growing up

Planning and studying


Last night I took a lovely evening off. I spent some time washing and masking my face, did my nails, cuddled up to watch a documentary on sloths. I also incorporated something new into my self-care routine last night. I planned my week ahead. 

Instead of locking my problems out and indulging in the repressed relaxation of not thinking about my to-dos or study goals, I took that time to figure out a schedule for the upcoming week. I was still in fluffy socks and sipping tea though. Comfy, happy and relaxed, planning of the upcoming week. I feel like this more calm and rational planning routine will make the plans a little more attainable. Less "Tomorrow I will finish all the coursework for the semester and also climb a mountain, deep clean the entire apartment and meal prep until Christmas". Instead I divided the tasks into smaller ones and assigned them time slots. I hope this i will give me the freedom to let the other stuff rest when working on one thing. Because that other stuff has a time slot later/tomorrow/on Saturday. 

In the last couple of weeks I have started multiple more or less successful attempts to get motivated and organised, to be more productive. This semester has been quite challenging in that regard. I don't have a lot of classes to attend, but a lot of reading and studying to do on my own. While this is great in a lot of ways, it doesn't provide a lot of structure. Up to now I have not been handling that all too well: Depending on how close a deadline or exam is I alternate between doing nothing all day long and "WHO NEEDS SLEEP WHEN THERE IS COFFEE AND WORK TO DO?"-days. Needless to say, neither period is ideal.

So in the spirit of doing more things because of internal motivation rather than outside pressure, I am trying to get myself to work on a schedule for the rest of November, see how that goes. For this experiment I will attempt to follow these guidelines I have set for myself:

- Be at a library at 9am Monday through Friday.
- Stick to the schedule, which gives me two hour slots for each subject or task. 
- Take the nights off. 
- Take one night at the end of the week to pamper and plan the upcoming week. 

What strategies help you sit down and get stuff done without immediate outside pressure? I would love to hear your tips!

- Henrike 

make do and mend

Making clothes last


Make do and mend is a series about how to make the most out of things we already have. 

Make do and Mend 2: Making clothes last

In this culture of cheap clothes and permanent access to shopping, it's easy to discard items when they don't look their absolute best any more. I am particularly prone to do this with clothes. In my mind, my clothes need to be hard working, and I don't want to spend half my life worrying about keeping something pristine. On the other hand, if I am honest, I don't want to wear something obviously stained either. As a result, I wear things out embarrassingly quickly. In a concerted effort to make things last longer, here are some ideas to taking care of your clothes (and mine, of course) to make them last as long as possible.

Remove stains using cold water
A surprisingly large number of stains can be removed using cold water. Blood, red wine and a large variety of non-oily food stains come out with lots of plain, old cold water. Don't get the stain hot if possible! Hot water has a tendency to set the stain, making it harder to remove.

Wash less
Controversial? Maybe, but I've recently made a concerted effort to judge on an item by item basis on whether it really needs a wash or whether I am just throwing it onto the washing pile out of habit. Some things last much longer than I would have expected.

Avoid the tumble drier
I know it's tempting and quick to tumble everything but nothing makes clothes wear out as fast as being constantly tumble dried. Line-drying is both better for the environment and better for your clothes.

Keep a stain remover bar on hand
Standing in front of a big shelf of stain removers at the supermarket the other day, I was overwhelmed by the choices. From collections of small bottles for all types of stains you could ever think of, to big tubs of "guaranteed stain removers" with their own plastic spoons, there as some of everything. Tucked away right at the bottom I finally found my stain remover of choice: a simple soap bar, packed in a card board box, which in my experience can handle pretty much anything I throw at it. Simply wet the stain, rub the soap bar over it, leave for 10 minutes and then wash normally. One bar lasts for years too!

Wash sorted by colour
Maybe an obvious one but from watching an ever-changing set of housemates over the last few years, apparently not as obvious. Wash whites with whites, and blacks with blacks.  When sorting colours, always keep in mind that the lightest is going to be the most affected. One red sock in a white load could be a disaster, whereas it won't make a difference mixed in with a lot of black.

Keep a small sewing kit handy
It really doesn't take much to fix on a couple of missing buttons, or sew up a pocket. A few different colours of thread, a couple of needles and a small pair of scissors is all you need.

Buy quality
Maybe another obvious one but high quality items last longer under the same conditions. My big problem is that I often find it hard to judge what is good quality. I've had expensive items fail rapidly and cheap ones last forever. Any hints on how to tell one from the other before spending the money would be much appreciated!

Have different clothes for different activities
As much as I am an advocate for a streamlined wardrobe, there is something to be said for having one outfit of clothes that you don't mind getting a bit dirty. About to do some heavy duty gardening, painting or even cleaning where a lot of bleach is involved? Pull it out and spare your normal clothes from suffering irreparable damage.

What are you tricks for keeping your clothes wearable for as long as possible? I'm eager to add to my repertoire!


Have an automatic


"Living lightly" is a series of ideas to make life a little simpler, happier and more wholesome.

Living lightly 2: Have an automatic

I frequently find myself with a spare half an hour or more in Birmingham, between meetings or trains. The first few times, I'd be frantically searching for a particular cafe I'd seen online, or trying to find a particular shop that was never as easy to get to as google maps made it seem.  Sometimes I'd decide that there wasn't enough time to leave the station, only to scroll through social media on a drafty platform for 30 minutes. 

