Two Years On...

It's two years since I tentatively wrote my first blog post. I clearly remember the excitement (and the nerves) of those early blogging days. We'd just moved to our small end terraced house and I was eager to write about the benefits of downsizing. I was keen to share advice on decluterring, write about the philosophy of minimalism and record the simple pleasures of my life. Two years on and I'm still just as keen to share these things with you. The practicalities of writing a blog have got easier. My confidence in technology and photography have improved greatly through writing this blog. However, it's not always easy to juggle trying to live a simple life with writing a blog about it. That's why I'm saying thank you tonight, for reading, commenting, sharing and keeping me going. It's lovely to have this space to share with you and there's plenty more simplifying to come xoxo


Not Using Shampoo: Part 1

It's 4 weeks since I last used shampoo and I can truly say I feel happy with the look and feel of my hair. I will probably wash my hair tomorrow but it won't be with shampoo. You might find the idea of not using shampoo repulsive or radical but it can be very liberating. Interested? Please read on. 

In recent weeks I've washed my hair with bicarbonate of soda, beaten egg, chamomile tea rinses and have had plenty of no wash just brush days. I've used cornflour as a dry shampoo and have even tried rinsing my hair in beer (not very successfully). I haven't used a commercial shampoo on my hair for 4 weeks now. Is a no-poo regime achievable? I think it might just be. 

So, I' m beginning an experiment in not using commercial shampoo and conditioner for as long as I can hold out. My aims are to wash my hair less often and to use only natural products for washing, conditioning and dry shampoo alternatives. 

Over recent months I have been contemplating a more natural approach to haircare and reading vast amounts about switching to a no shampoo regime. At the end of August I finally decided to ditch shampoo.

I have been washing and conditioning my hair almost daily since I was a teenager. Whilst my hair used to look and feel great after a daily shampoo and condition on the rare days that I didn't use shampoo it looked very greasy and out of shape. According to no-poo experts overuse of commercial shampoo strips our hair of its natural oils and encourages unnatural greasiness. If we stop using regular shampoo our hair will initially react by producing excess oil but will in time readjust to producing just enough oil. Eventually the theory is that hair will revert to its natural state of being self cleaning and can be kept clean by just thorough washing with water. This is the final stage that may take years not months to reach. Wouldn't that be wonderful!

It's only taken me 30 plus years to question how relentless, time consuming and possibly damaging daily use of shampoo is. How can regular shampoo be any good for my hair if it looks so greasy the next day? What exactly is in my regular shampoo and conditioner? Is my hair really that naturally greasy? Why some days even after washing and conditioning does my hair feel so lank and heavy?

I recently bought Happy Hair a new book written by Lucy AitkenRead who blogs over at Lulastic and the hippyshake. It's a comprehensive yet fun read that tackles the background science, necessary resources, methods and common problems associated with relinquishing shampoo. It has helped steer me through the process of beginning a no-poo regime but as no one head of hair is the same it can only be a guide. 

My first 4 weeks of not using shampoo have been very interesting. What I missed most in the first few days were the bubbles and lather of a regular shampoo but I didn't miss the daily washing and drying routine. My hair definitely produced more oil in between washes over the first 4 weeks of this venture. Some days were grim and all reflective surfaces were avoided. Patience is the key. 

As I end week 4 my hair's oil production is beginning to calm down, My hair is softer than before, stays in shape better and has a shine that look different to the glossy coating normal shampoo gives.

So what works for me as alternative to shampoo and conditioner? I initially tried the classic no-poo regime of bicarbonate of soda mixed with water followed by apple cider vinegar rinse. And yes it restored my greasy hair to clean and shiny in the same way as regular shampoo once did. However, I don't really like the gritty texture, saltiness or vinegar smell of this combo. 

