An Undistracted Life

I love my phone. I hate my phone. Sound familiar? 

It’s my camera, I listen to music, track my runs, stay connected to the people I love, get inspired and do my weekly shop (not inspiring!).

It’s also really hard to put down, distracts me most of the time, and is a rabbit hole for which I can wonder for hours. If I’m honest I know that the more time I spend on my phone the less happy I become. It effects my sleep and I battle with staying content with my own life (especially when my feed is full of idyllic beach holidays).

Anyone else feel like that?

We know we’re kind-of addicted, we know that it’s something we should probably address but somehow we manage to avoid actually doing anything! 

Here’s a selection of the excuses I make to justify my phone use;

  • I need it for work.
  • What if I miss an important message?
  • Someone might have a child and they’ll be 5 before I know they exist!
  • How will I wake up without a phone alarm?!

The real truth is that I am in a constant state of distraction. And what’s worse is when I reach for my phone I give my family unspoken permission to disconnect and disengage too.

Trying and failing
I’ve tried various things from tracking my phone use – deleting apps, stopping ALL notifications, leaving my phone downstairs – but whatever I do my phone use slowly creeps up and up and up. 

But I don’t want this to be normal. It’s time to bring in the big guns. 

Enter my 5 year old daughter. If you need accountability I would recommend finding a small person and asking them to keep you on the straight and narrow, they transform into small army generals/ tiny dictators and they take no prisoners! 

So we had a chat about how I wanted to use my phone less and sadly she agreed (this broke my heart). I told her I was really serious and we decided we would make a ‘Phone Home’ for my phone. My husband coined the term ‘Phone Coffin’ but I’m just not sure it has the same ring to it!

My daughter has decided that my phone will live in the box from when we get home after school to when she goes to bed. However she did write a note which says the only exception is that I can use my phone for adding things to my online shopping order, I think she’s worried I’ll start forgetting she needs five cereal options available for breakfast!

And so here we are, the box is made and I hope my phone will happily live in it for the majority of our summer. I know I’ll probably fail but then my conscience and my not-so-small blonde ‘phone monitor’ will keep me on the straight and narrow. 

Wish me luck!

If you want to get inspired for your own hands free summer, I’d recommend getting your hands on the book Hands Free Mama, it will change things!

Involving kids in living ethically

How do you persuade your kids to get rid of the mountain of soft toys they are rapidly accumulating? This is a question I’ve been asked time and time again.

Over the last few years I’ve slowly found ways of engaging our children in the process of simplifying and living more intentionally and ethically. Unfortunately the hard work had to start with me! I’ve had to make changes, the kind of changes that are uncomfortable, the kind of changes that made just throwing some of the soft toys out look like a very easy option!

I couldn’t ask my daughter to start going through her clothes until I’d gone through mine. Reducing their screen time wouldn’t have made sense without reducing mine. How could I suggest skipping a playdate for some much needed rest time if I was packing out my own diary? In many ways that’s been the biggest game-changer, as our children have seen us make choices to reduce and live more simple, generous lives it has kick-started the process for them. In doing that, we are slowly reframing what ‘normal’ looks like for our family.

From that starting place, here’s a few things we have found helpful in bringing simplicity and a more intentional way of living to our family. Your kids might be totally different to mine but hopefully my ideas will spark creativity and even better ideas of what would work in your family.

Their world

Kid’s worlds are small, I mean really small! One of my favourite little people was asked by her mum last week how many people she thought there were in the world, her answer…four! Helping our children experience people, places and situations that are different to their world is so valuable.

  • Build routines
    Whenever I take the kids shopping (which let’s face it I try to avoid at all costs!) I try to remember to get them to choose something for the Foodbank collection point. My husband also previously volunteered at a Foodbank with our daughter before she started school. Simple ways to start little conversations about the food we have in our cupboards and how that’s not the case for everyone.
  • Find a bigger perspective
    For our family travelling to different places where people’s lives look totally different from ours has been really life-giving and life-challenging. I sincerely hope that when they grow up they will remember queing to pump water with locals in Uganda or sitting in a simple mud-hut eating rice. Or course these experiences were a once-in-a-lifetime one but it’s made me more determined that our children’s eyes are open to the world away from their doorstep. Going to museums which have exhibits about different cultures is a fun way to thinking differently about the world. And something as simple as reading this amazing map book has opened up fantastic conversations about what living somewhere else might be like.

