10 Tips To Spring Clean Your Office

As spring turns to summer and the temperature starts to rise, it can be uncomfortable working indoors and, since many of us are now required to do exactly that, it is a great time to spring clean your office or workspace and get it prepared for the warmer weather. You really don’t want to be rooting through endless paperwork to find vital statistics when you’re close to a meltdown!

Workspace with desk and lamp

How to spring clean your office

Here are some simple steps you can take which will make you more organised and a little healthier too!

1.  Clear out old paperwork and shred confidential documents.

But don’t forget that some documents need to be kept for tax purposes.  HMRC says that records must be kept for at least 5 years after the 31 January submission deadline of the relevant tax year and they may also check your records to make sure you are paying the right amount of tax.  I like to keep a hard copy print out of my records to be on the safe side.

2. Invest in some new files.

Even though many documents can be stored on your Google drive or in Microsoft Excel spreadsheets on your desktop, you may still need to keep hard copy documentation of items such as invoices and statements (see 1. above!).

You may as well have pretty files that you enjoy using – or at least ones strong enough to withstand regular use.

3.  Improve the air quality

Believe it or not, there are actually house plants it is almost impossible to kill.  I have to confess my track record isn’t exactly impressive but you can improve your indoor air quality with them.

Plants absorb some of the particulates from the air at the same time that they take in carbon dioxide which is then turned into oxygen through photosynthesis.

You could try Spider Plants, Weeping Fig or Peace Lilies to name a few.

If your tastes are more esoteric, you could try a Himalayan Salt lamp which will also cleanse and deodorize the air.

And of course, a decent desk fan will work wonders in the heat.

4. Invest in some VELUX blinds to block out the sun

Not only will decent blinds help keep you cool, but removing the glare of sunlight from your workstation will stop you squinting at the screen and getting a headache.

Giving your windows a thorough clean both inside and out will help too.

In addition, you can get an anti-glare screen for your computer which will help make reading easier.

5. Keep hydrated

Make sure you have a good supply of fresh water to hand and if you are fuelled by coffee perhaps invest in a one cup coffee maker.  Try to incorporate water-rich foods into your snacks and lunches – salad, fruits and vegetables.

6.  Disinfect!

Thoroughly disinfect your keyboard and your phones which can harbour more germs and bacteria than the average toilet seat!

keyboard and glasses

7.  Use visual aids

If you are a visual person, why not include a noticeboard for planning or a whiteboard for scribbling down your flashes of inspiration.

Some like to have their vision board in front of them – a wishlist of their hopes, dreams, ambitions and goals. The theory is that by having these things in front of you, you are more likely to manifest them in real life.

8. Reduce, re-use, recycle

Make sure you have an adequate sized bin.  We have 2, the second being for recyclable material (all the Amazon packaging!) and don’t forget you can recycle the shredded paper from your shredder too (great as bedding for mice and hamsters!).

Gradually the aim should be to move to a completely paperless office but most of us aren’t quite there yet.

9.  Protect your health

You could also think about wrist and ankle supports if you are going to be spending a lot of time typing to avoid conditions such as Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI).

Most importantly, make sure you get regular screen breaks to rest your eyes and get up and walk about every 45 minutes or so.

My physio says he would not dream of sitting down for longer than this at a stretch if he could possibly help it.

Many doctors consider sitting to be the new smoking and recently leading doctor Sir Muir Gray caused controversy by claiming that Type 2 Diabetes is caused simply by lack of exercise.

10. Spring clean your work bag

It’s also worth carrying a mini-kit of essentials with you to help stay cool and fresh throughout the day.

Make sure your workspace meets your needs and is a pleasant place to work.  After all, you will be spending the bulk of your time there and, for most of us, far longer than we spend with our families unless you are lucky enough to work from home.

Some employers frown upon personal items such as family photos so you may have to restrict your self-expression to funky stationery and a cactus that reminds you of your boss!

*collaborative post with VELUX

Keep Your Family Healthy This Spring

We have survived another dank and dismal UK winter and are heading towards spring. Just the word lifts the spirits.  We start to think of brighter, lighter days and evenings with the promise of summer warmth and lazing on beaches in the sun. But now that the kids are back at school and with colds and flu about, how do you keep your family healthy?

Family outside in a garden sitting on a log - how to keep your family healthy

Rather than stress yourself out by making wholesale changes, try subtle tweaks to your routine to gradually improve everyone’s health – including your own.

Here are some great ways to improve your health as a family.

