28344976_UnknownThis year seems to be the year that we all have realised that we have enough stuff. Everyone on my Christmas present list, when asked what they would like, has suggested an “experience” gift or something really bloomin’ practical.

We have bathroom cupboards bursting at the seams with hand creams from our aunts, joke presents that are not really that funny ( I still have some racing willies somewhere in a drawer) and the numerous reports on the amount of our stuff heading to landfill is horrifying us all into sizing down on our presents, refusing to panic-buy and rethink our “filler” options. Hallelujah!

However, a quick search on Instagram for #giftguide and I am presented with thousands of pages of gifts, little trinkets to spend my hard-earned cash on this Christmas. If you’re  in need of some inspiration I have a few Christmas gift ideas that might help you this Noël:

  1. An experience; dinner, workshop, a massage or beauty treatment. Something you hardly ever treat yourself to, but is such a treat when you do have it.
  2. Candles. Candles make everything so cosy, and you don’t need to always splash out on the Diptyque or Jo Malone variety. TKMax always have a load of fancy-looking candles that are pretty reasonable, or you could even make your own..
  3.  Plants. This is something I usually get the people who have everything.
  4. Books; even secondhand books (if the person you are buying for is also an eco-warrior). Everyone loves a good cookery book.
  5. Grow-your-own herb kit or a herb garden. Kind of feeds into the above.
  6. Homemade hamper. Homemade chutney, jam, pickled items – get creative!

Psst! Don’t forget to wrap it in reusable wrapping paper/ cloth!

 

 

 

 

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Is it me or does Christmas seem to have come around extra fast this year? Well folks, just because it is Christmas and every marketing campaign in history out there tells us we must buy stuff during Christmas to have a great time, don’t mean it’s true. I have a few tricks up my sleeve that might help you to loosen the purse strings.

  1. Buy second-hand decorations. The charity and thrift shops are usually FULL of them at this time of the year. We went down a couple of days ago and bought all our decorations for around 6 euros. You might even bag yourself a second-hand tree you lucky rascal.
  2. Which brings me to my next point, think about the Christmas tree. According to this Carbon Trust report , considering the transportation, biodegradability and process it is conclusively “better” to get a real tree as opposed to a plastic one, unless you know you will use the plastic one for at least 12 years. Check with your local waste services but some trees do get collected, shredded and turned into fertiliser or in the area of Amsterdam I live, they apparently get turned into Christmas tree bonfires.
  3. Re-usable wrapping paper. Wrapping paper is usually plastic coated so not recyclable. We all see the bin bag from ONE family Christmas, imagine that multiplied over each country. Terrifying. I have started using scraps of fabric I find in the textile bin at work, and hope that people will reuse them (yes I am also that person who checks with the gift receiver if they will indeed find a use for the scrap of fabric and takes it back for reuse if not). Other options can be old newspaper with string, or brown paper.
  4.  Borrow your Christmas party dress. Every year, I used to buy something new for the annual Christmas party. It usually featured a lot of glitter and didn’t really work at other times of the year. Very wasteful indeed people. If you have nothing to wear, ask your friends first, chances are they probably have something and then scour your local secondhand shop. If all else fails I really recommend renting one.
  5. Christmas presents, get stuff people actually need or want. We all know it’s coming yet we all find ourselves panic-buying in the shops with hundreds of other people doing the same thing. The panic-bought present clutter our houses for a few months and end up in the charity shop. Think about what people really need, is there an experience you can get instead of a material item? Can you get children’s toys secondhand? Can you buy a bit less stuff?
  6. Have a veggie Christmas. I know it’s almost blasphemy for some people, but the Linda McCartney roast joints are pretty good, and let’s be honest we’re here for the trimmings!

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Three years ago in my old job, I remember my then-boss calling me whilst I was cooking dinner. It was 7.30pm. I turned off my podcast and put him on speakerphone whilst chopping garlic. He started speaking about a conversation he had just had with his senior. What he told me was an important update but not vital, and could certainly have waited until the next day. He did, of course text me first to check if it was okay to call me, but did not wait for a response. When he’d finished speaking, he asked me to make notes of everything he’d just told me. I was trying to concentrate on two things at once, the timing of the pasta I was halfway through cooking, and trying to listen to everything he was telling me. Cooking is my happy place. Not that night. For the rest of the evening I found my mind wondering to that conversation, wondering if I had caught everything on paper and then wondering why he has asked me to make notes when he has probably the same access to a pen and paper. It was this that irked me the most. And it is not the first time throughout my career this thoughtlessness has left me frustrated.

