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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A Wintry Day in Lloyd Park, Walthamstow

After all the dire predictions that this winter would be the coldest winter in half-a-century (and other similarly doom-laden statements), the incredible mildness of the autumn months had lured me into a bit of a false sense of security. So it was a bit of a shock to look out of the window on Saturday morning and discover it was actually snowing. Quite heavily. And it is still only November.

I quickly grabbed Tom, and woke up Mr Techno, excitedly pointing out at the falling whiteness. Unfortunately the snow fall was relatively short, and none of it settled, but Tom was fascinated to see it.

Though the snow was brief, the cold was not, and we experienced our first properly cold day of this winter so far. After a morning of reading stories under blankets, we’d had enough of being indoors. Luckily the day had become one of those lovely clear days you get sometimes when it’s cold. I felt like a bit of a change from our usual haunts, so we headed into Walthamstow to visit Lloyd Park.

I love Lloyd Park. It’s a bit of a way from us, so we don’t get there that often, but it’s a really pretty park and, best of all, is home to the William Morris Gallery.

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The Gallery is housed in the childhood home of William Morris, one of Walthamstow’s most famous former residents. Most people know of the Victorian designer for his pivotal role in the Arts and Crafts movement, or his signature nature-inspired wallpaper patterns, but Morris was also a fervent socialist and a campaigner against the harmful ‘restoration’ of old buildings. In fact, in 1877 he was one of the co-founders of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, the organisation I now work for.

As you can imagine, I have been round the Gallery a few times. I haven’t taken Tom as yet – though the Gallery is very family friendly and has some great exhibits for kids, they are better suited to slightly older toddlers (I’d say three and up).

We gave it a miss on Saturday as well, preferring instead to explore the gardens and park. It is really well equipped – play areas, basketball and tennis courts, a skate park, bowling greens, and open spaces. There is also a Children’s Centre, and, most importantly for trips with kids, two cafes – one in the Gallery and a more, ahem, affordable (read dirt cheap) one by the play area.

Tom, however, was interested in one thing only. The park has a moat, which is home to several species of ducks, Canadian Geese, and moorhens. Tom was in love. There was no hope of dragging him away from his new feathered friends, so I resigned myself to missing out on the playground. It’s just a shame I hadn’t thought to bring any bread with us.

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Despite the cold, we had a lovely afternoon in the park and were thrilled to see so many families doing the same. Plus Tom actually wore his hat and mittens for once, so we’ve finally justified buying them!

Life Unexpected

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