I decided to do a little house tour today, of our rental home in Spain. It is usually a mess, as anyone with young children knows it is an eternal war zone living with too many toys – and very small boys. I took these photos recently so we could advertise our house on a holiday home exchange website. (Whether you sell your home or otherwise promote your house, tidying up for the photos is a must!). Here is our eclectic mix of vintage furniture in a new home.
It is in some ways funny to see our vintage furniture in a new home, as supposed to our old 1930s granite house in Scotland where we were before. Still, it was surprising how it somehow looks as if it belongs here. The white new built box we live in now provides a nice blank canvas to show off our vintage furniture and artworks.
The design of our rental house is almost modernist in a way, open plan, with a mezzanine opening to the next floor. Large windows. We love the style of architecture, although with two noisy boys you can imagine sound travels easily in such an open space! It is also quite a cold house in winter, with any heat going straight upstairs. Nevertheless, it is a great, spaceous home for us to live in right now.
Midcentury sideboard in a new built home
We added a few pieces of furniture we didn’t have before, including the white lights above the dining table. We also added a vintage painted sideboard to our interior, which we bought from Back to Life Furniture in Aberdeenshire, just before we left last year. As we had a giant artic truck coming to move us to Spain, we decided to make use of it! I love the way Lynsey painted the drawers and outside of the midcentury piece white and adding with subtle stripes to the doors, changing the look completely.
Vibrant paintings in a Spanish home
We also brought quite a few large paintings and framed prints to Spain. The vibrant painting of the jazz band above the sideboard I always loved, but it never looked quite at home in Scotland. Just a bit flamboyant. It is by a South American painter called Yvonne Mora and it looks so much more at home in Spain! I am so glad we kept it. It means even more to me now I have found a new Spanish band in Valencia and continue to sing (in English though, my Spanish is not up to singing standard yet!).
The large green artwork behind the dining table is a 1966 original print by the late Aberdeen artist Pauline Jacobsen. I once bought it at auction for just £25… I instantly loved the midcentury feel of it and I am so glad we now own it. It is one of two…I wonder where its twin is…? Does anyone know?
No hallway? What about the shoes!
As with many Spanish houses, there is no vestibule or hallway. You open the front door and you’re straight in! This means tidying up is pretty vital in the entry area, with jackets, shoes, cycling helmets and school bags. I bought a coat stand and recently decided to move one of my vintage chests of drawers downstairs as well, to help keep most of the stray stuff out of sight. I think the vintage furniture in our new home goes quite well. The painting above it? Another wonderful Scottish artwork (by Ian W. Paterson) I found on one of my treasure hunts, at a book fair this time.
A large sunny loft space
One of the perks of this new built house in the suburbs of Valencia is its large attic space. It has become a very versatile room, for the kids to play in as well as for guests to stay. Our cat also loves it up here. Peaceful! Sometimes – when I feel disciplined – I roll out my yoga mat once the kids are at school and before I start work. I open the door onto the roof terrace to let the sun in. Bliss. In summer it turns into an oven up here, but right now in winter it is pleasant and warm.
Craving for colour
Living Spain has made me want to use more bold colours in my interior. I probably wouldn’t have chosen these bedroom curtains back in Scotland, but here they look fabulous in the bright sunlight. The vintage mustard yellow Welsh blanket is only used in the winter months, as it’s airconditioning on and thin sheets all summer! The artwork above the bed is a relief print by Scottish artist Francis Boag.
As we are renting this house, it is tricky to make it completely our own. I probably would change a few wall colours or be a bit more adventurous with putting up shelves and pictures, but I mainly used existing picture hooks. The walls are also different here than in the UK and much harder to drill into. Don’t want to make a mess of it! We did use some heavy duty Command strips to hang up white board and pictures on the tiled wall in the kitchen.
Rescue plants from Scotland
The terraces are filled with mediterranean plants. It even has two plants I once rescued from a dark old house in North-east Scotland, when I was on one of my vintage furniture buying trips. It turns out that they are a money plant and a rubber plant, both native here in Spain. They are literally growing arms and legs and obviously very happy to be in their natural habitat.
Art is my go to ingredient whenever I want to refresh my decor. I always seem to change pictures around! But a beautiful artwork can really make a difference in your home. How do you style your home with art? Here are some inspirational ways to group art together and create a gallery wall layout. Find some ideas to display pictures, frames, prints and paintings large and small, around the house.
