82 articles Articles posted in Home

Products We’ve Replaced with Natural Alternatives

Since having kids, I’ve been a lot more aware of what’s in the foods we eat, as well as the products we use around the home and on our bodies. Obviously, we want everything around us, including ourselves, to be as clean as possible, but I really worry about the ingredients used in toiletries, cleaning products and other stuff that we’re exposed to on a daily basis. Recently, I’ve been trying to replace some of these things with more natural products, and I thought I’d share with you a few of them:

Aftersun/Moisturiser

Having as many different skin conditions as I do (psoriasis, dermatitis AND eczema) means that I have to be really careful about what I put on my skin and although the girls (thankfully) don’t have the same issues, they do both have sensitive skin. Many moisturisers are too heavily scented and full of preservatives for me, so I tend to opt for natural products containing Aloe Vera, like AloeClear. It’s soothing and moisturising and never irritates my skin like other products do.

Facial Cleanser

This one might sound bonkers, but I recently started using a facial oil to cleanse my face and realised that it’s basically just sunflower oil, scented with a few things! Once I’ve run out, I fully intend to start using grapeseed oil to cleanse my face as it’s great for your skin and a really neutral oil, with minimal odour. Adding a few drops of geranium oil will make it smell amazing, too!

Disinfectant

There are a number of all-natural disinfectants out there, but to be totally honest, you can’t beat white vinegar and bicarb for cleaning things around the home. They tend to do a better job of cleaning, don’t leave streaks over everything and I don’t have to worry about what the kids are breathing in.

Carpet Deodoriser

Because we have a dog, I’m always super conscious about the smell of our carpet, but all of the highly-scented carpet powders seem to make us feel chesty when we use them. Opting for bicarbonate of soda works just as well, if not better, at soaking up odours and it’s a fraction of the cost, as well as being totally natural. You can also add a few drops of essential oil if you want to make it smell nice, and it also makes your vacuum smell good when you use it, too!

Oven Cleaner

I’m not gonna lie, chemical oven cleaner SCARES ME. I used it once and splashed some on my arm and got an actual chemical burn – I am FAR too clumsy for hazardous materials! These days, I make a paste from bicarbonate of soda and apple cider vinegar and smear it all over the surfaces that need cleaning, leave it for a couple of hours and then wipe off with a scourer and warm water. Great cleaning power and no chance of losing layers of skin!

Do you use any natural alternatives? I’d love to hear them.

Blinds in a Box Review

A few months back, our landlady told us that she was having a new roof put onto our property, and although this was really welcome news, it occurred to us that this meant having very little privacy during the day while the roofers were here. We’ve got blinds on all of our front windows, but we back onto farmland and enjoy the unobscured view from our lounge, so we don’t have any coverings on those windows. I didn’t want to buy blinds or curtains just to be used for a months or so, and while doing some research on temporary blinds, I found a company called ‘Blinds in a Box’.

Blinds In A Box is the brainchild of Simeone Salik, interior designer Janice Dalton and businessman Dominic Lawrence, 3 entrepreneurs from North London. They took their product on Dragons Den and received the praise (and investement!) of both Duncan Bannatyne and James Caan. I emailed and asked if they’d like to send me some blinds to try out and here we are. The blinds come with a set of literally two instructions, so I thought I’d make a (probably TOO honest…) video so you can see what the installation process is like:

As you can see from the video, it was SUPER easy to install the blinds! We’ve been really impressed with the quality of the blinds since we installed them a week ago, too. They allow us a really good level of privacy without blocking out too much light and they come with little crocodile clips so that you can raise them as and when you want to. The white colour is really neutral and Husband and I have both said that we fully intend to leave the blinds up for as long as they last.

If we ever move house again (although, I really hope we don’t!) I would 100% invest in a couple of boxes of Blinds in a Box so that we could avoid that awkward stage where you don’t have blinds or curtains for the new house and end up sleeping in a room with nothing at the windows! Every time we’ve moved house, we’ve ended up putting either newspaper or old sheets up at the windows, and not only does it look pretty rubbish, it’s a total inconvenience. Knowing that we could just pull the blinds out of the box, trim them to the right size and have smart-looking window coverings is really appealing.

