Stocking Fillers: Simpkins Lavender Drops

May I please just give a great big, affirmative, delighted BrocanteHome nod to Simpkins Botanical Drops?

simpkins lavender drops

They really are little drops of restorative heaven and come in well-being enhancing flavours as diverse as Cherry and Echinachea to Green Tea and my favourite (obviously), Lavender…

Quite the most soothing treat at bedtime… and the perfect gift for refined ladies everywhere.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying

There are two types of housewives: those who prioritise cleaning over tidying, and those that prioritise tidying over cleaning. I fall heavily in to the tidying category, mostly because the house is small enough to be almost unmanageable when you are a woman in possession of a boy, a cat, a dog and far too many books and thus I spend many a merry hour chasing my tail in a demented fashion because people and animals seem really rather determined to live in my house: a fact I consider to be tantamount to outrageous rudeness, when frankly I would prefer it if they sat and looked pretty and did not go about needing to eat, and sleep and moult and play and generally add a layer of lovely chaos to my life that I could well do without.

the life-changing magic of tidying up

So yes. Pop me firmly in to the tidying category because it is turning out to be my life’s work, though not, I must confess, to the same degree that one Marie Kondo has made it her business.

Kondo is you see the author of the Japanese best-seller, The Life-changing Magic of Tidying. A tour de force in the world of literary housework and the latest spark to ignite my urge to stuff everything I own in to bin bags.

Truth be told though: I struggled with the very premise of the book, perhaps because it is culturally different to my way of life and Marie Kondo writes with all the cheerful enthusiasm for tidying up, I can’t imagine clutter-busting could ever inspire in me. I like her. A lot. But this is a woman who started tidying and organising her entire families house when she was about six, and this strikes me as neither normal, nor even really human in a child!

So yes. She had no qualms about nipping in to her sisters room and throwing her things away when she was out, nor about losing most of her childhood to organising everything her family owned, while doing her best to reduce those belongings to almost nothing. It makes for quite bizarre reading altogether. And obsessional doesn’t begin to describe a trait that eventually became her stock in trade.

Kondo’s main focus is on discarding that which does not bring you joy and I have spent an age since finishing the book, struggling whole-heartedly with this concept. You see I think there is a world of difference between joy and necessity, and Marie Kondo really doesn’t seem to hold much truck with the essential, making frequent reference to the question of  joy when one is deciding whether an object should be given house room, when there are things in this life I am quite indifferent to but very much need in order to function domestically.

Furthermore her method for going about discarding everything she owns focus on what she calls “the correct order of categories”: namely clothes, books, paper and then “Komono” which pretty much amounts to almost everything else in the house. While I can get on board with this to a degree, it is in fact the Komono which causes me the most problems. Somedays I feel a bit up to my eyeballs in blooming Komono and then what’s a girl to do? She can’t very well stand everything she owns upright in a drawer the way Kondo consistently advocates now can she? No she certainly can’t. And furthermore, nor does she particularly want to  utilise many a cardboard box in the way Ms Kondo so frequently recommends either: for there it is in a nutshell – Kondo cares more for organisation than she does for any degree of aesthetic pleasure and I can’t quite buy into her vision of old cereal boxes organising everything I own.

So despite my reservations, do I still recommend reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up?  Abso-bloody-lutely. If only because it will inspire in you, as it has in me, a need to clear the decks of all the flotsam and jetsam we stuff so precariously into every corner of our homes. It will have you wandering the house with a bin bag in hand calling for volunteers for the skip and it will remind you that much of what you own inspires no joy at all.

And joy my darlings, should be our raison d’etre….