We all have places in our house we don’t really use for anything. Maybe part of the hallway or a corner in the living room. Give these empty spots a job and some interest and use them for displaying art. Floor to ceiling, combine small and larger frames and create an eye catching mini gallery. Start with the bigger frames and fill up the spaces around it with smaller ones. It’s like playing Tetris!
Group colours or themes together
Got a batch of black and white photos? Maybe some pencil sketches and drawings? Or some monochrome abstract prints? Combining art in similar colours can produce a striking result. You can create a beautiful gallery wall layout like this.
I know a lot of people get nervous when thinking about hanging multiple frames together. How do you get them in a straight line? If you are one who cares about perfection, check out this tutorial. Otherwise, relax! Frames don’t need to hang perfectly straight if you are going for the ‘boho’, eclectic look. They look good anyway. If you’d rather have a perfect grid, scroll down for some layout templates. Best thing is to lay out all frames on the floor first to decide on what goes where. Then, measure from the top of the frame to where it hangs from, to know where in the wall to put the nail. (Don’t want to use nails? I use some great alternative picture hanging strips in my rental just now!)
Gallery Wall Layouts
Do you like to know what you’re doing? Need a bit of guidance? I understand. Here are some Gallery Wall Ideas and suggestions for layouts to help you figure out how to hang art on your wall.
Your taste…makes a great collection
You know what? As long as you buy what you love, you’ll probably find that the art you own goes pretty well together and makes a fabulous, colourful group on the wall. Gather lots of smaller framed pictures and one or two larger ones and create a cloud of artworks on one wall.
Not got enough art to do create a gallery wall layout? Try framing some beautiful wallpaper, fabric, a vintage photograph or eye catching concert poster. Or how about some cute abstract scribbles from your children? Anything goes when putting your colourful creative gallery wall together. Don’t be afraid, just try things out. You’ll be surprised how good things look in a frame.
Are you looking for some beautiful art for kids rooms? No room is complete without some art on the wall and you can’t start them young enough! There is so much whimsical art for kids available nowadays and what better way to encourage their imagination than to add some art to their bedroom or nursery? And you really don’t have to limit yourself to cute bears, unicorns and balloons. Children are very good at looking at art with an open mind and a lot of joy. They love discovering shapes, faces and all things weird and wonderful in an artwork or poster.
I have been looking around the net to find some beautiful art for kids on various websites, focusing on animal themed illustrations in particular. Here are my picks:
Animal art for kids rooms and nurseries
When you think of art for kids rooms, you can’t really get away from pictures of animals. I love these Scandinavian style framed art prints by TheWhistlingWren on Etsy. Colourful, cute and just lovely to look at. Not too expensive either, at €24.61 for a set of three A3 prints.
Smallable has a lot of gorgeous products for kids rooms (and adult things too) and although they are not specialised in art in particular, they do have some very nice posters in their collection. I love this print of jungle animals by French illustrator Charlotte Janvier. It is €26.11 for an A3 size print.
RedGateArts on Etsy sells fabulous original prints by a number of artists, many of which would make fantastic art for kids rooms. I love the colourful prints by Kate Simpson. So much to look at! They are priced at €44.54 for the large A1 size.
Alphabet charts for kids rooms
Children love studying a poster for ages, discovering lots of new things each time they look at it. This one has plenty to look at, plus it has the added extra of the alphabet thrown in. This print can be found on Etsy by seller PaperPaintPixels and is €26.37 for size 33 x 48.3cm.
I know quite a few children who are mad about sharks and anything creepy crawly from the sea. What better poster to buy them than this Sea Life Alphabet? This one is by Etsy seller Penelope and the Ducks and is priced at €15.82 for an unframed A3 print.
World maps for kids rooms
World maps are great for kids rooms in general. Always something to study and discover. This wonderful illustrated map in water colour may not give a too accurate impression of countries and continents, but for younger children it makes a great print to stare at for ages and just let their imagination wander. It is by artist FrauOttilie and costs €17.90 for a 70 x 50cm print.
Another great illustrated world map with lots to look at is this one by Hannah Owen. And remember, these maps don’t have to be accurate, these prints are to enjoy as an artwork in the first place! For the largest size poster A1 you pay €45.70, an A3 is €19.91.
