The funk. The anxiety. The depression. The afterbirth of 2020 and the uncertainty of 2021. We’ve all felt it in some way or another. If it’s the grief from the pandemic, the monotony of our daily routine, the absolutely terrifying anxiety of the political climate, all all together these are just few of the reason my productivity has been low and my tensions high.  I think it is safe to say the past year has affected us all in some way or another. I don’t know about you but that combined with the dreary weather here in Amsterdam and lack of socialising has led to what I am going to call a funk. Feeling pretty strange, highs and lows but mostly a bit of a lack of excitement for the future. It’s prevented me from writing or really engaging much at all. The days have all kind of rolled into one, and a trip to the supermarket or bakery has become a high point of the day.

Well my funklepusses, I am here to lend some insights into small things that have helped pull me out of the funk, or at least offered me a ladder.

Give yourself some simple achievable tasks –  I learnt this method on the BBC How Do You Cope podcast. The podcast presenter set himself the task of learning all the countries in the world, but you can pick anything you want just make sure it is realistic, small and achievable.

Treat yourself to a magazine subscription. For me there is nothing nicer than leafing through a “real” book or magazine or newspaper, folding the pages back as opposed to scrolling on a screen. A weekly treat arriving through my letterbox with a resounding thump on my doormat each week gives me pure joy. saving the interesting articles, for a drizzly Sunday morning in bed with coffee. Truly wonderful.  If you are financially able, think about getting a subscription to one of your favourite magazines or papers – journalists can certainly do with a bit of extra help in the digital age where we expect all journalism to be free. 

Something calming – my brain is pretty chaotic at the best of times, so I found knitting a really nice way to slow down my thoughts when I am feeling anxious. It also helps me to concentrate a bit better during meetings (I always make sure my camera is turned off), but I suppose it is the similar idea to doodling to help you concentrate when listening to others. I chose knitting because I have a bunch of wool just lying there and my Granny taught me to knit when I was little, but the glory of youtube is you can get a tutorial for pretty much anything, so try out some different things and see what works for you.

Movement – it doesn’t need to be a high intensity class, particularly if like me you have neighbours below you. Yoga, walking, full on sports – whatever works for you. I have recently bought an online subscription to a nice yoga studio I like, and yes pushing myself to actually get on that goddam mat is a struggle but I never regret doing it. You can get nice subscriptions to Psycle, Form, and Boho Beautiful, Yoga with Adriene, PPGym offer free daily classes on youtube.

Take your lunchbreak If you are working from home schedule your lunchbreak and block it in your calendar and spend some time away from your screen or work apparatus during that time. Ideally get some fresh air. Go for a walk. Turn off your notifications.

Learn Look into some free online courses. Sometimes I feel like I am not learning as much as I used to, and I can really recommend FutureLearn for some short free online courses in almost any topic you want, alternatively search Event Brite for free or very cheap online events. I have also started an evening course in Dutch which I am really enjoying.

Talk to people. I am fortunate enough to have a couple of friends and family who have listened to me vent when work has become tough or the four walls are driving me mad. This has really helped me, but I know it can be hard to reach out to people. If you do have a supportive network, reach out to them otherwise I have found podcasts have been my saving grace over the last few months. I try to choose podcasts that make me laugh or speak with empathy; Fi and Jane, Black Frasier, Private Parts ,The Imposter Club, How Do You Cope and of course The Adam Buxton podcast are my go-to listens at the moment.

Spend less time online. Ha! Sure! A screen-free lifestyle is easier said than done right? Especially these days. But seriously no one on their deathbed is going to have wish they spent more time on social media. I have found setting myself allocated time or a maximum amount of time, and turning my phone onto silent mode in the evening. It has made me the worst person at texting back, but not checking my phone has helped with my concentration and my mental health. I have also started opting for calls or voicenotes instead of texts.