Get outside together and make the most of the daylight

Did you know that in the UK we get most of our Vitamin D from sunlight exposure from late March to the end of September?

Vitamin D helps our bodies to absorb calcium and phosphate from our diet, minerals which are important for healthy bones, teeth and muscles.

We make sure we take the kids out for a brisk weekend walk through our local woods, to our nearby beaches (usually Penarth) or Cosmeston nature reserve.

But make sure you use sunscreen

Many skin experts agree that THE most important thing we can do to protect our skin against ageing is to use sunscreen.

And we know how vital it is to protect our little ones’ skin against the power of the sun. The NHS advises that children under 6 months should be kept out of direct strong sunlight and that, from March to October in the UK children should cover up with suitable clothing and spend time in the shade (particularly from 11am to 3pm) and wear a sunscreen of at least SPF15.

In fact, Cancer Research UK says that getting painful sunburn, just once every 2 years, can triple your risk of melanoma skin cancer.

Early nights

We’ve always tried to maintain a regular bedtime routine for the kids (around 7:30 pm) which is just as important now that they are 9 and 7 as it was when they were babies.

Things tend to lapse during school holidays though but even then 8:30 pm tends to be the latest as the kids are grumpy and tired the next day.

We try to limit screen time before bed because research shows that it affects our sleep patterns, making it harder to drop off.

And the kids still have a drink of milk which, even if the jury is still out on whether the tryptophan it contains actually helps you sleep, has the effect of signalling it’s time to relax and switch off.

Strawberries in a kilner jar - keep your family healthy

Eat fresh and organic

We’ve all heard this a million times and it is basic, common sense advice.  Many people feel that organic food is overpriced and there certainly seems to be a noticeable price hike on produce such as organic berries.

To make the most of our food budget it’s worth remembering that some organic fruits and vegetables are worse than others for containing pesticide residue – according to the campaigning charity Pesticide Action Network (PAN UK).

It all depends on the farming methods used so they advise switching to organic for the food most affected by chemicals and sticking with the standard versions of the least affected if budget is an issue.

So which fruits and vegetables should we always consider buying organic?  You can find a helpful list in this article from The Telegraph newspaper published in November 2015.

Protect young tummies with probiotics

There’s nothing worse than an outbreak of the dreaded sickness bug and one simple way you can help your children’s immune systems strong and hopefully keep the bugs away is to give them a probiotic.

These are live bacteria and yeasts in the form of a food supplement or yoghurt drink and are promoted as having various health benefits.

Probiotics are also thought to help restore the natural balance of bacteria in the gut when it has been disrupted by an illness or treatment.

As yet,  the NHS says there is little evidence to support many of the health claims made for them but I give Caitlin and Ieuan a probiotic every morning on the basis that it is unlikely to harm them and if it saves me having to swab down the bathroom – great!

Make drinking water interesting

We know that drinking water is vital for our health.  According to the National Hydration Council, kids should be drinking anywhere between 1.6 litres (ages 4-8) up to 2.1 litres (ages 9-13) a day. Note that this amount is water from drinks and food and includes milk, vegetable and fruit juices and plain unsweetened drinks.

As adults, we should be drinking around 2.5 litres a day for men and 2.0 litres for women.

We try to stay away from highly sweetened drinks and choose no added sugar squashes but we also serve up a jug of water at mealtimes to which we sometimes add ice and chopped fruits like strawberry slices and lemon.

We also try to bribe the kids with funky water bottles and glasses.

Lemon tea in a glass

We’ve found if we drink it, the kids are more likely to join in.  As they say you have to model the behaviour you want to see.

As you can see, there are loads of small changes you can make to get your family healthier without breaking the bank.  You can find some great ideas in this book by TV doctor Dr. Rangan Chatterjee or check out this post from The Mamma Fairy for more tips on keeping the family in the peak of health.

It’s also a good idea to make sure that the family’s medicine chest is fully stocked with everything you might need for minor injuries and illnesses.  We’ve usually got a bottle of Calpol stashed away and a job lot of plasters!

And remember the healing power of oxytocin, also known as the ‘love hormone’ which is released whenever we share a hug.

That’s an easy one, isn’t it?  What are your best tips to keep your family healthy?

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Keep your family healthy this spring with these simple tips

 

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Key Spring Interior Design Trends For Your Home

This Spring, say hello to geometrics and exotic motifs.

