I am probably a week away (fingers crossed) from saying goodbye to my house for always and the mixture of both relief and sadness is palpable.

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I shall miss this little house of mine, but it is no longer what it used to be. In fact I haven’t lived here really for six months and now a house that was once fragranced by lavender and love, smells musty and neglected.

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But it wasn’t always so: once the little walls of this tiny Victorian terraced cottage were a celebration of all that puttery and lovely. An ode to the kind of abundant domesticity I have been recommending to you for the past twelve years.

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But houses are more than just the pretty. More than just the routines and rituals of daily life. They are memory boxes. The walls lined in our own history. And I had to move out because that history had started to stain my rosy wallpaper and I couldn’t escape it.

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Of course there are good memories as well as bad ones. I brought my baby home to this house and found it filled with balloons and flowers…

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I spent so many happy hours here laughing. Playing. Singing. And content.

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Sometimes I hugged the house and sometimes the house hugged me. (We all need hugging sometimes don’t we?).

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Even when the bad times came the house still felt like a sanctuary. I put everything I had in to making it into a gallery of my soul, and I loved nothing better than closing the door on the world and hibernating there.

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But if I have learnt anything it is that life cannot be static. And that sometimes we have to be brave and move on from places and people that are no longer serving us.

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Doors close so we can open another don’t they? Though I am so very grateful to my little house and to how it shaped me as a homemaker and I do believe I will miss it for always…

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I can’t quite believe that I have reached the last in the four seasons of my House series, and that in just two weeks time, The Autumn House will be sitting among my Winter, Spring and Summer editions. 

How the years fly by! And oh how very much I have enjoyed focusing on the pleasures of each season in turn: gathering up seasonal books, writing lists of lovely puttery treats and loveliest of all, for each of the four seasonal books, writing an essay designed to inspire all the particular joys of each season at home, in your hearts.

“With a life in the day of a Vintage Housekeeper in Autumn, a list of seasonal puttery treats, some advice for preparing for cooler weather at home, and adding a layer of cosy calm to your Autumn house alongside the three housekeeping recipes you need to give the house a hug, an Autumn reading list and a list of journaling prompts for meditating your way through this gorgeous season of so much promise…”

This then is the snuggliest way to enjoy Autumn at home: a collection of Brocante-esque advice designed to inspire you to make the most of this season of change…

The Autumn House is available for PRE-ORDER right now at the discounted price of $8.00 and will be delivered to your in-box on the 18th August- when the price will go up to the usual seasonal series price of $10.00… AND my Living Roomers will find a voucher for an extra 25% off the price on the group page today…

Finally If you are a member of the Salon you will find The Autumn House in the Salon library on the 18th of August absolutely free of charge (along with all the other downloads in my lovely store) – and at the risk of sounding like a stuck record, I just want to remind you that the option to pay for the salon MONTHLY is once again available…

So to sum things up: there are three ways to buy The Autumn House.

  1. Pre-Order it today for the discounted price of $8.00 here.
  2. Join the Living Room today for just $15.00 and get a voucher to buy The Autumn House for just $6.00 when you sign in to the Living Room Facebook Group …
  3. Or join The Salon, get all the benefits of Living Room Membership, all existing downloads and everything I create for the life of your membership absolutely FREE, Salon Only posts and coming soon monthly podcasts and webinars, and one on one Pep-Talks with yours truly for just $20.00 a month OR the lowly price of just $169.00 for an entire year of BrocanteHome wonderfulness!

I know which deal I would grab…x

 

In my best-selling twenty -five part clutter-busting program “Trash It or Treasure It”, I describe four main types of clutter I have long observed: both in my own propensity for hoarding and in that I observed during my years working as an interior designer.

Much of it is kind of sad. For here’s the thing: clutter IS sad. It speaks of yesteryear and yearning. It has you holding on to a past that is no longer relevant and aching for a time in your life now lost. It speaks of greed and disappointment. A refusal to live in the here and now, or to understand that today you are vastly different to who you were once and that is ok.

It is ok to no longer fit in clothes that once swam on you.
It is ok to have loved and lost.
It is ok to have a host of uncompleted projects.
It is ok to let someone who has died go.
It is ok to have different taste in music/furniture/shoes now.
It is ok to have learned all that you are going to learn from the books on your shelves.
It is ok to have failed. To be unable to learn something that once fascinated you.

 

Clutter Hurts.

Addressing it takes guts. It takes more than the simple weighing up of whether a single object brings you joy or not and instead asks you to examine thoughts and emotions you would probably prefer to keep buried, while losing much of this one and only precious life to shuffling stuff around your house, and worse, oh so much worse, around your head.

