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5 Tips For Decluttering Your Home From Tidying Expert Marie Kondo

 

Marie Kondo is a Japanese organising and decluttering professional and her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has sold over five million copies worldwide. So popular is her method that ‘to kondo’ has even become a verb.

So what’s so ‘life changing’ about her process?

Her book breaks down her two-pronged approach to tidying:

First, put your hands on every single item you own, ask yourself if it sparks joy, and if it doesn’t, thank it for its service and throw it away.

Second, now only your most joy-sparking belongings remain, put every item in a place where it’s visible, accessible, and easy to pick up and then put back. Only then, Kondo says, will you have reached the holy grail of housekeeping, and never have to tidy again.

The book is well worth a read, but here are five of the best tips from the book:

Tip 1: Tackle Categories, Not Rooms

Kondo’s first rule is to tidy by category: deal with every single one of your shoes at once, for example, otherwise they’ll continue to appear in other rooms, and you’ll never control the clutter. She advises beginning with clothing, since it’s the least emotionally charged of one’s possessions (books are next, old photographs left until last).

Tip 2: Focus not on what to bin, but on what to keep

When doing a big clear out, most of us focus on what we’re going to throw away. Kondo’s approach is the opposite, she says we should look instead at what we’re going to keep. It is overwhelming to part with sentimental items, especially those attached to parents, children or cherished friends. By first identifying which items are true treasures, it’s much easier to say goodbye to the rest.

Tip 3: Fold, Don’t Hang

Once you’ve sorted out the things to discard, you can decide where the remaining things should go. And in the case of clothes, rather than hanging in a wardrobe, Kondo thinks a lot of our clothing would be better off (or as she’d say, happier) folded in drawers using Marie Kondo’s special folding technique.

Kondo’s vertical folding technique makes everything easy to find and hard to mess up (you don’t have to turn a whole pile of t-shirts upside down every time you want something at the bottom). Folded this way, clothing looks almost like origami, lining your drawers in neat rows.

To keep these little folded packages standing perkily in the drawer, Kondo suggests using shoeboxes as drawer dividers. A smaller box is perfect for knickers and pants, a deep one can go on a bottom drawer for jumpers or jeans.

Tip 4: Fall in Love with Your Wardrobe

This is why people become so obsessed with the Marie Kondo method. Once you’ve cleared away the clutter and put things away, your dresses and skirts - the good stuff, is finally visible. There’s actually room between pieces, so you no longer have to fight to see your clothes. All of which means you get a hit of excitement just opening your wardrobe, whether you’re getting ready in the morning or planning a party outfit.

Tip 5: Streamline Your Photos

Tidying your photos should be the final stage in your journey to clear the sentimental clutter in your home, says Kondo. She recommends that you collect all the photos you have around the house and lay all the photos on the floor according to the year or period in which they were taken. Let go of any that are similar and if you have several photos from the same day, choose the best one. And negatives? Just get rid of them. Another smart rule is to only keep pictures in which you, or your loved one, is looking good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Six Reason a Staycation is Better Than a Holiday Abroad

Are you ready to pack your suitcase? To leave all the everyday stresses and ties behind, if only for a little while. We all need a holiday from time to time to unwind and rejuvenate.

But what you might not realise is that going overseas isn’t necessary to achieve the perfect holiday. Not when we can indulge in adventure, relaxation and natural beauty much closer to home.

I’m going to share with you all the reasons why a staycation should be your first choice when you’re in need of a break. Discover the benefits of holidaying on your home turf and get excited for all the incredible experiences you can enjoy.

1. Say Goodbye to Airport Stress

Avoid airports and all the anxiety that accompanies flying overseas by staying closer to home. You won’t miss your heart skipping a beat when you think you’ve forgotten your passport (or if you suddenly realise it’s not in date). Nor will you long for that sinking feeling when your flight is delayed or when you're running late.

And let's face it. Who loves airport security? Fitting all your liquids into a tiny zipper bag can be a huge pain. Not to mention unpacking all of your electronics with a queue of holiday makers sending daggers to your back. Take a vacation that doesn’t require long hours at an airport and eliminate these stresses that accompany flying.  

2. Make it a dog-cation

The last thing you want to feel when you’re about to embark on a well-deserved holiday is guilt. But, if you have a dog, watching those big sad eyes follow you as you leave can be like a knife to the heart. Instead, choose to take your four-legged friend with you and be treated to fluffy faces full of joy and tail wagging happiness.

What’s more, dogs love exploring new places. Stay somewhere with beautiful hikes and have your pooch join you as a mega-happy walking companion. It’s a perfect bonding opportunity, and you’ll feel great waking up to their happiness every day of your holiday.

