Monday, 26 March 2018

10 Questions to ask before you move in together

Moving in with a partner can be as exciting as it is daunting. You will both have expectations of what living with your boyfriend/girlfriend is going to be like, different experiences of family homes whilst growing up, and different habits that you display within the home, which aren't always as positive as we would like to think. At the same time you are about to get a space you can truly call your own, with one of your favourite people by your side there every day. Having moved in with my partner in October, there are a lot of things we discussed prior to moving in together, and a lot of things that we probably should have discussed which have come out in petty arguments since!

  1. Will we be renting or buying?
    Buying was not a realistic option for us when we moved in together as we both had too much debt to consider getting a mortgage, let alone getting a deposit together. What we should have discussed is when would we like to buy? so that we could put a plan together for that. 

  2. How long will we be renting for? / Do we need furnished?
    Furnishing an entire property can add a few thousand pounds to renting, but also opens up your options of where you are looking, and how much you are paying. Have a think about how long you are going to be in the property and if it is worth getting furniture for that amount of time. I want to move across the country within the next 2 years, so a 12-month lease that came furnished allowed us that flexibility. 

  3. Where are we going to live?
    With many people this is a straight-forward answer, however neither me or my partner have any ties to the city we live in, or know many people in the area, so we were pretty flexible with where we were going to look for houses, but still had to consider things like my commute to work, accessibility for public transport, and distance to our parents home (I like to be no more than 90 minutes drive from my home town). We also had to consider the area of the city and neighbourhood. 

  4. Do we have any requirements (pets/parking etc)
    I was very insistent that wherever we moved had a garden, a bath,  parking for my car, and would accept my pets. Other than these things I didn't care if I lived in a shed or a mansion. It is likely that you and your partner have different ideas about what you are looking for in your new home, so make sure that you have a list of features your new place "has to have" before arranging any viewings.

  5. What kind of place?
    This is where you get to consider whether you really wouldn't mind  if you ended up in a shed or a mansion. I think both me and my partner both knew deep down  that we wanted a house rather than a flat or shared accommodation, but in the end this wasn't one of our main concerns when looking. 

  6. How much space? How will we divide this?
    I have learned from my mistakes in the past, and am well aware that I need copious amounts of space to put my copious amounts of stuff. When living in a house share I burst out of my room and into the communal living area with all of my belongings just because I needed storage. I knew what I needed for my belongings, and knew that I wanted space to grow into my environment. We essentially needed at least one spare room just for me.

  7. How are we going to split the cost?
    Moving house is expensive. The deposit and first months rent alone can be more than the average annual salary, and that is without considering any estate agent fees, or 'basics' that you may need for the house. Knowing who is paying for what before committing to moving or signing papers can really help prevent any arguments at this stage, and help you negotiate who gets what back at the end of the tenancy.

  8. How do we split bills? Will it be a 50/50 split, or will one of you be paying more towards this than the other? this can be an important question to ask before moving in, and it is worth thinking about how the dates of the bills work alongside your paydays and whether this will impact your ability to contribute (It is worth noting that most direct debits can be moved if you contact the company). You should also consider the "hidden bills" such as food, toiletries and cleaning products for the home, Netflix and broadband subscriptions, or insurances which will be bought for you both to benefit from.
  9. Who will cook? Clean? Take the bins out? Splitting the chores is usually one of the top causes of arguments in any shared house, and just because you may be moving in with the love of your life it will be no different. It is worth having a conversation about what level of clean you expect the house to be kept in and which jobs you agree to do before you move in, but also expect negotiations along the way. There may also have to be times where the 50/50 split is more like a 90/10, but that's just part of human relationships.
  10. What is your routine?Whether you work completely different hours, one of you works away, or simply one of you is a morning person whilst the other is a night owl, knowing each others routine is important before you move in. This prevents arguments about the simple things like when you want to go to bed, take a two-hour bath and binge watch friends, have some "you time", or even have the girls over. Plus, you can use your routines to schedule some time together each week and plan activities.
Since moving in with my boyfriend I have found making compromise to some of my routines has been tough, and we have had our fair share of arguments (mostly about things I find stupid) along the way I wouldn't change the last few months of my life for anything. Getting it right can be tough, but with a little conversation about the important things it can definitely be worth every second. 


