Reuben

About 5 months late to the party, here's our little lion Reuben.

He was born at home in a birthing pool and delivered by Calum before the midwives got here. It was such a great experience!


After several weeks of basically grizzling or crying non-stop, he is now a super chill little guy, maybe my most relaxed baby?! He loves people and might be set to be an extrovert. We'll see. His big bro and sis are so good with him and my heart feels all warm and excited thinking about having all 3 of these souls under our roof.


In other random life updates.....


Flowers from my mum. We are almost onto week 2 of gastro in this household (I seem to be the only one who's ok so far!) and they were needed.


Getting ready for Christmas super early. I have most of my shopping done by mid-November, other` than just a few small things for my kids and husband, so that I can enjoy December and not stress so much about extended family gifts etc. Something about having 3 kids and a routine (thanks to school etc) that forces me to be organised and I kind of like it.


 Summer is coming! Not that you can tell here in Wellington most days. Is it always rainy and dark all November? Because I don't remember it being this bad before. We still have the heater on most days.


Sweet baby things because they cute.


I am on a decluttering journey and while it's an ongoing process, it feels so good to part with lots of our baggage. Honestly most of the things we are getting rid of are decor items.... which is eye opening to me! No more purchasing trendy decor just to fill a space.

This is the big kid's room above now that Reuben is in the nursery. I miss it being Josh's nursery, I don't know why, maybe because I have so many memories in that room with him and developed so much as a mother during that season? And had finally got it how I like? I don't know. It's different now with a bassinette and a mash-up of leftover decor but I'm content and not feeling rushed to have the perfect room anymore.

This is how it was as Josh's room:



.... before we had to move the cot into Ella's room and put them in together. 

Now with Reuben in there it's more like this pic below, except I moved the shelves out last weekend. It's not as cute as before but it's an evolution!


And here's a pile of stuff leaving our home. There have many loads like this... and many more to go!


That's it from me for now. I have a baby to put to bed and a whole lot of food mess to clean up! And by food mess I mean diarrhea nappies.

Baby wants; baby needs

Also known as: mama wants/needs, in no particular order!

I hope to keep adding to this list as I come across more products I can wholeheartedly recommend. Some of these are on my wishlist for baby #3. Help me out with your product recommendations too!


1. Little mittens

We were gifted these ones from Nature Baby. They are so soft and better than cheaper ones we've bought! They can get a little sweaty which is why I think pure cotton is best. (They also have merino ones).
2. Warm booties 

More-so if you have a winter baby. We recently ordered some of these natural booties from Merino Mana and they look great -  nothing synthetic, and elasticated around the ankle to stay on tiny newborn toes (we found knitted booties don’t stay on and we’ve been told that the ribbons on them are a safety hazard).

3. Merino and pure cotton clothing! The most affordable to us in NZ for us was the Superfit brand available at Farmers. You can also get merino gowns for nighttime which make nappy-changes so much easier (no snaps!).


4. Muslin cloths/swaddle cloths + washcloths
We use a mix of Aden & Anais or the lovely ones my mother-in-law made. The large swaddle cloths get used as: blankets on car trips when the kids only need a light layer; picnic rugs; burp cloths; on the floor when you’re out to protect carpet from baby spills; a sun shade over the stroller/car seat; as a sheet; as an actual swaddle... the list goes on. The wash cloths are just softer than a usual flannel wash cloth and come in handy for different things. I remember being surprised with my firstborn at how much mess we made... leaking boobs, runny baby poop that always got out of the nappies, endless dribble... etc. It's not glamorous.

5. A play gym + hanging toys/objects
Super handy for lying the baby down under while you try to get something done - e.g. go pee before resuming your feeding marathon.  This one from Kmart is only $17 and you can hook your own toys on it. 


Speaking of toys/objects to hang from a play gym, you can totally make your own (some of our kids favourites were made from bottle caps strung onto a shoelace, or similar) or check out all the handmade options, like these cuties on Etsy. I would prob try to have some variation tho  e.g. some that crinkle and make a crinkly sound, some with a shiny or reflective surface, some that rattle, some soft, etc, as long as they are all baby-safe of course.


6. A quilt that doubles as a playmat
You can totally buy a separate playmat, but quilts have more uses I suppose! This one from Little Unicorn is super sweet, or search "easy DIY baby quilt" for hundreds of beginner sewing tutorials.


7. Water wipes
Nothing crazy here - we just like 'em and this brand is more affordable than others.

8. Bath thermometer


Our babies hated baths until we got the water exxxaaacctly right and this makes it way easier. Testing it on my wrist never ever worked for me. Maybe I am too hot or cold blooded or something?!
This one is just from Kmart.

