Downsizing... a Year On

This weekend it will be a year since we downsized to our new house. I recently found some photos of our previous home, taken by the estate agents, and I thought it would be worth sharing them with you. I certainly find them interesting to look back on. 

The house was looking its best in these photos and we were lucky to have sunny weather the day they were shot in late September 2011. Before the house went on the market there were months of preparation to make it more saleable. We had new French doors fitted, paid a decorator to paint the exterior woodwork, spent hours gardening, had new carpet fitted in our bedroom and changed a study into a fourth bedroom. 

Like many people trying to sell their house we were too busy improving it to get the full benefit of the changes we made in those last few months. All I remember are months of decorating, decluttering, hiring a skip, ebaying, car boots sales and trips to the charity shop with donations. And minutes before the estate agent arrived I remember running down the garden with a few boxes to stash in the newly emptied shed to make the house appear even tidier. It was a lot of hard work and I became a little obsessed with making it über neat. 

We chose our estate agent partly because of the quality of their photos (note the wide-angled lens) and because they used a lot of photos in their literature. Whether it was the estate agents photo skills, our decluttering dexterity or sheer good luck, I don't know, but we sold our house in three months. It took a further agonising five months for the sale to be completed but I still think we were very lucky to sell and buy in a depressed housing market. I can totally empathise with anyone currently going through this process or considering it.

I look back on these photos of our old home with fondness but not sadness. It was our home for nearly ten years and we enjoyed giving this tired 70s house a more modern look even though we didn't get to complete it. Realising it was costing us too much in time and money was a sad moment but a life changing one. I look back and think about how little we used the separate dining room, the tattiness of the kitchen close up and the downside of owning a corner plot. These are problems it was great to walk away from.

It's been a busy first year here in our new house but one thing we've spent a lot less time on is decluttering, decorating and house maintenance. I certainly didn't have time to blog back then.

I'll leave you with these photos and thoughts. Have a great weekend.



Good Enough to Eat

Lou's theme for Nature in the Home this week is green and I have snapped a regular decorative feature of our kitchen - lush, fresh cut herbs. At the moment we have mint and rosemary. I love the blue flowers rosemary produces and of course its aroma. With herbs to hand, yesterday we ate potatoes roasted with olive oil, red onion and rosemary. Mmm, a feast for the senses - although with two teenage boys they weren't around for long.



52 Weeks of Happy (35/52)

Oh what a difference an extra day makes to the weekend! A chance to break out of our usual routine and relax a little more. And the weather certainly helped as we were blessed with three days of dry weather and some sunshine as well. It has rained all day today but wouldn't you call that fair play?

Our weekend was fairly simple. Hubs did a few diy jobs like putting up a washing line in the garden - a simple job but one that we hadn't got round to - and I sneaked out of the house early on Sunday morning to a car boot sale specifically to pursue bargains for the garden. I was very focused and self-disciplined and (almost) stuck to my list and budget. We went for daily walks, had leisurely meals, sat reading outside, walked to the local pub and drank cider outside, mowed our annoyingly small lawn and made new plans for the garden. We're getting there with our garden plans, s l o w l y...

So, joining in with Jen from little birdie for week 35, here's my four particular happy moments.

♥ Lazy weekend breakfasts. Almond croissants. Mmm...
♥ Finding cheap terracotta pots and plants at the car boot sale. I wanted some small pots to cover a manhole cover at the front of our house and was delighted to find some. I love white flowers in pots and a geranium always pretties up an outdoor table, don't you think?
♥ A new addition to my summer wardrobe. I found this floaty tunic on my way out of the car boot sale. Just the perfect length to wear over leggings and a bargain at £1. Yes it was an impulse buy, but I was drawn to its colours and I know I'll wear it a lot. The lovely lady who sold it to me said it was clean but not ironed and having washed it myself I now fully intend not to iron it either :)  That makes it a definite keeper in my summer minimalist wardrobe.
♥ Spotting the first azaleas in our local woods. I can't wait to see more of these beauties bloom over the next few weeks.

Thank you all for reading and welcome to my new followers.

Be happy xo



Minimalist Monday: Why Minimalism?

Hey... heavy minimalist post warning. 

I know it's a Bank Holiday Monday here in the UK and we're all feeling chilled and grateful for some half decent weather for a change but I haven't written about minimalism in general recently. So, I thought this week I would provide a few questions and answers about my minimalist journey. I have included some questions for you just in case you want to join in with me. Purely optional... I don't want to nag or preach.

Why minimalism?

I was first attracted to minimalism because I felt overwhelmed and stressed. I had too much stuff and not enough time, I was dissatisfied with our consumerist society and I found it hard to relax. Both the ethos of living a less materialistic lifestyle and the aesthetics of living in a calmer and more organised space appealed to me. What I craved most was the chance to have regular time to be able to stop and stare. 

How about you? Do you think you could be happier with less stuff and less commitments? What attracts you to minimalism or a simpler way of living?

Which minimalist blogs are helpful?