3. Open your eyes to beauty closer to home

It’s easy to be swept away by the idea of Mediterranean coastlines and tropical paradises. But it’s important to remember that English, Scottish and Welsh landscapes harbor storybook rapture begging to be explored.

From rolling green hills to towering mountains. Secret coves with turquoise waters to long stretches of white sandy beaches. Castles brimming with history to ancient ruins from forgotten times. Our homeland has it all and is yours to discover if you’re ready to become a local explorer.

4. Treat your taste buds

Fish and Chips. Roast dinners. English breakfasts. Pizza and pasta dishes. Tapas and Greek banquets. Street food and barbecues. Feeling hungry now? Same.The good news: all of these mouthwatering meals from around the world can be found (pretty much) anywhere in the UK (unless you’re fifty miles from the nearest town, then a pre-shop at your nearest supermarket might be a smart move).

In short, you could spend lots of money traveling abroad to taste delectable dishes. Or you could save your pennies (to spend on more food, of course) and holiday at home, with an array of mouth-watering choices rarely far from your front door.

Top tip: Use sites like Tripadvisor for restaurant reviews to separate the not-so-great eateries from the culinary delights.

5. Huge choice of hotels

When picking the perfect pillow to rest your head on during a staycation, you have a plethora of options, from the luxurious to the weird and wacky. A great example of the latter: overlooking the British channel in the City of Newport, you could be barbecuing from the roof of a lighthouse above your hotel room.

Or if you like the outdoors but camping isn’t really your thing, you might be tempted by Holycombe’s very own treehouse hotel. You might not find Tarzan and his entourage, but you will discover a deluxe double bed furnished with Moroccan fabrics and a log fire to warm your toes in the chill of the night.

6. Relax in familiarity

There’s no question: holidaying abroad can be a thrilling adventure. But even the most experienced travelers can be flustered by the unknown. Not speaking the native tongue, knowing which road will take you where having to deal in foreign currency and being thrust into a new culture; all of these aspects to traveling overseas can make it difficult to relax.

Instead, you could be comforted by familiarity. A staycation rarely features unpleasant surprises because you know what to expect and what to avoid. And if you’re in a situation where your destination isn’t what you hoped it would be, you can feel easy that you aren’t stranded thousands of miles away.

Should you stay or should you go?

Are you currently pondering your next holiday? Or perhaps you’re raring to get something concrete in the diary sooner rather than later. Use what you’ve learned here to consider a staycation over taking a break abroad. 

The health benefits of house plants

You might have admired a house plant before as an attractive addition to an indoor space. But have you ever looked at one and thought, I’m so glad this plant is here to make me healthier.

Perhaps not. But you should! And we’re going to learn why. Discover the mind blowing health benefits of bringing a little bit of nature into your home.

1. They clean your air

We see it a lot in sci-fi movies: spaceships often have a sealed off greenhouse in zero gravity as an oxygen back up plan. Of course, we don’t need to produce our own oxygen seeing that we’re not in space… But dismissing the effect a house plant can have on the air in our homes would be a mistake.

Plants can reduce carbon dioxide levels and certain pollutants such as benzene and nitrogen dioxide, purifying the air you breathe. According to a study on the health benefits of controlling carbon emissions in China by Richard F. Garbaccio, minimising these pollutants can result in “reduced premature mortality, fewer cases of chronic bronchitis, and other health effects.” Neat, right?

Here are the best plants for removing indoor pollutants:

1. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)
2. Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
3. Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
4. Bamboo Palm (Bambuseae)
5. Mother-in-law’s Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata)

2. They deter illness

Speaking of preventing sickness, a plant’s ability to produce moisture as part of its photosynthetic and respiratory process can result in further health improvements. To compensate when the air is dry, extra moisture is drawn from our mucus membranes. This can result in cracked sinuses which is as bad as it sounds. Nosebleeds, scratchy throats and other illnesses owing to your body's decreased ability to trap and filter viruses is a genuine risk, as highlighted by the Bayer Advanced studies at the Agricultural University of Norway.

Having that extra humidity might be unwanted in the summer months. But in winter, adopting a house plant to produce moisture can be a godsend when it comes fighting bothersome ailments. No more nasal sprays or lemsips; pick up a potted friend instead.

3. They help you focus

Findings from the Royal College of Agriculture in Cirencester revealed that students had 70% greater attentiveness when plants were part of their study environment. While the reasons behind this result require more research, it wouldn’t do you harm to test it out in your own home.