9. Baby nail clippers or a fancy nail trimmer like this Haakaa one.

Those little nails are so sharp - ask any new mum what the scabs on her neck and chest are and she'll confirm! I would love to have something like this nail trimmer/filer as our babies always fought having their nails cut and it felt a bit dangerous.


10. A soft hairbrush
We love and still use this one from Nature Baby (and I also have a cheap plastic one for using with oil and water on cradle cap.)



11. Fess Little Noses
I still take this with me on any road trip because there is not much else you can do for a stuffy baby (or even toddler) nose when the baby is not old enough to blow it! Being able to breathe whilst feeding or sucking a dummy is kind of essential, or no-one is getting any sleep. I should add - a baby thermometer! We've had a few but none have lasted, so it's probably worth paying more for quality.

12. Totally unnecessary but I had to include it - cute wooden animals by Ostheimer. 

I always wanted a baby bear for Josh's room, a fawn for Ella's room, and a lion cub for this new baby. Maybe one day if they ever have a sale...... (laugh with me - these things are permanently sold out and pricey).
They are available from various online stockists.


13. A safe newborn dummy like this one from Haakaa.

Pretty much all new parents are against dummies but when you are desperate for an hours' sleep you'll do anything. These are also brilliant for reflux babies - they will either use your nipples or a dummy for their pain. You get to choose which. Josh still has his dummy which has been a pain but also a Godsend. 
(Ella sucked her thumb which was easier all round!). This one shown is the Goldi Orthodontic Newborn Pacifier and I'm tempted to get it for those desperate moments.


14. Haakaa Breast pump /letdown collector.

I HEAR these are amazing for casual collecting of breastmilk. I haven't tried personally, but I would love to have one for this baby so I can relieve engorgement and hopefully have better luck with mastitis. I have an electric one but it's super annoying to set up all the chords and plugs etc. This one can go anywhere with you. You can get Haakaa products on Amazon or a bunch of baby stores, or direct from their website I believe.


15. Similarly, Haakaa nipple shield

Has anyone used this? I've had horrendous BFing experiences with my babies - my nipples were never sore or damaged (which I'm told is rare) but my babies had such strong feeding aversions that I had to trick them into thinking they were not BFing - my nipple shield bought me a few feeds I would not have otherwise been able to give.

(Side note: I also then had to trick them into thinking they were not bottle-feeding. Both of them had such strong aversions they didn't drink properly unless they were asleep, and didn't really start recovering until they were on solids. I suspect severe silent reflux, as does my midwife, so this time we will hopefully get extra-good paediatrician attention!)




Can you tell we've had some hard times with babies around here?! These are both on my wishlist and the reviews are good! We love using Healthpost - amazing service and the best prices most of the time.



17. Absolute Essentials baby sleep package.

Ummmm yes please! I trust this brand hugely - a New Zealand organic essential oil company who really know their stuff. This 3-part package comes with "Twinkle Star" sleep blend; Nose & Chest care; and Chamomile Roman which is for sore little tummies. Basically covering off all the things that can make baby unhappy (they sell a teething blend too... and a blend to hurry along labour if you're way overdue!). I am keeping a close eye on this because it's something I am really considering for baby #3. Anything to make sleep easier.

18. Kiwiherb Baby Balm (currently on sale!)
We use a cheap zinc + castor oil nappy cream from the supermarket, however whenever I have a "nice" nappy cream I so appreciate it. We love the Kiwiherb brand for their natural medicines, and this balm can be used on all skin irritations including mama's broken nipples, so it's a double whammy.


I know I've missed things so will keep adding to this as I think of them! 
But tell me, what would you add that you found useful? I can add your recs too :)

Renting out your home on Airbnb - is it worth the money?

Renting your home on AIrbnb - is it worth the money?
[So fresh, so clean, so depersonalised]

