St Albans Mission To Ditch Plastic Straws: #RefuseTheStraw Campaign 

St Albans #refusethestraw campaign is inspired by Plastic Free July and has one simple aim; to drastically reduce the use of plastic straws in bars, pubs, cafes, coffee shops, restaurants, schools and everywhere else across St Albans. After watching A Plastic Ocean as part of the St Albans Film Festival, Emma (founder) felt even more motivated to push forward with this movement to rid St Albans of these harmful, and unnecessary, single- use plastics from our community.

#refusethestraw, #strawless, #StopSucking, plastic free, single use plastic, plastic straws, environment, sustainability, eco, green living, campaign, St Albans, Herts

A plastic straw has a useful life of around 20 minutes, and most places don’t bother separating them out for recycling. Many end up in our oceans. A great example of human wastefulness! Local businesses can take part in the following ways:

  • Provide a straw only when requested by a customer
  • Provide compostable paper straws instead (not those with a polyethylene lining) or other eco-friendly straws
  • Get rid of straws completely* 

*Note: In the interest of considering customers with disabilities, ideally sustainable alternatives to plastic straws would still be available, at least on request. 

Furthermore, individuals can help by spreading the word, speaking to people who work in local businesses about changes they can make, and simply by refusing a straw when buying a drink.

The campaign has got off to a roaring start and is gaining momentum fast! So far 16 businesses (and counting!) have pledged their support and are taking action, with more being added to the list daily. This is great news for our environment!

#refusethestraw, #strawless, #StopSucking, plastic free, single use plastic, plastic straws, environment, sustainability, eco, green living, campaign, Beech House, St Albans, Herts
Beech House

At the time of writing, the following are all phasing out (or already have removed) plastic straws:

The Beech House

Charlie’s Coffee Shop

The Fleetville Larder

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks

The Hare and Hounds

Smokehouse Deli

The Green Kitchen

Dylan’s at the Kings Arms

The Craft and Cleaver

The Boot

The Great Northern

The White Lion

The Courtyard Cafe

Lussmanns – all 5 branches across Herts

Inn on the Park

George Street Canteen

Thank you, and well done to you all! 

#refusethestraw, #strawless, #StopSucking, plastic free, single use plastic, plastic straws, environment, sustainability, eco, green living, campaign, Craft and Cleaver, St Albans, Herts
Craft and Cleaver

I am so excited about this fantastic step forward and can’t wait for further developments! To keep up with the latest campaign news and progress, make sure you follow @starefusestraw on twitter and St Albans #refusethestraw over on facebook. Neighbouring town of Harpenden also has its own #refusethestraw campaign, which you can find on facebook or twitter too.

And don’t forget to tag us in your local strawless or eco straw photos and/ or share them with us using the #refusethestraw hashtag to help spread the word even further!

#refusethestraw, #strawless, #StopSucking, plastic free, single use plastic, plastic straws, environment, sustainability, eco, green living, campaign, Living Life Our Way

Small changes make a big impact… and together we can clean up our planet. 

If you would like to set up a campaign in your local area, here are some top tips: 

  • You can get started just by setting up an email address, Twitter and Facebook page.
  • Approach businesses initially with a polite email, following up with an update if no response.
  •  Keep it light – we all know this is a serious thing, but a big green rant might  put people off.
  • Start with green and community minded businesses who are more likely to switch to get the ball rolling and build momentum. Other people are more likely to switch if they see others doing so!
  • Take it at your own pace. Even just 1 or 2 emails / calls / visits a day makes a huge impact! 
  • Be prepared with information to be able to widen the conversation if the business would like further details e.g. disposable cups, food waste etc…
  • Don’t be afraid to try the big chains. Ask them to use your local branch as a pilot.
  • Spread the word about your campaign on local Facebook groups etc…
  • Regular updates on social media keeps momentum. Post successes, and regularly publicise a list of everyone who has switched. 
  • People like to share photos, encourage use of the hashtag to help spread the word further. 
  • Approach local media and bloggers to get coverage.
  • Work with local groups e.g. WI, Transition, Scouts. 