Spring is finally here and with it the feeling that better weather is about to come, and with that, Summer! Colour, pattern, and plants are the key to giving your house a new look to welcome the season.

Spring flowers in a white pot on a wooden table

There is a whole new generation of graphic artists taking the design world by storm right now, and they are drawing upon influences that range from geometrics and primary colours to the 80s design movements. Think pop-art, and colours.

When it comes to colour a favourite trend of 2017 is the rise of rich jewel tones. These jewel tones go hand in hand with soft pastel colours. Vibrant greens, purples and ruby reds mixed with soft pinks and blues.

Pastel shades are a great way of introducing subtle colour into a room, they’re brilliantly minimalistic and set the tone for a Bohemian, Romantic style. If pastels aren’t your thing you can always for the bold side and choose earthy colours like powdery pink, terracotta, sand, ochre, or olive green. They will give a great exotic feel to the room and will go great with spring trends.

They provide a great way to introduce subtle colour into muted schemes, so they work brilliantly in minimalist, Scandinavian-inspired homes where brighter shades might jar. They’re both warming and calming, and they look wonderful offset against neutrals. They’re incredibly versatile, too: you could start small by introducing a few earth-coloured ceramics, or go bolder and paint the walls. The mood is all about fun and glamorous escapism.

Introducing Geometric Patterns

To meet the geometric trends of 2017 spring here are a few easy additions to the home that will change the feel without too much hassle.

Two geometric shaped mirrors hanging on a wall

I particularly like these geometric mirrors by Lisa Angel. With a minimalistic geometric design, they provide the perfect start to a spring refresh. These hexagonal mirrors can be easily hung in your living room by their attached sting and are available in multiple sizes. Plus, their simple design means you won’t have to change up your room massively to accommodate it.

Glossy black table and chairs in a dining room

If you’re looking for a bolder geometric piece to add to your home, consider lighting. For example something like this statement lamp by Fabbian which comes both with or without suspension and is a great way to add some personality into the room.

Suspension lamps are back, and personally, I find they tend to give more style to a room than surface-mounted lamps. This design, in particular, is a bit pricey but there are plenty of luxury lamps to choose from at LampCommerce.

 Exotic and Botanical Themes

This is another favourite spring trend because it is bringing some great patterns with it, I’m especially excited by the Banana Leaf Patterns. I absolutely love tropical wallpapers. I think, when used properly and only for details, they can really change a room massively by brightening it up and giving it life.

Choose a wallpaper that has colour, but be careful with a heavy pattern. Bold choices can be good for a while but a simpler design with fewer colours or less clutter will last longer.

Banana leaf wallpaper detail over a wooden bed with white bedding

If you don’t want to change your walls but like the pattern, why not frame it and hang it in your living room? Or consider instead pillows. Pillows are a great way to contrast colours, especially in living rooms.

There are plenty of Banana Leaf Design pillows to choose from in vtwonen and Etsy and come in different sizes and patterns. Framed patterns or pillows are a great quick and easy change to make to your home decor which will make your room feel new without making an entire project out of it.

White sofa with green banana leaf detail cushions in a living room

A tip I would say is keep to a simple palette with accents, but be brave with texture and layering. Remember, you don’t have to make massive changes to your home to give a spring makeover.

Collaboration with Max Lami

Quick Ways To Upgrade Your Home This Spring

It’s Spring and there’s nothing like the reappearance of sunlight to make everything in your home look a little, well, drab.

All those DIY jobs you’ve been putting off start to gain an urgency – painting the skirting boards, fixing that leaking tap, repainting, mending curtains. Our list is already quite long – and that’s without including the garden!

But there are some quick ways you can freshen up your space without spending a fortune and add some of those finishing touches that make a house a home.

Here are some ideas you might want to try.

* Repaint – but if you are renting you might want to follow these tips to avoid upsetting your landlord!

* Display family photos – you could create a photo wall or mix and match frames.

* Change the curtains – perhaps ring the changes by swopping to a roller or Venetian blind.

* Create a cosy corner to read in by adding an armchair to your bedroom.

* You can also add character to your bedroom with bedding in different textures, colours and fabrics.

* Hang String lights –  pretty at any time of year. Stuff strings of battery operated lights into glass vases to add a cosy glow to corners and mantle pieces or drape over the kitchen or your bed to add some atmosphere.

* Match soft furnishings – it’s amazing how soft furnishings such as cushions, throws, rugs, lampshades and curtains can brighten a room and complement the interior design of your property. While vibrant colours such as red, green, pink, purple and light blue work well against plain décor, blacks, greys and creams can also look stunning in a minimalist environment.