Reading minimalist blogs gave me the inspiration to not just start on a journey of decluttering but also to evaluate my work life balance and learn how to relax and be content on an everyday level. The following blogs have advice for all these aspects of simple living in their archives. They are the big names in the world of minimalist blogging.

Miss Minimalist
365 less things
The Minimalists
Rowdy Kittens

However, there are lots more lesser known minimalist and simple living blogs out there. Check out my blog roll for some that I regularly read. 

How about you? Are there any minimalist blogs you'd recommend? Does reading about minimalism keep you focused on simplifying your life?

Will decluttering and simplifying my life make me happier?

I thought that reducing my possessions, my materialistic aspirations and my financial commitments might be the answer I was looking for. It was. More than two years on I am now am on my way to having the life I wished for all those months ago. I have reduced my possessions considerably, I live in a smaller home with a smaller mortgage, I work part-time and I have more time for my family, friends and interests. My life is still hectic at times but in a much more varied and fulfilling way. And I do get time to stop and stare, regularly. Every time I declutter I feel better for it. I don't want to sound smug and maybe you don't need to downsize or change your career but I guarantee any amount of decluttering will make you feel better once the ordeal is over.

How about you? What is stopping you from decluttering that space or room? How do you feel after a good clear-out? Could you make more time for things you enjoy?

How can I stop feeling trapped?

In the past I felt trapped and could not see a solution to my stressed life. But then I realised that I had trapped myself by choosing to take on more responsibility at work, more financial commitments with each house move and spending more money generally than I needed to. I had been too busy to notice how much this life was costing me in ways other than money. My health, my relationships and my enjoyment of life were all beginning to suffer. Realising that we had got ourselves caught up in this trap was the easy step. Step two was a lot tougher - working out how to free ourselves from the life we had created and the finances needed to pay for it.

Our decision to downsize to a smaller house was made for financial and personal reasons. Moving to a smaller house felt at first like a backward step and it took a long time for us to reach this decision. Downsizing our possessions and finding a suitable family home on a smaller budget was hard work but now one year later we can see that it was definitely the right thing for us and it has had a positive affect on our lives. We have more control over our finances, we have more flexible time, we live with less stuff and we have have stopped chasing materialistic goals. 

How about you? Could you live in a smaller home? Is it possible to reduce your outgoings? Could you work less hours or change your job? Is fear of change holding you back?

Is minimalism contrived? 

I hope these questions and answers have been useful whether you are a new or long-term reader here. Minimalism can sound extreme and off putting and also contrived and posey. I don't view minimalism like that at all. I see it as something that can set you free and can be a useful tool in reducing the stress, greed and waste in our lives.

I started writing Just a little less because I was inspired to document my downsizing journey and quest for a simpler life. At the time there was a distinct lack of presence of UK minimalist bloggers and I wanted to add my voice and view to this worldwide community. I enjoy writing about minimalism and still regularly comment on many minimalist blogs. What I also enjoy writing about are the simple pleasures and the joys of everyday life. Learning to create and find these moments is something that everyone can benefit from.

Minimalism helped me on my journey to a simpler and happier life. If I had not read those minimalist blogs and started on my decluttering journey I don't know if I'd be where I am today. I must state that my minimalist journey is not over. I see it as a long term project that I can adapt and adopt to suit and enhance my life. 

How about you? Has decluttering, downsizing or changing your career/life plan enhanced your life for the better? I'd love to hear from you.



Simple Storage: Shoes in the Hallway

With two sons in our household a tidy hallway has always been a whimsy. Their tiny toddler shoes were cute lined up in the hall but their hefty size 10 school shoes and trainers have less appeal. We have tried various shoe storage systems in the past but none have simultaneously ticked the practical and presentable boxes. And getting the boys to actually use any system has been a disaster.

When we moved here last year we were delighted to gain a bigger through hallway for the first time. Out went the cream carpet and in came a hard wearing alternative. We spent a long time researching and discussing a small storage solution for shoes. We found several bespoke options but they were too expensive. 

Thinking outside the box we considered home living storage units instead as an alternative to standard shoe storage options. Unfortunately Ikea's Expedit was outruled because it didn't fit the designated space, a corner at the bottom of the stairs. Looking around for something similar we found a smaller version from a popular catalogue merchant. It fits the space perfectly and this unit has a useful back unlike Expedit. 

We have a fairly disciplined approach to limiting the number of shoes in each cubbyhole. Two or three pairs will fit but one pair looks better. Our other shoes are stored in our wardrobes.  

I think this unit works well as shoe storage because it's simple, neat and easy to use and the shoes can't be seen from the front door. Also, it's not obvious that this is a shoe storage unit. This corner of the hall is quite dark so the lamp and lantern bring a bit of colour even when they're not lit.

This storage unit was very reasonably priced but what is priceless is that finally we have a shoe storage system that the boys use. And it's almost made to measure because the height of a cubby is just right for my favourite ankle boots.