Ugh. Enough already.

We haven’t got time for keeping dust of a stack of 1990’s magazines we are NEVER going to read again. We cannot look our bestest selves right now if every time we open the wardrobe we were once younger or indeed slimmer. We will never move on from the death of someone we adored if we insist on keeping reminders of that loss cluttering up each and every surface. So much stuff we just don’t have time for.

And then there is emotional clutter. All that blocks us living a life less ordinary. For make no mistake, there is nothing, oh but nothing, more time consuming than emotional clutter. A head full of regret. The lies we tell ourselves. Emotions that do not serve us now.

 

It has to go Honey. It has to ALL go.

Clutter, physical or emotional is ruining your life. It is the enemy of clarity and CLARITY is the only emotion we truly need to forge ahead with our own lives: to see what is true. Real. And essential if we are going to thrive as authentic beings.

Start then by considering which of the type of clutter best describes that which is stifling your heart and home…

 

Poverty Clutter

This is the kind of clutter grasped on to when you experience LACK and thus seek to shore against your own ruin by harbouring stuff and nonsense to protect you from emptiness and relative poverty. It is the shabby evening bags you are stashing though they are long out of fashion. The chipped ornaments. The ugly curtains. The man who clearly doesn’t love you, but you cannot (will not) let go because you have got it in to your head that something or someone is better that nothing or nobody.

 

Rainy Day Clutter

When you are storing rainy-day clutter you have probably once experienced times when frugality felt necessary and as a result still imagine that despite its passing, planning for times when frugality might once again rear its ugly head are necessary. She who is harbouring rainy-day clutter then keeps things “just in case” and struggles to trust in relationships because she has been let down in the past.

 

Hey-Day Clutter

She who keeps Hey-Day clutter is living in the past. Believing that she still has the means to live as she once did. Insisting that she will once again squeeze in to clothes that fit her back in the day. Allowing her house to go to rack and ruin because it is still decorated in the way it was when life felt blessed. Keeping the materials for projects associated with happier times. Comparing existing relationships to ones now over, or times now passed.

 

Heartbreak Clutter

Ah the saddest kind of clutter. This then is the kind of clutter accumulated in the aftermath of sorrow. Holding on to all that our parents left behind. Yearning for a relationship now over. Trying to stuff all the furniture we once had in our now empty nest in to the apartment that we now live in. Heartbreak clutter then is about not being able to let go and it is probably the hardest type of clutter to liberate yourself from and also, so very much the most necessary to escape.

 

Now CHOOSE to do the work.

To lug the boxes. Drive to the tip. Change your phone number or call the lawyer. Choose to get really, really BRAVE. Dig deep and be honest about what you really need to move forward and what you can happily leave behind. Seek CLARITY in every aspect of your life.

 

Start Today!

Are you ready to take the Trashy Oath? Sign up for The Trash It or Treasure Program while it is half-price (just $20.00 instead of the usual $40.00)  and you will recieve 25 PDF’s – more than 250 pretty pages full of soothing words and feisty inspiration? One download for each of the twenty -five weeks I believe it will take you to achieve absolute, total freedom from all that is standing between you and authenticity…

* The Trashy Oath.
* An introduction to the giddy theory behind the program (!)
* The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Housekeepers.
* Putting you first.
* Starting at the beginning.
* Getting organised on-line.
* Creating Housekeepers Central on-line.
* Your domestic heroine.
* The four types of clutter.
* Getting to grips with Poverty Clutter.
* Understanding Hey-Dey Clutter.
* Identifying Rainy Day Clutter.
* Letting go of Heartbreak Clutter.
* The four questions you need to answer.
* Habit, routine and ritual.
* Extreme self-care.
* The problem with perfection.
* The Trashy Mission Lists
* Function before form.
* Clearing the entrance into your home.
* Making space to really live.
* The heart of the home.
* The inner sanctum.
* Personal sanctuary.
* Dealing with other people’s chaos.
* Tackling the internal war!
* Getting shut of emotional baggage.
* And eight final thoughts and actions…

 

P.S: Don’t feel ready to tackle the clutter? Maybe you need to Get a Grip first my darling? 

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If you see me running up and down this little cul-de-sac of ours batting my head and screeching fit to burn it will be because a moth or twenty-five have taken refuge in my frizzy hair. 

Blame da bungalow. It is the bungalows fault. In fact me and this darn bungalow are at loggerheads because she is a magnet for all things creepy and crawly, and I am a lunatic in dire need of one of those special little hoovering up machines dedicated to eradicating life indoors of all things that frankly shouldn’t be setting up home.