To my amazement what my hair seems to really appreciate is one beaten egg, a good scrub and a rinse. Nature's very own fabulous 2 in 1 shampoo and conditioner! It really, really does make my locks clean, odourless and shiny. I put it into a plastic bottle and squirt a small amount at a time onto my hand (it's so slippy it can easily fall off your hand) and massage and scrub my head before rinsing with warm, not hot (obvs) water. It feels  more like shampoo than bicarb which is a bit  like a loo cleaner, to be honest. Alternatively I just use warm water and give my hair a thorough scrub with my fingertips. Do not underestimate the cleansing powers of pure water! Three chamomile tea bags steeped in boiling water left to cool also makes for a successful and pleasant wash. Regular brushing with my new natural bristle brush also helps (so I read) with the process of encouraging self-cleaning hair. 

I'm not sure exactly where this experiment is taking me. A good result would be that I can go longer between washes and be happy with the appearance and feel of my hair (washed or unwashed ) most days. I am prepared to give this experiment 4 months (until Christmas). If my hair still looks greasy in between washes or if I find this project too much of a burden then I will revert to shampoo. However, I do not intend to use regular haircare products again and would instead choose to use an organic products occasionally on my hair. I may have to find an alternative to my regular hair salon and stop colouring my hair. Radical action. Ideally it would be great to ditch shampoo completely and use just water or natural ingredients. 

Only my husband (and you) are in on this secret. My hair has its bad days but still passes his sniff test. He's being converted gradually and is now washing his hair less often too. Also, as I've started a new job my work colleagues are non the wiser.

Here' s my no-poo diary days 1-33.

Day 1: Clarifying shampoo and clarifying conditioner (to cut through product build up) Saturday August 23rd
Day 2: No wash
Day 3: Egg wash
Day 4: Cornflour dry shampoo
Day 5: Water wash
Day 6: Egg wash 
Day 7: No wash
Day 8: Bicarb and cider vinegar
Day 9: No wash just brush (with new bristle brush)
Day 10: Egg wash
Day 11: Water wash
Day 12: Bicarbonate of soda wash and cider vinegar rinse
Day 13: No wash just brush
Day 14: Cornflour as dry shampoo and a good brush
Day 15: Egg wash
Day 16: Water wash and chamomile tea rinse
Day 17: Water wash and chamomile tea rinse
Day 18: Egg wash
Day 19: Water wash
Day 20: Water wash and chamomile tea rinse
Day 21: Bicarbonate of soda wash and cider vinegar rinse 
Day 22: No wash just brush
Day 23: Egg wash 
Day 24: Water wash
Day 25: Egg wash
Day 26: Water wash and chamomile tea rinse
Day 27: Water wash and lemon juice rinse
Day 29: Egg wash
Day 30: Water wash and chamomile tea rinse
Day 31: No wash just brush
Day 32: Egg wash
Day 33: Bicarbonate of soda wash and apple cider vinegar rinse

I hope you found part one of my no-poo experiment useful and interesting. I'm happy to try to answer any questions you may have in the comments section below. Feel free. 

As I reach the end of week 4 I feel I've turned a corner and my hair is beginning to reduce its grease production. I'm hoping part 2 will bring good news.


What I Wear: My Minimalist Wardrobe

So what does a minimalist wardrobe look like on a real person? I thought I'd share some of the outfits I put together from my 40 piece wardrobe here on my Minimalist Monday slot. It will give an idea of how many different looks I can achieve and also show how accessories can breathe variety into a limited stock of clothes.

Let's begin with my favourite jeans and Boden grey v-neck t-shirt, both of which you may have seen before. I have this t shirt in grey, white and black and they are all useful but I definitely wear this grey one the most. It's somehow more versatile. So far these Boden t-shirts (bought in January) have washed well and there's no sign of any bagginess or tiny holes appearing. Hopefully money well spent. 

These jeans (Indigo M&S) are almost two years old and will be sorely missed when they wear out. They are probably the most worn item of clothing that I own. 