Perhaps you’re learning a new skill that requires a lot of focus. Or maybe you need a tranquil space to tune into your creativity. Having plants in your study might just give you an extra boost in concentration to increase the rate you learn.

4. They create a feeling of well-being

Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. So it’s important to ensure that your personal space is as welcoming and relaxing as possible. Having house plants is a great way to inject beauty and colour into your home. This might make you feel happy when you’re around those leafy greens and beautiful flowers.

Moreover, since many of us associate nature with peace and tranquillity, adding greenery to your decor might emulate this feeling too. This could be especially effective when you experience the daily hustle and bustle of built up areas like cities and towns. Say you lived in a flat without a garden. Plants can give you that slice of nature most humans crave but can’t always be near to.

5. They give you a sense of fulfilment

When you bring a seedling into you home, the act of nurturing your new plant can bring you a comforting sense of responsibility. Similar to having a pet, taking care of it and watching it grow into adulthood is a satisfying experience.

It’s a reminder that you were in control of its well being, you cared for it properly, and now it has bloomed into the beautiful specimen it was always meant to be. That’s an accomplishment and a half and having that as a daily memento every time you step through your front door can give you a great sense of fulfilment.

Time to pop down to your local greenhouse?

As we have discovered, houseplants can do amazing things for your physical and mental health. The idea that a potted plant can:

● Clean your air
● Prevent nasty ailments
● Enhance your mood
● Clear up brain fog
● Make you feel accomplished

… is incredible, to say the least!

Is your home already filled with plants? Do they impact the way you feel? Or perhaps you have none at all and now feel like you should. To help you make a decision on which is the right plant for you, here are ten beautiful potted greens that can thrive indoors:

1. Orchids (Orchidaceae)
2. Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia)
3. Guiana Chestnut (Pachira aquatica)
4. Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)
5. Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina)
6. Silver Dollar Plant (Xerosicyos danguyi)
7. Jade plant (Crassula ovata)
8. ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)
9. Chinese Water Bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana)
10. Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata)

How to create a geometric feature wall

 

You have a fresh blank wall (or soon to be blank) and you’re thinking, How can I turn this into something special?

A geometric design might just be your perfect solution. An eye-catching focal point, it can be crafted to your taste, whether you’re looking to inject bright and bold colours into your decor or grey tones to an already colourful room. And while it might look like a professional hand is needed to create those perfect lines, the opposite is true.

All it takes to create this unique wall art is seven simple steps to wow your friends and family.

Here’s what you’ll need:

● A step ladder
● A roll of Frogtape
● Two or three contrasting emulsion paints
● A small roller and tray
● A fine paintbrush

 

Step 1

Prepare your wall by filling in any holes and gaps with filler. Sand down until smooth.

Then draw your plan on a piece of paper and stick it to your wall. It’s much easier to create your pattern if you have a physical reference to always go back to.

Step 2

To create an outline of your design, mark your points with a pencil and use a ruler to link your points with ultra straight lines. Try not to create lines that are difficult to remove; use a light hand when drawing with a pencil.

Step 3

Place Frogtape along your outline to mask the wall. And if you’ve recently painted, pick a delicate tape to reduce the risk of ruining all that hard work.

Step 4

Take a rubber and gently remove all traces of pencil so your lines won’t show through your final design.

Step 5

Time for the fun part! Carefully pour paint into a tray and layer your roller with your chosen colour. Avoid drippage by removing excess paint.

Using a steady hand, move the roller over the masking tape, right up to the edge of your outline. This will give your geometric design crisp lines once you remove the Frog tape.

Top Tip!

Remove the risk of going over the edge of your design by using a small brush on tight corners where the Frogtape meets.

Step 6

Leave your paint to dry for at least two hours. Then apply a new coat to make sure your colours appear bright and bold.

If you’re creating overlapping or adjacent shapes, wait 24 hours for your paint to completely dry and then place tape over your chosen area.

The finish line

The finale is very satisfying. Slowly pull off your tape to reveal your sharp and professionally looking geometric design. All that’s left to do is admire your artistic mastery (and clean up…).

Ready to connect with your creative side?

The beauty of designing a geometric wall is that, by following these easy steps, the finished piece will look perfectly crafted. What’s more, you get to choose the colours, the size and the angles of your project to make it entirely individual to you.

My final word? Observe the prominent colours used in your current decor. Then decide on your shades and hues to create the perfect colour scheme.

7 reasons everyone should try rock climbing

You might have noticed that rock climbing is hugely popular right now. Everyone seems to be doing it, right? But why? Can crawling up a cliff edge or an indoor climbing wall really be that fun?