Friday, 16 March 2018

How to detox your lifestyle

To quote Mean Girls, "When you get bit by a snakeyou have to suck out all the poison, that's what I had to do, suck all the poison out of my life”. Okay, so maybe that is a little over-dramatic, but it is not uncommon to find that most models of change begin with removing the ‘poison’. Diets often begin with detoxes, financial plans start by eliminating your bad debt, and lifestyle changes start with your environment. It makes sense, not only are there loads of benefits of having a ‘clean start’ (but I’ll go into that later) but what we don’t realise is that in making change it is not all about making positive steps forward, it is also about eliminating our bad habits, and sometimes that is much harder.
Kate loves blog - Mindfulness - Fresh Start

The first thing I would recommend everyone doing is having a really good spring clean. Yes, that may seem dull, and you are going to be even less enthusiastic when I tell you that I mean cleaning everything. Focus on your living environment as if the queen is paying you a visit. Take a day or two to blast loud music while you clean, and again ensure that you organise everything, go through every drawer, file every receipt. At the same time, if you are a bit of a hoarder like I am then try to clear out some things that you no longer use or need, such as clothes that you no longer wear.

Trust me, I’m not just trying to bore you all with this. There is some logic as to why cleaning your environment will help you in achieving your goals. Sounds daft, but whilst scrubbing away the dirt in the house, it is symbolic of also scrubbing away the negative parts of your life that you wish to change, seeing the clean home after your hard work makes the changes feel achievable. You also see the areas that you are hiding away when you are forced to clean everything. There are guaranteed to be jobs that you have been putting off for so long that you have forgotten that they even need doing, and as you do these jobs and methodically work through what you need to get done you will begin to feel more in control of your life. Finally, the most obvious benefit of this is your ability to function in a clean environment will be much greater than in clutter. It is easier to maintain, you have more space to think, and you’re spending way less time digging for your keys in the morning.

Most people follow the same, or similar routines every single day of their lives. We shop in the same stores, take the same routes to and from work, talk to the same people, watch the same TV shows – and then wonder why things in our lives aren’t changing when we want them to. Now, I am not going to say you need to be up at 4am and heading to the gym because this post is all about cleaning up bad habits, not creating new ones (yet).

Take a moment to have a look at your routine on an average week – write it down or plan out a schedule in an app or a diary if it helps, I use this weekly planner to help me. This will show you the amount of time that you are spending on activities that are not going to be helpful for achieving your goals, but also shows you an indication of how much free time you have. It may be that you have very little spare time each week that you are going to be able to utilise when you do add in your new behaviours, which will mean that you need to be very strict and organised to get things done. It may even highlight that you are spending time on activities that are not going to benefit your goals which you could better use. For example, if you spend an hour per day cooking you may be able to save time by bulk-cooking on your day off. If you spend two evenings per week in the pub you may be able to spend some of that time doing a sport together or spend some of the time working towards one of your goals.

Everybody will have heard the expression “Healthy body, healthy mind”. Whilst you are cleaning up your environment it is also important to look at your own personal health. It may be that you feel you live a pretty sedentary lifestyle or that your diet is not particularly great, and if this is the case it is likely to be having more of an impact on your life and wellbeing than you realise. Food and nutrition can massively influence your physical and mental health, but again, we aren’t talking making massive changes here.