The blinds can be bought in white or black (the black offers a blackout effect, which would be great if you’re taking light-sleeper kids on holiday) in regular or wide widths, and can be bought one at a time, or in a box of three or six. We were sent a box of three, which would be £22 to buy, and I really feel they’d be worth every penny for situations like we’ve been in. They also arrive REALLY fast – if you order by 12pm on a weekday, your blinds will be with you the next day, so even if you forget right until the last minute, you can have them with you really quickly.

I can totally see why the Dragons were so impressed with this products, and I’ll be recommending it to anyone who’ll listen!

Creating Space Without Extending Your House

I’ve written many a blog post in the past about how to create space n your house, but when you live in a rental property, extending your property just isn’t an option. As much as I’d love a conservatory or big extension, it’s simply not on the cards and even for people who own their house, adding bits on it’s always possible because of planning permission, lack of space or just not enough funds. I thought I’d share a few ideas with you for creating a sense of space in a house without needing add an extra wing!

Smaller Furniture

Going out and replacing your furniture obviously isn’t always the most economical way to live, but taking a critical look at your furniture and deciding whether it really fits the space is a good place to start. Overstuffed couches are super comfy, but if they fill a room and make it feel claustrophobic, they might not be the best choice for you. Instead of taking a look at you own furniture you could also take a critical look at the way you’re using the space.

Roof Windows

Adding windows to a room is a really great way to give an illusion of space because it floods the space with light and draw the eye upwards to the sky, rather than into dark corners in a tight space. The brand Solstro has summed up the most important roofwindows benefits; which I couldn’t agree with more. Roofwindows are a great addition to a room if you’re able use them and will cost a fraction of what you’d pay for an extension.

Mirrors

It sounds like such a cliche, something that Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen would have said in an early 90’s episode of Changing Rooms, but mirrors really do give the illusion of space, purely because they reflect the space which already exists and makes it look twice as big. The dining room in our house is the smallest room, but we have a large mirror at one end and it really helps the space to feel less poky.

Lighter, Simpler

Dark colours and intricate patterns are the quickest way to make a space feel closed in and overwhelming. Scaling back your patterns to something smaller and simpler, as well as opting for lighter colours, will open a space up and make it feel less closed-in. That doesn’t mean that your room has to be boring; there are some beautiful wallpapers out there which are both patterned and light in colour which can make any space look elegant and well-finished.

Do you have small spaces in your house which you’ve managed to open up without extending? Leave me a comment below, I’d love to hear about it.

The Pros and Cons of Renting #RentalInsights

The Pros and Cons of RentingHusband and I were having a conversation recently about the pros and cons of renting our house. Neither of us is interested in having a mortgage and buying a property and like many of our peers, would probably struggle to get a mortgage in the current climate anyway. As much as the idea of leaving my kids a lump sum of money after I die is attractive, I also think things like that can cause more hassle than they’re worth and would rather invest money is something different for them. There are both pros and cons to renting, however, and I thought I’d share some of them with you here.

PRO – Repairs Aren’t Your Responsibility

A few years back, we were living in a property with an ancient boiler and it decided to give up the ghost, right before Christmas. If it had been our property, we’d have had to find the money to replace the boiler, which is never an attractive prospect. Fortunately for our landlord at the time, he had landlords insurance from Homelet which paid for emergency repairs and meant that we weren’t left in the cold, in the height of winter, for longer than necessary.

CON – Magnolia EVERYWHERE!

Most landlords want their properties to be neutrally decorated and clean-looking as possible, which is understandable, but years of living in Magnolia Palaces with little opportunity to add our own personalities can be frustrating. The house we’re in now mercifully has wallpaper in a couple of rooms and pink in the girls room, which has made SUCH a difference to how homely the place feels.

PRO – Lack of Commitment

When you’re in a rented property, if you decide you want to move on, the process is far more complicated, and we’re actually out of contract now so would be free to move if we wanted to, with just a little bit of notice. We’re really happy where we are (apart from the APPALLING internet speeds!) and have zero intention of going anywhere, but it’s good to know that we could if we wanted to with fairly minimal fuss.

CON – Uncertainty

The flipside of us being able to move is also the uncertainty that, one day, our landlady might ask us to move on and there would be very little we could do about it. The row we live in consists entirely of rental properties, owned by the same family, and I’m hopeful that it will remain a long-term investment for them, but there’s always that chance that things could change.