In truth, this unique activity is so much more than that. And I’m going to share with you exactly why. Moreover, for those of you who have already tried it but stopped for whatever reason: discover all the brilliant things you might have forgotten and get yourself back on that wall.

1. You get to spend time outdoors

Granted, you may need to refine your climbing skills in a bouldering centre (an indoor facility) under trained supervision. But once you’re feeling confident enough, there are plenty of outdoor locations that offer unforgettable climbing experiences.

For beginners, Stanage Edge is a great place to start. It boasts over one thousand different climbs, from easy to challenging. And the views across the peak district make a stunning backdrop for your new hobby. Build up your skills and Land’s End could be your next climb to conquer. Enjoy the thrill of ascending a cliff edge with ferocious waves beneath you; a wild ride for the fearless.

2. Your body won’t hate you

Spinning, CrossFit, circuit training, running… all excellent ways to keep fit. But these intense workouts can leave you sweaty, gasping for air and with some wicked-bad muscle burn. Some of you might enjoy this feeling; a sign that you’ve had a great fitness session.

Others could see it as a punishment. For you, rock climbing is a great alternative. While you might feel sore in your arms afterwards, you won’t feel breathless or in pain during the exercise. Just try to do some stretches before and after so you don’t feel too achy the next day.

3. It’s a full body workout

You might not feel like you’re doing much exercise when you’re climbing... but the opposite is true. When you climb, you use a lot of muscles. You pull yourself to the next handhold with your arms and push with your legs. You also maintain balance using your feet and torso.

All of these areas get a lot of attention during a session, increasing your strength, endurance and flexibility. And because you might be drawn to it as a hobby (rather than just an exercise) you can get a full body workout doing something you really enjoy, not endure.

4. You’ll meet great people

Whether you choose to climb indoors or outdoors, you’re unlikely to ever be doing it on your own. Bouldering centres are usually filled with adventure seekers and athletes alike, especially at the weekends. And if it’s a beautiful day and you want to try your luck outdoors, chances are lots of other climbers will too.

It’s a fantastic way to meet like-minded, friendly and outgoing people. You could even join a group on Meetup.com if your main intention is to make new friends. And what you’ll experience is a wealth of support in the people you meet; individuals who will want to help you reach your goals and see you improve.

5. It’s like playing a game

Perhaps you’re a Sudoku pro or like to play video games in your spare time. The reasons you like these activities will be very similar to why you’d enjoy climbing. Scaling rocks requires problem-solving techniques to progress. Every time you move towards your next handhold you have to strategise your advance.

The top of the route is always the end game, motivating you to conquer it so you can move onto the next course. You’ll also find this incentive to be a major talking point among your fellow climbers, as you support each other in meeting personal targets.

6. It’s a great metaphor for life

But sometimes reaching that next foothold is tough. It may even be out of reach. Climbing is an activity where getting stuck or falling is a given if you want to progress. Which, you could say, is a little bit like life.

We feel disheartened and angry when we take a wrong step. But once those feelings have passed, most of us strive to learn and improve from the errors we make. This activity demands the same level of humility, providing an exceptional opportunity for you to build up your resilience towards day-to-day mishaps; a valuable skill to have both on and off the wall.

7. There are no requirements

You can be short or tall. Experienced or young. It doesn’t matter. As long as you have a base level of fitness, you’ll have no trouble adjusting to the demands of your new hobby. Of course, having long arms and legs can help… but it is by no means a necessity. The only restriction you may find is if you’re adverse to heights.

This isn’t usually a problem if you’re in a harness. But sometimes all there is between you and the ground is a spongy floor (bouldering centres are mostly harness-free). You could tackle this by picking a place that uses a rope pulling system. But honestly, once you’ve fallen a few times and get used to the feeling, your fear will most likely disappear.

You’ll be scaling Mt. Everest in no time

Hopefully by now if you thought rock climbing wasn’t for you, what we’ve discussed here has had an impact on your opinion. But if you’re still not sure, just try it! Remember, this activity is:

● A thrill when you’re outdoors
● Easy to take to
● A great way to challenge yourself physically and mentally
● A great social activity
● A undemanding but powerful exercise

What do you think? Are you ready to give it a try? If you do, we’d love to hear about your experience, so please share below!

 

 

 

Video: How to Make Gorgeous Granola

 

Be Wowed by Hidden Belgium

 

 

Belgium. A country that is especially beautiful in the sun, and astoundingly delicious any time of the year, thanks to its best-in-the-world beer, waffles and chocolate (according to, well, everyone).