 

I have worked with a lot of dickheads. I have been working since I was sixteen and I have had more jobs than I can count on two hands. These jobs have varied greatly, from working as an au pair in Switzerland to a sweet wrapper for a famous chocolate company (FYI you can get sick of chocolate pretty quickly when faced with an unlimited supply). I was even dressed as a giant Volvic bottle for a promo job in Brighton, and my most glamorous job yet has been a hand model for a TV advert and no, the hand-job jokes never get tired. There has been one constant thread throughout all of these vocations. Working with dickheads. Some people are lucky, and work in a dream team, the type of people that gets shit  stuff done, will have your back in a meeting, will help out with the little tasks and not take all the credit for your work. These people are keepers and general all-round babes. I am fortunate enough to have worked with a few of them in my time, and still count them as friends. With the right team, working with others can be the can the most wonderful inspirational experience. But let’s be honest, there’s a lot of professional idiosyncrasies that can drive you crazy.

There’s a lot of dickheads in the workplace.

I worked with for one dickhead who used to ask me to go and pick up her dry-cleaning or chicken for her dog (FYI I was not hired as a PA but was the youngest in the team and consequently had to pick up the passive aggressive errands), I worked for another dickhead who was a downright bully and who would pick out one person in a meeting and ridicule them to the others as if there was a private joke between everyone. I worked with another dickhead who decided that getting hit by a car did not warrant me to take three days off, but elicited not to tell the owners that this was why I was reason for my absence from work and I received a notice of dismissal on my return. I worked for a micro-managing dickhead who would correct me on everything I did as a waitress, made me cry twice and was the most miserable person I had ever met. I worked in a pub for another dickhead who used to openly rate the women who applied for a job on their looks, and mark that rating on the right hand corner of their CV.  Another dickhead once scratched his groin whilst talking to me and when I pulled him up on it told me he was sorry but needed to do it. The same person picked his nose constantly when we had conference calls. I even had one dickhead who kept “forgetting” to pay me when I was working in a little coffee shop in Canterbury until I refused to come work until I got paid. He did pay up, eventually.

Let’s just say I have worked with all kinds of characters over the years, so much so that I feel I can impart some wisdom on anyone who currently has a work dickhead, or plural if you are really unlucky.

  1. Try to look at it from their point of view. This is something my mum always tells me, and 8/10 it helps. Are they under a lot of pressure? Are they going through something personally? Can you be a little kinder in your assessment of them? Take a breath and count to ten.
  2. Stay out of the politics. For some reason we love to unanimously moan about work, particularly we love to bond about how detestable we find someone at work. Whilst I do encourage confiding in someone, make sure you don’t make the behaviour out to be worse than it is, something I have been guilty of in the past.
  3. Is the juice worth the squeeze? Think about what you can learn from these people.  Working for dickheads has taught me to speak up a bit more and call out behaviour that is not okay.  I am also a bit more aware of when it is time to move on and look for another job, for my own mental health.
  4. Speak up. Whilst it is difficult, if you or someone else in the workplace is being bullied or harassed,  speak up. Speak to their senior, or HR if they are available. Ideally, if you feel comfortable, speak to the person in question first, and tactfully point out what you find frustrating. If they throw it in your face (and be prepared for that) at least you have tried to discuss it with them first. Keep a record of the dates things have been said/done, so that you can at least build a case on paper.
  5. There will definitely be more dickheads along the way. The grass is not always greener. Look at the good parts of your work.  My current boss definitely has his perks; he  can be very kind, he lets me get on with my work, he encourages me to take courses to develop my skillset.  I am also very aware that I can probably be difficult work with.

Most of all, call a dickhead out when they are being a dickhead (in more polite terms).

There is nothing they hate more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Shoes found on ebay

Okay, spending too much time on your phone is not really great for the planet, but some of these apps have really helped me to rethink and reduce my consumption.

Fashion:

ebay: An oldie but a goodie.  These guys are still the best and were pioneering for online reselling way before it was cool

Vinted – I have raved a lot about this app as ebay is not really prevalent in the Netherlands. It allows you to buy sell and swap clothes. I am currently on the peruse for some very nice boots and have my eyes on a couple of pairs

Nuuly: Fashion rental that is €80 a month for 6 items? YES PLEASE. This is probably my favourite of the rental platforms and can help to feed the “new” addiction, also great for wedding season

United Wardrobe: 

A great re-selling clothes platform, lots of nice finds on there.

Good On You:

Good On You simplified sustainability goals and calls out  which clothing brands are really not making enough effort in this field in a really simple way. They also speak very clearly which materials are detrimental for the environment and which you should favour. They also offer sustainable alternatives to the damaging highstreet brands.