We recently rented out our home on Airbnb for the third time. 
So, is it worth it? Would we do it again? Let's have a look at the pros and cons...
CONS
  • Airbnb tenants are total strangers who stay in your home when you are not there. This means they have the opportunity to snoop through anything they please, and you can't do anything about it! Ordinary guests are probably too polite to examine the inside of your bathroom cabinet, the top drawer of your bedside table or anything else that you don't want them to see. But nothing is off limits for someone renting your home, unless you physically lock it away.
  • It's a LOT more work than you think, especially if you have children and/or lots of personal or precious items. For example, here are some of the things you have to take into account:
  • Kids break things. On that note, so do adults. After our first Airbnb experience with a family staying in our home, we came home to find several of our things broken or missing. Mostly small things - an old shoe rack, a curtain rail, a kids puzzle, etc, (they also cracked our glass stovetop but that's another story!) - so we learnt the hard way that anything we want to keep nice, we need to remove. There is a dispute resolution process you can go through but honestly it's easier just to remove all your nice things. Don't want your new throw pillow getting stained? Remove them. Don't want your kid's puzzles getting massacred? Remove them. Baby photos, sentimental letters and cards, journals, bathroom products, things you'd rather not have a stranger poking through? Remove them. But know that it's a LOT of work to remove so many things from your home!
  • On that note, you really need a lockable room or at the very least a wardrobe. We lock a whole room downstairs. I'm listing it as a con because it takes some work to set up, and it seems to take months afterwards slowly sifting things back into the rest of the house, but it's the only way we can make it work.
  • Everything must be cleeeeean. Maybe I have high standards on this but I spend several weeks beforehand trying to clean/sort a small area of our home each day. We clean inside the cutlery drawers, inside our emptied-out top drawers, under couches and under couch cushions, under beds, dusting the skirting boards, etc. It's a big job because they have to be not only clean but also tidy.
  • You may go through a LOT of linen and therefore a LOT of laundry. We recently had 4 people staying while we were away and between towels, duvet covers, sheets, pillowcases and mattress protectors, it took about 3 weeks for me to get through all the washing afterwards. Chances are you also have all your washing from your time away from home, AND all the linen that you stripped off your beds BEFORE the guests arrived. It's just a lot. I'm thinking in future, we would say linen NOT provided and just skip all that.
  • It can be little gross coming home when your house has been lived in by strangers. Finding someone's hair all through your child's bed, for example, or stains on your sheets... it's just a bit stomach-turning, for me at least. I also find myself thinking, were people sick here? Did they sneeze on our cutlery while they emptied the dishwasher? Did they wash the cups properly? We had long-term tenants one summer of a lovely family similar in stage to ours, and they left everything spotless and it felt like we'd just had friends staying. But then other times I've found blood and who-knows-what and, well, enough said!
  • You can't assume people will treat your home the same way that you would treat theirs. We found that when we didn't meet the tenants face-to-face beforehand, they would basically treat our home like a motel. Stained towels, mess everywhere, melted chocolate crumbs in the beds... etc. But when we made an effort to meet the tenants face-to-face beforehand, they seemed to understand that it REALLY IS OUR HOME where we live and treat it better. Our policy now is we always try to meet them in person when they arrive.
Renting your home on AIrbnb - is it worth the money?


PROS
  • If you price your home right and 'sell it' well (with good photos, nice decor and nice touches like baking or whatever) you can make some decent money. Especially if you do this at a time where you would be away anyway, or if you have a flexible job and can go take a cheap holiday whlist renting your home out. We try to time ours for when we had a holiday planned anyway. But on that note - if you price it too low as we did the first couple of times, it might not really be worth all the hassle.
  • It COULD be fun. I think this applies more to people without kids tho, who are free and easy and have a nice home that doesn't take much work to get in order!
  • It makes you clean and organise with motivation. Which is good. However, stuffing stuff into our downstairs room was actually a backwards step for me because I have been decluttering and organising our home, and now half our stuff is downstairs in piles again.

Ok, that's a lot of cons for not many pros, but if you really need the money and can make it worthwhile financially, then that's kind of the only motivation you need.

So, would we do it again?

I don't know. Each time we've done this I've sworn we're never doing it again, and I still kind of feel like that! Maybe in a year's time when I've recovered from alllll this laundry and feel like I have the time and energy to be ridiculously organised. 

Have you done Airbnb hosting of your permanent home? Would you try it?






Organisation: konmari-ing our medicines

I'm just going to go straight out and say I didn't study up on the exact Konmari way to purge medicines, but by this point we'd covered so much else I just did it.

We had a lot of medicines and they were all in different spots around the house. I had been storing them up high in the pantry and it was a nightmare to keep them from becoming a total mess, seeing as I could barely reach them let alone see them!

1. Gather all your medicines into one area.
This means get them from your bathroom, your handbag, your car glovebox... all of them.


2. Discard everything expired, and everything you realistically don't need or would buy fresh if you needed it. We had several double-ups which showed me we weren't even using the old stuff anyway. 


3. Group remaining items by category, OR, do what we did and put everything in ONE BOX.
We had previously had a different box for each category but some overlapped and bascially nothing was getting put back in it's correct box. It was actually making it worse. I purged ours down to the products shown below, but now we have them all in a white plastic container in a locked cupboard in the bathroom. It has really simplified things knowing all the medicines are in one spot.