Embracing Empty Space

You would be so proud of me. Last week I helped my Mum and Dad move house, endured something rather nightmarish, developed some sort of Shingles related sores across my face and chucked out half of the things I own in a fit of the “just bin it’s”, Nike would be proud of.

reading5

It is you see, my new philosophy. Just bin it! I think I said it about fifty times last week: when Mum discovered a pile of my old school books in her loft, I said it. When Mark dragged a ladder to my own loft in search of a long lost chair, and happened across a stack of boxes filled with old magazines, I stood below him, and shouted “Oh just bin ‘em!” (Yep, I binned both Martha Stewart and Mary Englebreit: so shoot me). I said it when Finley came downstairs carrying the book I was reading, now thoroughly chewed by the dog. I said it to myself when I dragged the wheelie bin in front of the front door and wandered in and out the house carrying a myriad of things that were broken, or just rubbish, or no longer necessary. And I said it when it came to the sofa dilemma I found myself presented with mid-week.

Mark’s Mum was about to saw her almost brand new red sofa and chair in half in favour of a new grey one she had acquired, and one afternoon Mark suggested that I replace my rather battered cream sofa’s and chair with Peggy’s old one before she got too happy with a saw. So because beggars must not try and get choosy, I said yes and Dad arrived with a van with said sofa and chair to exchange the suites. And I was all of a fluster because I don’t manage change very well, but even I understand that needs must. And then all of a sudden the dilemma presented itself. The old suite had two sofas and one chair, the new one just one of each. There would be a gap! Now ordinarily gaps give me horrors, but in my head was a little cherubic devil whispering “just bin it, just bin it, just bin it….” so I said it out loud because I am good at doing exactly what I am told, and before I knew it I was walking backwards helping Dad load said extra sofa on to the van, and changing my mind twenty times before he finally announced that all would be well because he had a place I could store it in for a while in case my horror of gaps got overwhelming.

I have long been scared of empty spaces you see. I have failed to understand that when we create a gap, we invite the universe to fill it with something wonderful, but that when we keep rubbish things just because they fill a hole in our heads, our souls, or our living rooms, the universe decides we are fine and dandy just as we are, even if the sofa is grey with dirt and the cat has eaten the lining. Even when the books will never be read again, the man is sending us to an early grave or the job or business is putting us on the fast track to the loony bin.

We have to embrace gaps you see? We have to create them, live with them and then trust that the universe will help us discover just the something’s to fill them. Be it the perfect snuggly armchair we have had stuck on our pin-board for many a year. The man who will stitch our broken heart together or the new idea that will revolutionise a stale career or business.

When there is a gap, energy has room to dance wild and free and whip up a storm and present us with ideas we would never consider before. People see the gap in our hearts and bookshelves and offer help and chairs and something to read. People are rather wonderful like that. But it is always up to you to create the gap: to say enough already, just bin it… or else the universe will intervene and do it for you.

Don’t believe me? Why believe me you must. Because on Saturday night after Dad had lovingly stored my sofa’s away, a gang of naughty boys came along and burnt the place where it was stored, down. No really. I wouldn’t bin it, so the universe did it for me. And though I’m not quite sure I like it’s style,  I’m hearing it loud and clear: there is no room for half measures lady – just bin it!

A Brother For Finn…

In three weeks time, Mark’s wife, Hannah, will give give birth to a little boy. I have typed that sentence as I would type any other: as if it is not loaded with meaning. Not loaded with longing, delight and hurt.

bigbrother

Finley is utterly ambivalent about having a new brother. I think he can’t quite imagine what it will mean or where he will be in his Daddy’s pecking order. Hannah is utterly dreadful at involving him in what is set to be the biggest shift in his family life to date, and Mark is so very torn between the two of them.

So I sit by and watch from the sidelines helplessly. I mourn the children I will not now have and feel angry with Mark for not sticking in a relationship he now admits he should have remained utterly committed to. I want to throttle Hannah for turning Finns room in her house into the babies room, without so much as a bed for Finn to sleep on, and instead insisting that he sleeps on a sofa bed in the cold conservatory whenever he can be persuaded to stay there.

Gosh. I am making her sound like the Wicked Stepmother I am not sure she is. Though I do not know her at all, and I am very aware of how much she resents my very existence, I also know that she is a woman just like me, who wants to ensure the security of her family. Who wants her husband and her baby to be her world. I do understand that. But I simply cannot tolerate her indifference to my little boy. As far as I am aware, she has never spent any time with him alone, does not ever go on Mark and Finn’s outings and has never bought him a single present, or item of clothing in the five years she has known him.