But what really sets Belgium apart is its unique culture. It’s a country that prides itself on good quality living, as the French do, possesses excellent working ethics, like the Germans, and understands the subtleties of dry humour, like the English.

It’s a liberal, multicultural, and a historically rich beacon of Europe, offering some incredibly rare experiences if you look close enough. Here are some of the best off-the-grid highlights that are well worth a visit in conjunction with Belgium’s holiday hotspots, to see another side of this beautiful country away from the tourist throngs.

The Blue Forest (The Hallerbos) - Brussels, Halle

As if it were picked out of a fairy tale book, the Blue Forest is an enchanting, serene space nestled twenty kilometres away from Brussels, just outside of Halle. Explore the forest in spring (late April), and be captivated by a dreamlike carpet of bluebells blanketing the woodland floor. Beech trees are the keepers of the forest, and their emerald green leaves contrast spectacularly with the bluebells; the Hallerbos is a photographer and nature lover’s dream, and well worth travelling further afield to see.

Royal Greenhouses of Laeken - Brussels

Built between 1884 and 1996, the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken embody King Leopold’s lavish tastes, influenced by his travels in central Africa. Situated within the Royal estate’s ground, the exquisite glass dome shelters the rare beauty of the Congo: stunning tropical plants native to the area, such as the richly coloured azaleas and geraniums. This sight harbours bittersweet thoughts, that such beauty is linked to King Leopold’s grim exploitation of the native people of the Congo during his reign. But there’s no doubt of its historical intrigue. If you plan to visit, the greenhouse is open for just two weeks per year in late April and early May.

Caves of Remouchamps - Remouchamps

Visit this natural marvel that was once used as a shelter during World War II and 8,000 years ago by Palaeolithic hunters. Walk along a mysterious path encompassed by stalactites and stalagmites, towards a ‘grand Cathedral’ deep within the caves. A boat ride begins from here, leading up to the main event. These caves are home to the longest subterranean river in the world and are open to visitors who can float along the waters to admire the Remouchamps caves’ rare beauty. You may also be able to spot the local bats, and if you look carefully into the river, you could see Niphargus: blind, translucent shrimp illuminating the water’s surface.

Gravensteen - Ghent, Belgium

Gravensteed is an enchanting castle with a bleak past that will stir the darker side of your human curiosity. In the middle ages, the castle was a tomb of torture and injustice, made so by Count Philip of Alsace. Recognised for its use of atrocities, in the 19th century, a pledge emerged to take the castle down. However, a preservation group stepped in to save what you can see today: an albeit historically gruesome but hugely important part of Belgium's history, and one of the most spectacular castles standing today.

Coudenberg Palace - Uptown Brussels

Sadly, the Coudenberg Palace had no such support and was ripped down in 1731. What remains of this grand Palace that seated Counts, Dukes, Archdukes, Kings, Emperors and Governors is an archaeological maze of vestiges and buried foundations. Go beneath its modern replacement, the Palace Royal, and transport yourself into the 11th century, exploring Coudenberg’s complex cellars hiding underground. The floor you can walk along once belonged to Rue Isabelle, an entire street that was vaulted in the 18th century. The basements inside are the streets remnants, a bizarre concept that’s fun to get your head around!

Dinant - Namure

On your first visit to Dinant, you’ll be perplexed at how this picturesque municipality is rarely discussed as a highlight of Belgium. Discover a stunning (small but suitably so) town which sits on the edge of the River Meuse. The contrast between the red and white ornate buildings, reflecting against the blue, sparkling river is a sight to behold. And there’s a huge amount of things to do and see, from strolling along the river by foot or by cruise, exploring Dinant’s striking gothic architecture at the Collegiale Notre Dame de Dinant, learning about the beer-making process (because Belgium) at Maison Leffe, or taking the perfect holiday shot at the incredible Rocher Bayard.


Comic Strip Route


Explore the city of Brussels, and you may discover a very colourful secret. Splashed against the city's historic buildings are over fifty masterfully painted comic murals; a nod to the rich history of Franco-Belgian comics within Belgium. Tours provide the perfect opportunity to understand how the Franco-Belgian comic movement has influenced Brussels, and insight into how the unique artform is continuing to flourish, unlike in other Western countries. Comic fans and lovers of art will be talking about the experience for days, especially after seeing some notable characters, from Asterix and Tintin to Assassin XIII


Which secret will you choose to uncover?


Whether you’re looking to enjoy Belgium’s underground beauty, its picturesque towns, the hidden marvels of its capital city, or the fairy tale landscapes concealed by ancient forests; this country has is all, and more.
Have you been to Belgium before? We’d love to hear about it, and better yet, share your own secrets and help us add to the list.