You’ll want to monitor everything that you currently do. Keeping a log of what you are eating and exercise either in a book or on an app will show you what you are taking in on a regular week. I used a fitbook to show my exercise and eating habits, and it helped to show me the small changes I could make. By doing this while you are on the go means you won’t miss any sneaky snacks through the day. You may notice that you are not drinking enough water, or that you are eating too much convenience food and you can use this to identify where you want to improve, and then make small steps to changing your diet by removing the negatives. Think ‘clean’ when you are making your changes, and try to swap out any unhealthy foods in your diet for a healthier option that is as similar as possible  - In my first week of “eating healthy” I removed all fast-food, sweets, and convenience meals from what I was eating, and tried to make home-cooked versions on my own, and tried to make sure that I wasn’t skipping meals anymore. it doesn't have to be difficult either, I used the Jamie Oliver 5 Ingredient Meal book to help give me some quick and easy ideas. Within 3 days I was feeling healthier and more energetic!

What a lot of people don’t realise is that trying to remove negative habits takes as much motivation and energy as it does to start new and healthy activities in our lives, and that our usual strategy of trying to do everything at one time can be overwhelming for us, which is why we often fail in our goals. By taking the time to “spring clean” our lives before trying to make any big changes it means there is space in our lives for these new activities, we have less conflicting behaviours that may lead to failure, and we can see positive changes in our lives already making us more motivated to take on the world.


Tuesday, 13 March 2018

26 things I want to do in my 26th year

Today is my 26th Birthday! (I'm working, grumpy, and feeling sorry for myself). Rather than write my usual post about things I have learned through my life, I thought I would look forward and list things that I want to achieve over the next year or so. So, here is my 26 things I would like to achieve over the next year.

Love kate blog - lifestyle - goals

Learn to cook 
I have gone on a bit of a health-kick lately and become really passionate about cooking everything from scratch where possible. From learning a few basic recipes and growing my knowledge I have realised that I'm not as bad of a cook as I thought I was. This year I would really like to expand on the dishes I can actually cook and try new things.

Develop my career
After a really tough few months at work I've spent some time looking at opportunities for training and progression. I would really like to be feeling like I have 'overcome the odds' and got to where I would like to be by the time my next birthday rolls around - not sulking at work like today. 

Pimp my Ride
I can't lie, my car is basically held together with will-power and some kind of black magic. It is really difficult to look professional rocking up in it in front of the young people that I work with, let alone in front of the anyone I need to give a good first impression to, and I am in constant fear of getting pulled 'cause I look like a boy racer. It NEEDS fixing. 

Find time to exercise 
Being a particularly anti-social child I was never one for team sports, gym class, or anything that involved sweating in front of others. I have never enjoyed sports or exercise, and find it really difficult to find time to fit it in to my schedule. Thankfully I have a bit of time free now to begin trying new things, and I can try to find an exercise that I enjoy and learn how to fit it into my schedule.  

Have a holiday
I haven't had a week in the sun in about 5 years. If I don't at least have one booked by this time next year I'm quitting life and going backpacking. 

Do something for charity 
I have always enjoyed giving back to charity, even at the times where the only thing I could afford to give was my time. I would love to find time in my routine to give back, do some voluntary work, or do some fundraising. 

Stop being a damn hermit
The thing with being an anti-social child, is that you grow up to be an anti-social adult. I have moved at least 60 miles from my nearest friends, and have made absolutely no effort to make any friends since being here (other than people I work with). I need to get out of the house and meet people, and stop making excuses. 

Decorate the house
We moved into a house last October, and to say it is basic is an understatement. The place was used as a shared student house for the last four years and was neither clean or pretty when we moved in. I have slowly been adding some personal touches, and after a very deep clean and something to cover the hideous sofas it is starting to look like home... now it just needs to be less beige. 

Just keep blogging
I have been on and off blogging for TEN years now! Wouldn't it be great if I actually stuck at it for once? I want to make sure that I commit to blogging regularly on here, and not changing my entire identity again any time soon! 

Write that book
Writing a book is something I have dreamed of doing since I was only in primary school. I used to write and illustrate my own stories in little hand-made books and give them to relatives instead of pictures (yes, I've always been a nerd). It wasn't until recently that I realized what I want to write about, and now I want to make my dream a reality. 