Once you’ve got an idea of what colours work well together, you can then start getting creative in each room giving each part of your home a different style and twist. You don’t have to spend a fortune. You can make such a difference with soft furnishings such as throws and cushions.

We recently discovered the Yorkshire Fabric Shop, an online retailer of upholstery fabric, where we selected this lovely plush large cushion in a soft shimmering grey – Geneva Luxury Fabric Crushed Velvet Cushion In Silver Colour. It’s a great size and beautifully made.

Caitlin with cushion from Yorkshire Fabric Shop
I suspect Caitlin has laid claim to my new cushion!

Based in West Yorkshire, Yorkshire Fabric Shop has a warehouse full of upholstery fabrics suitable for sofas, chairs, cushions, boats, beds and whatever else you can imagine. They have 1000’s of fabrics rolls in stock and also offer free samples to help you decide on what type or shade of fabric you need before you commit to buy anything. You can also visit their warehouse if you are nearby.

As you can see there is a wealth of fabric choices available.

Yorkshire Fabric Shop fabric options

and we liked the helpful cushion finder.  You can choose from pre-made cushions or select your own fabric and have them handmade.

 

Yorkshire Fabric Shop cushion finder

 

I tell the Husband regularly that you can never have too many cushions.  He doesn’t believe this but I am working on him.

Cushions come in 4 sizes – small (28cm x 28cm), medium (43cm x 43cm), rectangle (50cm x 30cm) and large (55cm x 55cm). Prices are around £45 for a small and £65 for a large.

Each cushion has a handmade reversible cover with a zip and a cushion insert filling made from hollow fibre.  You can have up to 6 free fabric samples before you order and you can also buy the same fabric by the metre.

If you want to change the look and feel of your home’s soft furnishings, you’ll definitely find some new ideas to upgrade your home here.

*PR Collaboration

Tips To Get Your Home Ready For Spring

Whilst I really love Christmas, I always let out a sigh of relief when all the Christmas decorations have been taken down and packed away for another year. If you’re like me, you’ll be looking for spring cleaning tips to get your home ready for the new season and praying for the rapid return of the sun.

Spring blossom in the trees - spring cleaning tips from Kilrock and Mother Distracted

Once the tree and baubles have been put away, the house looks bare, a bit unloved and, if you’ve got kids, possibly ever so slightly grubby!

Time to grab a coffee and draw up a plan of action – and I’ve lots of ideas from cleaning product specialists, Kilrock, to point you in the right direction.

So where to start?

These are my ‘grubby hotspots’ which usually need tackling first.

Spring cleaning tips

The Bathroom

Attack the bathroom with a product such as Blast Away Mould – in spray or gel format, which is ideal for ridding door and window seals, shower units, bathrooms, sinks and WCs of mould and mildew. You can use it on plastic furniture too.

If the bath or sink are running sluggishly and have become clogged with yucky hair, try Kil-Block Drain Unblocker which is a powerful, fast-acting, multi-purpose drain and plughole unblocker.

Now is also a good time to chuck threadbare towels and flannels and replace them with some fresh new linen in bright spring colours.  Giving each member of the family their own colour flannel is a good idea too – and stops arguments!

Whilst you’re at it, why not replace frayed toothbrushes and chuck any toothbrush mugs in the dishwasher.  Electric toothbrush heads can also be replaced.

I like to splash out on some fancy French soap – anything from Roger & Gallet is heaven.

If you want to go a bit “Marie Kondo” (from the cult decluttering book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying“), you should throw out anything that does not “spark joy”.

That should include all those half used bottles of shampoo, face creams which just don’t do the job, all those hotel toiletries you convinced yourself you’d use and those bath gels you hate the smell of.

With a bit of love and care your bathroom can be more hygge.

interior shot of lounge and hallway - spring cleaning tips

The Kitchen

The kitchen is really the heart of the home yet it can often appear quite unloved (and grimy!).

Attack those surfaces and worktops with an effective, multi-purpose product like Bar Keepers Friend – a specialist, multi-surface cleaner that cuts through grease, grime, rust, and stains to give gleaming results every time. You can use it on steel, ceramics, copper, brass, chrome, glass and more.

Descale your kettle, coffee machine and iron with a product such as Kilrock-K Multi Purpose descaler which will totally clear heavily scaled appliances in minutes. You can also use it on your shower head.