The black blazer (F&F) is lightweight and I like its drapey feel. It's a recent summer buy and a bit of an experiment. I wear it when I need something a little more dressy than a cardi. It adds structure but feels loose which is perfect for a non power dresser.

My outfit is completed with a practical roomy bag (M&S), ballet flats (Debenhams) and a swingy old Accessorize necklace that goes with everything. 

I may return with another outfit from my minimalist wardrobe if you are interested. It was fun.

Have a good week xo


Summer Moments and Simple Pleasures Update

Looking back at some summer moments captured on my DSLR. Simple stop and stare moments from our summer that I haven't shared with you here. Although we didn't have a holiday we spent plenty of time out and about and visited Antony Gormley's Another Place sculpture at Crosby beach and also Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Looking back, I feel gratitude for plenty of sunny days and the time I've had to enjoy them. 

We went for a dusk time walk this evening determined to make the most of the remaining light and warmth of the day. It was interesting to see how fast autumn is approaching. The blackberries are already over here and the leaves are quickly changing colour and beginning to fall. On our return, home was dark but with a few lights on it soon felt warm and cosy. I think I'm ready for cosy.

I've also updated my simple pleasures list on my sidebar as we edge into autumn. It's time to stop chasing butterflies and start collecting autumn leaves. At the bottom of my list you will notice that we also have a new baby in the family, a great nephew. I can't wait to see him!


At the weekend


♥ celebrated a family birthday at a restaurant on Friday evening
♥ cleared out the small shed in our tiny garden
♥ weeded the garden - it took less than 10 minutes
♥ made treacle tart on Saturday to make Sunday lunch easier
♥ ran our local 10K race in less than one hour apiece - I took a lot longer to recover than my boys 
♥ enjoyed a family Sunday lunch with my parents - pulled shoulder of pork with crunchy crackling and baked apples. 

Hubs didn't run but was chief photographer and chef. Definitely a team effort.

Hope you all had good weekends too. See you next week xo


Watching the River Flow

On Sunday we took a walk along the River Trent. Just a short drive away from the hubbub of our city we found a beautiful unspoilt spot. 

Cool clear waters to dip our toes into and the melodious sound of the river trickling by. 

Seven cygnets swimming against the tide. 

It was quite magical. 

I think the sunshine helped. 

There is something so calming about water, don't you think? 

Far away from it all yet at the centre of it too.


New Beginnings

This September feels full of hope and potential. After a period of supply teaching I now have a few permanent hours at a lovely school I've been working at since February. It's a very different role to my previous teaching post and fits in perfectly with my desire for less responsibility and a happy work life balance. 

Over the summer holidays I've been contemplating how different I feel compared to a year ago when I was in my last job. I think that the challenges and changes that I've taken on have given me a new confidence borne from following my heart. I'm happier, healthier, and oh, I'm laughing a lot more these days. 

After completing my tiny garden makeover and finishing my 40 piece minimalist wardrobe this summer, I now need to turn my attention back to keeping my day to day spending under control. More planning, budgeting and resolve are needed as I've lapsed a little with recording and restraining my spending recently. I'm also looking into minimizing my hair and beauty routine and seeking homemade and natural alternatives to what's on the shelves in the shops. I'm on my second week of using alternatives to shampoo – I'll keep you posted on my no-poo venture. You can't beat a new challenge!

Wishing you all a happy and healthy September xo



August Break 2014, Week 3

Here's my third collage of weekly photos taken as part of The August Break 2014 challenge. I've taken all of these pictures on my phone and I'm really pleased that I've kept going with this project as I think it makes a great visual record of the summer and what we've done. We haven't had a break away this summer, although hubs has had 2 separate weeks off work, so these photos are kind of like my alternative holiday snaps.