Never, ever before have I experienced an insect invasion like the one currently taking place in this sprawling hot house. For there’s the rub: the insects consider themselves invited because the house is so stuffy I run around opening the many windows the minute I fall out of bed and before I know it all the blue bottles that live on the pink plant in the front garden come dashing in demented with buzzy, window-bashing excitement, and the bee’s in the back-garden make a bee-line straight for my head.

And that’s not all. The bathroom is home to more spiders than the Natural History Museum. In the evenings I switch off the lights so as not to attract moths and before I know it said ENORMOUS black moths are having sense enough not to burn their pretty wings in the candlelight and instead taking great delight in swooping past my nose and trying to crawl down my not insubstantial cleavage to eat my bra.

And the bedroom. Oh the bedroom is the very worst of it. You see the bedroom is home to a whole posse of INVISIBLE dragon flies. I say invisible because when I head to my room to start my evening absolutions, I like to conduct a spot-check for all things likely to trouble me in the small hours. Said spot-check involves flapping the duvet about and making Ste drag chairs in to the room to climb up and give spiders lurking in corners their marching orders. Said spot-check NEVER reveals lurking dragonflies because when I get in to bed and read my Kindle and rub lavender in to my feet and generally do all the probably slightly ludicrous things I have to do to fight off insomnia, the dragonflies aren’t there. They AREN’T THERE. Oh no. The little blighters wait until it is pitch black and we are almost dropping off to sleep to start singing at the top of their dragony voices, bouncing off the walls and generally making more racket than anything so paper light should be capable of making.

So then I can’t sleep and I pop the light on and have a stern word with the tens of crawlies apparently having a disco and when they won’t listen, much to his chagrin, I make Ste get up and carry them out one by one: not because I am scared of them, but because I read too much trashy news and I have visions of them taking root in my ear, or heaven forbid my belly-button and sending me to itchy hell. Because these things happen don’t you know? And heavens, as if my ears aren’t trouble enough without a dragonfly family moving in…

But I am Alison. And let’s face it I once saw off a six foot four creepy crawly so I can do this! I can employ every insect fighting tactic in my vintage housekeeping book and make it clear to anything with wings or more than four legs that they are not welcome in my hot-house. I can liberally sprinkle the kind of essential oils that get up insect’s noses around the place, burn citronella tea-lights here, there and everywhere and stuff a tumble-dryer sheet down my bra because apparently that will be just as effective as wearing head to toe insect repellent and will of course have me smelling as fresh as a basket of line-dried laundry.

Your time is up insects. I have reached the end of my creepy crawly tether.

 

Once upon a time I was a very busy and very important company director.

Of course this was mostly in my own head but I did indeed run a tiny little company that frequently saw me negotiating with a factory full of joiners or selling my soul to get interior decorating projects that occasionally gave me the shudders. And some days I was good at it and some days I was really, really bad and found myself sitting in sawdust drinking tea with Youth Training Scheme boys or accepting a glass of red from a potential client and thereafter quoting half the price I had intended to.

Heck no: business has never really been my forte but on the days when I knew there were factory bottoms to be whipped or indeed that it was essential for the sake of the future of the roof over my head that I struck a great deal, I had one surefire way to guarantee my success and that was the highest pair of heels I could find. Yesarooney, when the full scope of my focus, determination and energy were called upon I would don a pair of stilettos (and a pair of shoulder pads) and in the stab of a razor sharp heel the world would be my oyster.

As a result, I am now a woman who believes, deeply, in the power of shoes to alter ones attitude. Sandals and Birkenstocks. Spotty wellies and flip-flops. Mary Janes and trainers. Wedges, courts and patent leather stilettos. All of them are lovely and all of them more than earn a place in the shoe wardrobe of the busy, multi-tasking woman of the millennium.

Not least the not-oft mentioned housekeeping shoe.

Oh yes, the housekeeping shoe. For the dear old Flylady was right: barefoot in the park might just be fine and dandy but barefoot in the house spells rest and relaxation to your pleasure seeking head and the barefooted housekeeper all to often finds all her domestic good intentions set aside, in favour of that which is pretty, or entertaining, or puttery. And fun as all that may be, none of it is going to get the loo scrubbed, now is it?

No, my Dear, it isn’t. So in must shuffle the shoes.  For pearly pink toes covered in a sensible shoe send the kind of signals to one’s brain that say: there is work to be done! No time to meander. No time to enjoy the cosy tickle of the shag-pile underfoot, no time to curl up, toes tucked under one’s bum on the sofa. Work!