52 Weeks of Happy (34/52)

Gosh 34 weeks. There's been some recent discussion about the challenge of this regular spot. I must admit I've had weeks when it's been hard either because of life being less than rosy or simply too busy. But I've stuck with it because of the reason I was first attracted to it - life is happier when you count your blessings and you accept your lot. The hardest part is having the photos to match those moments because sometimes it's just one conversation, one song, one moment, one yummy morsel, one kind act or simply one feeling that can shift your mood. So thanks Jen for this inspiring series and I for one can't let it go.

These are the moments, conversations and feelings that have made me happy this week. Let me share.

♥ Our friend's birthday party. Life is for celebrating whatever your age!
♥ "When can I have my hair cut?" An unexpected request from my fourteen year old. Is this the same child who had to be dragged to the barbers?
♥ May. Yes it's been cold, grey and wet but the longer evenings and occasional blue skies are wonderful.
♥ The expectation of half-term. A chance to break free of routine and dance to a different tune. I plan to read this book before I see it at the cinema.

Be happy xo




Hello. A quick post today. I've just got in from the first session of a new community choir being set up by our local Arts organisation. We already have a performance lined up at a local music festival in July. No cost, no auditions and no requirement to read music. Just an opportunity to join with others, enjoy learning new songs, pick up some singing tips and have some fun. I've learnt so much in one evening and have had a great time. Singing songs by Emeli Sandé, Jessie J, Take That and Labi Siffre amongst others is great for the soul and mood. I love singing but wouldn't normally think about joining a choir so this was an opportunity not to be missed. 

How about you? Any choir members out there?



An Evening Stroll

Early this evening the sun popped out and I decided to head off to our nearby woods. Just me, my camera and my thoughts. My only company was the sound of the breeze, the snap of twigs and evening bird call. Winding path after winding path led me past swathes of bluebells. These are the same woods I took my new camera to when I had first had it in February. I haven't been here since the bluebells came out and I was in awe. The light in these woods is magical. 

On my way back I was mesmerised by the masses of dandelions. I must admit I dawdled home and took a detour past a nearby stream in search of some restful water. Sometimes it's just so good to be alone and get away from it all. I couldn't help but feel for this mama duck and her brood of eight.



Minimalist Monday: The Maxi Dress

Nothing new here... but the number one item in my 2013 spring/summer minimalist wardrobe is my new maxi dress. Figure hugging formal dresses make me feel anxious and body conscious but the floatiness of a maxi dress feels liberating and lets me connect with my inner boho goddess. In a maxi dress I can feel glamorous but also relaxed.

A maxi dress can transport you, whatever your age or size, to a dreamy fashion heaven where the size of your bum or muffin top are a distant memory. And you don't even have to shave your legs! Best worn with flats, you can feel relaxed whatever the occasion, a glamorous onesie if there is such a thing. 

My biggest fear with a minimalist wardrobe is that I've got nothing to wear feeling for a big night out. With a May birthday party looming I decided to treat myself to a new maxi dress knowing it would be my go-to outfit for any nights out or summer events over the next three months. I will wear it to my friend's May birthday party, on holiday, for our July wedding anniversary and to any other summer occasions that are blessed with good weather. My minimalist wardrobe has to be versatile and hard wearing but I also need an easy but celebratory outfit for special occasions. And if I love it who cares how many times I wear it? This is a definite change of attitude for me, having the confidence to wear an outfit over and over again.

So, how do you style a maxi dress? 

It's up to you, really. Flats definitely, although wedges/heels also work. I think maxi dresses can leave you feeling a little Mumsy or frumpy so a belt can add definition and reference your figure. I'm not that comfortable wearing belts normally but I think they work with a maxi. And cardigans, wraps and jackets can also help with cool summer evenings. 

So, grab a maxi dress and go go summer!

My outfit: 
dress – M&S
sandals – 3 years old, local boutique
necklace – charity shop
belt – charity shop

Any maxi dress lovers out there or do they leave you feeling frumpy?



Signs of Growth

Not only is it the weekend but it's also the RHS Chelsea Flower Show next week. Double yay!

Every year I get glued to the daily updates from the horticultural haven that blooms each year at Chelsea. This image, The Caravan Club's Celebration of Caravanning Garden by Jo Thompson, is from last year's show. 

Not only is it Chelsea's 100th anniversary this year but there will be also a garden by Prince Harry's charity Sentebale which will reflect the Prince's experience of loosing his Mum. Sentebale is a charity which helps vulnerable children many of whom are orphans, in Lesotho, an African country which Prince Harry visited during his gap year. I can't wait to see it and the other gardens on Monday.

Have any of you ever visited this show? I'd love to hear about it.

Have a happy weekend xo

image via pinterest



Simple Storage: The Downstairs Loo

Just a quick tour of our downstairs loo. Spacious as these rooms go and quite a stark space it needed a bit of character. We've reinvented a Benno CD tower as open shelving in one corner, added a fishing basket which holds a lot of loo rolls and put my letterpress tray on the wall. There's a few quirky extras which don't serve any purpose but which I quite like and don't seem to make the space seem cluttered.