How I Montessori (and why)

We’ve been enjoying some really fun activities over the last few weeks with the little man. We follow a very loose Montessori philosophy, as we feel that this suits our little man’s temperament and our parenting style. The principles that we follow are:

  • Milo has free choice of activities
  • Everything is neatly ordered and accessible by Milo
  • Give direction and show the way, but never ‘do it for him’.

Milo doesn’t have open shelves at the moment, but he does have some open storage in the living room. This is where we keep his building blocks and his musical instruments, although they’re long overdue for rotation now. He has an Ikea Besta unit in his bedroom, where all of his toys and activities live. He’s perfectly able to open the doors, take out what he wants, and even (GASP!) put it away again, sometimes. In Montessori fashion, we encourage his independence, and try to give him the space to work on whatever’s taking his interest at any given moment. He has a low table and a toddler chair in the living room, and he takes his trays there when he really wants to focus. Sometimes I’ll lay out and invitation to play there for him, but usually the table is empty and ready for him to choose.

He eats at the main table with us and always has. He has used a Tripp Trapp high chair from birth, first with the newborn seat and then the baby set. He now has the chair totally open, and has been able to climb up and down since around 14 months. He helps to set the table by bringing in cutlery and sauces, and tried really hard to wipe the table down after meals. He doesn’t do a great job, but he knows what to do and he just needs to practice. We always eat together, and try to include him in our conversation.

In terms of activities, I wanted to share with you some of our recent trays and toys that have really held Milo’s attention lately.

Sorting Tin and Shape BlocksThis is a little muffin tin from a children’s baking set, and three pairs of blocks from Milo’s block box. He can test his fine motor skills by transferring the blocks from the bowl to the tin, and start to match up the shapes and colours of the blocks.

Gruffalo and HairbrushAs we don’t have a pet, we’re introducing the concept of ‘care for others’ using soft toys. Milo can brush and stroke the Gruffalo, and quite often then moves onto me or Daddy E.

First Words flashcardsMilo’s language skills are really coming along at the moment, and we’re trying to encourage better pronunciation so that others can understand him. We’re lucky that he uses signs so confidently, but not everyone understands these. I’ve added some wooden play fruit so that he can match the fruit to the flashcard too, if he chooses.

Chalkboard and ChalkWho doesn’t love a good scribble? The bonus of chalk is that it’s fairly harmless. The pens and paint are kept out of reach, but I’m happy for Milo to self-direct with chalk. I’ll let you know if anything disastrous happens…

BRIO Track and TrainsI’ve noticed more and more lately that Milo is more interested in putting the track together than running trains along it, so I’ve put together a focus tray based on that. He likes the puzzle element of putting the pieces together, and the satisfaction of being able to play with it afterwards!

And of course, there are a few toys that he’s really into at the moment…

Hape Shapes and Sizes puzzle
Milo likes stacking the shapes up and then putting them all back in. He hasn’t quite got the hang of the fact that the sizes are different, but he’s starting to tell us about the shape and the colour of each piece (Angle! Booo! (Triangle, Blue)) so it’s a start.

Galt pop up guysThis week Milo’s learned how to fire the guys out of their holes properly, so now it’s a real struggle to stop them from rolling under the sofa…

Melissa and Doug Cog Caterpillar (the ‘Cog-a-pillar’)

Great for fine motor as well as logic, Milo’s starting to understand how this one works, and to match the colour of the cog to the colour of the pin. All the cogs are the same size and shape, so it’s not self correcting, but he’s getting better.

I’ve got some new art supplies and a box of threading beads stashed in the cupboard for the next rotation, so we’ll see how we go with those, but for now the main thing for me to do is tune into his interests and make sure I keep things as orderly as I can so he always knows where to find things!

Winter Capsule 2015

Following a couple of additions and changes, my capsule wardrobe for this season is in pretty good shape. It’s looking to get pretty cold this year, but plenty of layers and thermal tights will keep me toasty.