So there you have it, a few things that have helped me to feel a leetle bit less funky. I would love to hear if you also have things that have helped you to feeling back to your usual self.

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It has been a tumultuous few months, honestly it has not felt right or respectful to continue writing mundanely with the current social injustice that we are facing. I want to write first that I whole-heartedly stand with people of colour, as a white person, right now my voice is not the voice you should be listening to. I urge you to continue to listen to BIPOC, read more books by and about people of colour, look further than the ones circulating Instagram. Listen to more podcasts by BIPOC
. Continue to vote with your wallet. Don’t buy from businesses that have refused to pay their workers (Topshop, Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie and Kylie cosmetics). I will continue to recommend those I have found insightful. As a child of parents that would routinely march against the EDL in our area, the racism throughout the world is not something I have recently awoken to, but it is still horrifying that we have so much work to do.

I still believe that climate change is something that affects us all, but not equally. Here in Northern Europe we experience slightly warmer summers and ask what the problem is, whilst those in the global south are experiencing a montage of freak weather, shortage of fish, plastic filled oceans, homes that are being taken over and cleared for livestock, air and rivers that are so polluted that communities are dying. Climate change will affect us all, but it will disproportionately affect those in the global south. This is also known as Environmental Racism.  Climate change is deeply intertwined with racial inequality. Our actions will have an impact on someone somewhere in the world. The garment we buy from the fast fashion retailer is continuing to unjustly compromise the life of the underpaid garment worker in Bangladesh. The metals used in our 8thsmartphone we simply must have because the camera is slightly better, will have most probably have been mined in dangerous conditions in an industry that has been linked with child labour. This impact can be positive though. We can choose to support B-Corp businesses. We can choose to waste less food, to eat less meat and animal products. After a reflection on this,  I will continue to write my humble blog about the little changes that we can all make that have an impact, about finding treasure in others trash and consuming a bit less. Of course, I will drop in the odd mid-week muse and will forever try to make you laugh. It is nice to have an audience to write for. I hope you stay.

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I have been dabbling lately with some homemade cleaning products, and thought I would share some of my success stories.

Firstly, I think it is good to explore the benefits of homemade cleaning products. I have been trying to use natural cleaning products to reduce my plastic consumption and move towards using more natural chemicals to clean with. On the whole they’re also much cheaper and you probably have most of the ingredients in your cupboard. There are still a couple  shop-bought versions I prefer; toilet bleach for instance. I do a toilet bleach once a week, but I have also been trying other methods to use bleach less often. Washing up liquid has also become a contentious subject in our house. I happy using castille soap to wash-up with (you do need a bit more soaking and elbow grease) but it drives Steve mad as it’s not quite as good as store-bought washing up liquid, so he buys his own. As always, find what works for you but I really encourage you to try making your own- you might be surprised!

Cleaning Utensils:

First up, your cleaning arsenal. Ditch the paper towel and use cloths instead. I made mine out of an old t-shirt that had holes in it. I also use microfiber clothes because they are the BEST. Can you recycle some old spray bottles? Use old newspaper or the paper stuffing from parcels to clean windows and glass, make bin liners out of old packaging (giant rice packets, clothes order bags). When you next need to buy a new washing-up brush, hunt out a wooden one. I found mine in Marqt in Amsterdam for a euro! Try to use as little water as possible when cleaning.

Glass Cleaner: 

I think we all know this one, but thought I would include it anyway. White vinegar and newspaper is all you need my friend.

Sink un-blocker:

  • 1/3 cup bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar (cheapest you can find!)
  • Boiling water

Mix the bicarbonate of soda and white vinegar over a sink in a mug, and then pour down the sink and leave to sit for a minimum of one hour maximum overnight. Flush through with boiling hot water.