Other sites/ apps worth knowing about that I don’t use; DePop, Frankie Collective.

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Furniture:

Facebook

Finally something Facebook is useful for! Facebook Marketplace is the only reason I still have my Facebook account. Okay that and the thousands of old pictures I occasionally have a scroll through, plus who doesn’t love a daily update from your auntie on what they had for dinner?

Here are the groups for buying secondhand stuff  in the Amsterdam area:

Fashion for Sale Amsterdam, Amsterdam Yard Sale, Amsterdam deelt/geeft (all free stuff) and I always check Marketplace if I need something before buying it new.

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Rug and sofa both secondhand finds

Food:

Too Good to Go:

Pretty much the best idea anyone has ever had for an app. This app allows you to buy food from restaurants that they would otherwise throw out at a fraction of the price. My favourite places are Le Pain Quotidien and Marqt (Netherlands only).

Olio:

A similar concept to the above but more for consumer to consumer. Say I make a giant cake and cannot finish it or I am going on holiday for 2 weeks with some food leftover in my fridge, just put it on Olio and let someone else make use of it.

Love Food Hate Waste:
This app will give you ideas on what to do with leftovers and how to reduce waste, and taught me how much is an average spaghetti serving per person (nobody likes cold spaghetti).

Travel:

ViaVan

Okay we all need to use a taxi or car occasionally. ViaVan allows you to share your lift with others, and it makes it really cheap. A bit like UberPool but they pay their drivers a lot better apparently.

BlaBla Car:

I used to use this and it cost me 5 pounds to get all the way from East London to Canterbury. It meant we all saved money as well as emissions. If you are taking a long journey by car , consider posting it on here and sharing your journey!

Litterati 

Is worth checking out, this app makes picking up litter into a game, and identifies which companies are the worst culprits for their packaging.

Any apps or websites you think are worth a shout out in helping to share/ swap/resell? Let me know!

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IMG_1905There is nothing more the human soul could want.

I am surrounded by mountains with the sparkling sea lapping close to me and two of my favourite people in the world (my parents) just a few metres away. This is my happy place. I ignore texts from friends, blissful in my detachment from the everyday life. My phone being the last attachment anchoring me to reality is untouched.

And then, after a few days weened off, I return like an addict and through a few simple touches I am returned to world of social media. A quick scroll through my personal account and I notice myself physically deflate. The familiar and unjust feeling of FOMO trickles in and I have funny feeling in my stomach.  The banality of Instagram stories, the narcism of the selfie is alarming yet alluring, and I find myself going down the rabbit hole that we all know too well until I catch myself and toss my phone away, furious at myself for allowing something so fickle affect my mood.

We all know the weird dopamine highs and lows that social media can release in us. It ain’t natural, and it ain’t mentally healthy. I think deep down we all know this, but we there is also a wonderful feeling of being connected to others. That being said, I don’t think it’s all doom and gloom and I have a lot to be grateful for from social media. I do feel like I have found my happy medium.  I have an account that only a few close friends know about, and I am part of a community that gets excited about sustainable innovations, about secondhand finds and about package-free market shopping. Yes, we’re a niche and the Instagram algorithm diligently echos the message of the bubble of algorithm back to me, becoming like my own personal social shopper, but I have found other people that feel enthusiastic about clothing swaps, or using up the last of a moisturiser. I freaking love you guys. There is no way I would have been able to find you people and messages without it. Would the message of the climate strikes been shouted quite as loudly and fiercely without social media telling us when and where?

Because of social media, I have  avoided the eye-roll of my boyfriend every-time I comment on the amount of plastic used in a documentary we are watching, or a plastic bottle by someone being interviewed. I have my own personal outlet. I don’t need to “lecture” other people on the emissions of a transatlantic flight quite so heavily. Sustainability has become more of a sexy topic so now it is something people want to talk about at the dinner table, but I am sure it has helped other people to find their “group”. It’s helped single mums find a vocation, it has made the consumer a dictator and it has helped us to call out something that is morally wrong, to offer another discourse to the media’s point of view. I mean, it’s invented the vlogger/ blogger. A whole new career path that did not exist a few years ago.

So yes, like a lot of things we need to treat it responsibly. Scrolling through Instagram for hours on end won’t do much for your mental health, just as eating two packets of crisps for lunch won’t do much for your heart. If people make you feel crappy we have the power to unfollow. Or mute. Curate what you see and protect yourself. I also have to remind myself that underneath every picture of someone #livingtheirbestlife, there is another story, another narrative.

 

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