Want to browse some more beautiful original art prints for kids? Here are some collections to try out:
Have you ever thought of doing a home exchange during the vacations with a total stranger in a totally different country? The first thought that pops into people’s head is often “oh, I don’t fancy having strangers going through my drawers and what if they wreck the place?” But we have now done home swaps on a number of occasions and we absolutely LOVE it. Here’s why.
new toys and a home from home
The first time we swapped was with a family in Edinburgh during the October holidays and it was amazing. All we needed to do was drive for a couple of hours and we didn’t spend much more money that week than entries to the zoo, a few meals out and normal food shopping. We enjoyed experiencing life in a city neighbourhood, in a gorgeous Victorian house. The kids had the best time, discovering millions of ‘new’ toys. Since then we have done it a number of times, nationally and internationally and it is positive every time.
Risky? Stranger-danger? Sure, there is always a little bit of risk doing something informal like this, but from experience I can say that most house swappers are kind, caring, helpful, generous and welcoming people. They are willing to give you the keys to their house after all. It is a matter of trust. And, by the way, we have always found our house ten times cleaner than we left it and our cat spoiled rotten.
The pros of home swapping for the holidays
Well, I could make an endless list, because I am such a fan of the concept, but here are my main reasons for opening my house to people from around the world in return for a stay in theirs.
You cut out the accommodation costs
Let’s be fair, home swapping is not just fun, it also saves you a heck of a lot of money. Imagine having to fork out nightly hotel costs or the rental of a holiday home for a couple of weeks. Even doing AirBnB adds up for a week, no matter how low the price per night is. Home swapping can drastically bring down the cost of your holiday, especially if you are already paying for flights.
It is a home from home
No swanky hotels during a home swap but the comforts of a home. You literally move into someone’s house, so you find their fully kitted out kitchen, comfy sofa’s, a beautiful terrace or garden, shelves full of books and – if you swap with a young family – plenty of ‘new’ toys for your own children to get excited about. You move into a whole new neighbourhood for a bit, get a feel for what it’s like to actually live here. In fact, we once felt so at home during our home swap with a family in Valencia that we ended up moving here permanently, haha!
You get to stay in incredible houses around the world. For free.
You can keep it local and swap with someone in your own country. We have just agreed an exchange to stay a week in a beautiful house in the mountains near Alicante, Spain, which for us is just a short car journey away right now. You may find surprising locations just on your doorstep.
Someone with a quiet cottage in the wilderness may love to come and stay in your inner city apartment. But likewise, someone with a beach house in a hot climate may just be dying to come to the misty west coast of Scotland. Also, if you have always wanted to visit Canada, Australia or the Far East, you can try and swap with someone over there. The flights will be the only pricey aspect, but you’ll be saving a LOT on accommodation. And what better way to travel and get to know a different culture, than by living like a local?
You get insider tips from the home owner
Most home swappers, including myself, find real joy in preparing a welcome pack full of insider tips, hidden gems, maps, brochures and itineraries for lovely days out. It is a great way to get to know a new city or area through the eyes of someone who lives there.
You have pet care sorted
Got cats (or goldfish or chickens…) that need looking after during the holidays? Many home exchangers are happy to look after your pets as well as your home while you are away. Saves additional expenses on catteries and they can stay in their own environment. Of course check with the people you invite whether they are happy to do this kind of thing.
You can even swap cars
If you are not too precious about your vehicle, this is another great saving you can make during a home swap. In the UK you will need to put an additional driver on your car insurance, which won’t be much more than 60 pounds usually and most home swappers are happy to pay this as it is way cheaper than hiring a car. In Europe the car itself is insured, hence you won’t need to pay for additional drivers on your insurance. Not everyone will want to swap cars, but it is especially great when you are unable to bring your own because you are traveling by plane, so worth asking!
Are there any cons at all? Not many in my opinion, but of course there can be issues which would make you not want to do a home swap.
You will have to tidy up and clean your house beforehand
We underestimated this the first time we swapped, haha! But yes, before you leave your house to your visitors, it is only good manners to clean the house top to bottom and put the clutter and stray clothes and toys away. This can take longer than you think, so good to start early. On a plus note: you will probably come home to your house in an even cleaner and tidier state than you left it. After which my home returns to its usually happy, messy state within half a day.
Things may break
Got a Ming Dynasty vase from your great grandmother on the sideboard? A beautiful, delicate set of glasses you don’t want anyone to touch? Your kids got some new or expensive toys they don’t want to break or get lost? While 9 out of 10 times nothing will go wrong, we are all human and things can break. Guests broke one of our plates, we broke one of their toys. People are mostly honest and tell you immediately, offer to replace the item or leave a bit of money as a ‘sorry’ gift. Still, if you have stuff you definitely don’t want anything to happen to, put it away safely.