PRO – Budgeting is Easier

In terms of our outgoings, we know as renters that we pay our rent and bills each month and that’s the extent of what we need to budget for. If we owned the property and something went wrong, the expense would be on us, so we’d probably have to save money each month as a contingency plan. Knowing exactly which bits our our responsibility makes it far easier to account for our income and outgoings, taking away the element of uncertainty.

Stylish Ways To Save Space In Your Living Room

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Yeah, we all want one of those open plan living rooms that just happens to be a dining room-cum-kitchen-cum-everything room, kind of like that loft in New Girl. But, as you probably tell your kids, “I want” doesn’t get and that means we’re probably going to be stuck with our smallish living room for the foreseeable future no matter how much we get down on our hands and knees and pray.

Luckily for you, small doesn’t have to mean sad and tiny doesn’t have to mean terrible. Oh no. That’s because there are plenty of stylish ways for you to make your small space that much more impressive. Besides, if you were to ask us (which is kind of what you are doing), we would say practical and beautiful is better than being spacious and wasted.

So, with that in mind, let’s get straight to it shall we:

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall

Yes, strategically placed mirrors are the best way of making a small room seem bigger, which is exactly why you should be looking into this option. But it also gives you a chance to real style out your living space and that is easily achieved by rocking some oversized mirrors to create a sophisticated focal point. Don’t go with the obvious places, though. Let’s say you have a fireplace with alcoves either side; instead of hanging a mirror above the fire, try and completely fill both alcoves with a huge mirror to create a truly magnificent optical illusion.

Light Your Little World Right Up

Take a break from this article for just one moment to go and look at the window situation in your living room. Chances are, there is nothing below this splendid source of natural light. Why not? This is an ideal spot to add a bit of charm and use your space in a practical and beautiful way by adding a window seat under it. If it is a bay window, then you’re good to go. If it is a normal window, just create a bench seat right along that wall. Just remember to add a lift-up lid so that you can have that bit of extra storage space too.

Furniture That Agrees With Your Goal

There are two things that are worth think about when it comes to choosing furniture: visual weight and practicality. What we mean by the latter part of that statement is, yes, having something like stylish coffee tables is desirable, but having stylish coffee tables with storage is ideal. Your issue is space, right, so make sure you are buying with that in mind. As for visual weight, we’re talking about choosing lighter colors, longish legs, and materials that you can see-through, like glass. Furniture that doesn’t obstruct your view will help make your space feel bigger; much bigger.

Going Back to Back On Things

Okay, it’s time for another momentary break, this time to see what is behind your sofa. If the answer is a wall, then fine. If the answer, however, is nothing, then you’re wasting space. That’s because you could be using this to better effect, by which we mean making your living room more stylish without eating away at space unnecessarily. Things like a low bench to stack books and trinkets along would work wonders here, not just because it would look dazzling but because it would add another layer of storage and help you in your (no doubt) perpetual battle against clutter and trying to turn it into order. Of course, it doesn’t have to be a bench. It could be a low cabinet with doors on, or it could even be a book case that goes right the way to the ceiling, almost creating a really useful floating wall effect in the middle of your living room.

Fill In Those Corners Up Now

Most corners are wasted spots that people fail to fill because they don’t have the imagination to help them along. As such, we end up filling them with floor standing lamps that we rarely use or a statue-thingy that we regret buying because – in hindsight – it looks awful. Well, that is where a bit of custom built furniture/storage could completely transform your life. Not only will it let you put all your kid’s bits and bobs somewhere (and not just the floor) it can really act as a feature piece too. Think about how amazing it would be to have a home-library, with a few shelves empty for the aforementioned clear ups.

There are plenty of ways to make your smallish living room that little bit more stylish and practical. It is just a matter of looking at the dead space in your home in a different light and your current bits from a new angle. Get that right and, voila, you’ll forget you ever pined after an open plan living room.