4. A friend pointed out that you can donate make-up/hair/beauty items that are still good, to an organisation like Women's refuge. So that's something to consider! Often these women leave with only the clothes on their back, so I think this would be appreciated!


More decluttering and organising posts:





Organising: Decluttering our linen closet

I can't believe I didn't take a before-picture of our linen closet! Can I just assure that it was a dump. Like everything falling out of everywhere. Every now and then, I'd go on a rampage of re-folding all the sheets, duvet covers, towels etc, but it NEVER lasted because the moment you pull a pillowcase from the bottom of a pile, everything on top slides off.... as you will know if you are a human that uses a linen closet.

So here's how to do it!

1. Remove everything. Everything. EVERYTHING. It will look like a mountain of doom piled on your bed, which is good because you need to deal to that before you go to bed!

2. Everything stained, ripped, etc.... make a ruthless decision about it's usefulness. We culled about 5 towels that were not needed and had permanent stains, and moved them to a box in our garage shelves that literally just contains old towels. So useful when you have kids or pets. We are always needing old towels for terrible messes, or carsick kids on long journeys.

3. Keeping that duvet cover you bought when you were first married and didn't know what your taste was, even though you hate it now, but you feel you should keep it because it cost $200 and it's technically still in good condition? MOVE IT ALONG.

4. Sort through your purged items into different boxes/baskets/bags according to where you will donate it or move it to.

5. Aim to purge 50%. This always sounds ridicuous but we have only been married 7 years and already had enough linen that we could get rid of 50% without noticing it. How is that? I kept our favourites, and asked the question "is this something I want to bring into our future?" for everything. I kept only my favourite pillowcases and now when I look at the basket of them all together, they literally make me happy with their fresh, clean colours!


This was our linen closet after purging, but before I had figured out containers. IT ALL FIT. I was amazed. It's like 1.5 feet wide and I always thought waaay to small for a family. But it all fits. 
In the end I decided nothing was going to stay neat if stacked like this, because I often pull something out from the bottom. So....




6. Store items except for towels folded upright in bins/baskets.

We got more of these Nouveau containers that you might recognise from the bottom of our pantry and I folded everything into them, in the way you see below. 

After using this system for several weeks/months I can honestly say it makes all the difference. When I pull out one pillowcase, the rest stay put. When I tug out a set of huge sheets, the rest stay neat. I can't recommend folding linen upright in containers like this more strongly! My linen closet, like my pantry, is still exactly as neat as when I first organised it - and that has never happened before.



Towels we use daily and they are easier to reach-and-grab without a container. It's not a problem since you just grab whatever towel is on top of the stack. But everything else has a box/basket now.


7. Label the bins/baskets.
I just wrote on bits of card and tied them to the bins - it makes it so much easier when I'm looking for, say, single fitted sheets for a guest. I don't need to guess what's what. It's awesome.

In the picture below you can see our mostly-finished closet. I have since got 2 more containers for the top shelf for those stacks you see there (hand towels and face-cloths). You can see how our towels are not in baskets, but everything else is.


8. Quickly do the same with your tea towels, aprons, random cloths etc.

This is our drawer in the kitchen with tea towels, aprons and bibs.


9. Sit back and enjoy the cleanliness and function :)




More decluttering and organising posts:


Organisation: Konmari-ing our pantry

One part of our home I'd been avoiding like mad was our pantry. It was just such a mess. After my 2 months of being bed-ridden during pregnancy everything had just escalated. My husband, bless him, was trying to look after me at the same time as run his new business from home, and keep on top of the kids' schedules, groceries, and cooking for everyone, etc. Even with help from family and friends that we are SO grateful for, it was a lot to deal with. One outcome of those months of pure survival mode was that items somehow ended up piled on the pantry floor - which already needed tending to before I even got sick. It was just an un-functional mess.


See what I mean?

Let's get a close up of that floor situation.


Ouch.
One day I finally thought I had enough mental energy to tackle it and oh my goodness, it took the 2 of us at least 1 full day of work, plus more for me the next day. Once we'd got everything out I sat down and sorted through all the items, then sent Calum out on endless errands going to different places buying the exact right storage containers that I needed, and donating any dry food that wasn't expired but was just not going to get used.
Here's how it looked at the end of our organising:



The craziest thing to me is that this was over a month ago now and it still looks exactly the same (with the addition of some labels). That's a sign of an effective system - it should literally make your life easier.