If you have a spare room that doesn’t need to be used during the swap, put all your private or fragile stuff in here and ask your guests kindly to respect this room and keep it closed. If you have a key, lock it. We usually let friends of neighbours look after our computer and financial documents for the time we’re away. Not because you expect the guests to rummage through your files and steal your money, but since you haven’t known them for very long, it is only common sense to keep your valuables safe. The rest? Just stuff.
Home swap tips and home swap websites
home exchange websites
Want to give it a go yourself? There are a number of websites you can advertise your house on. You usually pay an annual subscription fee and then you can swap as often as you like. We are currently members of Guardian Home Exchange, which is a UK based website part of the Guardian (newspaper) but it has many international houses on it – including our own one in Valencia. We pay 59 pounds a year membership, which really is not much if you think what you would spend on one night in a B&B alone. There are many others you can try of course, including Home Love Swap, which is the biggest of them all.
find Pet sitters
Another website, which is a slightly different concept, is TrustedHouseSitters.com, a site which doesn’t offer home exchanges (although you can swap in some cases), but on here you’ll find people who offer pet sitting services for free, in return for a stay in your home while you are away. You can also offer yourself as a pet sitter, to find somewhere ‘free’ to stay during the holidays. Again, a huge saving because you don’t have to fork out money for a kennel or a cattery, plus your house is looked after during your vacation. And vice versa, you get to stay in someone’s house for free in return for walking a doggie.
We invited a couple into our home over the Christmas holidays as we were unable to find anyone to look after our cat Buster. I must admit I was slightly apprehensive at first, as it wasn’t a straight swap…Total strangers would pick up our keys from the neighbours and move in…without us having the keys to their property. But I needn’t have worried, because the retired Belgian couple who came were the sweetest cat sitters we could have wished for and when we returned they welcomed us back in our own home with tapas and cava. It seems that it is a certain type of person who is attracted to this kind of holiday. Open-minded, caring, curious, kind and interested in other people, other customs and exploring new locations.
How to prepare your home for listing
Take good photos
A tidy house gives better pictures and better pictures attract more home swap requests. make the beds, clear the clutter, put some fresh flowers on the table, etc. You can shove all the clutter into one room just for the time being until you got your photos done, it doesn’t matter, but make sure that that first impression of your house is good. It’s a bit like getting your house ready for selling. Make it look fab!
describe your house
Place yourself in the shoes of someone who is looking for a house to exchange with. They will want to know how many bedrooms you have, bathrooms, sofabeds etc. Also what kitchen equipment perhaps or things like baby cots and high chairs if you own them. Each exchanger is different, but it is good to describe how your house is suitable for different types of people. Not want tiny sticky fingers on your wall? Make this clear in your listing that you rather want older families or couples only.
Describe your location and area
You may not think of your street or neighbourhood as much, but your guests are excited, it is all new to them and they want to explore. Describe the highlights of your village or town, maybe there is a fine bakery around the corner or some splendid woodland walks. Describe how far larger towns, cities and other attractions such as beaches or mountains are. Tell them about castles, museums, swimming pools or zoos in the area. Anything that will persuade them to get in touch with you for a swap. The nice thing about a home exchange is that you often end up in places you would never normally have gone to, but they turn out to be real hidden gems.
Respond to your messages
If you own a fabulous house in an even more spectacular location, be prepared for lots of messages. We certainly received a few more now we are in Spain than we did when we still lived in Aberdeenshire! Just make sure to respond. You decided to list your house on the site so be polite and reply to people who are interested in coming to stay in your house. Of course you don’t have to sit and wait for an email, you can also fire off requests yourself. Most people are lovely and will tell you straight away if they are happy to arrange an exchange.
Make a welcome pack
A welcome pack can be as simple as an A4 with the workings of your TV, oven and heating system. However, it’s nice to include some ideas for excursions, directions to the nearest bank, shop and public transport, etc. I usually include tourist brochures that I pick up from around town, cultural agendas and business cards of my favourite restaurants. People are very grateful if you take the guessing out of their visit. Provide them with some tried and tested tips for visits you enjoy yourself. Also include some emergency numbers, names of neighbours that may be able to help out in case of anything happening and other info you may think is useful during their stay. I usually also leave a bottle of wine or a yummy delicacy from the local area on the table for the guests on arrival. It is nice to make people feel welcome, and you will likely find similar kindness on the other end.