#refusethestraw, #strawless, #StopSucking, plastic free, single use plastic, plastic straws, environment, sustainability, eco, green living, campaign, St Albans, Herts

      Plastic Straw Alternatives

      There are various sustainable straw options. I have tested out a couple of different ones at home; including steel and bamboo reusables, plus disposable paper and wheat ones too. I recommend the best thing to do is try some out for yourself and decide which is best for you. But here are some of my personal opinions:

      Wheat Straws (£3.49 for 40 straws)

      Pros – they can be cut to size 

      Cons – feels like they are softening as drink

      Paper Straws (£7.99 for 150 straws)*

      Pros – cheap and easy to source

      Cons – they can get soggy

      #refusethestraw, #strawless, #StopSucking, plastic free, single use plastic, plastic straws, environment, sustainability, eco, green living, campaign, St Albans, Herts

      Steel Straws (£5.99 for 4 pack of 145mm angled straws plus cleaning brush)

      Pros – very durable, easy to clean

      Cons – maybe feels abit cold and uncomfortable, plus mind you don’t bash your teeth! (Some have latex covers which would be good). Also makes an annoying sound against glass

      Bamboo Straws (£3.99 for 4 pack of 145mm straws plus cleaning brush)

      Pros – Cheap for reusables, highly sustainable, I like the fact they are chunkier than most straws (comfortable)

      Cons – May stain abit from drink

      Conclusion: The bamboo straws are my personal favourites! 

      On that note; to celebrate the launch of this campaign and as part of Plastic Free July, I have teamed up with Eco Straws to giveaway a set of 4 bamboo straws (215mm) for one lucky winner! 

      Bamboo straw, giveaway, competition, eco straws, #refusethestraw, #strawless, #StopSucking, plastic free, single use plastic, plastic straws, environment, sustainability, eco, green living, campaign

      Enter via rafflecopter below.

      a Rafflecopter giveaway

      Open to UK residents only. Closes 10th August 2017. Other T&Cs apply.

      *Disclosure: Affiliate Amazon link. This does not cost the buyer any extra.

      Thank you to Eco Straws, who supplied the bamboo straw set as a prize. I purchased my own straws. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 


      Organising An Eco-Friendly Children’s Party 

      Are you holding a kids party, and considering ways to make it more eco-friendly? It is not an easy task, as I discovered when trying to organise Squiggle’s 9th birthday party a couple of months ago! You need to get a bit creative if you don’t want to leave behind piles of plastic, wrapping paper, and litter. In some ways we succeeded, others we need to work on for next time! Here are some thoughts…

      party, eco, environmentally friendly, kids party, celebrations, events, green living

      Eco- and Kid-Friendly Catering

      • Opt for reusable plates, bowls and cutlery instead of disposable options. Alternatively, create personalised party food packages wrapped up resuable food bags or wraps, or even in scarves or bandanas. They not only make colourful decorations for the table, but this approach can subtly assist with addressing allergy issues/ dietary requirements of young guests, plus they’ll double as napkins and the children can take them home afterwards.
      • Prepare fruity drinks ahead of time, using jam jars with sealable lids. It saves on packaging and if the weather’s hot and you’re outside, they’re easily kept cool in a cool box or even a bucket filled with ice. Use sustainable straws (e.g. paper or reusables) rather than plastic, and make the drinks more exciting by adding chopped or sliced fresh fruit such as strawberries.
      • Picnic or buffet areas set aside from other activities help to keep the mess and left overs in one place. They make supervision easier too, so if anyone needs help they aren’t left on their own. Dressing up metal barriers (which you can hire from staging and event specialists) with paper bunting or streaming creates a separation from other areas while maintaining the celebratory atmosphere.
      party, eco, environmentally friendly, kids party, celebrations, events, green living
      Squiggle’s 9th party

          Green Ideas for Party Activities and Take Home Gifts/ Favours

          It is traditional to give the party-goers some kind of goodie bag or favour to take home, but it doesn’t have to affect your pledge to organise an eco-friendly party.

          • How about giving each child a small plant or sapling they can take home and put in their own garden? If you wrap each root ball in hessian, there’s no waste at all since it can go on the compost heap when it’s no longer needed. This is even better if any of the party activities have a similar theme of planting and growing.
          • For example, you could make ‘plant pots’ by halving empty cardboard roll tubes, then decorate by painting before planting their seeds. Plug each ‘pot’ with balled up newspaper so it will hold some compost. This creates an activity and a gift to take home in one. 
          • Or make seed bombs at the party to take home! 
          • Recycled plantable seed paper, for instance, is also an interesting novelty for children.
          • Nature crafts are fun activities. Have a scavenging hunt with a pile of twigs, mosses and grasses, then make some nature art.
          • Hold a bug hunt. Make a short list of insects to find, with prizes for all who find some, then invite children to draw or paint their favourites.
          • You could even get everyone involved in planting a special ‘celebration tree’ as part of the party!
          party, eco, environmentally friendly, kids party, celebrations, events, green living
          Nature art

            Other Tips

              • Use Japanese blow up paper balloons rather than latex or foil balloons. These last a long time and are more environmentally friendly.
              • Reuse decorations. If you don’t want the same theme year after year, pass your old decorations on and source ‘new’ secondhand ones on your chosen theme. Better yet, also opt for decorations that are made from sustainable materials too!
              • If it is a particularly large party and you plan on having several different activities going on at the same time, or maybe with specific start times if you’re holding competitions or races, it might mean guests are quite spread out at times. Setting up a PA system to make announcements will keep everyone informed and save you a lot of running round. I remember once we had Squiggle’s party on a huge field; that would have been very handy then! 
              party, eco, environmentally friendly, kids party, celebrations, events, green living
              We held a party on this large field a few years back

                Eco-friendly parties are taking off in popularity, not just because they are good for our planet and build empathy for our natural environment, but also because they’re fun and children enjoy them! 

