Time for a Sort Out

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

The quote above is from William Morris, legendary designer, poet, pioneer of the Arts and Crafts movement, passionate socialist and founder of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (where I work). He’s kind of my hero.

Sadly, our flat doesn’t quite adhere to Morris’ rule. It’s pretty hard in such a small space, with a toddler, to stop the random crap from wandering in. But I have been watching a lot of the Great Interior Design Challenge just lately, which had put me in the mood to sort out our home a bit. Not that it looks anything like the rooms on the programme, but at least we don’t have to store piles of rubbish on every surface.

I don’t know if other families find this (or if we are just messy), but there are certain areas of our flat that we just don’t use well. They are out-of-the-way corners where stuff that has no other home comes to rest, until we can be bothered to find it a more permanent place. Which we never do. The shelves in the bathroom are one example. The bookcase in the corridor is another. The top of the chest of drawers in our bedroom, the small space beside the sofa, the counter top by the hobs.

I’ve been slowly sorting through each of these areas, getting rid of the things that are neither useful nor beautiful. Some of these have been too battered to go anywhere other than the bin (recycling, if possible). Others are on their way to the charity shop, or awaiting listing on an online auction site. Furniture has been moved around to make better use of space, and I have made an effort to find permanent homes for all the lost items hanging around. I’ve sorted out shelves to give us more storage space, and chucked all the random bits of cardboard we were keeping in the bathroom out (there is no recycling bin in there, so it gets put down out of the way to be thrown away ‘later’ and then we forget).

I have a couple of places left to do, but already our flat feels neater and less chaotic. It’s amazing how decluttering our physical space seems to have given me a calmer mental space.

Having said that, Tom has been ‘helping’ with the decluttering efforts by sorting all his toys out. Onto the living room floor. Apparently, they just look better there.

I guess a calm, ordered flat is just a dream when you have a toddler in your home!

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When Clocks Stop, Fun Starts

I have to admit to being ever so slightly controlling when it comes to time. Much as I would love to be an instinctive, child-led, responsive parent, I tend to have half an eye on the clock throughout the day. And, though I think that a daily routine is important in helping both children and adults feel more secure, eat better, sleep better, and manage change better, I do find that our routine has a tendency to err a bit too much towards the strict schedule side of things, which I am less comfortable with.

This week though, everything has been different. This is because my watch battery has run flat and I have been too disorganised busy to sort out a replacement. I would have thought that I would be lost without the constant reassurance of knowing what time it is, but in fact it has been rather freeing. It’s not as though I don’t have access to other clocks – there’s one on my phone, one in our living room, one in our bedroom, and one on any computer I happen to be sat at. There’s even one in Tom’s room. So I still have a vague idea what time it is, but am less able to check every minute and plan our day down to the last second. Which means we are operating much more to a nice gentle routine, and less to a military-style schedule.

Tom and I spent a lovely day together last Wednesday. It’s usually our family day, but Mr Techno has been busy with the opening of the new restaurant and has been around less during the week than usual (we did get him over the weekend instead though, which was both unusual and lovely). So I really wanted to make it a fun day for just the two of us, which are far and few between now I’m up to four days of work.

I put Tom in the sling and we headed to the playground in Millfield Park, which has the most amazing sandpit. Or I thought it was amazing at least. Tom was more interested in the ramp up to it – he was so proud of himself for being able to manage the slope and went up and down it over and over again. Then we played hide and seek around the little house for a bit and he had a go on the swings.

We left the playground and walked up the path back into the main park. Which caused a bit of an argument. Tom was absolutely adamant that he wanted to go play with the cars. No, not toys ones, the fast, dangerous, very big ones on the road. Unsurprisingly, I was not up for this plan, so a few minutes were spent picking him up, carrying him away, having him scream in anger, and then chasing him as he ran back towards the road.

Usually our day out would have ended at this point, with me checking my watch and deciding we had spent long enough outside. But with no watch to give me an excuse, I stuck it out longer than I would normally. And I am so glad I did. Because the running-chasing-and-carrying-away turned from a tantrum-causing event to an amazing game. I’m not entirely sure how it happened – one minute Tom was arching his back and having a shout every time I picked him up, and the next he was running away giggling and waiting for me to shout ‘I’m coming to get you’. Which was his signal to stop dead still and wait for me to come grab him and spin him round in circles. We played for at least an hour, until we were both exhausted. It was lovely.

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Walking Home at Dusk

Typical isn’t it? No sooner do I post about the first signs of spring appearing than we get a proper cold snap. It’s been, quite literally, freezing here the past few days, especially in the mornings. All the puddles were iced over when Tom and I walked into nursery yesterday and we were both wishing I had remembered our gloves.

Nonetheless, I can still see hopeful signs of the seasons changing. Green buds are appearing on all the hawthorn bushes, there are daffodils growing outside the Parcelforce depot, and the park rangers have cleared the undergrowth in our local wood ready for the year’s new growth. Even better, the days have been getting longer. Just a week ago we were starting the walk back from nursery in the pitch black, whereas now we arrive home as the sun goes down.

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We’ve been taking advantage of the lighter evenings to resume our old habit of cutting through the woods on our way back from nursery, rather than going on the road. It got a bit scary when it was properly dark – there is no lighting along the path and I didn’t like not being able to see what was ahead of us, especially when I’m alone with Tom. But yesterday was the first time it had been light enough to see properly, so we headed through the trees to the park.