 

 

Tidy Home, Tidy Mind - The Psychological Impact of Cleanliness

Love or hate cleaning, there’s little doubt of its positive effect on the aesthetics of your home. But how does cleanliness impact the way you feel? (Tired is not the answer I’m looking for!)

Let’s explore how a spotless home and the act of making it so can alter our state of mind. Can being untidy be bad for you? How much does purging our mess help us? Maybe, in the process of asking these questions, we’ll feel more motivated about spending precious downtime with a soapy sponge rather than a tv remote.

I’ll get the bin liners and rubber gloves out, just in case...

Clean yourself into Zen

There’s nothing better than getting into bed when your sheets have been freshly washed. It relaxes you because it’s a job you no longer need to do. And you feel calm because your bed is hygienic, eliminating that worry of being dirty.

And when you apply this to your home as a whole, the effect is the same. If you try to relax when your house is a mess, you might find it difficult to switch off because there’s work to be done. Of course, people will be emotionally affected by their mess in different ways. But it makes sense that by keeping on top of your chores, you remove that aforementioned stress, putting you in a tranquil mood to enjoy resting at home.

Boost your productivity

As I write these words, I’m looking at the mess around my desk that has accumulated from a day’s work: pens, empty glasses of water, paper and notebooks filling in the blank spaces. I feel disorganised, and I know that if I try to search for a detail in all this chaos, it’s going to take some time.

Having an uncluttered home, by default, makes you more productive. You’re spending less time thinking, “where did I put x, y and z”, giving you the focus and minutes to do something else. It’s important to make sure you are organised as well as tidy, though. If you tidy up and put things in a new location that’s difficult to remember, you’re just creating a new problem.

Embrace minimalism

Speaking of forgetting where things are, you can also eliminate this time-consuming task by adopting a minimalist mindset. It’s not easy if your possessions carry sentimental value, or if you like to have rooms filled with attractive things. But it might be worth pursuing for the emotional benefits.

Think about it: if you have less material objects in your home, you wouldn't concern yourself with polishing all those extra vases and ornaments; things you don’t really need. It’s five or ten tasks you don’t have to think about. Your brain would love that clarity. It would take you half the time to wind down, to enjoy being at home, or to direct your mind towards something more creative.

Improve your mood

I used to think that people were being dramatic when they said: “Being untidy makes me unhappy.” But when I really think about it, being messy can make you sad, because it has the power to exasperate a negative emotion that might already be there.

Say you came home feeling grumpy. A messy home is unwelcoming and demoralising; emotions that will make you feel worse, not better. And then there’s the anxiety caused by the situation of your home, and being too busy or too tired to tackle it, especially if you care about what visitors might think, (because who doesn’t?)

So, cleanliness can absolutely make you happy. If you prefer order over chaos, coming home to a spotless, personal space can cheer you up on a bad day. And it can help us feel proud, rather than worried when we think about what others might say.

Feel a sense of accomplishment

There’s no doubt about it, maintaining a spotless home is hard work. It requires a lot of elbow grease and a legitimate amount of mental effort (wait… did I use that cloth to wipe the bathroom or that cloth?) And it takes time. Doing a simple task like hoovering can take 30 minutes or more. And then there’s ironing, which can often take a whole season of Netflix to get through (or is that just me?).

All that time, energy and effort… when you see that manifesting into a spruced up space, it gives you a great sense of pride and accomplishment. And the reward of being able to enjoy it, makes that feat so much sweeter.

Ready to get stuck in?

If having a tidy home can truly make you feel calmer, productive, happy and accomplished, then it’s the cheapest therapy around. It’s also evident that, whilst cleaning takes time, it generates it too, giving us more mental space to do activities that contribute to our happiness.

What do you think? Are you already a domestic pro? Or is there room for improvement? I haven’t always liked tackling mess, but over the years my commitment (and enjoyment) to daily chores has increased substantially. I think a lot of that is down to understanding the benefits of all that hard labour, and knowing how to make it fun. Speaking of which, I’ll leave you with some bonus tips to make your sprucing sessions a little more enjoyable. Give them a try, and good luck!

● Listen to music (and sing!)
● Listen to a podcast or the radio
● Rearrange your furniture
● Have a clear out
● Scrub away with a friend
● Wear a Fitbit and see how many calories you burn
● Buy brand new cleaning utensils
● Do it on a sunny day with the windows and doors open
● Plan your reward(s)!

 

Discover Secret London

The Tower of London, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace: landmarks we know and love when we think of London. But sometimes, these tourist hot spots can make it easy to forget that London has a lot more to offer when you know where to look.