Their stuff

As I mentioned earlier the best way I have found to help our children simplify their stuff is for them to see me simplifying mine. We have regular trips to the charity shop to drop off bags of things we don’t need. The idea of removing things certainly isn’t foreign to them.

  • Conquer a clearout
    For the last two years we have initiated a clearout before Christmas and before birthdays. I love building in a rhythm that we give things away before we take things in. We put music on, do a bit of dancing and make ‘keep’ and ‘donate’ piles. They have total control, nothing goes which they want to keep, that way I’ve found that the experience isn’t a negative one of ‘mummy getting rid of my stuff’ – that would suck!
  • Bless a smaller friend
    It helps my children to know who will be the recipient of their excess or unneeded things particularly clothes. When my daughter has grown out of something or doesn’t wear a particularly item I ask her ‘who do you think might like to wear this?’. She’s always excited to be able to give things to her younger friends and loves to see her clothes getting a second outing.

Their choices

I’m acutely aware that I’m raising tiny consuming machines. Helping them navigate their own consumption habits is a challenge.

  • Keep it local

    Early on in the life of this blog I did a milk taste test. We found that we all much preferred our locally produced milk. Our children love going to the shop to buy a bottle. In fact it’s hard for us to go in without buying milk. I had one embarrassing moment where I had to forcefully remove a child from the shop who was screaming ‘I want more milk’ at the top of their voice. Our local veg box has also been a brilliant source of conversations , particularly around why everything ‘looks dirty’!

My journey towards ethical, simple living has been slow, my children’s journey will be equally slow and will be their own. But hopefully the small steps we take together will give them foundations from which to make their own choices in the future.

Would love to hear how you have found involving your children in ethical living.

Was it boring? And other questions about Project 333

And so I made it to the last week of Project 333. Three months or 91 days to be precise of dressing with 33 items. I’ve had so many fascinating conversations with people along the way. Some who were confused that I would have more than 33 items to begin with and others who confessed to having 33 pairs of shoes alone. Here’s the questions I most frequently heard…

Was is boring?

It was surprisingly less boring than I expected. There were only a couple of days when I genuinely thought ‘wow I’d quite like to wear something else’. But that was far out-weighed by the fact that getting dressed in the morning took zero brain-power and entirely removed an annoying decision process from my morning – I didn’t get bored of that feeling!

Did you have to do laundry more?

Honest answer was no. However I did need to get quicker at the post-washing process of ironing and putting away or I quickly found that all my clothes ended up in the ‘to iron’ pile rather than being ready to wear. It was also a good motivation to do laundry rather than having to make the washing machine work overtime at the weekends!

Anything you missed/wish you hadn’t chosen.

Yes, I realised that I don’t own any smart long sleeved tops! The great thing about living with less is that you notice the gaps (as well as the excesses) you’ve been living with. There were two tops that I hardly wore and one top I needed to replace after my child splattered me with non-washable paint!

What was the best things about it?

I LOVED having everything in one place. I could open my wardrobe and see everything, all in one place. No opening drawers or rummaging through shelves. This was a game-changer for me in terms of the speed it took me to get ready. I also enjoyed the simplicity of seeing space between my clothes and knowing that each was hand-picked to be there, no ‘just-in-case’ or ‘maybe-one-day’ items. Packing to go away was also a dream!

Will you keep going?

Yes and no. I will aim to stick to around 33 items but will probably give myself a little more grace with it. I’ve loved dressing more seasonally and this is definitely something I’m going to keep up (I’ve already been thinking about what items will be swapped out and in for the winter!).

The last three months have reminded me once again that we live in a world of excess where we are constantly told to get more, more, more. The aims of a more simple and minimalist lifestyle isn’t to end up living in an empty house and only wearing black (though if that’s your thing, great!). The aim is to work out what you value and remove anything that doesn’t align with that. For some that means saying yes to less committees, groups and events, to some it means cutting certain foods from their diets and for others it means choosing to own less physical items.

The last three months have made me realise that I want to value quality over quantity and space over clutter, I’ve also learnt you should always, always buy washable paint!