Do you like the idea of journaling? Many people do, but some just don’t know where to start. You got a pretty notebook, a set of pens. Now what? Journaling, sketching and doodling doesn’t come natural to everyone. The thought of filling all those blank pages can be quite alien and even feel a bit daunting. But there is no right and wrong in journaling, because it a private thing. Diaries used to have a lock on them for a reason! Nobody would even dream of taking photos of their diary pages and sharing them with the world (and I am certainly glad I never did, haha!). Today I am sharing some journaling ideas to help you get started.
Why keep a journal? What is it for?
Know that feeling when your head bursts and you feel it all gets a bit much? Journaling can really help to focus the mind when things feel overwhelming, so it is a great tool for keeping mentally healthy. Write down what bothers you or the things that you find important and often it suddenly looks a lot clearer when you see it written down.
FOCUSING THE MIND – SEEING THINGS CLEARLY STORING AND EXPLORING CREATIVE IDEAS RELAXATION – MINDFULNESS EXERCISES
Journaling can also be a good way to keep ideas in one place, whether it is for a new business concept or for an artwork that you want to create in the future. Using words combined with images is a very powerful tool to visualise something you want to achieve. It feels a lot more ‘real’ when you start putting ideas and dreams on paper. Of course keeping a journal can also just be a lovely way to relax and take a bit of time out of a busy day.
Getting stuff off your chest and visualising dreams
I started writing diaries when I was about eleven and I never really stopped. In my early life it used to be a ‘dear diary’ kind of thing. I wrote almost daily about my thoughts and feelings and it must have helped me get through the years of adolescence. A sort of outlet at the end of the day, getting stuff off my chest. I remember writing pages and pages late at night in notebooks. Do teenagers still do that? It made me develop my writing skills, that’s for sure. As life got busier with work and eventually family, I stopped keeping a daily diary, but always found that journaling helped me focus and visualise my dreams whenever I had ideas for the future. Sticking pictures on pages, doodling, making lists. It makes ideas come to life.
Lesson 1: NO PRESSURE
It doesn’t matter if your journal doesn’t look Pinterest-worthy, it is not meant to be an artwork. And it certainly shouldn’t give you stress and pressure to make those “perfect, beautiful journal pages” you see online. I’d say, ignore Pinterest all together, just start. Write stuff down, stick some pictures in, anything. As long is it gives you joy and it is meaningful to you, you can do whatever you like.
NOBODY WILL JUDGE YOU. YOUR JOURNAL IS PRIVATE
Nobody will judge you, nobody will think you wrote or drew something silly. Nobody has to see it. The main purpose of your journal is for you to have some fun, jot down ideas, keep inspirational images you found, and make it your own personal, private space. Perhaps pencil down some things you’d like to focus on this year. Places you’d like to visit, films you’d like to watch. As a reminder to yourself. Sure, write down goals if you feel you need that kind of push, but hey, be kind to yourself. Life is busy enough, right?
Bullet journals and Art journals: what’s the difference?
There seem to be two different types of journals popular right now. ‘Bullet’ journals and ‘Art’ journals. The first type is a bit like a pretty, highly organised diary with months and days and timelines drawn in beautiful letters and it usually features plenty of lists (‘bullet points’), with the purpose to keep you focused on goals and tasks. You can also add lists of your favourite things or the things you are grateful for. Art journals on the other hand are more like a sketchbook in diary form and often feature collages, paintings and little creative experiments, combined with words and text. Of course you can choose whichever you like and you can do a bit of both in one journal.
Journaling Ideas to write and draw:
Ideas really are endless when it comes to journaling, so my list are only suggestions. Anything that makes you smile is a good start.
Something that made you happy today. It can be a simple as a cup of coffee in silence.
A poem you read somewhere that you love
Funny quotes from your (grand) children
A quote you find inspirational
A cut out image from a magazine (or make a mini collage)
Things you wish to achieve this year
Everything that brings you joy
Your favourite songs, books, food, places, activities
A list of people you love and what you admire in them
A memory from childhood that makes you happy
Reasons to be grateful
An affirmation that will make you feel good when reading it
Words, images and drawings that make a new idea come to life
Drawings, doodles and sketches
Examples of Affirmations for journals
If you believe in the manifestation of positive thoughts and creating your own reality by focusing on what you want in life, then affirmations will be a helpful tool. Write down an affirmation to work on your self image, your self belief or a more positive attitude towards life. The more you write down a certain phrase, the more it will stick. Can’t find the right words? Here is a list of different affirmations you could pick from for your pages if they resonate with you.