Learn to be on time
I am AWFUL at being on time, for anything. I mean, I manage to make it to work on time every day, but other than that you can guarantee that you will be waiting at least 15 minutes for me to do things. It isn't just meeting people either, I moved house and it took me six months to move my address on some of my cards and documents. I need to learn to manage my time, and stop keeping people (and things) waiting! 

Housetrain the boyfriend
I actually have a full post about this coming up, because living with a boy can be hard work! It annoys me how things that I see as important when living together don't seem to concern him in the slightest (and vice verca) but we have finally thought of a fun way to actually compromise on this - hopefully it works and I can stop picking up dirty socks off the bathroom floor... 

Take care of my health
I have finally got to the age where I need to have regular checkups, vaccinations, and tests just to keep my body ticking. It is finally time that I stopped swerving the doctors and started taking responsibility for my own health. 

Overcome a fear
My completely irrational fear of spiders is taking over parts of my life I didn't believe that it could, and working with young people who know that I'm completely terrified is like living in hell on earth. I need to take steps to overcome my fears, and eventually would like to brave the spider-walk in London Zoo. 

Take care of my skin
Again, part of that getting older process is taking its toll on my skin. I need to begin to look after my skin, wash away the waterproof mascara and clean my pores out before I hit the pillow after a long day at work, actually moisturize once in a while. Don't be expecting a full skincare regime any time soon, baby steps. 

Practice what I preach
I write so many self-help posts I never publish, and spend most of my day doing therapy sessions giving advice at work, yet rarely practice what I preach. To go along with my 'life change' blog series on here I have made it a golden rule that I practice what I write about. Not only will it help me sort my own life out, but it guarantees that I am giving everyone better advice... and I feel like less of a hypocrite telling people to eat healthy whilst I live on take-out. 

Read my backlog of books
I haven't found the time to read a book cover-to-cover in what feels like YEARS, yet it is something that I love doing and find incredibly relaxing. I want to have read every book in my house in the next year. Hopefully rekindle my love for reading again, and let me feel less guilty when people ask how I enjoyed books they bought me for birthdays back in 2013. 

Make the niece's blanket
When my niece was born I promised I would crochet a blanket. What I didn't mention is that all I had ever crocheted was a slightly wonky scarf and a rose in a tutorial. This year I will be refreshing my ability with a beginners crochet course, and finally giving my niece her long awaited blanket. 

Switch up my style
Honestly, if there is one thing I noticed whilst moving last year it is how old and dated my clothes are! I have always been the kind of person who puts practicality before style, but it never occurred to me that maybe the very comfy hoodie I had been wearing for the last decade weren't exactly fashionable anymore. I really want to sort through what I own, create a capsule wardrobe with a few new pieces, and give the rest to someone more needy.

Learn to live frugally
It isn't just my wardrobe I would like to slimline, it is my entire lifestyle! With some of the changes I have already made since moving into my own place last year I have had a big realisation just how wasteful I can be in some areas of my life. I want to learn to live on more of a strict budget, and to recycle and reuse things where possible. Plus, there's more chance to pick up a few new skills if I'm fixing and upcycling things. 

Donate blood
I haven't given blood in almost 3 years, but with the uk blood donation service crying out for certain blood types recently, I have made it a priority to get back in. Click here to book and donate. 

Learn to be more organised
I have a really bad habit of letting things get on top of me when I am stressed, and with a job that can only be described as 'intense' at times, my life is more often chaos than calm. I would like to start implementing some of the advice I learned from my mentor at university and start to have some more order to my life. 

Actually date my boyfriend
Sometimes, me and my boyfriend feel more like flatmates than a happy couple. We went three weeks recently where we had seen each other (both awake) for a grand total of 4 hours, and communicated in an inconsistent stream of texts and snapchats. With both of us working such weird hours it can be difficult to find time together, but I'd like to try to go on a date at least once a month... not just to review new places.