Talking of coffee machines, you should make sure that yours is SCAA -certified – particularly if you like your coffee to have maximum flavour.

Clear out any out of date food and leftovers which are unlikely to be used from the fridge and give it a thorough wipe down.

Put a date in your diary to defrost the freezer and make a note to start using up the food you have in there.  Using your freezer correctly can save you pounds!

For example, chicken can be frozen for up to 9 months but bacon only lasts a month.

Emptying all the bins and adding a fresh bunch or two of Daffodils also works wonders so that your kitchen is ready for entertaining, should your friends or family pop by.

The Bedrooms

Start by stripping the beds and vacuuming the mattresses to get rid of dust mites.  This is particularly important when you or your little ones have allergies.

Next, check that your mattress protectors are up to the job and actually cover the mattress. If your mattress is over 8 years old, the advice is that is should be replaced and my recommendation would be the SIMBA – the most comfortable mattress I’ve slept on!

Check that your pillows are not damp or mildewed and that they have their own protectors.  The Sleep Council advises that pillows should be replaced at least every two years.

Tidy up your bedding by storing a double sheet and pillowcases inside a double duvet cover so that everything is altogether.  I’ve wasted hours trying to find the right bedding.

If bedrooms are damp, you could try Damp Clear Moisture Trap which is an effective, hassle-free solution for the removal of excessive moisture. It protects against mould, mildew and damp, combats musty odours, lasts three months and is refillable.

Kilrock manufactures problem solving household products many of which are firm favourites among British households and motorhome owners. Available, variously, at Robert Dyas, Lakeland, John Lewis, B & Q, Homebase, independent homeware stores or www.kilrock.co.uk.

Selection of Kilrock Cleaning Products - spring cleaning tips

The Garden

There is plenty to do in the garden at this time of year and now is the time to tackle those really big tasks you don’t want to be wrestling with in the heat of summer.  As well as planting and pruning, it’s time to take a look at any trees which need cutting back or even removing. The Local Tree Experts can advise.

What are your best spring cleaning tips for getting your home gleaming?

Spring comes to Gaviscon Towers

Somebody has apparently moved Spring. After the Biblical flooding parts of the UK suffered this year, at least we can show a modicom of British-style happiness now that the sun has appeared (even in Cardiff). 

This happiness is chiefly demonstrated by a celebratory visit to Homebase and hosing down the barbecue. But I have spent the last few weeks being confused as to when the first day of Spring is. Today is the Spring Equinox and I’m pretty sure it’s today and not, as the Daily Mail (with its general reliance on research carried out by Brian, the Confused.Com robot), claims the 1st of March. Sadly, many people don’t know their equinox from their Ultravox.  Less a case of understanding science and more a case of “goodnight Vienna”.  I haven’t seen Midge Ure on the TV for ages but the last time I did he was sporting a beard and grizzling slightly about his role in the Band Aid video.  Happy days.

Ieuan & I in full combat mode in the Millennium Centre, Cardiff

I have to say, though, my science knowledge is dreadfully rusty. Yes I know I could google it, but that takes the fun out of it, doesn’t it? Plus you miss the opportunity to wind the kids up royally. This week, for example, Caitlin has asked me how condensation works (it hangs around on window panes and creates mold on netting) and whether ducks eat yoghurt (obviously not because you wouldn’t get a webbed foot in a Muller Yoghurt pot, particularly the corner bit with the fruit puree). 

And, I have not been feeling all that well. As the clock ticks down to my 50th, I appear to be collecting a new raft of physical ailments which will fully justify, come 28th May, taking to my bed in a starched Victorian nightdress, wafting an embroidered hanky at all and sundry and demanding, alternatively, gruel, smelling salts and my tonic (Amaretto or Baileys, since you’re asking). The family will be photographed looking suitably glum at 4 o’clock every Sunday huddled in our bijou sitting room, where the husband will sport a tweed suit, fob watch and monocle. Letters of sympathy will be written and the 1812 Overture will be played on the gramophone to cheer everyone up.  (How can you go wrong with cannons?).  

The Sybil (my walking companion and font of vast tomes of slightly odd information), has already told me to get a grip and that I’m lucky not to be in a far greater state of decay at my age.  Which is nice. I think I will have to recover, not just for the family but because if there is one substance which fills me with dread and makes me heave just thinking of it, it’s Gaviscon. Actually, I’m amazed nobody has named their son that yet. Sounds a bit French.   

As they say though,  it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.  Particularly mine.