Project 333 begins

September marks the start of my Project 333, wearing 33 items for 3 months. I’ve spent the last week sorting through my wardrobe in order to make my choices. I quickly realised that I had a few different areas of life that I needed to cover…

  1. Mummy Days – these clothes need to be comfy and cope with being smeared with breadsticks.
  2. Work – I like to be fairly smart and wear different clothes to my mummy days, it helps me get ‘in the zone’!
  3. Speaking/on stage – this is a tricky category, these clothes need to hide the inevitable sweat-marks (lovely hey!) and most importantly enable me to attach a microphone battery pack to them without pulling my trousers/tights down (I learnt this the hard way once!)
  4. Smart clothes – because you know, one day I might get to go on a date with my husband, a real actual adult date!
  5. They need to cope with the UK weather!

I decided pretty quickly that I wouldn’t include jewellery in my 33, technically you are supposed to but I love jewellery and have no desire to minimise (yet!) and this challenge isn’t about suffering. There you have it, my first confession of rule breaking! Also not included (legitimately!) are workout clothes, sleepwear and underwear.

Here’s my choices…


Tops – 3x long-sleeved, 2x short sleeved, 3x smart, 2x vest, 3x jumpers, 2x cardigans, 1x hoodie
Bottoms – 1x blue jean, 1x khaki jean, 1x leggings, 1x smart jean
Dresses – 4
Coats – 1x lightweight, 1x warm/smart
Shoes – 2x heels, 1x boots, 1x everyday trainers
Accessories – 1x lightweight scarf, 1x wooly scarf, 1x hat

And so it begins. Some clever person worked out they could have 25,176 different outfits using just 33 items so I think there’s hope!

Project 333

I heard about Project 333 a couple of years ago, choosing 33 items to wear for 3 months. At the time it seemed a bit extreme to me! Courtney Carver started her first challenge back in 2010, since then it’s snowballed and thousands of people have decided to join in. Courtney blogs at ‘Be More With Less’, her stuff is great, go check it out for a much more informed read!

If you read my last blog you’ll know that I recently finished a year of buying no new clothes. One of my reflections was that I realised how little I actually wore from the vast selection in my wardrobe even after a huge clear out. It seemed like doing my own Project 333 was starting to make more sense.


I was asked this week why I’m even trying to do this. There’s three main reasons;

1. I’ve learnt that less choice and less decisions in any area of my life means more time, more space and more peace, I like these things and want more of them.

2. Challenge is good for the soul. The whole reason I set up this blog was to change my life, giving myself tangible and tricky goals is a sure fire way to elicit change.

3. It’s fun! I’ve already had lots of great conversations with people ranging from all out ‘what the…!?’ to ‘I’ll join you’. It’s fun to take on challenges together, I like fun and and I like people, this has the potential of connecting me to both.  

The rules…

  • Choose 33 items including clothing, accessories, jewellery, outwear and shoes.
  • Not counted – wedding ring, underwear (thank goodness!), sleep wear, workout clothes (but you can only wear these to actually workout…no hanging around the house in your running vest!)

One of the things I love about Courtney Carver is she says that the challenge isn’t about suffering and encourages you to get rid of broken or ill fitting clothes and even buy some new items if you realise there’s gaps in your wardrobe. Grace, grace, grace!!

I’m going to be starting at the beginning of September, finishing at the end of November. In the next couple of weeks I’ll be wardrobe planning. I’m slightly terrified at the prospect of having to choose which coats and shoes I’m taking into a very unpredictable British autumn! I’ll be back before the end of August to let you know my choices (the jury’s still out on whether I’m going to include jewellery in my 33!).

I put a little shout out on facebook the other night and several of my friends are keen to give the challenge a go. It was a surprising side effect of sharing my life online and I’m excited that some of you are crazy enough to join me! If you are going to do your own Project 333 let me know, we should definitely give each other moral support.

I didn’t buy clothes for a whole year, and I survived.


A whole year has gone by since I made an online promise to not buy any new clothes for 12 months. It’s been a fun experiment opening up countless conversations with a whole range of people. It made attending a clothes swap slightly strange, though turns out drinking wine while advising your friends on their purchases is quite fun! I’ve had to straight out avoid certain shops (particularly during the Fatface sale!) and found myself nearly running through charity shops to get to the kids books without being distracted by clothes!