Common Garden Problems

I’ve blogged about our garden a few times in the past; it’s a really decent size with a large lawn and a patio area and it’s one of my favourite things about this house. There’s more than enough space for a massive trampoline, the girls’ paddling pool in the summer and various other slides/tents/swingball-type things, without ever feeling cluttered. However, although it might seem like a big blank space would be easy to manage, we still find various common garden issues which make it harder to maintain. We’re not afraid to get stuck in and get our hands dirty to sort things out ourselves, but sometimes you have to admit that you’re beyond your level of expertise and pass the job to someone who knows exactly what they’re doing. Here’s a few of the things we’ve struggled with:

Japanese Knotweed

Japanese knotweed is probably one of THE most common problems here in UK gardens and although it might seem tricky to deal with for the average gardener, there are companies out there who have the expertise to deal with japanese knotweed eradication with relative ease. Knotweed can look unsightly but if it’s left to go wild, it can even cause structural issues with your buildings, so asking the professionals to deal with it is a really good idea!

Slugs

Last year, I thought I’d have a go at growing some tomatoes, strawberries and a few herbs. They were all doing really well, until a bunch of slugs came along and made a very quick meal of them! I don’t like using strong chemicals, but my mother in law swears by putting crushed eggshells around her seedlings as the slugs don’t like to crawl across them, and so will leave your plants alone.

Ivy

Our next door neighbours seem to have a love affair with ivy – it grows over almost their whole property and they seem to be quite happy to let it do so. This was fine, until the burgeoning growth started to push one of our fences down. The trouble with ivy is that it’s seriously hardy and even harsh chemicals don’t always kill it off. Ivy needs to be attacked from the root and some people advocate using a mixture of boiling water, white vinegar and salt to kill it without using pesticides.

Mosquitoes

Living by a body of water, as we do, means that we have mosquitoes buzzing around for about 9 months of the year, and only the super cold weather kills them off. Lots of people use citronella but the sheer amount of them here would never be put off by a candle. We also don’t like spraying DEET on the kids because it’s such a harsh chemical and they’d need to be showered in it on a daily basis to have a decent effect here. We’ve invested in an electric fly killer, which sits in the hallways and also deals with other flying beasties, and it’s the first summer where we’ve had a moment’s peace!

Wildlife

Living in the countryside means that as well as the usual cats and foxes that everyone has to deal with, we also regularly encounter moles, voles, badgers, bats, egrets, herons and many more animals on a daily basis! We love them usually, but they do sometimes bring problems. Largely we let them go about their business, but it does get annoying keeping our lawn in good order only to wake up to a dozen molehills over the grass! We haven’t come up with a kind solution to this yet, so for now we’re just trying to live peacefully with them.

Get Your Dream Kitchen

Thinking about turning your current kitchen into your dream cooking space? Are you worried about the cost? Well worry no longer as we’re bringing you a definitive guide on revamping your tired kitchen without breaking the bank!

We’ll talk about all the cheap bits and bobs you can get as well as some ways to cut costs out entirely!

Create a feature wall

A feature wall used to be a pain to sort but nowadays it’s as easy as pie; you can add a kitchen splashback. If you are adding a splashback as your feature wall avoiding the expensive traditional glass and choosing a cheaper & more durable modern acrylic one can save you a lot of money. The reason a plastic splashback is cheaper is not down to skipping on the quality it is simply due to the process involved with making and distributing it compared to glass! to make it and then ship it! Simply plastics offers a wide range of colours, styles and offer a service of cutting it down to any shape or size. So adding that feature wall doesn’t have to be expensive!

Add open plan shelving

You can always give the impression you have a bigger kitchen by adding some open plan shelving, you are creating the illusion that your kitchen is, in fact, bigger than it appears. Not only does it just create the appearance of a lot more space in your kitchen, it also allows you to show case some key items that you love. This can be a fantastic opportunity for you to buy some new and fancy glasses or some beautiful pieces of crockery. Let your inner style shine and create shelves, which all your friends will be marvelled by.

Get new lighting

Updating your lighting to some quality lights can be one of the easier ways you can get your dream kitchen. Lighting is important and attributes to setting the mood, creating your own personal style and can help you bring attention to key features in your kitchen. If you want to update your lighting find a clever way to place them as this may lead to your kitchen appearing much bigger, and who doesn’t want more space! Or even just the illusion of more space.

Painting your space.

Adding a fresh lick of paint is a great and easy way you can improve your space and not have a hefty price tag. By painting your walls it gives a new, fresh and clean to reawaken your tired kitchen. This can extend to painting your cabinets as well. You can be bold with your colour choice or be as conservative as you like! The beauty of painting isn’t just because its low cost, but it can also be a fun and exciting DIY project for you.

