Would you swap your home with a stranger?

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.

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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.

Home swapping for the holidays. Would you do it? Tips, pros and cons for house exchanges around the world.

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!

The cons

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.

Make your own home scent with this Christmas potpourri recipe

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!


Christmas potpourri recipe for stove top

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!

The most beautiful natural Christmas table settings

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 settings
christmas Image: Boxwood Avenue

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.

rustic table centerpiece
Image: A Piece of Rainbow

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.

natural christmas table decoration

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.

Artificial Christmas tree or real tree: the pros and cons

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?

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Real Christmas tree: Pros

The smell

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.

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Real Christmas tree: Cons

Needles

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.

vintage advert for artificial christmas trees

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.

Toxic ingredients

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.


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Conclusion

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.

Alternatives

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.

Go Minimalist

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.

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Go radical

I will just leave this here. Merry Christmas!

The cutest no plastic gift ideas for children

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.

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Image: Aunt Peaches


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.

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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.

no plastic christmas gifts


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!

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Image: Babbledabbledo


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.

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Image: Research Parent



Turn Black Friday into Green Friday! Six alternative ideas to try

Happy Green Friday everyone! Your Facebook timeline and Inbox will be bombarded with Black Friday ads today trying to lure you into spending money on stuff you don’t really need. Tempting, I know, because wow, such big discounts! (or…are they really?). Here is a little reminder for some feel-good and guilt-free alternatives. Please share this post to remind others too….because advertising is powerful and people will be spending way too much on Amazon today! 😜Let’s support the small guys today or, hey, just have a coffee with a loved one instead.

  1. Buy Art


    Art, it makes you happy, it is unique, you can’t have enough of it AND you make a creative individual do a little happy dance when you buy from them. What else do you need to know? This is my personal number one when it comes to buying presents at Christmas – or for any occasion. Where to find art? Pop into a local gallery, find local artists at fairs and markets this season or browse artists on sites such as Artfinder, Etsy or Redbubble.

  2. Buy Local


    It is very convenient to buy everything at the click of a button from Amazon, and we’ve all done it, but don’t complain when another shop in the high street goes out of business! Go out there and support your local stores, craft fairs and Christmas markets. Every penny spent locally on Green Friday or any time of the year goes back into your local economy and keeps your neighbourhood, town or village alive.

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  3. Buy Vintage


    Vintage toys, vintage clothes, vintage jewellery, vintage homeware, beautiful vintage collectables. Totally guilt-free because it already existed anyway. And do you know how much love and time goes into sourcing these beauties, by passionate, knowledgeable and very dedicated vintage shop owners? I know, because I used to be one! And I know many of my vintage trading friends will 100% agree with me. And what is more unique as a gift than to give someone a gift with a story to tell? Go and support these hard working vintage treasure hunters.

  4. Swap something


    Got clothes you no longer need? Books you’ve read, too many kitchen items or gardening tools? Organise a Swap Shop! It’s a lot of fun getting a group of friends together and make each other happy with items you no longer need. I did it a few times with clothes and I tell you, they were one of the best little parties I had. A few clothes rails are handy to display the clothes, or just use a large table and some baskets for smaller items to rummage through. Expect plenty of laughter, silliness, drinks and nibbles and time for a good catch-up while others are trying to squeeze themselves into each other’s old evening dresses. You get the picture. Go and do it. It’s great.

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  5. Buy Eco-Friendly


    How about creating some lovely hampers with eco-friendly items on Green Friday? Great for those New Year’s resolutions to finally give up on plastic bags and chemicals in your bathroom and kitchen. Think of Beeswax food wraps, a bamboo takeaway coffee cup for on the road, lovely handmade natural soaps wrapped, etc. Also check out the Ethical Superstore for guilt-free gift ideas.

  6. Make do and Mend


    Got a pile of clothes lying in the corner that need buttons sewn on, gaps repaired and patches stitched on? Before you spend too much money in the Black Friday ‘sales’, go and put the kettle on, pick a Netflix film you were meaning to watch for ages and fix those holes.


Happy Green Friday everyone!

Eco-friendly packaging ideas for Christmas

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.

toilet roll gift box

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.

eco-friendly packaging for christmas

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.

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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?

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The Bohemian gift guide on Etsy

Minimalist Scandi? Wonderful. But my house usually looks like a colourful bomb site, so I’d better stick with the theme. I love colour and pattern and what better way to brighten up the dark winter than to gift or receive some bold handmade or vintage items for your home or wardrobe. Looking for something bohemian and folklore? Here is what I found for you on Etsy! Enjoy your hand picked bohemian gift guide.