Keep moving forward 
I have been doing a lot of personal development and working closely with my life coach recently and have made some progress on a lot of personal issues that have been holding me back. I would like to continue to make time for myself to do this work each week to try and ensure that I keep moving forward. I don't ever want to go back. 

"every day is a school day". But seriously, there are so many things I want to learn this year. I want to be able to iron a shirt, to make meatballs just like my mum, to take decent blog pictures, to style my hair, to blend my foundation like a pro, to speak infront of people without losing my nerve. There are courses I want to do to improve my skills, courses I want to do to further my career. The only thing that keeps stopping me is me. 

Spend more time in nature
I grew up in the countryside and have always felt more like myself somewhere that I can escape and be with nature than in a busy city. I want to make an effort to spend more time out in nature over the next year, and hopefully get to see more of the beautiful county I decided to move to. 


Thursday, 8 March 2018

Knowing your 'True Self' and finding your purpose

I’m not gonna lie, I hear the word “Mindfulness” and my mind instantly flicks to images of yoga retreats in the mountains and whole-food dinners on Instagram. It is something that I have always associated with them unattainable lifestyle blogs, and never with me. It wasn’t until I decided I wanted to write a series of posts helping you guys transform your lives that I realised just how important mindfulness can be, and how it is something we all practice to some extent in our lives already. What’s even better, it is a skill we can practice that makes navigating through our hectic life easier (without becoming a slightly hippy-ish cliché).

So, recently I have had a lot of time on my hands to think. I decided I wanted to write this blog series on how to transform your life and find balance during this time, and spent several weeks researching and planning for these posts. There will be 10(ish) posts in the series full of information and activities for you to get involved in and, although they do follow a vague order, you will be able to dip in and out of them as you fancy. I am using my experience and knowledge of working with children in care to write the advice in these posts, but still need to make the disclaimer that If you are dealing with serious mental or physical health issues the advice within these posts may be unsuited to you and your needs - Please go and seek help from a professional or visit your GP. This being the first post, I’m focusing on the importance of knowing your true self before you try to make changes.

Kate loves blog - Mindfulness - True Self

By developing a true understanding of who you are, and what makes you tick, you begin to make better decisions on everything from small things like what to have for lunch, to big things like where you want to live. The problem a lot of us face is that we never take the time to sit and reflect on ourselves and learn who our “authentic self” really is. We effectively float through life making decisions based entirely on what is expected of us by others, or what we see those around us doing – which is part of the reason people say that we are a sum of the people we spend the most time with. You may find you get no real joy from your achievements or feel out of place in a position you have worked hard towards, because it is something that means nothing to you and your values as an individual.

I am as guilty of this as everybody else. All the way through my childhood I was very academic, and I thought the harder I worked then the more likely I would be to get into university and get a job that I wanted. I drifted into my A-level subjects, taking topics that my friends were taking, or that I thought looked easy. Because I was not passionate about the subjects I went from attending meetings about going to Oxbridge in my first year, to attending what had been my 5th choice “backup university” studying Psychology. I loved the experience of getting my degree and being a student and it is something I would not change for the world, but I would have made different choices had I been encouraged to actually reflect on what I wanted or to find my ‘authentic self’ rather than just applying because everybody else was.

Knowing how to discover your true self is a challenge. Not all of us can afford to have a gap year to “find ourselves” and it can take a lot of time - especially as you need to think of not only every area of your life how it is now, but also how it has been impacted by your history, choices, and relationships up to this point. I was incredibly lucky (if you can call it that?) and had two months that I was unable to work. I had a lot of time during this period to sit and contemplate just about everything.

Take stock of where you are
With a focus on the things in your life that you would like to change, have a think about where you are right now, and what set of decisions lead you to this moment. Notice during your thoughts that some decisions you have made in this area will have worked well for you, and others will not, and contemplate what has influenced your decisions in these areas.

There are many factors that can influence our decision making as we go through life, including our physical and mental health at the time of making the decision, our relationships with others, the expectations of our families and cultures. By becoming more aware of the things that may sway our decisions we can be more in control of whether we are making the decisions for our own needs, or for others.

