so* beneficial and educational when I first became interested in the Montessori lifestyle.

So I figured to kick-start discussing Montessori living here on NB, the best place to start was explaining briefly what it is, how we've introduced to our home so far, and also our plans for the future. This is not me saying we have this parenting thing on lock-down and that there's a right or wrong way to parent. The whole role and job of a parent is completely subjective and has to work for you and your child, family, lifestyle, home etc. This is simply me sharing what we're doing because I find it really interesting and I'm loving learning more and more as my baby gets older!

I also wanted to explain as best I can what Montessori theory actually involves as it seems to be becoming a trendy thing on Instagram in terms of the physical aspects (such as aesthetically pleasing, almost minimalist toys) but, it's so much more beyond that - that aspect of it is the least important part by a long stretch!

What is Montessori?
What started as an educational method in schools thanks to research by Maria Montessori in the 20th century, Montessori learning has now seeped into homes and has become a lifestyle and parenting technique also. Maria Montessori was the first female Italian doctor and she believed that a human infant is born incomplete and that they themselves need to finish their own formation. This construction of ones own self lasts from birth to adulthood (24 years old to be exact) as she believed that we need to construct our own brains with guidance until we reach maturity at the age of 24. From her research and observing children, she designed a school theory based on appealing to children's nature rather than fighting it.

She found that children learned well through moving and experiencing their learning rather than sitting listening to a teacher. She believed that children need a level of flexibility that helps them thrive rather than inhibits them. We all learn and develop our intelligence through our five senses and especially for children, the link between the hand and the brain is vital to this learning as it's how all babies develop in their early years (think about babies learning to hold rattles, pick up food, hold cups, then learning to write as they grow older). By giving children this zone of flexibility with their learning, you are helping them gain independence from a young age and supporting them to shape their own selves and also gives them the opportunity to develop self evaluation which is such a beneficial personal skill for anyone (especially us adults!).

As you're trying to create this air of independence and practicality for a child, a Montessori home ideally has child-sized furniture so your child can do as much as they can for themselves (from preparing their own food to eating at the table, putting themselves to bed etc.) and also presents toys and activities that are the right level of "challenging" for their developmental stage.

The role of the parent is much the same as a teacher in a Montessori school: you are more of an overseer or a guide than you are someone who intervenes. You allow your child freedom within boundaries you've set and help them flourish in their own way by objectively observing and supporting their preferences and opinions without interjecting or overshadowing them with your own. For example, in a Montessori school, a teacher may let a child choose between working on languages or maths - they have those two options to choose between - giving them some freedom and flexibility but, it is still within boundaries. That child then may have the option to work at a desk and chair or sit on the floor. Again, it's all about choice and basically, going with your child's flow!

How we're doing it at home
When I first became interested in the Montessori method, Teddy was already one month old and I worried it was too late to put a lot of it in place but, you really can start implementing it whenever. The more I read about it, the more I realised that the majority of it were things that Matt and I were already naturally doing as parents so it seemed like a positive thing to further explore when it aligned well with our "parenting style" already.

As Teddy is currently only 6 months old, a lot of elements of Montessori aren't applicable yet (such as the child-sized furniture and the taking part in practical activities) but, there's a lot we have already been doing with him since he was a one month old. One of the best things we've done thus far - that isn't strictly Montessori at all and is something I think all parents encourage and do naturally! - is to develop his language.

I talk to Teddy all day and about everything. I tell him what our daily plans and to-do list are each morning, I tell him I'm now applying his moisturiser for his eczema, I explain that that bus that drove past the window we're looking out of is taking people to work or college or school... It may sound so incredibly obvious and something we all do as it is but, by talking to your baby you're not only developing their language skills and their understanding of different sounds but also preparing them for practical life once they're a little bit older. Singing and reading aloud to him is something we also do and the one thing I will always stress to other parents is that babies are never too young to read!

We have also used various toys that are suited to Teddy's needs and next level of challenge based on observing what he can and can't do. From birth to 6 months, so so much changes and develops in a baby and we've wanted to encourage and support those changes as much as possible. For example, once he started developing his ability to grasp things, we ensured he had toys that were the right size and different shapes to help train this skill and help him enjoy playing but also meet some level of challenge by having to work out how to hold different shapes and sizes of toys/rattles.

A big part of the Montessori method is to provide children with toys and activities which don't do the entertaining for them - they have to entertain themselves. Teddy doesn't have any electronic toys with flashing lights, screens etc. (unless it's sensory play related) purely because he doesn't need them. Again, children having these is no problem but, we don't have them to try and encourage him to concentrate on an activity for a longer time. He only ever has the choice of 3 or 4 toys at any given time to not overwhelm him and also to encourage this ability to concentrate on one thing at a time. This has resulted in him being happy to play independently for extended periods even as a young baby and is helping him master certain skills.

Positive discipline is central to the Montessori method in the sense that the relationship between parent and child is one based on respect and a "we are a team" mentality. Obviously Teddy is still very young for most aspects of discipline but, simple things like if I'm speaking to Matt and Teddy starts whining, I will turn to him and say "Mammy is talking to Daddy right now. You can talk to me in a minute". By doing this, he has already started to understand how conversations work and that you need to remain quiet to let the other person speak and vice versa. Even at 6 months, he is starting to understanding what interrupting is and how it hinders a conversation rather than helps it develop.

As he has started baby-led weaning, if he starts playing with his food - not in an investigative way but more of a just throwing it around way! - I will say "You must be finished with your dinner because you're playing with it now so I will tidy it away" and I can then gauge by response whether or not he has actually finished. These small things will help just create routine and understanding for him as a toddler as he will be used to these small expectations already.

Lastly, over the past month I have started to give Teddy choices. Only small and he probably has no rhyme or reason behind them but, every morning when he gets dressed, I present him with two tops and say "Which one? The grey stripy one? Or the beige one with the bears on it?" or "Green socks or brown socks?". Some people might think it's silly to allow a 6 month old to choose things in this way but, I want him to feel he has a choice once that independence and desire to dress himself etc. kicks in. This way means he's set up to feel that he always can have freedom to choose, within the boundaries laid out for him.

Of course there are other small things that we are doing day-to-day to help build up to when he is a toddler and a lot of the method really comes into play but, for now, we're really happy with how the Montessori method slots into our lifestyle and "parenting style". I will be sharing more about Teddy's toys, developmental stages, and how his Montessori nursery is decorated/laid out so if you're interested in finding out more, keep your eyes peeled for those posts soon!

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