WINTER CAPSULE

Six weeks later…

So, it’s been a wild ride. We did our KonMari over six weeks ago and, you guys, it’s turned out just great. Things haven’t really shifted much from where we put them, so they were pretty close to being in the right place from the offing. THere are a couple of areas that perhaps need a bit of attention – getting into the habit of getting rid of paperwork is still hard going. It’s all in the right place, but there’s still too much. On the whole, the house is as neat and tidy as the day we finished the job. Not bad, considering I’m a hider.

The biggest wins for me on a day-to-day level have been my clothes and Milo’s toys. My wardrobe is still immaculate. Yes, there’s a bulk box of nappies and a bulk box of wipes in there, but my clothes are neat, uncrowded and exciting. By which I mean I like them all. It’s significantly easier to get dressed. Having lost a few lbs, I needed to replace some key elements in the capsule, and add some for the winter season. Knowing EXACTLY what I had and where the gaps were this was actually enjoyable. With Milo’s toys, they’re all organised in sets where he can reach them to get them out, and more importantly…PUT THEM AWAY. Which he does about half of the time. It’s not a rule, it’s not a chore, he just notices that he’s run out of space and starts to put things away. It’s freaking awesome.

To this end, the ‘having more space to play’ end, I moved his room around.I didn’t mention it, but a couple of months ago we got the little man a toddler bed. We had been searching for this elusive ‘perfect bed’ for months, and weren’t sure that he was 100% ready, but when a nice enough bed came up with a brand new mattress for £15? Yep. So, he hasn’t fallen out, he can get in and out by himself without any problems. As he hasn’t had crib bars since he was 11 months, the ‘freedom’ thing wasn’t an issue either. He just stays in bed.

IMG_8815

MUCH better. The rug is still strategically placed. When he pulls toys out of the cupboard…they hit the rug and not the floor. Inside the cupboard looks like this, 99% of the time.

IMG_8822

Because he knows where everything is, he just helps himself. Things are static, they don’t really move around. If he’s focussing on a particular schema, we’ll tend to have those toys in the living room on his table to work on, but it all comes back here eventually. I also made a new duvet cover. I love Swiss crosses SO MUCH.

IMG_8814

Oh room, we’ve come a long way. I hope I can keep the evolution going and always meet the little one’s needs.

KonMari and Me-how did it go?

Five days of KonMari. It’s been pretty intense. Marie Kondo suggests that the Tidying should be done ‘quickly’, which in her world means around six months. I can’t see how that would have worked for us, as I think we just would have been tidying round in circles. That being said, we still need to do the powertools/DIY supplies, and it’ll take a little bit longer to learn where everything wants to live, but taking a week off work and doing a thorough, intense Tidy was definitely a smart move for me.

What have I learned about the process? There have been some things that have surprised me along the way:

It took much longer than I expected
The things that took the time weren’t what I expected
I actually had less stuff than I thought

On my mental to-do list, I thought I would get through the categories much quicker than I did – It took nearly a whole day to do my clothes, and another day to deal with arts and crafts. The traditionally difficult category of ‘sentiment’ took me an hour and a half. I guess everyone’s different, and I personally found the logical categories harder than the sentimental categories. Does this spark joy? No. It’s a cable. I guess my beloved iThings spark joy of a sort, and without their cables they’re useless, so there’s joy in the equation somewhere.

I didn’t take a whole bunch of before and after photos, but I did manage to snap some categories as I went.
Clothes:
Clothes KonMari
Paperwork:
Paperwork KonMariArt and craft:
Arts and Crafts KonMariSeasonal Decorations:
Seasonal Decs KonMari
Books:
Books KonMari

The flat feels different. It’s not just that it’s tidy-really tidy-but there’s something else. It seems like there’s balance. There’s a practicality to it – I know where things are, and it’s not a fight to find the things I need when I need them. I know that cupboards and drawers aren’t stuffed to bursting, and I know that there’s nothing I don’t need or love. How could that fail to bring happiness into a home?