1. Snuggle up with a Velvet Floral Cushion

velvet floral cushion

What a vibrant explosion of colour on this cushion. Ideal to jazz up an old armchair or comfy sofa. I love the orange and teal blue combo. And the fact that it’s velvet is even better. Size 60 x 60cm. €69.95 + free shipping UK. Find it at HouseSamples


2. Send a handmade Bohemian card

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Those rich colours, wonderful. Hand painted roses and neon pink lettering. Yes, I’d like to receive a card like that any time, thank you very much. Printed onto thick card using original watercolour illustrations with die cut typography backed with bright pink neon backing paper. Materials: 300 gsm card, 90 gsm neon paper, kraft envelope. €4.66 + shipping. Find this card and many more on MissBespokePapercuts


3. Wear a psychedelic vintage shirt

vintage psychedelic shirt

How about this Vintage 1970s Psychedelic Print Shirt Dress? Pair it with jeans, belted or free and loose – you’ll sure to make a statement! This one is loose fitting, so fits a size S/M/L. €45.25 + shipping. Check out many more fab vintage clothes over at SecondVerseVintage


4. Keep your feet warm in woolen Aztec socks

Aztec bohemian wool socks

Socks must be the all time favourite Christmas gift. These would definitely make me very happy if I found those under the tree on Christmas day. How cosy and colourful. hand knitted sheep’s wool socks, great to wear in boots or at home. €21.57 + shipping. Find them at NouMoon


5. Brush up on your Russian Folklore knowledge

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How obscure would you like your gift to be this year? I tell you, this Russian vintage store on Etsy is something else. Postcards, art and books with the most beautiful vintage and folklore illustrations. The postcard sets pictured have lots of wonderful photographs of furniture and illustrations done in traditional folkore paint techniques. Masterpieces of Russian Folk Crafts, Khokhloma Folk Painting — 32 Vintage Prints, Postcards (16×2 Complete Sets with covers) — 1974, 1976. €11.58 + shipping. Check them out at RussianSoulVintage.


6. Put some folklore on your wrist

folklore bohemian watch

I love this watch. Made in Poland, the watch is custom-made and has a leather strap. It’s made from stainless steel with a high-quality graphic placed on the clock face. The watch is equipped with a Japanese quartz mechanism and a replaceable battery. There are many other floral and folklore designs available, as well as different colour leather straps. €21.29 + shipping. ludowelove


7. Bohemian earrings

bohemian folklore earrings

Etsy is a goldmine when it comes to beautiful jewellery and it was hard to select just one pair. If you are looking for earrings or other unique jewellery, I recommend having a browse and look for yourself! These beautiful handmade tribal earrings are made from brass, inlaid with Malachite. €29.14 + shipping. Find them at TreezasEclectica


8. A vintage folklore bird ornament from Russia

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Another piece of gorgeous Russian vintage. Definitely worth searching for eastern european items on Etsy if you love folklore and colour! A bit different from the vintage from the UK. This beautiful bird ceramic ornament is from the 1950s. The colours are typical of the Russian folklore colours and show a beautiful craftsmanship. €23.00 + shipping. Find this one and more on NaphtalineTreasures


Plastic free bathroom products: go zero waste

Shampoo bottles, make-up wipes, toothbrushes, period pads, shower gel and razors…go and count the amount of plastic and wasteful items you have in your bathroom today. I know, right? But do you know it is actually not that hard to choose plastic free bathroom products and avoid single-use and plastic containers? I mean, people went without plastic for centuries before us, so surely we can do it again. Next time you need to get some new supplies, consider not buying your usual brands and products, but instead try this. Here are five easy zero-waste suggestions for your bathroom.

1. Shampoo bars

Lush has been selling plastic free bathroom products such as shampoo bars for years. I am currently using Lush’s Seanik shampoo bar, which smells lovely, gives plenty of lather and leaves my (slightly oily) hair clean and soft. There are plenty of other shops selling them too and you may also find shampoo bars on your local craft markets and Etsy, handmade by soap making fans. Or why not have a go at making them yourself?. Shampoo bars are basically are soap bars, with natural ingredients good for cleaning hair. Rub them on your wet hair in the shower and wash your hair as normal. It is handy to buy a metal tin with it to keep the shampoo bar clean and intact and make it easier to take with you to the gym or trips away. And not just shampoo comes in bars, conditioner is available too, as is of course normal soap. Nothing needs to come home in a plastic bottle no more. Let’s go back to the bar!

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2. Bamboo tooth brushes

Imagine how many tooth brushes you have used in your lifetime. Now imagine where they all are in the world right now. Because they are not biodegradable. Time to rethink the brush! If you are using an electrical brush, this won’t be an option (or maybe yes!), but these lovely bamboo tooth brushes do an excellent job in caring for your teeth and for the planet. I have just started using my first ever bamboo brush and it works perfectly.

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Buy a family pack bamboo tooth brushes on Etsy

3. Metal razors

My husband needs to shave pretty much daily and recently decided to ditch the plastic throwaway razors in favour of an old fashioned, durable metal safety razor, with doubled edge blades. Of course it also comes with a bowl, soap and a nice brush. Take extra care, these double edged blades are sharp and shaving may turn into a bit of a dangerous act if you expect the same job as your plastic razor. But a lovely smooth shave it gives. You’ll never want to look at Gilette again. Try specialist shops in town or online, the better department stores or Amazon.