All-purpose cleaner:

Version 1: I took this recipe from the yoga studio I used to work at, we used this to clean the yoga mats, and they always smelled brilliant! This version is especially good if you don’t like the smell of vinegar ( which I use in my other version)

  •  1 empty spray bottle, you can use an empty old one washed out
  • Cheapest vodka you can find
  • Tea tree and lavender essential oil
  • water

Fill  the spray bottle about half full with vodka and half full with water. Add about 8 drops of tea tree and lavender oil (or more if you want a stronger smell) mix together and voila!

OR

Version 2: This one is a little more pungent and takes a bit of time.

  • White vinegar
  • Air-tight jar
  • Old citrus peel

Put the old citrus peel in the air-tight jar and cover with white vinegar. Leave for 1 week to ferment. Open and use! I dilute mine with water and put into a spray bottle that my friend gave me when moving out.

Toilet cleaner:

I once listened to Radio 4 programme on which a butler shared his cleaning tips. He swore by the method of cleaning the toilet with a whole litre bottle of cheap coca cola (another reason not to drink Coke). I find this does leave my toilet bowl sparkling.  For me a once-a-week bleach is still necessary , but here is a non-toxic in-between toilet cleaning method:

  • 1 cup boiled and cooled water
  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • roughly a handful of bicarb soda
  • essential oils for a nice smell

Mix the vinegar and essential oil into a spray bottle and spray around the bowl. Shake the bicarbonate  onto the toilet bowl and scrub with a toilet brush. Flush and wash away.

Washing-up liquid:

I haven’t yet found a homemade washing up liquid that really works. I have tried castille soap but unfortunately it just doesn’t cut through the pan grease, however I have recently been using used coffee grounds as a pan scrub to get the hardened on stains off. Alternatively, if you have a load of grease in your pan I really recommend giving a good sprinkling of bicarbonate of soda and then pouring on white vinegar and leaving to soak and do its magic.

Laundry:

Ecover is probably one of the best laundry detergents out their for the environment and you can refill your Ecover in the UK. Whatever laundry detergent you use, try to use a liquid version. I have written before about using a liquid as opposed to powder as this creates less friction and therefore less micro-plastics. Also fill your washing machine with as much washing as possible, and put it on a lower temperature.

I hope these work for you! I will keep experimenting and I would love to hear the methods of natural cleaning that you use!

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Have a great weekend!

Flora x x

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  1. If you are staying for longer than a month get a bike. The City is small, but big enough to get tired easily if you start walking everywhere. The whole place is bike-friendly and cycling in Amsterdam is the best and usually faster than public transport. You don’t need to go fast and you do get used to the pedal-brake.
  2. The bureaucracy sucks. It took me three interviews to get a BSN number (Dutch equivalent of a social security number which you need to anything including getting paid for work/ registering with a doctors). It’s not impossible though and every immigrant goes through a similar process (I hear it’s even harder if you’re not from the EU). Just be prepared for a lot of “it’s just our policy” responses to your questions. And bring your birth certificate with you to Holland. I am not joking.
  3. Coffee shops are not the best thing about Amsterdam. This city has so much more to offer; from quirky cafes, and restaurants, excellent beers and incredible exhibitions and festivals.
  4. The Dutch are not that rude. Seriously, I am the most overly sensitive person and I was warned that the Dutch can be pretty brash in comparison to our overly polite and fawning manner, but so far (fingers crossed) no one has told me I am an idiot and everyone has been pretty supportive – my new landlord even invited me to his leaving party!
  5. Charity shops are not a thing here. If you are a slow fashion advocate like me there are vintage shops (which are pretty pricey considering the clothes are secondhand) and great flea markets which are super cheap!
  6. Invest in a great raincoat – if you are cycling a lot the winter months can be pretty wet. Or you can have four seasons in one day. Rain-chic is a thing here.  At the time of writing this the must-have raincoat is from the Danish company called Rains which favours the rubber-feel material as opposed to that awful nylon, and of course cut beautifully for the practical hipster cyclist. They are lightweight, overpriced and I am itching to get my hands on one.
  7. Find a flat as soon as possible, and don’t be put off by living outside the city. There is a huge demand for housing , so be very aware of scams and try to find somewhere as soon as you can and don’t be disheartened if it takes a little while. I found my flat on Facebook and it is beautiful – definitely worth living in an AirBnb room for a month with no proper kitchen or living room.
  8. Buy local! Holland has a thriving agricultural industry and is second to the US for its exports per value, despite being 277 times smaller. I have found that buying my fruits and veg in local markets and corner shops is a lot cheaper than buying in the supermarkets, plus you get to support a little guys. Also make sure you check out the flea markets, but leave enough time to do some serious perusing.
  9. Bring mosquito spray. It is October and I have been eaten alive by mosquitos and apparently it is a common problem which I assume is because of the water, but I have never known mosquitos to thrive in these cold temperatures.
  10. Go Dutch! Despite the whole of Amsterdam speaking incredible English, it will be greatly appreciated if you can order your beer in Dutch like a local.

