Change, Challenge and Growth: 2012

2012 has been an epic year for me. Selling our house in January and eventually moving in June (after several hiccups), my first full year of working part-time, hubby's 50th birthday, holidays in Devon and in France, our 20th wedding anniversary and hubby working from home.

Downsizing has and will continue to have a huge impact on our everyday life. Our finances are under control and are no longer dominated by hefty mortgage payments. A smaller, more energy efficient and easier to maintain home is a daily pleasure.

There have been health scares amongst my family and friends and although these have tested us they have also brought us closer together and made us appreciate life more. And having more time means I can nurture these relationships more easily.

2012 has been a year of change and challenge but also of growth. I like my new life and the way it is enabling me to follow my dreams. I embrace all that 2012 has been and feel lucky. I have learnt that happiness is not about reaching perfection but about being content with your lot. 2012 was when I learnt that a life of less stuff and less status was a more meaningful life for me.

Since the end of September, when I launched myself into blogging, you have been witness to this journey and I can't thank you enough for your support. I enjoy writing about minimalism and simple living and will continue to strive to make this accessible, interesting and relevant. I can't wait to carry on sharing this journey with you in 2013. Thank you all for reading, commenting, following and well... just being so lovely.

Wishing you all the best of everything for 2013.
See you next year!



Just a little less Christmas...

hubs first Yule log - that man can bake!
fun with flames

lamb tagine, yummy

restaurant by the pool
entertaining at home

With the Christmas celebrations nearly over and the New Year fast approaching I'm using this tiny window of time to reflect on Christmas 2012 and make plans for 2013.

The successes of Christmas 2012

  • I'm pleased that this year Christmas preparations didn't dominate my time too much; I bought less presents and used on line shopping which relieved some of the stresses of previous years.
  • We stuck to our budget but made sure our boys weren't deprived.
  • Most of the gifts I gave and received were useful items, experiences or consumables. 
  • I enjoyed the lead up to Christmas by seeing live music, visiting a German market, carol singing and a works party.
  • Christmas Eve remained special with our usual routine of mass and an evening spent with friends.
  • We've enjoyed the break from work/school routine, catching up with friends and extended family and taking time to relax and just be.
  • I decorated the house with simple decorations. There are items I haven't used and these will be edited out before the Christmas box is taped up for next year.
  • On Boxing Day we were treated to a meal out at a restaurant with close family which gave us all a rest from our kitchens. Thank you.

However, I still feel uncomfortable with the excesses of Christmas. For me, there is still too much food and presents. 

This week I'll be taking a hard look at what's crept back into our home. I want to make space for new things I've received (mainly books and a few clothes) and donate those that are no longer relevant or useful. As Project 333 draws to a close I'm ready to reduce my wardrobe more permanently. Living in a smaller house (no garage, utility or spare room unlike our previous house) means that any excess stuff has no where to hide and I think this is a good thing.

Prior to moving house in June we did some serious decluttering but six months later it is time to rethink what we own and need, now that we have adjusted to our new home. Time for the first declutter of 2013!

I will continue to work towards a more minimal family Christmas in 2013.

I have a whole year of decluttering ahead of me and can't wait to get started.
More about my decluttering activities next week. 
Be back soon...



January 2013 Goals

Happy day-after, day-after, day-after Christmas to you. 

We're off for a walk and a visit to family today but I've been doing some mini-goal setting and thought I'd share it with you.

This is my second month of goal setting. I had fun doing this last month and it helped me concentrate on making December more productive and happy. I've deliberately kept it shorter than last month as I believe January is a month to be kind to yourself. Also, my word/theme for the year is focus and I need to keep my lists more manageable in order to hopefully achieve more.

January always feels like a long and dreary month to me but I'm determined to make it a happy month and a good start to 2013. Here's my list:

1. Set up my home office space in our bedroom. New desk is on its way.

2. Spend less on groceries and keep up spending diary on a daily basis.

3. Buy a good pair of evening/smart day-wear black trousers.

4. Cook at least one recipe from new cookbook The Little Paris Kitchen.

5. Declutter wardrobe post Project 333. Donate excess to charity.

6. Book a music/festival/comedy event for the summer.

7. Plan mine and youngest son's birthdays (February).

What are your goals/hopes for January? Please share.



52 Weeks of Happy (13/52)

Psst... just a quick sneaky blog whilst all is quiet. It's lovely to be back with a festive edition of 52 Weeks of Happy and a little glimpse of our Christmas so far. I'll be back in a few days, when we're done merry making, with a full festive report. Hope all's well with you and hello to all of you who are reading here for the first time.

My four simple happy moments of the week.