These days, I have a favourite coffee shop. Is it the best coffee shop in town that deserves my undying loyalty? Certainly not, but it does have decent coffee, comfy chairs and free wifi. Most importantly, I know that it is exactly a 6 minute walk from the station, and open until 8pm. 

Letting my feet trace their default steps to this coffee shop has allowed me to reclaim that dead time between. Instead of scrolling through social media or buying things in the station shops just because I am bored, I now have the time to read or work or just sip. 

There are certainly times in life for exploring new places and a thrill from finding something new, but I find that the more restricted a timeframe is, the more it benefits from keeping things simple. For me, that means same path, same shop, same coffee, because when the margins are tight it is best to reduce the potential number of hiccups along the way. Life just runs more smoothly that way. Except that one time I poured a coffee over one of the baristas, of course. Thankfully, they still smile when they see me.


This week


In a conscious effort to slow down and appreciate the little happy moments, here are a few things that brightened up my week.

These winter boots, that keep my feet warm on long autumn walks

These three notebook, for organizing all my scattered thoughts

These stars above my desk, for inspired late night study sessions

This perfect tiny autumn leaf

These yoga blocks, for making it just a little easier

Other favourites this week:

  • A cozy night in featuring James Bond and pizza.
  • The joy of sharing tea and chocolates with my sister and my mum.
  • Taking the time to slow down and solve a crossword puzzle.

- Henrike

dear little sister

On moving 1


Dear little sister,

Tomorrow, I am moving to Paris. Today I am sitting on the floor in front of a big blue suitcase, considering what to take. When you are moving with what you can carry on the train, the choices get narrower. What makes a home a home? What do I really need, and what do I really like to have with me?

A tea pot, for early morning cups of green tea with my notebook.

A blanket, for late night snuggles and making the place look familiar.

Running shoes, for exploring and keeping fit.

Weighing scales and a couple of cookie cutters because Christmas is coming.

Two beeswax candles, because the evenings are long and dark.

A camera, for capturing new memories.

The hand carved wooden spoon, last years Christmas gift, that I have been saving to use in our first home together.

Two passports. Each other. A big portion of curiosity and adventure.


make do and mend

Wardrobe ennui


Make do and mend is a series about how to make the most out of things we already have. 

Make do and Mend 1: Wardrobe ennui

"I have nothing to wear" I complained this morning while sitting in front of my full wardrobe, then clarifying to "I am bored with everything that I have." Turns out that despite my best efforts to curate a streamlined wardrobe full of things I love and wear regularly, I still occasionally get bored with it. Eventually, even my favourite skirt doesn't seem to fit the mood that day.  Capsule wardrobe ennui is real, people, and so is the urge to buy something new, just because.

A few suggestions what to do instead of indulging in a shopping spree:

Pull items from the bottom of the pile
These are most likely the ones that have gone unworn the longest, and therefore maybe aren't quite as boring as the rest of it? I find that even with a very small wardrobe, there are items that see the light of day less than others, and making a concerted effort to pull these out every so often helps me make the most of what I have.

Look beyond your own shelf
Got a sibling, really good friend or partner living with you? Maybe their clothes can offer some variety to your own (with their permission of course!).

Buy second hand (preferably something different!)
I think of second-hand and charity shops as a sort of giant warehouse of wonder that things can be taken from and returned to at will. I've hosted entire tea parties by collecting plates and tea pots and cups from charity shops, and then returning the lot after I was done. Nothing new produced and nothing wasted. Second hand items don't lose any value from being used a couple more times. In my mind, the purchase price is more like a rental fee, and as a bonus it usually goes to charity.

So in this spirit, go ahead and buy something from the charity shops, just because. If it turns into a firm favourite, then keep it. If you find yourself wearing it twice and then never again, just give it back in a couple of weeks.

Remember that you are not your clothes
In the end, clothes need to keep us warm, comfortable and decent. While it is fun to express your personality through your clothing choices, you don't become less you only because todays outfit doesn't perfectly reflect your mood (whatever that means).

My solution yesterday? I borrowed a pair of my boyfriend's jeans for the day. As an added bonus, the loose, workman like fit made me feel unexpectedly rugged and powerful. Anyone got a tree to chop down?

What about you? How do you deal with wardrobe ennui? I'd love to hear more suggestions in the comments.

living lightly

Three deep breaths


"Living lightly" is a series of ideas to make life a little simpler, happier and more wholesome.

Living lightly 1: Take three deep breaths

When I caught myself getting seriously angry at an empty milk bottle in the fridge last night, I realised I had to change the way I handle the inevitable small hiccups in life. My current tendency is to hold each little problem tight, piling them one on top of the other until I am short tempered and cranky. I give them space in my experience of the world, sometimes going as far as making them the cornerstone of my narrative: "The train is late and the sandwich was disappointing and does the man over there really need to talk this loudly into his phone? What did I do to deserve a day like this. Can nothing ever go right?". 

Instead, I am going to try a new approach: three deep breaths every time something goes wrong. 

Bad email received? Three breaths.
Annoyed I forgot to get milk again? Three breaths.
Disappointed in myself because I caught myself with my phone in my hands again? Three breaths.
Bothered by the noisy person? Three breaths.

It’s not a magical solution of course. The milk is still empty and the person still loud, but somehow it seems to give me the 20 seconds my brain needs to process the experience and put it into perspective. To let it take up only as much space as it needs to, and maybe to even just let it go. To choose the positive narrative over the negative one. If it makes me 10 % less cranky by the evening, then its all worth it.