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4. Plastic free periods!

Someone on Facebook posted a funny video about menstrual cups a few years ago, so I got curious and decided to buy one. My goodness, what a life changer! Best thing since sliced bread. Day 1 still requires a backup pad, but that would be the same with tampons if you have a heavy flow. For this I have just bought some pretty fabric washable pads or you can get organic pads that are biodegradable. There’s even period-proof underwear. You don’t notice the cup at all, making your period a complete breeze. You empty the cup once or twice a day, clean it under the tap, and use it again. The cups are made of silicon, a very safe material that does not contain chemicals nor harbour bacteria like tampons would. It does take a bit of practice and some brands may suit you better than others. There are quite a few different ones on the market (here is lots of information on how to choose the perfect one for you. There are also heaps of videos on Youtube explaining the use. I am personally very happy with my Divacup.). Also, you will get very familiar with your female body parts, which you will have to feel comfortable about. But I will never go back to tampons, that’s for sure.

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5. Make-up removal pads

This is another easy plastic free bathroom swap. Do you use throwaway face wipes to get your makeup off at night? Maybe time for a rethink, especially after reading this article. How hard is it to just have a jar of reusable cloths and make-up pads sitting in a jar or basket on your dressing table? Throw them in the wash and use them again. Not rocket science and really something we should all be doing right now. No more throwaway plastic wipes. Not difficult to make yourself some washable face cloths, from some jersey fabric or old towels cut into squares or circles. Or just use simple shop bought terry wash cloths.

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Set of seven pads available on Etsy

 


A few online ethical / organic stores to check out

Etsy – the eco-friendly bathroom selection
The Ethical Superstore
Big Green Smile UK
Green People

 

Book tip:

Zero Waste Home : The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste. Bea Johnson

In Zero Waste Home, Bea Johnson shares the story of how she simplified her life by reducing her waste. Today, Bea, her husband, Scott, and their two young sons produce just one quart of garbage a year, and their overall quality of life has changed for the better they now have more time together, they’ve cut their annual spending by a remarkable 40 percent, and they are healthier than they’ve ever been. PRICE 15,54 €

Eco-friendly Christmas decoration without tinsel

Who’s up for making some eco-friendly Christmas decoration? Christmas is a time of indulgence. Too much food and drink, too many gifts and a house full of decoration. Fun times for sure, but every year tons of plastic tinsel end up in landfill, as well as other stuff like broken fairy lights, plastic baubles and other Christmas decoration. Because stuff is so cheap these days, it is very tempting to go to low cost supermarkets and pound/euro/dollar stores and fill your basket with new glittery pieces every year. I’m no saint, I’ve done it too! Because sometimes temptation gets the better of you and you think, nevermind, it won’t make much of a difference if it’s just me doing it. But it does.

Five DIY alternatives to tinsel

Today I am suggesting some alternative, fun and in most cases far more durable alternatives to plastic tinsel. Let’s get making! No time or skills or too much faff ? Find decorations at your local craft fairs or have a browse on Etsy.

1. Paper Christmas decoration

Last year’s Christmas cards cut into circles, stars or triangles make great garlands and bunting. Paper chains are easy and fun to make too. Get the kids involved on a rainy Sunday afternoon! Possibilities are endless with paper and an ideal way to kick off your eco-friendly Christmas this year. Keep it really simple or turn it into a more complicated project with folds and creases, or sew the pieces onto a string.

eco-friendly Christmas

eco-friendly Christmas

2. Christmas decoration with poms

Oooh…do you remember making these at school? Pom poms are so much fun to make and easy enough for little hands to help too. Use up old wool, or unravel an old scarf or jumper if you really want to go down the upcycling route. Tie them onto a string and create a fabulous home-made alternative to tinsel. Hang them in the tree or use as a garland. Read my other blog post about Christmas pom poms here.

eco-friendly Christmas

pom pom garland Christmas

3. Eco-friendly Christmas decoration with pine cones

For a nice minimalist, kind-of Scandi look, go and collect pine cones on your next walk in the woods. Add a bit of silver or white paint to the tips if you like for a nice Christmassy touch.

pine cone garland eco friendly

4. Fabric Christmas bunting

Bunting is easy to sew and fun to create from any scrap fabrics lying around or old clothes. Choose reds and whites to make one in Christmas colours. Another easy idea is to cut triangles out of burlap and just sew the tops to a ribbon to create some home-made bunting. Still more fabric lying around? Make a wreath!

burlap bunting eco-friendly christmas

5. Beads and buttons

For more delicate looking decoration for your tree or fireplace, try stringing beads or vintage buttons (or remove them from clothes you no longer wear – you could use the fabric for bunting or a fabric scrap wreath!) on a thread at regular intervals for a ‘necklace’. Reusing your old clothes and buttons is a great way to create eco-friendly Christmas decor.

eco-friendly wreath and garland

christmas garland with vintage buttons