Choose an affirmation that you like and want to focus on and write it down in the middle of a page. You can draw a border around the words or fill the rest of the page with drawings if you wish. Doing the additional drawing helps you focus on the affirmation more and let the words really sink into your subconscious. It’s a bit like meditation, you take time to loose yourself in the moment.
Borders and dividers
A wish list, a poem, a quote, a little bit of random text on a page – it will look prettier with a border around it. Doodling borders is not hard, it can be as simple as repeated lines or dots along the page. Drawing patterns like this can be quite meditative too. Here are some journaling ideas for creating pretty borders around the pages.
It’s your journal, you can cry if you want to
Last but not least, your notebook is a dumping ground to have fun in! Do you want to write down all that makes you sad? Go for it it, it may give air. Do you want to remind yourself of all that is good in your life? Try it, it may make you smile. Or do you want to explore your creative talents? Get the pencils, paint, stamps, scissors and old magazines out and go crazy. Journaling ideas are endless and the pages are all yours.
Journals have no rules, unless they have ruled pages.
Stove top potpourri, ever heard of it? Forget the chemical scented candles and expensive room scent diffusers, just put a load of fresh fruit and spices in a large pan and let it simmer on the stove. Just a wonderful scent filling your home, with only natural ingredients. The perfect welcome for your guests on Christmas day, before they sit down for their Christmas dinner. Or just to get you in the Christmas spirit the days before.
How do you make it? Here’s the Christmas potpourri recipe for this lovely DIY home scent. Merry Christmas!
Just check now and then if it still has enough water so it doesn’t boil dry and let the heat do the work. Enjoy your own homemade Christmas potpourri!
Whatever you will be serving on Christmas day, beautiful natural Christmas table settings will make your table look even better. It doesn’t have to be complicated and you don’t need a degree in design, less is more. You can keep it simple and make a big impact by using natural materials like branches, twigs and leaves. Be resourceful and have a look around the house for what you already own. Use your beautiful vintage glassware, silver cutlery, linen fabrics, burlap and plain white candles in clear bottles. Here are some ideas.
Rustic Christmas table setting
Go all natural and rustic by using a linen table running in the middle, topped with natural fresh tree branches. Use some vintage or other solid brass candle holders as well as candles or tea lights in glasses. Simple white dinner ware and linen napkins add to this look, which is both very understated and very stylish.
Rustic natural centerpieces
Gather some greenery, branches and pine cones from the forest to create beautiful centerpieces for your natural Christmas table settings. To make the vases or pots, use large tins and wrap them with burlap or other fabric.
Table centre pieces with glass bottles
Festive decorating can easily become over the top with ribbons, dancing santas, flashing fairy lights and bottle brush trees on every surface. Using natural materials in your holiday decorating will bring back a bit of peace and tranquility in this busy time of year. Try going ‘Scandinavian‘ in your decorations and reuse your white wine bottles as candle stick holders, and fill them with water, leaves and sprigs.
Don’t forget the napkins: attention is in the detail
Don’t bother with trying to fold twelve napkins into the shape of a snowflake. Who has time for that? Just roll your simple linen napkins up and tie them with a pretty bit of string, ribbon or even leather. A tiny sprig finishes the look.
Real tree or artificial Christmas tree? What’s in your home? I am going to warn you, I am biast. I have always preferred real Christmas trees over fake ones. Just because I love authentic, nice things and a plastic tree just never fitted that picture. Still, I wanted to look at the options more closely, because more and more people have them nowadays for various reasons. Some claim it is in fact a more eco-friendly option than buying a real tree year after year, only to throw it outside after a few weeks. But a plastic tree…environmentally friendly? Not sure. By the way, did you know the fake tree was invented by a U.S.-based toilet bowl brush manufacturer, the Addis Brush Company? This company created an artificial tree from brush bristles in the 1930s, acting as the prototype for modern artificial trees. Interesting little bit of history, right?
So what’s the truth? What are the options and what are the pros and cons of real versus fake trees?
Real Christmas tree: Pros
You can’t beat the smell of a real Christmas tree. The fresh smell when you brush against the branches. It fills your home with Christmas!