Upgrade appliances

This may cost a bit more money than the rest of the list; it will massively improve your kitchen. Buying some new household gadgets may make your whole house seem newer as the design has modernised. Also, it may save you money as you are now able to buy energy-saving appliances and this may even save you money on those monthly bills.

Five Tips to Turn Clutter into Order (without too much hassle)

Clutter gets you down. It’s a slow creep, but eventually you realise you can’t do the things you want because there’s no space, too much mess, and it’ll take all the spare time you have just to make room for what you wanted to do.

When it reaches this stage, it’s time to wage war on clutter.

#1 – Get Organised

Everybody hangs on to things ‘just in case’. It can reach the stage when there’s nowhere in cupboards and wardrobes to keep the stuff you want because they’re full of things you no longer use.

Getting tough on those space stealers is the first step to mastering clutter instead of letting it master you. Take it slowly, doing just one room at a time. Start with the least cluttered room, because when you get a relatively easy success you’re more motivated to tackle something more challenging.

Go through all the cupboards and divide stuff into three piles:

• Keepers
• Trash
• Savers

The keepers you’ll have somewhere either to hand or on display. The trash items speak for themselves. Be ruthless and have a big black bin bag to hand so you’re less likely to change your mind. The savers are items you want to keep, such as sentimental value things or heirlooms you can’t part with. These you’ll pack away and store elsewhere.

Having sorted possessions in this way you’ll already feel like you’re reclaiming your space. Time to move on.

#2 – Find and Use Hidden Spaces

Hidden spaces include under the stairs, or even under the kitchen cabinets (that area that’s generally blocked off with kick boards). But hidden spaces can also be hiding in plain sight.

Look up, and see all that space on the wall. We tend to ignore high up spaces, but it’s valuable real estate for shelving to hold books, ornaments, collections or anything else you want on display. And the best thing is shelving works in every room, and is usually out of reach of little fingers.

#3 – Making More of Storage Furniture

Digital gadgets are part of everyday life, but they really contribute to clutter when they’re left lying on surfaces, especially in living rooms.

Storage furniture provides a solution in the form of coffee tables or end tables that have drawers and shelves built in. When you can scoop chargers, controllers, remotes, tablets and phones out of sight, surfaces are clean and tidy, but gadgets are still handy.

In bedrooms, make beds work harder. Choose divans or ottomans over frame beds and use the built in storage for toys in kids’ rooms or spare linens and duvets in the master bedroom.

#4 – Use Self Storage for Seasonal Items

We live according to the seasons, either consciously or unconsciously, doing different things depending on the weather and time of year.

Those activities generally involve different bits of kit, from lawn mowers and barbecues to sports equipment or seasonal clothing. Keeping them at home takes up space and adds to the feeling of clutter.

Self storage is an answer many people are discovering. The rooms come in all sizes and are quite inexpensive. The rental terms are short, so giving up a room or moving to a different size is quick and easy. Plus, most of us live within striking distance of a self storage facility.

Storing items not being used frees up a surprising amount of space, whether it’s more room in the garage to work on the car, or more space in the house to arrange things in everyday use.

#5 – Banish Dumping Grounds

Let’s face it, we all have them. Post and junk mail gets tossed on the side ‘for later’, keys get dropped on counters or hall tables, and shoes pile up just inside doorways. Making tiny changes in these areas can really help control or banish small dumping grounds:

• Install a key rack and use it.
• Invest in a letter rack where all incoming mail gets stacked until you have time to deal with it.
• Put a shoe rack by the door, or make it a household rule that shoes are placed in whatever area you designate for them.

Sometimes, changing just one little habit, or tackling one little area, can have a big impact on clutter.