What do you enjoy doing?
What are you passionate and interested in?
What do you want to try?
Who do you enjoy spending time with?
What time of day do you feel most motivated?

Most importantly… why?
It is these questions that make us all individuals and influence the ways our minds work. By finding what activities give us energy we understand what makes us happy.

Read books & take personality tests 
It seems almost too obvious to read about different personality traits and behaviours when you want to discover more about yourself.It is important to take what personality tests reveal with a 'pinch of salt', most are designed for a UK/American culture so may not be relevant if you are from a different culture, they're also usually trying to reduce the billions of people in the population into a limited number of 'categories' so you may not find a description that fits you perfectly. My favourite books for this are The 5 Love Languages and The 5 Personality Patterns.

Pay attention to your strengths and weaknesses
We are all completely individual and have our own strengths, weaknesses, and passions to bring to the table. By increasing our awareness of these things about ourselves we can use them to identify things that may make us happy, as well as things that may block our path to success. Think about the tasks that you are most likely to avoid, or jobs that you never quite get around to completing, and see whether they link to your weaknesses, or if they have a common pattern in them. People tend to avoid doing things which would mean putting themselves in a situation where they have little control, which is exactly why people avoid doing things that involve a skill that they aren’t good at.

Once you have identified tasks you avoid, or skills that you are not as competent with, you may be able to see ways that your strengths can compensate and help you in completing the tasks. You may decide to get help with your weaknesses. You may decide to abort the task completely and focus on a different area with your goals – It is completely up to you, but you should have more of an understanding of why some things always feel like an uphill battle to you when others seem to find them a breeze. A really good book to explain this concept is bestselling motivational book Eat That Frog!

Listen to your self-talk
“If you think you can or whether you think you can’t you’re probably right” – Henry Ford

I have always been a firm believer that when we are talking about ourselves, we tend to be our own worst critic - however if we talk to ourselves as we would speak to our friends or family we are much more supportive and understanding of our own needs. Easier said than done, trust me, I know. Try to listen to the way that you are thinking about yourself, and for every negative thought you have, try and think why you believe it, and then think of three positives in its place.

It is also worth noticing how your internal voice reacts to the environments and people that you are around – If your first thought when thinking of seeing a particular person or about going to work is a sinking feeling of dread (beyond the usual Monday blues), then maybe there is something about that situation that you need to avoid. Maybe it is a person who doesn’t value you, or a workplace that doesn’t motivate you, it is worth investigating why you have these feelings before you set your goals. 

Focus on what makes you happy
I found that after years of pursuing goals that I had drifted into I was no longer sure what I actually enjoyed and what I didn't. I used the time that I had to try out a few new activities, and read a lot of posts from other bloggers about how they found their passions and what they had done to find what they loved. If I'm honest, I spent a lot of time doing a lot of things I was not passionate about and smiling at people as I pretended that I had enjoyed their events before I found anything that I wanted to do again, but then I also got to meet a lot of very interesting people along the way who suggested more things for me to try and expanded my horizons. 

As well as trying new things, I was looking backwards. I tend to focus a lot on my hobbies when I was a child, because that is the period of my life that I was most comfortable in being myself. (lets face it, not many of us look back and want to change who we were as a child before we began to be concerned with other people's influences). When I had been young I had been very active, participating in several different sports and being very sociable. I picked out a few activities that I had enjoyed and found taster sessions in my area, I also looked to get back in touch with some people that I had lost touch with from this period of my life. 

Mindfulness isn’t a hippy term for meditation and detoxes, it quite literally means paying attention to how different activities and factors influence our wellbeing and how we feel, and the effect of each decision on your feelings of happiness. You can review your feelings and reasoning behind every decision within your life, from what to have for lunch, to whether you wish to go for a job. By focusing on how your choices make you feel, you will eventually be more competent in understanding what we truly want, and what actions we can take to help us feel more content and less stressed in our lives. 

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