There are a couple of areas I'd still like to tackle (a lazy-susan for the spreads and some kind of solution for the spices) but there's a chance we'll be re-doing our kitchen soon and those things may end up elsewhere.

Anyway, here are my tips for tackling this job, based on our experience!

1. Lay out a large box and a rubbish bag in the area you will be moving the pantry items to. We labelled the box "donate" and also had a smaller box or 2 for more specific donations eg "donate to food bank" or "donate to friends/family". The rubbish bag is for actual rubbish and expired items - of course use your discretion about what to recycle/compost etc!

2. Start by emptying EVERYTHING into a designated nearby area. We covered our whole huge dining table and more, and got the pantry completely empty.



This was the most stressful part. Just LOOKING at all that stuff made me feel a bit sick, and Calum had to leave the house! But that's the beauty of this process. By taking everything out you REALLY feel the pain of how much you own. You get a true sense of what you're hoarding, and that is motivating in itself, so don't skip this step!
3. Go through each item:
  • check the expiry, discard expired items
  • ask yourself if you will actually use it. We had teabags for a thousand people and had somehow ended up with about 10 bags of a type of pasta I don't really cook with. So those were donated to a local food bank.
4. For the remaining items, get a piece of paper and jot down the items and what size or type of container would be item for them (if you need one). I kept a tally showing which items would need:
  • a small lidded jar (ideal for those smaller quantities of nuts, seeds, dried fruit)
  • a medium lidded jar (ideal for things like dessicated coconut, or homemade spreads)
  • a large lidded jar (ideal for things like organic coconut sugar that don't get used heaps. Large jars can be heavy so I wouldn't use these for everyday baking ingredients unless you never move them)
  • a large cereal container (ideal for all products that get poured into a pot, bowl, or measuring cup - including rice and pasta, not just cereals)
  • a large tupperware style box container with lid, with a cup-size scoop kept inside. I have about 4 of these for: flour, sugar, self-raising flour, and wholemeal flour. I.E everything I measure out with a scoop by the cupful.
  • cans. We got these can-racks from Briscoes, on sale for about $13 each and used 4 of them on our lower pantry shelves. They happened to fit well and it is SO nice to finally be able to find the can you need! We usually have at least 3 of each type of food item and the shelves fit 3 one behind the other, which is perfect.
  • which things can stay in their packets but to be coralled together with other items. E.G a large storage container with no lid to keep small boxes of lasange sheets in; or in our case a large box to keep "spares" of coconut water and cooking oil that we buy on special but don't need yet.
  • ....and which of your items would be fine in existing containers that you already have (it may take a re-shuffle).

5. Go and get your products! I'd say always get a couple extra containers than you think you'll need, and for most of them, buy a slightly bigger size than you think you'll need. It's nice to have room to grow and some empty space in the jars for top-ups.
If you're curious, my favourite items were lidded jars from the brand "Kate's Kitchen" (sold in Mitre10 and Briscoes in NZ), and the white plastic Nouveau bins from Mitre10 (I've seen almost identical ones at Kmart and The Warehouse too). We also used good old sistema containers.

Of course, you don't need to buy new! I see lots of people re-purpose jars and containers from second-hand shops. Just do what you need to do.

6. Rinse all new containers with hot water or give them a run through the dishwasher, and make sure they are thoroughly dry before filling.


7. Clean out your pantry shelves and vaccum the pantry floor while they are drying.

8.  Start emptying ALL packets, bags and boxes into your new storage containers and discard/recycle all the wrapping appropriately.


This is the part where you finally start to feel you are gaining ground. I found it overwhelming until this point.

9. Fill your shelves back up and keep an open mind about where things go. Think about the items you use the most and keep them in arm's reach; and obviously things you hardly use or that are dangerous for kids go higher up.

10. Go forth and donate/sell/etc any excess

I think that's everything!

Honestly once this job was done, I felt so much better about all the other organising I had left to do.

In our day-to-day life, I no longer have any hidden packets of who-knows-what lurking in my pantry and I never end up with double-ups, because everything goes straight into its container. For me personally, I prefer to have a designated container for every single thing, rather than just for the larger items like flour and sugar. I bake with a lot of alternative ingredients (coconut sugar, arrowroot powder, almond meal to name a few) and it is a total game-changer to have a separate labelled container for every single thing. Not to mention you can take the containers directly to bulk-bin places like Bin Inn and have them filled, bypassing the whole packaging situation altogether.

Like I said, it's been weeks and everything is still orderly. Normally after a pantry-purge I have to keep tidying things up, but this truly works as a sustainable system for us.

I hope this has helped motivate you to get purging and be more thoughtful with your storage systems!