 

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IMG_6838Housemates. I could write a book on how many different characters I’ve lived with over the years, but perhaps a blog post will suffice. I am currently sitting in my local coffee shop, nursing a long black and hiding from my current housemate after he thought it was a great idea to lock his dog into my room to keep her out the way whilst he moved an entire tree through the house. She is very young, excitable and has a weak bladder (the dog not the housemate) and decided then and there to demonstrate her elation by urinating on my clean sheets. Despite this, I still prefer the dog to the housemate, who is probably the messiest person I have ever lived with, which I could forgive if it wasn’t for his quite frankly outdated views on the world, refusal to recycle and excessive consumption of meat and constant criticism on everything I cook, read and have an opinion on. We don’t really get along if I’m being honest.

London is home to people from all over the world, and due to a serious lack of affordable housing you will usually find yourself renting with complete strangers. It’s something I love about the city, you meet people you might never have otherwise met, and you end up doing things you might have never done before. I have lived with obsessive cleaners, obsessive disorderly’s, eccentric vegans, non-stop party animals ( I lived above a pub for a few years on minimal sleep) and complete couch potatoes. I once lived with a couple who would frequently have screaming rows and throw plates at each other whilst, but otherwise seemed to be completely and madly in love. My pal lived with a girl who used to collect roadkill and keep it in the freezer. He would find anything from squirrel to badger stuffed next to his frozen peas, stored in plastic bags until she was ready to make her next lasagna.

Some people I have been fond of, others not so much but I honestly don’t regret living with any of them. Admittedly, in my current situation I try not to be in the house most of the time (thank goodness I am only subletting for two months), but it’s meant I have managed to explore the local area, find places I might not have otherwise found on my wanderings and even make friends with local baristas. In a world that feels like it is becoming increasingly antisocial, it’s refreshing to meet people from all walks of life that I might otherwise not have hung out with. I think it’s healthy to step outside your friendship bubble, to meet people who challenge your views. I have learnt a lot from the people I have lived with (particularly patience) and the distant relationship means you don’t have to explain that sometimes just want some time to yourself. You learn to converse with all kinds of people and find things out from all different industries. I lived with a mid-wife who brought home a birthing pool one hot, summer evening and we filled it up and used it to have a dip/ a balcony beer cooler. I probably would have never considered a vegan diet until living with one guy who was by no means going to compensate on flavour in his diet and made the most wonderful and interesting things.

This kind of friendship is inimitable, it’s something that comes with hours of trawling through SpareRoom ads, through weird “interviews” in people’s houses and sometimes through a friend of a friend having a spare room. If you’re having doubts or finding it tricky remember it’s not forever. There is a load of us out there all going through the same questionable experiences, and you’ll never be stuck for a story at a party. As a generation of housesharer’s I hope renting with strangers will catalyse us becoming more accepting, more socially intermingled and find friendships in unexpected ex-council flats in Angel.

 

 

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