Mountains and dinosaurs, one-hundred-year-old tiny pet burials, forests with towering oak trees, streets brimming with treasures: these are the secrets London has to offer, and I’m here to tell you exactly where to find them.

Vertical Chill, Covent Garden

If you’ve always dreamed of scaling Mount Everest, but the fear of frostbite, dramatic weather changes, a lack of oxygen, and freeze-dried meals has put you off, London can offer you a kinder alternative (with the help of your imagination). Vertical Chill offers challenging ice walls for you to conquer in the heart of Covent Garden within the safety of four walls. The facility will supply your equipment (ice axes, crampons, the works), and you’ll have a dedicated trained instructor to lead you towards the Chill’s metaphorical peaks.

Pet Cemetery, Hyde Park

It’s 1881, and Mr Winbridge, the groundskeeper of Victoria Lodge, has taken on a peculiar request. Cherry, a little Maltese terrier, has passed away. His owners, who were friends with Mr Winbridge, wanted to bury their favourite dog in the park they frequented for walks. And so Hyde Park’s pet cemetery came into creation. Throughout the Victorian Era, pets like Freaky, Bogie, Baby and Smut were buried here, upon the request of their distinguished owners. It’s the only VIP Victorian pet cemetery in Britain, which is probably why the tickets are expensive (£50 per visit), but this peculiar landmark is well worth a visit to experience a rare part of Victorian London.

Epping Forest, Edge of London

London is notorious for its busy streets, glamorous shops, lavish bars and historical sites. But woodland areas teeming with wildlife, lakes and rivers? You wouldn't think so unless you happened upon Epping Forest. This gorgeous area sits just on the edge of London and offers a beautiful setting for an afternoon picnic or a gentle stroll with the family. And if you’re looking to make a day trip, don’t forget to stop at Queen Elizabeth's hunting lodge for an insight into how the Royals like to spend their spare time. The word on Epping Forest hasn’t reached far, so go now, before the secret gets out...

Evans and Peel Detective Agency

It’s the evening, and you’ve had a busy day shopping and sightseeing. Now is the time to relax and have a drink or two at a detective agency. Wait, what? You want a glass of wine, not to solve a crime! Luckily, this is a special kind of detective agency, offering delectable refreshments in an unforgettable setting. To enter, give 310c Earls Court Road a buzz, and be greeted by your personal investigator. They’ll lead you through a bookcase (yes, a bookcase!) into a candlelit room where you can unwind and exchange murder mystery stories over a cocktail or two.

Crystal Palace Park

Speaking of the weird and wonderful, London’s hidden world of crazy doesn’t end there. Head over to Thicket Road, and feel like you're on the set of Walking With Dinosaurs (without the questionable graphics). Here’s a place that is perfect for your kids to let their imagination run wild (warning, getting them to leave may be difficult). And you can’t come to the Crystal Palace park without exploring its stunning gardens, admiring how the dino residents look a little too real hiding in the foliage, and the many gorgeous flowers and trees injecting vibrancy into this curious green haven.

Little Venice

It’s not difficult to see where this serene gem got its name from. Walking along the canal is like meandering along Venice’s romantic streets. It’s a little slice of Italy that celebrates London’s rich multi-cultural identity, with canal boats inches apart from one another resting along the river. On a hot summer's day in London, there’s nothing better than retreating to a little water relief and enjoying an ice cold beer at one of the waterside quaint pubs. And if you fancy an evening out, dinner on one of the canal’s floating restaurants would go down a treat.

Camden Passage

If vintage is your aesthetic, Camden Passage is the place to be. The alley, adjacent to Upper Street in Islington, is more than just a row of shops: it’s cute cafes, independent boutiques, and vintage shops teeming with exquisite one-offs. You won’t find a better place to hunt down treasures for your antique collection, or to have the best pick of shabby-chic furniture in all of London. And if pretty architecture is your thing, Camden Passage offers cobbled paths, Harry Potter like shop windows, and an array of stunning flower bouquets to marry all the beautiful trinkets and jewels displayed along the street.

Can you keep a secret?

Share what you’ve learnt here with your closest comrades. London’s hidden must-dos are all the more special for being away from the tourist throngs. So visit these wonderfully peculiar spots before the secret gets out, and enjoy the peace and wonder in a city full of surprises.

And if you’ve found a little haven of your own in our beloved capital city, share it here. We promise not to tell!

 

30 Ways to Keep Fit by Walking

The beauty of walking? You can do it pretty much anywhere. Mountains, the beach, forests and rolling green hills; your gym, if you choose to walk for exercise.