♥ Boys baking - hubs and youngest son making Mary Berry's chocolate Yule log together. Mmm...

♥ Being given this simply beautiful sack of presents from hubs. Just a few carefully selected gifts: new skirt, underwear, chocs and stationery.
♥ The sense of occasion that is blinis and Prosecco (pre-Christmas dinner).
♥ Time to enjoy the first Christmas in our new home. A year ago our house was on the market and our future home unknown. We feel so lucky to have sold, moved and downsized to a home that we like in 2012. It was worth it.



I wish you a...

Wishing you hope, love, joy and peace this Christmas. 
Be kind to yourselves and remember life isn't perfect, not even at Christmas. 


I shall be taking a blogging break for a few days but there will be some occasional posts over the holiday... so please drop by. 

You see, there's relaxing, recharging and revelling to be done.
I hope you find time for rest and fun too. 

Thank you for reading over the last three months. I look forward to catching up with you soon. 

Have a fantabulous time xo


In the meantime, if you are a new visitor I have selected a range of posts that will give you a taste of what you can read here at Just a little less.

Interiors: Hello Yellow

Wardrobe: Signature Style

Nature: Peace

Minimalist Monday will resume on 7th January.




Calm and Bright

The Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore. My children loved this poem when they were little. There was even one year when they performed it to us
- the eldest reading it aloud and our younger son acting it out. Hilarious and so, so sweet.

That's what Christmas is all about isn't it? Fun and family. Fraught at times but giving us lots of precious memories.

For me it's also about one baby born lowly, one calm and bright evening, long ago.

Savour the moment that is Christmas Eve. 

... I'll be back later to sign off for Christmas.



Fourth Sunday of Advent: Peace

When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.
          Jimi Hendrix



How Many Items in a Minimalist Wardrobe?

The 33 items:

1. Skinny blue jeans

2. Skinny pink jeans
3. Boot cut jeans
4. Black leggings
5. Brown tweed effect trousers
6. Green crinkle silk skirt
7. Above knee denim skirt
8. Fine knit tunic dress
9. Blue and white check shirt
10. Black and white stripe 3/4 length top
11. Coral sequin 3/4 sleeved top
12.Teal cap sleeved top
13. Blue bird top with sheer back
14. Grey jumper
15. Brown polo neck
16. Stripe cotton cardigan
17. Black winter coat
18. Blue waterproof storm coat
19. Purple gilet
20. Suede camel ankle boots with small heel
21. Brown lace up boots
22. Black ballet pumps
23. Brown flower necklace
24. Teal earrings
25. Opal drop earrings
26. Chunky twisted silver necklace
27. Aqua bead necklace
28. Aqua bead bracelet
29. Teal scarf
30. Chunky taupe knitted scarf
31. Black leather gloves
32. Black handbag
33. Silver clutch bag

Not included wedding ring, engagement ring, watch, underwear, sleep wear, lounge wear and fitness clothes.

Three weeks in, project 333 has been invaluable in helping me start to put together a minimalist wardrobe. Less choice of clothes has been far outweighed by these benefits:

  • A tidier and more spacious wardrobe.
  • Garments that co-ordinate well.
  • Wearing my favourite clothes more often.
  • Trying out new combinations of garments.
  • Realising that many items I have packed away I no longer need, like or want to keep.
  • Finding out what my wardrobe needs to make it more versatile: buying clothes from a narrower palette of colours, a black jacket for evening/smart day time and black trousers for evening/smart day time.
  • Discovering that I need less clothes, jewellery and accessories than I previously thought I did. I will be donating a considerable amount of my stored clothes when I finish the project.
  • Being better prepared for future clothes purchases - I think I'm unlikely to buy clothes on impulse anymore but will have a list of items that I will gradually buy (new or from charity shops).
  • Gaining new insight into what suits me in terms of my lifestyle, personal style, body shape and colouring.

However, I have missed some items (e.g., black biker boots, second tunic top, chunky cardigan/jacket) but I will reinstate these back in my wardrobe in January and have slightly more than 33 items. I found this number quite restrictive but I was possibly naive to itemise individual pieces of jewellery. If I had counted jewellery collectively as one item this would have given me five more items of clothing/footwear (which would have been useful). The green crinkle silk skirt whilst low maintenance (non-iron), was a mistake as it doesn't really go with many of the other items (my black skirt or black trousers would have been a better choice).

I now definitely prefer a smaller number of clothes in my wardrobe. Any future wardrobe buys will be carefully considered and will be investments; I would be prepared to spend a little more money on one item if necessary. The idea of buying throw away fashion is something that is now banished to my youth.

I knew project 333 would test my discipline but I didn't think it would make me rethink my wardrobe so radically. I think it would be really useful to do this project again in the spring/summer.