Here’s a few things that surprised me over the year;

1. I’ve realised I wear less than I think

Right at the beginning of the challenge I had a huge clear out. I thought I was done. I was wrong! Over the year it became really clear that I wear less than I think. I turned around all my coat-hangers, only returning them the correct way once an item had been worn. Some of those coat-hangers are still facing the wrong way. In a society that generally encourages more, excess and a wardrobe full of ‘just in case’, I’m enjoying space, less and a wardrobe full of ‘just right’.

2. I kicked my impulsive internet shopping habit

In every area of my purchasing I found myself slowing down, asking ‘do I really need this’ and taking a day or two to ponder. My one impulse buy of a (way to large) train set early this year quickly reminded me (well actually my husband reminded me!) why slowing down has it’s benefits! Early on in the challenge I unsubscribed to lots of marketing emails, this stopped me getting sucked into the rabbit warren that is online shopping and it prevented the kind of ‘quick it’s in the sale’ purchases that I tended towards. I also ‘unfollowed’ various facebook selling groups for the same reasons.

3. My kids ended up with less. They’re naked only half the time

Before the challenge started, I stockpiled kids clothes, being ready for every situation, no matter how many mud kitchens were visited during the week. But cutting down on my clothes naturally resulted in cutting down on my kids clothes. The result has been that over the year I’ve streamlined their wardrobes which (as long as I wash things regularly) has been a space, money and time saver as less choice generally means less clothing battles (or does that only happen in our house?!).

4. My jeans have holes in them, and I’m not ok with that

Four weeks before the end of the challenge my much loved and well worn jeans gave up the ghost. This week I bought a new pair but after getting them home I realised that they weren’t perfect, so I took them back. Before this year I probably would have kept hold of them, worn them but never been totally happy then eventually bought another pair. But not anymore, I’ve realised that I’m now much more picky about what I bring into my home, it needs to serve a purpose, I need to love it, it needs to belong. That perfect pair of jeans is still elusive but I’m holding out!

6 things travelling with kids taught me

Recently we had an amazing opportunity to take some time out of normal life and go travelling as a family. Here are a few lessons I’ve learnt along the way!…

1. Packing cubes make life easier

This has been a recent and revolutionary discovery! We have three sets of different coloured packing cubes – think small, zippable canvas..well..cubes! The result? We can share luggage without getting stuff mixed up, see exactly what we have and more importantly when you are in the middle of a Ugandan water shortage, you know what’s clean! They’ve made the constant packing and unpacking loads quicker and more organised, so yep, I’m a big advocate!


2. Eat the camel and seize the day

Our travels were kickstarted by my husband’s nine year long job coming to an end during my maternity leave. Not exactly ideal timing but it got us thinking. We could plow straight into ‘what next?’, begin worrying about the future and start applying for jobs or, we could take a moment to pause. Maybe even seize the opportunity to do something spontaneous with no agenda other than to experience life somewhere else and connect with dear friends. We booked the flights and I’m so glad we did. Yes flying long haul with a four year old and 9 month old has it’s challenges (?!) and we have experienced next level tantrums (on board a small boat in the middle of the Nile of all places!) but those won’t be the things that fill my memories and photo books. I’ve learnt to seize more days, to jump into more moments and when someone offers you camel for dinner, say yes!


3. Find adventure in the everyday

We’ve camped in the middle of the Ugandan bush, experienced a wedding in Oman, run through sand dunes in UAE, we have lived adventure everyday. However this afternoon our daughter spent a good hour making a den from plastic chairs after making a whole crab from bits of several dead crabs, that was today’s adventure. Kid’s have the brilliant ability to be amazed by the ordinary, to sail the pirate infested seas or become a magic-potion-maker without leaving the garden. I don’t want adventure to become something extraordinary, an event for holidays or special occasions. Our trip has taught me to weave it into the small everyday moments and moments that in fact, make up our lives.