I’ve bought two things this weekend, and they both filled a need and were well considered. Firstly, I found that we only had one Mario Kart Wiimote wheel, so one of us always has to awkwardly hold the controller. I like Mario Kart, even if it does make me a bit sweary, so having two wheels makes sense. Secondly, I bought a new pair of grey jeans. In my wardrobe purge I felt almost total joy through my grey (maternity) jeans. If only they were non-maternity! Oh wait…they TOTALLY make grey jeans for people that aren’t pregnant. Simple.

We’ll see what happens in the next few weeks, but for now all is well. There’s absolute joy in the flat right now, and hopefully I’ll develop mindfulness when shopping, too. Verdict on KonMari? Yes. It works for me.

KonMari Day 4…ish. Sentimental keepsakes

Day four of the KonMari has been something of a rest day for us. Mr E’s been tied up in the bathroom plumbing and building a new bath surround, and I’ve been able to spend the day with the little man. While he was napping, though, I managed to sneak in a category out of order. Photographs and sentiment are usually left until last, but as I had some time, and I can’t do the final two categories (electronics and powertools) until tomorrow, I thought ‘why not’?!

I’m pretty good with this kind of thing, so there wasn’t a great deal to go through – although I haven’t even contemplated my digital photos…-but there was still some pretty potent stuff in there, and it was nice to just keep the joyful memories.

The sentiment boxes before:
sentiment before
And after: Some of it got rehomed, but most of it got thanked for the lessons it had taught me, and moved on.
sentiment after

Tomorrow there’s just two categories remaining, and they’re logical rather than emotional – electronics and powertools. We also need to do more tip runs, charity shop runs and dropping some things back to their rightful homes. Once that’s all done and the house can breathe, it’ll be time to put everything away. At this point, it looks like there’s more than enough room for everything to have a home, which is something that I honestly didn’t think would be an option. I’ll do a big clean tomorrow and let the fresh air blast through, and wake up on Saturday feeling fresh and clear. Stay tuned for the mop up and final thoughts!

KonMari Day Three: Books (part II) and the Kitchen

Today has been a long day. Quite aside from the KonMari, my tumble dryer broke this morning so I had to make an emergency run to pick up an airer lest my laundry be stranded and soggy. I also had a two hour journey to pick up Milo this afternoon, so there was a fair bit of time lost…

I finished the books this morning, and they went from this:
books before
To this:
books after
Via a fairly straightforward selection method. ‘And another thing’ DID NOT make the cut.
screw you eoin colfer

The kitchen was done today as well, and I realised that I had mismatched plates from five different ranges stashed in ever more ingenious hiding places in my kitchen. Also, did you know that edible lustre dust has an expiry date? I didn’t. I haven’t even tried to take any after pictures of the kitchen because as I was taking the rubbish out, this happened:
gtfo bin bag
And I kind of gave up.

KonMari Day Two: Komono

Day two of my KonMari journey is over, and I’m shattered. Luckily we’ve got a two day straight without Milo as he’s having a sleepover with his grandfolks. For Mark that’s meant that he’s been able to pull the bath off the wall and replace the taps, and also fix a leak that we’ve had for a while. The new tap TOTALLY looks like a cylon though. This meant that Mark’s been tucked neatly away in the bathroom while I go to town on my stuff. The komono categories are likely to be different for everyone, and cover a lot of miscellany. For me today, that meant:
Sewing things
Art supplies
Paperwork
Books
Paperwork before:
Paperwork before
T
hat’s a full filing box, a regular box, a carrier bag and a pile. Goshums.
Mortgage papers and house deeds, driving licences, marriage and birth certificates and bits and bobs. So much is on-line and paperless now, there’s little need for actual paperwork, do almost all of it went.
My arts and crafts piles before:
Komono beforeThis one took me far too long, maybe five hours in total. I split it into arts and crafts, and textiles. I got into a real mess sorting things out though. I snapped an in-progress shot…
Komono during
Arts and Crafts before:
art supplies before
OHMYGOSH so many pens:
pens and pencils beforeIt felt good to sort the pens out. I went through a lot of pencils until I found ones that I loved. I kept the ones that I loved, and the ones I didn’t went. It was as simple as that.
Pens and pencils after:
pens and pencils after
Total arts and crafts after:
komono after