My dream of a newer, smaller, stylish and versatile wardrobe is now something I think I can achieve in the near future. Thanks project 333.

Some garments in the wash!


Project 333 Goes To a Party

Party outfit from project 333: blue skinny jeans, coral sequin ¾ length top, chunky twisted silver necklace, opal drop earrings, silver clutch bag and suede camel ankle boots with small heel (wearing but not seen).

Phew, I did it! I resisted all temptation to buy new party wear for my Christmas party night. Although I was wearing jeans (skinny style) I felt dressed up enough because of the sparkle from my top and silver accessories. My small heeled boots gave me some added confidence but were comfortable enough to dance in. I bought this top back in spring knowing I could potentially wear it over Christmas and I love wearing it. In the near future I would like to buy a great pair of black trousers for evening wear but I wasn't going to rush into finding a pair at this late stage. 

I shall post later today in more detail about my experiences with project 333. 

Hope you are well and in good cheer xo



Looking Forward

Winter solstice

The sun has risen on the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. A day to be celebrated, as following this night the sun grows stronger in the sky and the days will become gradually longer once more. 

A celebration that focuses on love, rebirth and looking forward to a new year.
A time to be with loved ones to eat well and light candles. I'm off to a party tonight - so it will be a long one. What are you up to?

                                                       Happy winter solstice. 



December Goals: An update

1. Choose a word/theme for 2013. Yes my word is Focus read about it here.

2. Make a word collage for 2013 inspired by Laura and Niki. No, to be done.

3. Take part in Project 333 for a month. Yes, will update you before Xmas.

4. Don't gain any weight this Christmas: Lose 5lbs then gain 5lbs! No loss no gain! I will have to be a mindful eater over Xmas.

5. Have a date night with hubby. Not achieved unless choosing a turkey together counts.

6. Go to a folk concert (carols, dancing and a Mummers Play). Yes folk concert with band 'A State of Undress' and a folk evening in our local pub with carol singing and dancing. Both great.

7. See The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey with my youngest son. Yes, he really enjoyed it.

8. Drink sherry :) Oh yeah!

9. Go for a long walk. No - will have to be after Christmas (turkey burning).

10. Spend some quality time with my Mum. Yes,  I spent a lovely few hours helping my Mum choose some new clothes. I have been trying to help my Mum (and Dad) as much as possible in the run-up to Christmas and make time for them. I wouldn't have been able to this eighteen months ago when working full-time.

I'm pleased with my achievements and will set new goals for next month. Ten goals was a good number and any more would have been too ambitious. 

Are you going to set any goals for January?




Being Present

What do you love most about Christmas?

I love that moment on Christmas Eve when, as it draws dark, I listen to the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols broadcast live from King's College, Cambridge. I love the tradition we have of going to Christmas Eve mass and then over to friends for drinks and food. I love being with close family on Christmas Day and indulging in wonderful food.

But what I'm looking forward to the most are the days after Christmas Day. Those precious few days when there's time to watch a good TV programme or film, read a book or two and go for an exhilarating long walk. Time to enjoy a day or two with no schedule, outstanding tasks or unexpected demands. 

Anticipation is often one of the most enjoyable parts of a holiday or an event. Sometimes we can be too busy to look forward to something and then can feel a bit flat when all the rushing about is done. We can be too exhausted and out of balance to enjoy what we have been so busy preparing for. 

I don't want to lose the feeling of excitement, anticipation and wonder that is so special in the lead up to Christmas - I want to enjoy the preparations. Instead of rushing I will try to slow down a little. I will take some time to stop, reflect and enjoy the moment. I will be present...

What are you looking forward to most about Christmas?



52 Weeks of Happy (12/52)

Some simple happy pleasures from this week.

♥ A glowing heart in the hall.

♥ Simple card stars (I don't remember where we got them from).
♥ The advent candle getting shorter and shorter. It must be getting close...
♥ A weekend of music: a Christmas folk evening (Fairy Tale of New York played live), singing carols in a local pub and a dance or three to '80s hits at a friend's 18th party (the DJ eventually played the Mums' requests).



Minimalist Monday: The Greatest Gift

A GREAT GIFT you can give yourself this Christmas is minimalism. 

Many of us have lives that are busy, over-scheduled and time-pressured. So why do we complicate our lives by acquiring more possessions and taking on more commitments?

There are many benefits of minimalism. Living with less possessions and leading a less money-orientated lifestyle can enrich your life in ways that may surprise you.

As you simplify your life you will find that there are many benefits to minimalism that cannot be seen. Minimalists have less than others on the surface but on an inner level their lives are fuller and more complete. Minimalism is a key that can unlock your true potential. Here's how.