Exploring our local area, using our National Trust membership and small treats like lunch out have meant that we've had a good break from routine and chores. Now that we're living a less hectic life 'Getting Away From It All' is not as important to us. We will have holidays in the future but for this year we've been content with having a few days out and the knowledge that our finances are under reasonable control. Being content with the here and now and gradually working towards simplifying our lives makes me happy most days. I do have my off days but I know that the simpler my life becomes and the less I succumb to envy the happier my general state of mind is. 

Here are the prompts for this week's photos (in correct order this time) with a sneaky extra one or three!

Jump. Great exercise this one! My version of a star jump.
Black and white. Local shops which I don't always appreciate the beauty of.
Peaceful. These 2 birds were very much at peace with each other and very tame too.
♥ (Garden) treasure. I picked this posy from our garden for our kitchen table. It's still looking good - I just keep adding a new poppy as each one finishes. 
Shadow. This photo of a tropical plant was taken inside The Glasshouse, Jephson Gardens, in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. The gardens here are well worth a visit and the town has lots of great independent shops and eating places.
♥ Handsome Regency houses seen from the park.
♥ The outside of The Glasshouse. Californian almost.
Adornment. Cute owls adorning the tropical plants inside the temperate Glasshouse.
Memory. This statue is part of The Armed Forces Memorial at The National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire. It depicts a serviceman, his comrades and his family looking on. So, so poignant.

Thank you so much for reading, commenting and following here this week. Your comments on my 40 piece minimalist wardrobe made me very happy. I do understand the difficulty in letting go of clothes (it's taken me almost 3 years to get to this point) but I would urge anyone considering a smaller wardrobe to give it a try. You really do get used to less clothes very quickly and value and enjoy the ones you have kept as well as the time saved in getting dressed with less items. Go on give it a go!

Enjoy your week xo


Introducing my 40 Piece Minimalist Wardrobe

This is my complete wardrobe: 40 pieces including tops, bottoms, coats/jackets and shoes. Now, I'm not claiming to have the smallest wardrobe but I am very pleased to show you that it is possible to reduce your wardrobe to a manageable size. This wardrobe is at least 20% the size of what I owned three years ago. My rationale in creating a smaller wardrobe was to create a flexible, minimalist wardrobe with well-made and well-fitted clothes that I love to wear for work, home and social occasions. After several rounds of Project 333 I know that I can live with a limited amount of clothes and that I've become more skilled in the complex art of compiling a capsule wardrobe. I've reached a point where I want a limited amount of clothes for all seasons in one place. But, could I achieve it? Would I ever stand in front of my dream closet?

I've read a lot about capsule wardrobes and studied lots of beautiful images of pared down closets. To be honest this research has largely held me back and led to a lot of confusion as to what constitutes a minimalist wardrobe.

I considered a monochrome wardrobe, wearing solely black, ditching all skirts and dresses and moving to Sweden or Paris in the hope of a style osmosis. The reality of creating a smaller wardrobe is that you have to work it out for yourself and be realistic about your lifestyle, budget and personal style. I almost persuaded myself at one point to go out and buy a black skirt and white shirt but in the end I realised my navy shirt and patterned tulip skirt were my versions of these said classics. In the end I got brave: it's my wardrobe, my rules.  

To pare down my wardrobe I attacked it in short bursts, really studied the condition and fit of each item, had lots of trying on sessions and wrote list after list. 50 items was easy to achieve but I wanted to challenge myself to get nearer to 30. In the end I've settled for 40 items. I feel my wardrobe is balanced, coordinated and reflects me. There are more basics and more monochrome pieces than ever before but also room for some of my favourite soft blues, purples and greens. I've ditched white trousers, camel, teal, lots of patterned pieces and pricey items that just don't feel right. I have 9 bottoms and exactly twice that amount of tops which gives me a Gok gold star and more outfit combinations than I've yet had time to try. 

Yes, girlfriend this really does feel like a new wardrobe. 

A complete clear out and clean of the space, new wooden hangers and hanging rails for accessories really helped to turn my wardrobe into my dream armoire. 