What To Look For When Moving to a Rented Property

rented propertyI’ve mentioned before that Husband and I have lived in rented property for our whole adult lives and in fact, since we’ve been together we’ve actually lived in EIGHT different properties in 11 and a half years! We’ve seen a LOT of properties, ranging from flats to houses to bungalows, both old and new, when searching for properties to move to and I think it’s given us a pretty good level of expertise when it comes to weeding out the bad ones. Here’s a few of the things we look out for when viewing a property:

Damp

It’s a fact that lots of properties have a problem with damp and it can be really tricky to live with. Husband and I have moved out of a home we LOVED before because the damp was up to the dado rail in one room and the walls were totally black. The landlord was unwilling to deal with it, so we had no choice but to move. Signs of damp when you view a house are obviously the smell, which is usually the first thing to hit you. Bubbling wallpaper and black marks in corners or behind furniture are also a sure sign. Some landlords try to hide damp by painting over it but it will ALWAYS come back through and will not only look bad but can cause lung complaints and illness.

Appliances

Before we moved into the house we’re in now, we moved to a house which boasted fitted appliance, so we sold all of our high-quality appliances and used the fitted ones. Within a matter of weeks, the cooker, dishwasher and washing machine ALL broke and we hadn’t realised that it was our responsibility to replace them. Check first whether the landlord is retaining ownership of any fitted appliances or you could end up with a lot of expense on your hands right after moving.

Electrics

Okay, this is obviously a tough one because you probably aren’t an electrician and won’t be doing a detailed check, however, somethings are obvious. Husband and I once viewed a flat which has no plug sockets in the bedroom, so the owner had drilled the whole way through the wall, plugged a hopper into the loung and routed it through the wall to be used in the bedroom. I cannot even begin to imagine how much of a fire hazard that must have been!

Noise

Letting agents are really clever about when they will show a house which is in a potentially noisy spot. Our last house was on a bus route and after moving in we discovered that the “double glazing” was totally shot and didn’t keep out any sound at all, but we viewed the property early on a Saturday morning when no buses were due and traffic was at a minimum. If you’re concerned about noise, always try to book a viewing when the surrounding area is at it’s busiest.

Neighbours

Listen, I don’t mean to sound like a snob because quite frankly, I don’t give a hoot what anyone else does in their own home. However, if you’re the sort of person who values quiet and solitude above all else then moving in a house where you’re flanked by young families, sharers or students probably isn’t the best bet for you. Try to assess the neighbourhood because even if you fall in love with a house, the surrounding area just might not suit you.

 

A Good Landlord/Tenant Relationship

landlord locked outHusband and I have been together for 11 and a half years now and in that time, we’ve always lived in rented houses. We’ve no inclination to buy with the way the market is at the moment and we like the fact that if something major goes wrong, like a boiler needing to be replaced, the expense isn’t ours. We probably pay more in rent than we would on a mortgage but for us, it’s worth it. However, one thing we’ve realised is that having a good relationship with our landlord is really important.

We’ve lived in properties in the past where a letting agent has managed the property on behalf of the landlord and it usually means that it takes forever to get anything done because you’re always waiting for phonecalls to be answered or emails to be replied to, so we were happy to know when we moved into our current property that our landlady would be managing it herself, and it’s got us out of a bind in the past.

One evening, last summer, Husband, the kids and I did what we often do on a Saturday evening and went to my MIL’s for dinner. It was the evening of our village summer dance and most of the village was over there, having a boogie, but we couldn’t take the kids so we gave it a miss. Once we got home, we realised that we’d managed to forget our door key; it had been taken off of the fob earlier in the day so that it would fit into a running belt and not put back, so although we’d managed to deadlock the door, the main chubb key was missing.

We umed and ahhed about how the hell we could get into the house, checking windows, knocking on neighbours doors (it was well after 10pm by then and got no answers) until we remembered that our lovely landlady was at the village dance. We raced round the country lanes, managed to find her with a plastic beaker of white wine in her hand and threw ourselves at her mercy. Within minutes, she’d managed to recruit a friend of her family (who is a builder) to come and cut through the door frame to get to the lock and force it from the outside, and we were in the house in no time at all.

We realised at this point that not only were we lucky to have forgotten the key on an evening that she was around, but also that we REALLY needed to invest in some spare keys and a lockable box to hide somewhere, should we ever have such a disaster again! Possibly the most amazing part is that our landlady also refusd to accept any money towards the subsequent repair which had to be done to sort out the door frame again after our disaster! We were so grateful for her help and it made us realise exactly how lucky we were to have such a fab landlady!

Do you have a good relationship with your landlord? Have you ever had a disaster and needed their help? Do leave me a comment below telling me all about it!