Now while I do so hate to get terribly business like about our lives at home, when it comes to housekeeping, what constitutes “Work” falls  into two very distinct categories: the needful and the unnecessary. The needful includes all that which requires white vinegar, mops, dusters, and domestic machinery and the unnecessary, while still scrumptiously needful in it’s own way, accounts for all that we do as Vintage Housekeepers: the puttery treats and the flower arranging, in short all that no-one else notices but that we, hedonistic Domestic Goddesses that we are, could barely live without.

So what I am suggesting is this: that in order to mark out the needful from the unnecessary in our minds, so that we can fully indulge the pleasure principle when we finally come to kicking back and doing the pretty, we should indeed take the Flyladies lead and take ourselves out on a creative excursion of the shoe-shopping kind.

What you choose to wear to keep house is up to you. The Fly Lady really rather insists that one’s housekeeping shoes must be of the laced up variety, but I think that there is room for manoeuvre here and I for one favor the plastic gardening clog of the kind most often found to be found in fancy gardening stores, because they are both lightweight and fully enclosed, and even better than that, can be wiped should one get a little kamikaze with a bowl full of rose scented soap suds!

What won’t do, I do not think, is anything of the flip-floppy variety or indeed anything that could be passed off as a slipper. Slippers you see send all the wrong signals to the alert brain, as does the kind of shoe one could flimsy along the beach in.

No. The housekeeping shoe must be a SERIOUS shoe. Preferably the kind of shoe you would not be tempted to run out the front door in, for the housekeeping shoe wearer must abide by one rule: under no circumstances must the housekeeping shoe try to earn it’s keep outside the house. Indeed the soles should never come into contact with pavement or grass and as a result, should  remain spotlessly clean and thus deeply unlikely to sully one’s precious cream carpets…

Which is I why I wear a rather scary pair of gardening clogs, because vanity prevents me running out the door in them and I have even been known to kick them off quickly when the doorbell rings, which is I think you will agree, something impossible to do in even the snazziest of housekeeping trainers!

So there it is: your assignment for this week: get yourself a pair of housekeeping shoes. Pop them on to do the dull stuff, then kick them off to go putter. And yes, if you really must, then I think it would be just fine to keep house in red stilettos.

Whatever floats your boat my Sweet. Have a lovely week won’t you?

 

Well heckity pie, just when it seemed life was finally settling in to something lovely, I find myself almost homeless.

No really. Homeless. Not quite on the streets. But one week away from completion on my little house and a few weeks away from eviction here in the bungalow because the landlord has finally confirmed that he wants to move a relative in. And oh how very, very stressful it is to suddenly not have the certainty of home anymore. And the irony of being the very someone who has long preached about why it matters…

My heart is breaking now. My neck hurts. The strain is telling on me and Ste. And finding another house is proving almost impossible while he is between jobs. We need time that we simply don’t have.

I wish I could write eloquently about how it feels to be in such crisis. To succinctly capture the kind of tension unique to it. I wish that I could set aside the angst and bring to BrocanteHome a dispassionate review of how this could have happened: whether it was a case of bad decisions or bad luck. I wish I could go home. 

Sometimes strength fails a person even when intellectually they understand that the crisis is not quite what it seems. We can live in Stes’ Mums in the interim. Or stay Kaths’ spare bedroom. I can spend the Summer at Helen’s. Even the lady next door has announced that if all else fails we can live in her garage! And of course we will be fine. I know that. Of course I do. But I suppose this feels like failure on a gargantuan scale. It is threatening the peace and joy that was our relationship and leaving my child looking simultaneously strained and he tells me, excited about being about to embark on a huge adventure.

Perhaps then it is an adventure. Yes! Please let me re-frame this as the biggest adventure of my life!  Didn’t Nancy Levin say Jump and Your Life Will Appear? What were her thoughts on those of us who are pushed??

So what’s next? Patience and a refusal to panic are key.  Though I seem to have been blessed by the slowest, feet-dragging home-buyer in the land, my house will complete in a week or two and I will have the equity to perhaps bribe a landlord with the offer of upfront payment on a house. Someone’s generosity means that Ste will be back in work by mid August and then the world – or at least this part of West Lancashire, where competition for rented property is fierce, will be our oyster. Though damn it, I think you should know that I can barely stomach oysters.

In the meantime I am haunting property sites and spending inordinate amounts of time waiting for slippery letting agents to return my calls. I am watching The Gilmore Girls from the very beginning. Sipping gin in this gravel covered garden. Tomorrow I am catching the train to Oxford to go set up our lovely new vintage concession in Chipping Norton and at the weekend I will start the process of packing our life up all over again.

This too must be endured. This too will pass. Hold my hand though won’t you? I need all your strength right now.