My 40 items:
1. Blue skinny jeans (M&S)
2. Blue bootcut jeans (Next)
3. Black work trousers(Next)
4. Black smart trousers (Principles by John Rocha)
5. Black linen trousers (F&F)
6. Black jeggings (M&S)
7. Black/grey linen skirt (M&S)
8. Tulip skirt (Laura Ashley)
9. Pink velour skirt (Seasalt)
10. Green cotton summer dress (Laura Ashley)
11. White v-neck t-shirt (Boden)
12. Grey v-neck t-shirt (Boden)
13. Black v-neck t-shirt (Boden)
14. Blue modal light blue round neck t-shirt (Gok for TU)
15. Purple draped t-shirt (Laura Ashley)
16. White/black stripe 3/4 length sleeved top (Gap)
17. Black /white stripe 3/4 length sleeved top (Gap)
18. Coral sequin 3/4 length top (M&S)
19. Navy smart blouse (M&S)
20. Purple linen grandad shirt (Wallis)
21. Check blue/green check casual shirt (F&F)
22. Black round neck long sleeved t-shirt (Next)
23. Blue round neck long sleeved top with cuff detail (M&S)
24. Light blue round neck long sleeved top (M&S)
25. Green striped woollen tunic (Seasalt)
26. Grey cashmere cardigan (F&F)
27. Blue cardigan (New Look)
28. Black boyfriend cardigan (M&S)
29. Black blazer (F&F)
30. Black biker jacket (M&S)
31. Purple gilet (Gap)
32. Blue storm coat (Berghaus)
33. Purple parka (M&S)
34. Olive green cord coat (M&S)
35. Black and cream ballet flats (Debenhams)
36. Flat sandals (local boutique)
37. Black small heeled brogues (Rieker)
38. Brown Chelsea boot (Next)
39. Purple patent Birkinstocks
40. Black tapered heel ankle boot (M&S)

Most of my unwanted clothes have been sold or donated but It does take time so some items are still waiting to be cleared. My enthusiasm for car boot sales, charity shop drop offs and Ebay is waning as once my shopping sprees did. 

Have you made any recent reductions to your wardrobe? What's the biggest hurdle in downsizing your clothes collection? I'd love to hear. More minimalist wardrobe outfit updates to follow.


August Break 2014, Week 2

Just popping by to bring you this week's photos from The August Break 2014 that I'm participating in this summer. I like them displayed as a collage as I can see rhythm and links between the photos and between these mid August days: mellow moments, an appreciation of time gone by, the beauty of the summer and, of course, lots of foodie treats. 

Here are the prompts - in reverse order, oops:

Drink. My favourite (non-alcoholic) drink of the summer is ginger beer.
Handwriting. Beautiful writing in a beautiful book of Dylan Thomas' poetry.
On my table. Tea in a pot, biscuits and pretty crumbs. One cup is not always enough.
Guilty pleasure. A splash of wine in the pot and a glass for me. Has to be red.
Hands. My parents own this magnificent clock that previously belonged to my grandparents and was made by a local clock maker.
Blue (picture 1). Luscious blue agapanthus at Packwood House, Warwickshire. I love the planting at this National Trust property - my third visit this year.
Blue (picture 2). A perfect summer sky on Friday.
Look down. My happy feet at Packwood House.
Book shelf. I don't own many books anymore but I adore seeing interesting collections of books. Yesterday, after a walk, we visited a favourite vintage cafe; luxury mocha and lemon drizzle cake made the visit complete.

Thank you for reading, commenting and following here this week. 

I'm hoping to update you on my minimalist wardrobe this week. Today I think I've done my last car boot sale and my last major clothes drop off at our local charity shop. It wasn't much fun holding onto a swaying clothes rail in the wind for several hours - I would have happily let them all fly away - but we made some money to help my son out with a trip next summer and it's good to see unwanted clothes finding new owners.

Have a great week xo