4. Kids can cope with weird

I wondered how our eldest child would respond to the ‘different’ we experienced. Particularly the different ethnicities, languages, food and dress in the Middle East and Africa. She was totally unfazed, embracing all aspects of the cultures we visited much better than I expected. She ate (and loved) camel and goat, let her arm be painted in Henna (something I’m almost certain she wouldn’t have done at home) and didn’t once comment on how anyone else looked or spoke. My reflection is that kids cope with ‘weird’ far better than adults and the sooner we expose them to ‘weird’ the better. I want my children to grow into the kind of people who embrace different, who welcome strangers and are kind to the poor. It starts now, it’s on me to introduce them to ‘weird’, to challenge them with ‘different’ and to show them the wonderful variety and colour of our world.


5. It’s only one day

Lots of people have told me they thought we were ‘brave’ or that they couldn’t imagine taking small kids across the world. I think mostly it’s the actual travel that puts people off, having to contain children on a plane, negotiating airports and managing luggage whilst holding small hands. A really wise friend who’s done several long haul flights with kids gave me a great piece of advice she said ‘at the end of the day, no matter what happens, it’s only one day of your life’. That’s the attitude we took, because it was only a day of our life, sure not a day I’d like to repeat a lot(?!) but it was only a day. It’s changed our perspective on journeying with kids and neither of us were daunted by our recent drive and overnight ferry to France (this time last year it would have terrified us!). I wonder how many other things in life I would dive into more willingly if I had the perspective of ‘it’s only one day’?

6. You can never have enough snacks

This speaks for itself and is a truism no matter where you are in the world and no matter how self controlled your children are. Snacks = happiness, end of.

Would love to hear from any other fellow travellers about what you’ve learnt on the journey, whether that’s a quick trip to the coast or a 24 flight to Australia. #travellingWells

A year to simplify

Every year around January 1st my husband and I look back on the past 12 months and look forward to the year to come. This takes various different forms, going through our photos, writing ‘year maps’ or answering questions (it’s more fun than it sounds!). This year didn’t quite go to plan, I had a fever on New Year’s Eve, went to bed at 7pm and left Rich to see in 2017 with a teething baby (what a gift!). Eventually we managed to sit down and take time to reflect on what we’re saying ‘goodbye’ to in 2016 and what we are welcoming in.

One thing I’ve found helpful over the past few years is to have a word or phrase to take into the year rather than a set of resolutions. This word is the lens which focusses me on throughout the year and keeps me on track. My favourite was 2015 which was the year I choose to create ‘healthy rhythms’. I kept this in the forefront of my mind that year and it helped me create real change. I began eating healthier, getting up early to exercise, started a (realistic!) Bible reading routine and reduced my time using screens.

This year as I was reviewing 2016 and looking forward to 2017 I decided that the word I wanted to shape my year was ‘simplify’. This might seem kind of obvious since I’ve been sharing lots about our journey with minimalism and decluttering (or should that be ‘de-owning’?!). For me the process of simplifying my stuff has made me crave simplicity in every area of my life. As I head into this year I want to see where I can bring more simplicity, space and peace.

To beginning with I’m going to focus on three specific areas, I’m going to simplify…

My stuff – after 8 months of decluttering we have very nearly gone through every bit of our home, I want to keep the momentum up and finish the task!

My time – as a Mum with two small people my day can easily feel like it fills up with washing up, laundry, food planning, cooking, cleaning and all those other daily tasks. I want to simplify, I’m not talking about Buzzfeed ‘life hacks’ here but creating rhythms that make things simpler, lighter and enable me to actually PLAY with my children and maybe even read a book!

My tech – I love my smartphone, I hate my smartphone, we probably need to break up or at least get some space from each other.

There you have it, I’ll blog about each area individually in more detail as a I go. If you have any tips let me know!

What’s your word for 2017? Do you have hopes and plans? I’d love to hear them!

Do Kids, Christmas and Minimalism go together?


I love Christmas, I love the extra time with family, carol concerts, decorating the tree, mulled wine, setting fire to the Christmas pudding and I love gift giving. Thoughtful, considered gifts are a beautiful reminder that you are loved and that someone knows and cares for you. This year is the first Christmas since we started the process of minimising and simplifying and it’s definitely affected my gift giving. I’ve tried where possible to give gifts that align with our values, so nothing excessive, quality over quantity, things people actually want and will use and gifting experiences or items that can be ‘used up’. I could write a huge blog about all of that but during this week before Christmas I wanted to address the other side of gift giving, that is, the gifts we’ll recieve. Specifically I want to share a couple of thoughts about kids and gifts. My thoughts on this have been massively helped by Allie Casazza and her brilliant blog – check her out, she’s fab!