You support local business
By buying a real tree from a local tree grower, you support local business. These businesses spend all year caring for their trees so that you can take one home and enjoy it during the Christmas holidays. Some vendors make it into a whole experience: getting you to pick your favourite tree, wrapping it up, selling hot chocolate and coffees on site to warm up. It can be a lovely trip out for the family if it’s somewhere picturesque in the countryside, on a frosty December morning.
It is natural. And biodegradable.
If you hate plastic, you want a real tree. A real tree from nature. Falling needles and all. No point trying to convert you, as a fake plastic Christmas tree will not enter your house. Real trees are authentic. And they will not sit in landfill forever.
Real Christmas tree: Cons
Some are worse than others, but all real Christmas trees will at some point lose their needles. Central heating is the main cause and then there are kids and pets brushing against it. You’ll be sweeping up and hoovering almost daily and if you’re really unlucky, your tree is not looking great anymore by the time it is Christmas day.
It gets thrown out every year
I don’t know about you, but I always feel sorry for the Christmas tree the first week of January. Decoration taken down and off it goes, dragged through the hallway and out the front door onto the pavement. All bare and needles brown and dropping. It’s done a good job, but poor tree.
They cost money…every year
Real Christmas trees are pricey. And on top of gifts, food, drink and maybe travel, it is an extra cost in December you could maybe do without.
Artificial Christmas tree: pros
They look perfect
Look at the image above. Perfect. No lop sided trees with one side thicker than the other. Or funny looking tall ones with a long thin top which makes the topper bend down. A fake tree is perfectly shaped in a perfect shade of green and with perfectly even spread of branches.
You can leave the decorations in
If you’re really short of time, energy or are just plain lazy, you can get a ready decorated fake tree. Job done. Fold it up, put it in a bag and store it away for next year. Boring and uninspiring? Perhaps. But convenient it sure is. And not everyone loves being creative and crafty.
You reuse it every year
No need to shop around for trees, just get it down from the loft and put it up. It saves money for sure. If you buy a high quality one, you’ll be using it for many years. My own parents-in-law apparently have had their artificial Christmas tree since the 1980s. That sure is a durable solution.
Artificial Christmas tree: the cons
It still ends up in landfill
No matter how many years you use your tree for, it still is plastic and at some point in the future will end up in the bin. I wonder how many of those sold in the 1960s are still taking pride of place in the living room this December. I know, you say, but what about all the other plastic household things you use that will break at some point in the future…kettles, light shades, garden tools, buckets, bins, toys, etc… Yes, you are right. But perhaps next time you need to replace those, it’s worth looking for non plastic, more durable alternatives too. In case of a tree, it is easy to make that decision right now. But if you already own a plastic one, keep it forever!
There is no smell
Nothing beats the smell of…plastic? I suppose you could light a fragrant candle in the room to add some seasonal smells, but they sure won’t come from your artificial Christmas tree. If you like the smell of nature, a fake tree won’t do the job.
Fake trees are questionable in terms of human health. Today’s artificial trees are typically manufactured with metal and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a non-biodegradable, petroleum-derived plastic. In addition, many older varieties may contain lead, used as a stabilizer in the manufacturing process.
The artificial Christmas tree is non-recyclable and non-biodegradable, meaning they will sit in a landfill for centuries after disposal. An artificial Christmas tree will last on average five to seven years, meaning you’ll eventually have to dispose of it, and many secondhand stores will not accept them. There’s also no guarantee the LED lights will last the whole time you own it, and they can’t be removed and replaced like with a real tree.
I believe it is a good idea to choose natural materials over plastic as much as possible, so you can guess what I am supporting.
Buy a tree in a pot
Don’t like the thought of sad dead trees on the doorstep after Christmas? You can of course opt to buy a fresh Christmas tree, in a pot. You can then plant it in your garden after Christmas is over and dig it up again next year. The question is always whether it survives after having lived in a heated living room for a good few weeks, but it is worth a try. Don’t forget to water it!
Adopt a tree!
How about giving it back to the grower? You enjoy it over Christmas and then it goes back ‘home’, where it gets looked after for another year. Not a very mainstream option yet, but it does exist. Find out more on Adopt a Christmas tree schemes or do a Google for your own local area.
Don’t want a tree at all? Decorate a large house plant. Or collect a few nice branches from the forest on your next walk and place them in a large vase for a minimalist look. Ideas plenty.