It barely seems possible to me. Finn is an extremely easy child to love. Heaven knows he talks too much, but he is impeccably behaved, has the sweetest, kindest heart and so desperately wants to love this woman who will not love him back. And for my part, though I think asking for her friendship is probably out of the question, I truly wish that I could call her when Finn isn’t feeling well. When I have forgotten to pack socks, so I could check that she has some spare ones for him. That I could be sure that she would not shake his hand when he says goodbye to her, but would instead embrace him in a great big, Step Mum hug.  I wish he went to a house where there was a room for him. A home from home. A wardrobe with clothes that belong to him in. I wish that occasionally she would shove shove his clothes into the washing machine instead of sending them home to me caked in mud. I wish, really, that she would be Finn’s Mum when I am not there to do it.

But this I know for sure: Finn will love his new little brother. And I will too because he is Marks. Because the love and respect that I have always showed Finn for Mark: the respect and love that still remains, will be extended to a baby called Sam, who must, I think, be just about the luckiest little fella in the world to have a brother like Finn…

Oh how my world is changing, Readers.

Attachment Disorder

And so it came to pass that though the dog was an utter darling he was quite incapable of discriminating between foodstuffs and precious belongings and she who was in charge of him tried all manner or remonstration and failed on every single count.

naughtydog

The list of the things said dog destroyed? Three bras. Two pairs of wellingtons. An entire bag of popcorn and another of raspberry ruffles. Two tea-towels. One Batman. One Ben Ten. One white blobby soft toy apparently from Doctor Who. One pair of fleecy white slipper socks. One knife. A block of cheese. The cat. The cats favourite blanket. Twenty four magazines. One toilet roll from which a veritable snowstorm was created. Sixteen vintage books. One light sabre. One pencil case. Ten pencils. Finn’s homework (no really). A tub of rosy body lotion. Two packets of marmite crisps. Unspeakable things from the cats litter tray. The living room carpet. One particular corner of the rug. And my sanity.

Hells bells, yes. The dog ate my sanity.

But this post isn’t about the dog. Had ya fooled there didn’t I? No, this post is about my attitude to all the things the dog has eaten.

You see just this morning, Alfie walked past me looking rather pleased with himself so I ran up the stairs three at a time and there spread across the laminate floor of my bedroom was what remained of a very beautiful, very old, scrumptiously illustrated copy of The Water Babies I have treasured for many a year. I grabbed what was left of the front cover and stomped back down to confront the perpetrator of said mis-demeanour and found him apparently under attack of the kind sudden sleep which seems to take both babies and puppies mid-morning. The kind of attack I myself would occasionally give in to where it not for the fact that I have myself utterly convinced that the sleep police would attend my premises and remove all means to a cosy nap should they discover me comatose at eleven in the morning.

And then I went back up stairs, brushed up the mess with my handy little attached sweep and pan and then got distracted by something I saw out of the window and completely forgot to attend to the lack of rage I was apparently feeling. Or not feeling. For there it was: a big old empty hole devoid of all the kind of outrage I would have long suspected I would feel should I find anything other than a fluffy woof, apparently hell-bent on systematically destroying all the pretty, precious things I own.

This isn’t, I don’t think, because Alfie is too cute to stay cross with for long. No. It isn’t that. It seems, you see, that I have developed a curious lack of attachment to almost everything in my life, beyond the people I love. This might just be, because I have read so many books about de-cluttering that I have been brain-washed into truly understanding that things, even things  apparently of value, or loaded with projected emotion, actually do not mean anything at all. Nothing. Nada. Nought.

You see I stood there staring at what was left of The Water Babies and I thought about salvaging it along with the rest of the mighty high pile of dog-chewed books, until it suddenly struck me that there was no point. It was just one book in the cast of thousands that I own. One book I have not opened since the day I bought it for a song five years ago. One book I can should I choose to, buy again. One book I stored under my bed, for heavens sake!!