Some minimalists subscribe to the no gift rule for their families. This might float your boat, but it sinks mine. I genuinely love finding the perfect present for someone, and I don’t want to take that experience away from those who love my kids. Neither do I want my children growing up thinking ‘gifts suck’ or more to the point ‘mum sucks’! I want them to know the value of things, to use what they have well and to learn to love contentment rather than excess. That being said, this year I’ve realised that after spending the last 9 months removing things from our home, we are about to enter a period of welcoming things in. I needed a plan, a strategy, a way of preparing for this so that I could relax and enjoy the Christmas season knowing my kids are loved and will appreciate the amazing gifts they will receive. Enter Christmas Clearout Day!

White Space

The aim of Christmas Clearout Day was to create some white space. Space in the toy box, drawers and wardrobes so that when my two are given some awesome new toys and clothes they have a place to live straight away.


We attacked my four year old daughter’s bedroom this morning. Experience has taught me that trying to purge or tidy with her in the afternoon/evening is a no go! I began by explaining that she’s probably going to get some lovely new things for Christmas so we need to make space. I asked her if she thought she could find 10 things which we could donate to the charity shop for people to buy who maybe can’t afford presents (she’s seen us do lots of trips to the charity shop with our own things this year so she’s very familiar with the idea). She was up for the challenge, she’s my daughter of course! I tipped out a box and we held each toy up and she had to say ‘give’ or ‘keep’. Within a few minutes we had our pile. Her reasoning was kind of interesting “I’ll give these puppets because they are green. I don’t like green” BUT we got there! I also discovered she has a drawer named ‘interesting drawer’ where she keeps, and I quote, ‘things I find on the floor’ – I’ll work on that one!


I opened all the drawers and wardrobe, I removed anything that didn’t fit (those long legs just keep growing) or anything that was badly damaged. Most of this I will take to the charity shop but I’ll keep a few pieces that I love to set aside for potential sisters/cousins.

I fold her clothes using the Kon Mari method as it makes it a lot easier for her to find things in the morning (probably should blog about this some time). When we’d finished I had a ridiculous pile of clothes to wash and donate and plenty of white space in the cupboards.

So our first Christmas Clearout Day was a success, I thoroughly expect to have a January clear out (always good for the soul!) but I certainly feel more prepared to give and receive gifts and focus on the real gift, a baby, wrapped in simple cloth and lying in a manger.

How does my space reflect my values?

One day’ – two little words which can become huge obstacles if we let them. What’s on your ‘one day’ list?

One day I’ll…

  • Get fit
  • Eat healthier
  • Call my grandmother
  • Sort out that cupboard
  • Think about my savings

One day…

As a family we’ve been thinking lots about the process of simplification and living more intentionally with what we have but we realised something. We often found ourselves speaking about the limitations of our home and listing the things we’d do ‘one day’ when we moved to somewhere bigger. However we love where we live, we actually do treasure our little house and the area we live in suits us perfectly. So this got us thinking, which of our ‘one days’ could we make happen now?

The thing that we kept coming back to was that in the eight years we’ve been married we’ve often spoken of our desire to have a piano. We love the feeling of playing a real piano with all it’s weathered eccentricities. Learning grade 3 scales, singing with our siblings, composing songs and playing carols for an elderly folks christmas lunch, our family pianos had really been at the centre of things as we’d grown up. Objectively looking around our home there was no space for it, no wall without a radiator, fireplace or sofa so we always confined it to ‘one day’. Until one day.

We saw some research that suggests that most people don’t use all of their homes, in fact we tend to congregate in a predictable few areas, the kitchen, computer, tv. The diagram below shows an average (American) family’s use of their house.


We had a slight epiphany when we realised that one of the sofas in our living room had become a glorified inbox collecting post and toys but rarely get sat on. There were more seating options than there were people in the house so the question formed ‘why not get rid of it?’. We really want our kids to experience of fun of having live music in the home and right then our space wasn’t reflecting that value so off the sofa had to go. 

Amazingly as we made that decision we also found out that we were inheriting a family piano, it’s yet to arrive but hopefully when it does it will mean our home says a little more about what we value rather than putting it off to ‘one day’.