But as a society, we’re fixated with intense workouts. We want a regime that’ll help us get the fitness results we want fast. So it’s no surprise that most people choose running, spinning, CrossFit and Military Fitness over the gentle art of putting one foot in front of the other.

However, there are many reasons to choose walking over high-impact and fast-paced alternatives. This gentle exercise is great if you’re suffering from an injury or illness, it’s free, and it can easily be integrated into everyday life. Walk enough, and it’s an accessible, easy-going way to keep fit.

Here are 30 tips on how to maximise your fitness levels through walking. Feel motivated to step outside your door, and pursue this modest exercise as your next fitness obsession:

1. Use a FitBit tracker - Feel motivated to walk by monitoring how many steps you’re taking each day, setting goals and acknowledging your progress.

2. Walk to the shops - For your shop ‘pop-ins’, put your shoes on and leave the house without your car keys.

3. Walk straight after a meal: According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, walking just after a meal rather than waiting 30 minutes is much more effective for weight loss.

4. Borrow a dog: Dogs LOVE walks. Bring a pooch along and their joy for the outdoors will put a huge smile on your face.

5. Bring a friend: If it’s a gorgeous day, chances are your friends will want to be outside too. Walking is better with great conversation.

6. Switch up the terrain: Did you know there’s a 60% increase in calories burned when walking uphill compared to moving on flat terrain? Use the app MapMyWalk.com to plan your inclines!

7. Set destinations as goals: Whether it’s the pub or a cultural landmark, pick something that will motivate you to walk towards your finish line.

8. Pick somewhere beautiful for hiking: Turn your exercise into an experience by exploring THE outdoors and soaking in the natural beauty.

9. Buy comfortable shoes: Invest in a new pair of light trainers to avoid achy feet.

10. Bring layers: Especially if you’re hiking somewhere mountainous or near the sea, pack a few light-weight tops to combat the changing weather.

11. Carry water: Being dehydrated will make you tired, and increase the chances you’ll want to quit too soon for a beverage.

12. Bring healthy snacks on long hikes: Eating is a great way to reward yourself. Plan Snack stops along your route to kerb hunger and increase your motivation.

13. Go on a photography expedition: Taking pictures of pretty landscapes can add another level of enjoyment to your walks.

14. Go backpacking: Walking to and from hotels, attractions and travel links is a natural part of backpacking and an excellent way to unconsciously exercise.

15. Join a walking group: trekking while socialising and networking is a great way to make friends who are passionate about fitness too.

16. Set goals every day: Motivate yourself with DAILY goals. Think in miles and destinations, and reward yourself after each target is met.

17. Buy a comfortable bag: Avoid back pain from an ill-fitted or cheap bag by opting for quality and comfort.

18. Stop your online spends: Online shopping saves you time and effort. But SHOPPING SPREES around the city will do wonders for your fitness.

19. Work and walk: If your job involves creative thinking and idea generation, bring along a notebook and jot down your thoughts to enhance your productivity.

20. Think about your savings: If money is tight, opting to walk instead of paying for an expensive gym membership will save you buckets of cash.

21. Pace yourself: You might feel motivated to walk fifty miles, but are you fit enough? Start with achievable targets to avoid feeling overly tired and discouraged.

22. Listen to a podcast: Get stuck into inspirational podcasts like The Real Hiking Viking and feel energised to keep those legs moving.

23. Take the stairs: Set yourself a new rule: no elevators or escalators when stairs are available.

24. Walk fast: Pick up the pace to burn even more calories. But don’t push yourself too hard.

25. Phone a friend: Preoccupy yourself while exercising by calling a friend or family member. The minutes and miles will fly by.

26. Pack a raincoat: Walking in the rain can be both refreshing and relaxing, but only if you have a waterproof on hand!

27. Go on a walking holiday: There are some incredible hiking routes across the globe, such as Jotunheim National Park in Norway and Tamang Heritage Trek in Nepal, begging to be explored.

28. Enjoy ‘me’ time: Make a daily habit of walking by yourself to clear your head.

29. Ditch the watch: Leave your watch at home so your journey isn’t dictated by a set time. Walk until you want to stop, not when you should.

30. Know your route: There’s beauty in not knowing where the road will take you. But getting lost can be stressful. Eliminate this worry by memorising your route, or bringing a map with you.

Make it happen.

Whether you’re a rambler, a hiker, a fast walker or a wanderer, there’s no doubt that if you do it enough, walking will keep you fit. Integrate this exercise into your daily life, and see it as an opportunity to learn about the natural world, to relax, and to stay healthy. Do this, and never look back.