KonMari Day One: clothes and toiletries

It’s been an interesting day. Our KonMari journey started with apprehension and frustration, as although Mr E was totally on board, he hasn’t actually read ‘The Life-Changing art of Tidying’ and my explanations were a little bit…crap. We got there in the end though, and managed to work our way through:

Clothes (his, hers and the kid’s)
Toiletries

Oh. I thought there was more. Well, that’s not an entirely fair estimate, as we did actually spent quite a while emptying the storage nooks and cupboards and sorting stuff into the relevant categories. This was surprisingly challenging. Usually I would discard as I emptied, binbag in hand, but I had to resist the urge and just focus all my energies on EMPTYING, knowing that the sorting came later. This freed me to go on autopilot, in which I could just put something in the right place – arts and craft, bathroom, tools… And that’s sort of where we are this evening. There are boxes and piles of pre-sorted stuff everywhere – well, everywhere that a toddler can’t reach.

I think for us, the remaining categories will be:

Cables, leads and electrical
Arts and crafts*
Paperwork
Books
DVDs and physical media**
Tools
Cookware
Pantry
Decorations

*Arts and crafts could get interesting, as my hobby seems to be collecting pastimes. I’ve got everything from knitting and crochet, modelling clay, fabric paint, haberdashery, some serious pencillage, to origami papers and papercraft. I guess I’ll find some kind of order somehow.
**DVDs and physical media should be fairly light touch. Since we Music Magpied almost everything we owned not long ago, we haven’t really gained anything new. Some collector’s edition Blu Rays and that’s about it.

So, Here’s what it really looks like to confront your hidden life and discern whether it brings you joy, in the form of my clothes:
Konmari BeforeAfter
The ‘Joy’ thing was pretty easy for me. There really was a feeling when holding each thing, and it was so nice to have the question framed in my mind as ‘do I want to keep this’ rather than ‘should I throw this away?’. I reduced my total number of clothes to 81 pieces. – including gym clothes, night clothes, underwear, coats, bags and shoes – in short, everything. Discounting the undies and specific clothes, my capsule wardrobe kind of created itself. It’s now my Joy wardrobe, and it’s 63% smaller than it was this morning.
capsule wardrobe on bed after
I learned that most of my clothes are beige, blue, grey and black, and that’s OK. I’m digging floaty tops at the moment, and I previously owned far too many scarves. This was down to the mistaken belief that I’d be uncomfortable with public breastfeeding. I totally wasn’t.
to the tip 1
I think we said goodbye (literally; read the book) to about 12 bags today, across rubbish, recycling and the clothes bank. There was a full bag of miniature shampoos and shower gels, and expensive moisturisers that I turned out to be allergic to. Razor blades with missing handles, and handles that you can’t buy the blades for any more. It felt good.

With day one over, and much gone already, I’m starting to imagine what this will feel like once we’re done. The wardrobe is an excellent place to start, and it’s no accident that it’s the first category. Getting dressed is often the first ‘chore’ of the day, and knowing where everything is seems like a good way to get into a great head-space for the day. Let’s see what tomorrow brings, with books and paperwork and arts and crafts…

KonMari T-2 Days – Inspiration

My KonMari adventure is drawing nearer, and I’m genuinely excited about the journey I’m about to take. I’m looking forward the a feeling or ordered calm and actually being able to find things when I need them. I’m also perversely looking forward to the capsule wardrobe challenge, I think it’s going to be tough to thin it out, but then so worth it when every morning I can get dressed without thinking, or fighting my overfull wardrobe only to find that the thing I’m looking for is creased to buggery.

Thanks to the wonders of Pinterest, I’ve been able to find a few pictures that spark that excitement a little further, and I wanted to share them. Next week I’m hoping to be able to post some before and afters of my freshly KonMari’d space, but for now, here’s my inspiration…


This is the Mandal bed from Ikea, and I love it, and all its promises of orderly drawers. What they look like at the moment though is shameful. This is a reminder of what we could have won.

And of course, my capsule wardrobe inspiration, courtesy of un-fancy.

See you at the starting line!