Need some ideas for no plastic gift ideas for children? I’m with you. Birthday parties, Christmas presents, gifts brought by visiting relatives, children get a lot of stuff. And if you have young children like me, this stuff amounts to a lot over the months and years. Boxes full of toy cars, action figures and dolls and a whole lot of plastic you’d rather not have in your house. It’s messy and half of it the kids don’t even play with. I bet most parents would agree. Still, a child’s birthday or Christmas requires a gift as you don’t want to see sad faces. How about not adding to the heap of expensive commercial plastic toys, but bringing something imaginative instead? Here are some suggestions I love.
A Craft & bead box for creative little hands
Got a cute vintage tin or a wooden box with a lid? Or how about pimping up an old shoe box? A lot of children around the age of 5-8 or older love to make things like bracelets or necklaces, so create a beautiful treasure box for them! Fill a box with old beads, ribbons, buttons, scrap fabric and string and let their imagination do the rest. I know I would have loved to receive a box full of things like that.
A wooden tree compatible with Lego
I love it when companies make their stuff compatible with other brands. Smallable, which has a fantastic range of wooden toys for children, sells this plywood tree for a very reasonable £16 that is compatible with Lego bricks. There is also a castle and a space ship in the same series, making perfect no plastic gift ideas. Check out their other beautiful wooden toys here.
Board games and other family fun
I must admit, I’ve never really been one for games, but being a parent I kind of had to get into it. Snakes and ladders, Ludo, Memory, Uno, you name it, my kids love it. I don’t know whether it’s the game itself or the fact that you are playing it with them and they can beat you, but I sure score some brownie points when I get on the floor or around the table for a board game. We were given a great wooden Snakes and Ladders/Ludo combo board a few years back and it gets used every week. Definitely not something that will end up in the forgotten toys corner any time soon. Charity and second-hand shops usually have games in stock, so worth checking. If you rather invest in something high quality and new as a gift for the family to enjoy together for years to come, then John Lewis is a good bet.
DIY Frame lacers for fine motor skills
Frame Lacers are a colorful DIY toy that doubles up as a great fine motor skills activity for kids. Got a tiny child in your life? Make them one of these!
An invention box or ‘robot box’ for explorers
Do you have a child in your life who loves taking things apart or figure out how stuff fits together? Gift them an ‘invention box’ or ‘robot box’! Create a robot box for the toddler in your life using outdated technology. Find old CDs, floppy disks, cables & cords to create a fun bin for toddlers to imagine with. For the older child, fill a large box with more fiddly things they can put together. Nothing better for their creativity than open ended learning and discovery. Check out Research Parent for ideas on what to include in the box.
Gift boxes look very pretty under the Christmas tree – or at any occasion. So do gift bags and pretty shiny wrapping paper. But after buying the gift itself you don’t really want to be spending more money on something that is going to end up in the recycling bin within minutes after opening. Some rolls of paper are hellishly expensive, let alone cute boxes with bows and sparkly bags. Time for some creative eco-friendly packaging ideas!
1. Toilet rolls turn into gift boxes
I admit, it may be a bit weird to some, but genius it is. Jewellery and other small gifts are best presented in a box. But why buy little gift boxes when you probably have at least five empty toilet rolls sitting on the window sill in the bathroom, or in the paper recycling bin.
2. Brown paper: eco-friendly packaging for Christmas gifts
Recently on Facebook a post went viral about wrapping paper not being recyclable and how we should all use brown paper instead. Now although this is total nonsense, about the wrapping paper not being recyclable (unless it is covered in glitter or laminated), the idea of brown paper as an alternative eco-friendly packaging idea for gifts is lovely! The plain brown paper lends itself really well to creative additions, such as stamps, a lick of paint or just nice string and some greenery. A great way to add a stylish ‘Scandinavian touch’ to your Christmas party. Spend next Sunday making your own unique paper and impress your family with beautifully wrapped gifts. Plenty of inspiration on Pinterest.
3. Recycled paper eco-friendly gift bags
Gift bags. Just like gift boxes, these are not cheap considering they are probably only going to be used once – or if you are frugal and keep them in the storage cupboard afterwards – a few times. Anyway, you will also have a pile of magazines lying around, or newspaper, which can easily be turned into cute, homemade and very Pinterest-worthy gift bags. Want to give it a shot? Check out this page on Pinterest for ideas and tutorials to create your own beautiful eco-friendly packaging.
4. Recycle last year’s Christmas card into Gift tags
Still got last year’s Christmas cards in the decorations box? Cut them up! You can make very nice gift tags with them. Or if you don’t need tags, why not try some paper Christmas bunting?