1. Minimalism can improve your health and happiness. Less stuff to organise and less chaos in your home will reduce your stress levels. You will have more time to devote to activities that relax you. Having more quality time for yourself will improve your mental well being. Minimalists often make more time for healthy eating and regular exercise. They connect with nature more often and find pleasure in the simplest of things.

2. Minimalism will improve your relationship with others. As you become less obsessed with material possessions you will become less self-centred. You will find that time spent with friends and family is more rewarding than pursuing your ego through shopping or endless beauty treatments. Helping others is a known way to improve your feelings of happiness and self-worth. You can appreciate what you have rather than what you do not have.

3Minimalism can strengthen your character. You have to take risks to grow and change. Minimalism cannot be undertaken without making changes and sometimes difficult ones. One of the best ways to grow as a person is to experience challenges and overcome obstacles. Yet many of us resist change because of feelings of insecurity. As a minimalist you will have to overcome fears and be open to change. Reducing your possessions or limiting your commitments isn't easy even when done on a small scale. Sometimes letting go of just one item can be very difficult. However, as you challenge yourself to live with less you will find you become stronger: more resourceful, more resilient and less reliant on outward material things for your happiness. 

4. Minimalism can open you to new experiences and enable you to find hidden talents. Eliminating activities from your life that are of negative value can open up possibilities for trying new hobbies and interests. In the same way that you have challenged yourself to live with less you may find the courage to follow dreams that have lain dormant for years. If you try new things you may discover something that you enjoy or excel in.

5. Minimalism leads to self-discovery. It helps you to be honest with yourself. When you stop filling the gaps in your life with shopping and status driven pursuits you will have to confront your inner self. Having more time and less distractions means that you have to confront aspects of your personality that are difficult to deal with. You will have to confront your weaknesses and addictions and find healthier alternatives. By getting to know and understand yourself better you can begin to overcome problems that may have held you back for years.

Many people become interested in minimalism because they want to declutter and become less attached to material possessions. This is how it started for me. I read accounts of how minimalists had reduced their possessions, the size of their homes, created capsule wardrobes and simplified their lifestyles. I was tempted by the allure of a simpler life but I wasn't sure if I could live with less and make such radical changes. I began my minimalist journey by first decluttering and then simplifying my life. 

For me minimalism is a tool to creating a better quality of life. It is a journey I have just only begun but I have already found many surprising benefits to minimalism. I urge you to try it yourself. 

Has minimalism benefited your life? 



Introducing... Coco

Meet our Christmas tree - Coco. A supermodel of trees - tall and slender- unlike some of the pot-bellied specimens around. She is wearing predominantly silver: mini-mirror balls, plain baubles, spirals, one dove, a heart and, of course, a shiny star. She actually looked gorgeous with just her twinkling lights. Don't you just hate those who look good in anything?

Hope you've had a good weekend xo


Third Sunday of Advent: Joy

Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties. 
          Helen Keller                                                                       



Towards a Minimal Family Christmas


I took this photo yesterday evening before the tragic events in America were known. When I light it again tonight it will be for those who have tragically died in this terrible incident. My thoughts and prayers go to all those affected.


So, how are you all doing? Coping with the Christmas pressures?

It's very busy here... and I'm sure it's the same where you are too.

This weekend I'm having a pre-Christmas declutter and tidy. As I've become more minimalistic I have questioned the need for Christmas decorations - I think I could happily live without them. Candles and some shiny touches are all I think are needed to give a home a festive touch. However, we are a family and after several discussions we are going to have some minimal Christmas touches: a real tree, indoor and outdoor lights and a few favourite Christmas decorations. In the spring, before we moved house, I had a good edit of our Christmas boxes (we had several large ones) and have kept a limited amount of special decorations. With have two school-age sons so we don't want to go too extreme. They are reaching adulthood and there will many years when we can please ourselves - but for now I want to create some festive homeliness for them.

So today I am tidying and making space for some festive decorations. As we're having a real tree (if we can find a small enough one) we need to make space in the lounge for this. A few decorations will be dotted around but not many and not until I've created room for them by storing some things away or even deciding to permanently remove some items from the house. I'm very aware that there will be new things coming into the house and the house will look more cluttered with more visitors (not that I mind - I love sharing our home at Christmas). Calm but twinkly is the look I'm aiming for.

I will post the results tomorrow - if we find a small enough tree!

If you need a break or a cheer-up here's a link for you 

Luke Sital-Singh - God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

A festive track free to download from BBC6. A beautiful modern version of a traditional carol (with a twist) to ease you through the last busy week before Christmas.