Its just a book. Just a thing. And things do not have meaning other than that we project on to them. You see the moment we stop studying our own projections, perhaps because we have got bigger fish to fry in our lives, is apparently the moment we are able to see them for what they usually are: meaningless objects. No more precious for the memories they provide because memories live on and cannot be chewed by naughty puppies.

So next time you find yourself staring at the ruined remains of something you have convinced yourself you love, detach it from a heart with far too many ribbons wrapped around memories. Detach it, and know that we are lucky enough to live in a world where almost everything we own can be replaced or usurped by the next object, the next moment to be enjoyed, the next treasure to be temporarily guarded.

It’s all just stuff my darling. Just stuff.

The Enormous List

Did your head ever feel so full of things to-do, things-that-should-be-done, worries and ideas that you start to suspect that left to its own devices it might just blow off? Yep. Me too. Somedays I wake up frankly astonished to find my head still attached to my neck, so likely does the possibility of spontaneous explosion seem to be.

list-making

Last night in a state of rather demented delirium, I decided to great a grip. You see working on the theory that it is better out than in, I sat down with a pretty notepad, a tiny pen and a cup of tea and I made a list. A big list! An enormous, ginormous, no holds barred, no boundaries list, that would probably take a code-breaker years to crack so random are the two hundred and thirty nine things on it.

You see once I started writing I couldn’t stop, and I am pretty sure I am not finished yet! I wrote down dreams, and ideas, and worries, and plans and teeny tiny to-do’s like “flea treatment for cat” and “buy dishwasher tablets” in a random fashion. A dream to own something in ten years time, next to a phone call I need to make this morning.  A quote I want to remind myself of. Brocantehome to-do’s, next to an instruction to book blood tests, (followed by an inordinate amount of outraged explanation marks for these are blood tests overdue by ummmm, three months). You name it, if it was in my head last night, I wrote it down. And oh my, how very much better I feel for spilling it on to creamy paper.

You see a person cannot think straight when a person’s thoughts are so wiggly they are lost in translation and bump up against too many other thoughts. A person cannot be expected to remember to buy batteries, take vitamins, write a newsletter and the first line of a possible novel if a person also needs to search the cupboard for a tin of spanish paprika she knows she owns,  source a game of Cluedo peopled by the characters of The Big Bang Theory for Father Christmas, respond to her sisters wedding invitation, find a dress to wear to said wedding, and work out how many years are left on her mortgage. Things slip through the net you see. Particularly when a persons head is foggy with a little list of troubles she likes to keep shoved in a dark cupboard in the far recesses of her muddly mind.

So the answer is, an ENORMOUS LIST. Now I did think about adding it to my usual task lists here on the internets, but it struck me that the very best place to keep an on-going list was right in front of me on this here coffee table so I can review it every time I sit down with a cuppa (often then) and try in my  own way to keep on top of this thing I like to call my life. I simply cannot ignore my enormous list when it is right in front of me and will need, at the very least, shuffling to order, at least a couple of times a day.

And so here I am. With a head free of two hundred and thirty nine thoughts that were getting on my nerves and rendering me static. Now all I need to do is start ticking them off and remembering to add new ones as I go along, so never again do I reach this state of lunacy.

Won’t you do the same? I recommend it whole-heartedly. 

The Amazing Pegzini Family

Pegs don’t usually float my book-shaped boat. Especially the nasty plastic kind you find in the supermarket which seem to go rusty in a domestic heartbeat.

pegzini

While I have got a soft-spot for the traditional dolly peg, I am pretty sure I have never met one that made me smile. At least not in the way the Amazing Pegzini Family make me smile.

Though I cannot imagine pegging out my smalls with any of these darling little acrobatic people, I really rather fancy stringin a set of sepia photographs across my  window-pane, safe in the knowledge that these dear little Pegzini people would be happy turning my kitchen into their circus.

Adorable and just the right stocking filler for she who once dreamt of running away with the circus, but who now worships at the altar in her laundry room…