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We were rewarded with an encounter with a cheeky urban fox, who stood and stared at us for a long while before disappearing into the undergrowth. I didn’t get my camera out in time, so you’ll have to take my word for it. Usually I get slightly irate seeing foxes so bravely wandering around the city, but seeing this one in the more natural surroundings of our local woods just seemed right.

Nature Club: An Update

Back in November last year, Tom and I went to the open day of our new local Forest Nursery and had a great time exploring their facilities and discussing the importance of free play outdoors. The full time nursery starts from 3 years old and up, but there is a Nature Club for the 0-3’s. We found out in December that we had managed to get one of the places (there seems to have been some competition) and Tom and Mr Techno have been going every Tuesday for the last five weeks.

They are currently on a break from half-term, so it seemed like a good moment to update you all on how they’ve been getting on. Of course, I am at work on Tuesdays, so have to rely on reports from Mr Techno, which can be a bit lacking in detail at times!

The first week they went, Tom was suffering with teething pain and was not in the best mood. Apparently he didn’t really join in and just wanted cuddles the whole time, which is understandable if he wasn’t feeling 100%.

From the second week on, though, Tom seems to have really enjoyed himself. The ethos of the nursery is very much about free, child-led play, which suits us down to the ground. Apparently there are always some organised activities available, but no pressure to join in – it is up to the child whether they want to or not. Tom generally chooses not to – he is so used to wandering at will that he is entirely comfortable doing his own thing outdoors. Plus, at only 17 months, he is not yet at the stage of playing directly with other kids. Mr Techno, like me, is entirely happy to let Tom roam, as long as he can see where he is.

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Unsurprisingly, Tom’s favourite time is snack time. Mr Techno forgot to bring food one week, so Tom happily Yogi-beared it off everyone else (yes, that is the technical term). Boy does love to eat!

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He has played with chalk, clay, and their mud kitchen. Apparently he has also gained some little admirers – there are some older girls who follow him around everywhere.

This Tuesday, which was the last one before the half-term break, the site they usually use had become a little, ahem, waterlogged (thanks, Storm Imogen). So they all headed out onto the Marshes for a nature walk. Unfortunately, our little man took a bit of a tumble… face first into a puddle. But he was well togged up with waterproofs and recovered with a little helping hand from one of my jumpers (which he has adopted as a comforter following the tragic loss of his former comforter…one of my bed socks).

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Mr Techno seems to be enjoying himself too. He doesn’t often get a chance to meet other parents, and there are some other dads there, so he doesn’t feel like the odd one out. And it is nice to be with a group who share similar values to us (and don’t think we are being irresponsible for letting our toddler play outdoors in the winter).

The next half of term starts in a couple of weeks and they will definitely be going back!

Lent and the Year’s Intentions

 

Today is the first day of Lent and I have been considering whether I should give up or take up anything. My mum and sister always give up chocolate, and I have joined in a couple of times. But I always feel that giving up something like that kind of misses the religious connotations of the period. Instead, I am going to take up being thankful. It is something I try to do anyway – recognise the blessings in my life (which are many) – but focusing on it specifically for a set period will hopefully help me appreciate what I have even more.

I don’t especially intend to share moments of thankfulness on this blog – there’s enough people out there keeping thankfulness diaries already. But you may get an update a few weeks down the line.

Lent also feels like an appropriate moment to re-visit my intentions for this year:

Be Mindful of Food Choices

Avoiding meat for most meals and making more considered food choices is going ok, but is probably the one I have been doing worst on. I have slipped up a couple of times and ordered things with fish in at restaurants, because I forgot I wasn’t supposed to. And Mr Techno always provides a meat-based meal when he cooks on Tuesday evenings. And there was a pack of bacon open in the fridge that needed eating, so I did add that to my pea and goats cheese salad. But I’ve still managed to cut way down on meat consumption, going from eating it almost everyday to just once or sometimes twice a week.

We’ve also made the switch to getting milk and juice from our local milkman. Along with the veg box we have had for years, this is helping us reduce our reliance on big supermarkets and cut down on packaging waste. Hurray!

Buy Only Secondhand Clothes

Tom is beginning to grow out of his 12-18 month wardrobe, so I’ve been having to buy him a whole bunch of clothes. So far we’ve scored everything we need secondhand, though I may need to get him some vests new, as I’ve been struggling to find enough in the right size. He needs more pjs too, but is otherwise set for the next few months and I’m pretty confident I can find him some secondhand (it is lack of money, rather than availability, that is holding me back currently).

I did get a new pair of walking boots at the very beginning of the year, but have allowed myself this as a) it was Mr Techno’s Christmas present to me and b) I really needed a good quality, good fitting pair which is difficult to achieve secondhand. With luck these will last me at least 10 years, where as a secondhand pair would be unlikely to have so much life left in them.

I’ve also developed a minor obsession with wearing men’s vests over leggings, but have kept to my promise and bought a few on ebay rather than getting them new. I tried to take a selfie to show you my favourite, but my selfie skills are sadly pants, so you will have to do without. I know this will be a great disappointment!

 

Get Outdoors Everyday

And, of course, we are still getting outside everyday. I don’t think we have had a single day this year when we haven’t got out, even if it is just the walk to nursery, or a potter round the garden (sometimes in the dark with a torch just before bath and bed). My new job and our lack of family time recently has meant we haven’t explored as many new places as I had hoped, but we have discovered a new park and gone on a trip to Epping Forest, so some progress has been made. We also have a camping trip in Wales planned for this summer (I have to go anyway to run a course on repairing old floors and the site we are using is right on the edge of the Snowdonia National Park, so was far too good to pass up!)

 

Anyone else giving something up for Lent? Or taking on a new challenge?