                Can you think of other eco- friendly party ideas? Tell me in comments! 

                *Disclosure: This post is written in collaboration with Alistage. 

                Home Educating The Mad Lads by Victoria Musson – Jones: Review and Giveaway

                Home Educating The Mad Lads is written by Victoria, who is mum to 3 (very soon to be 4!) young children. She started home educating in 2015, when her eldest would have been due to start primary school. You can read Victoria’s previous Q&A with me here.

                Home education, freedom to learn, #lovehomeed, 100 days of home education, book, review, author, Home Educating The Mad Lads

                Victoria decided to write the book because when she was first considering home education she didn’t really know anyone who was doing it and was surrounded by people telling her how mainstream school was the best and only way. This caused her to doubt herself and led to indecision and heart ache. She looked online at books on the subject but she felt that they were all written by ‘experts’ which she found both intimidating and unhelpful. What she really wanted was the advice and experiences of a real life home educating parent. So she turned to reading blogs and found the real life reasoning she was after; in fact she found them so useful that it inspired her to start her own blog. When she begun receiving messages from other parents saying her page had helped them decide to home educate she thought a book might be helpful too. Plus she generally enjoys writing and blogging too!

                Home education, freedom to learn, #lovehomeed, 100 days of home education, book, review, author, Home Educating The Mad Lads

                Home Educating The Mad Lads is a down to earth, honest and raw story of this home educating family. Victoria writes from the heart and shares her personal story of her own school life, recounts her eldest’s preschool and nursery experiences and the many reasons that led them to decide on home education. 

                The book is a quick, easy read that features snippets from her blog, useful information about home ed and glimpses into their lives. It is very relatable, and I think is especially handy for people who would rather read print than screen; I know there are certain members of my family who I struggle to persuade to even read my own blog simply because they have such a strong preference for the printed word, so I think a blog style book is a great idea! 

                Home Educating The Mad Lads book can be purchased through Amazon (RRP £5.79). You can also find their blog over on facebook.

                Victoria has kindly also offered the chance for one lucky reader to win a copy of the book. Enter via rafflecopter below. Competition closes 2nd August 2017. UK only. Other T&Cs apply. 

                a Rafflecopter giveaway

                *Disclosure: This book was sent to me for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own. This post also contains Amazon affiliate links. This does not cost anything extra to anyone purchasing through these links.

                Top Tips For Hair Care

                I will be the first to admit that my hair is not in the best condition it could be. I am a busy mum and too often it just gets scraped back into a ponytail and ignored. However, I have been thinking about various (natural, if possible) ways to care for hair and thought I would share some top tips with you all…

                General Healthy Hair Tips
                First things first; don’t overwash it! Hair benefits from producing its own natural oils to keep it healthy. Some people even opt to ditch the shampoo completely and let their hair do its own magic! Even if this approach isn’t for you, Wellness Mama has a useful recipe for making your own natural shampoo and Eco Fluffy Mama has written a handy post about DIY natural dry shampoo too. Also, try to minimise the use of products and appliances. We all know that heat and too much styling damages hair. Keep your hair as natural as possible!

                Treatments/ Conditioners
                There are lots of natural treatments that work well to generally keep hair naturally looking and feeling its best too. Here are some favourites…

                Coconut oil is my personal go to method. I find it works equally effectively on both mine and Squiggle’s hair, even though we have very different types of hair. This is also the preferred method of Hollie from Thrifty Mum to keep her hair beautifully soft and healthy.

                haircare, beauty, healthy hair, hair tips, DIY hair treatment, natural hair treatment, health, wellbeing, Thrifty Mum
                Thrifty Mum after her coconut oil treatment.

                Apple cider vinegar is also brilliant; it is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory, it is a natural exfoliator and it is packed with nutrients too. Pretty impressive! Coconuts and Kettlebells has written a post with more detailed information. This is a favourite method of Daisies and Pie.

                haircare, beauty, healthy hair, hair tips, DIY hair treatment, natural hair treatment, health, wellbeing, Daisies and Pie
                Daisies and Pie after apple cider vinegar rinse.

                Jade from Raw Childhood uses the ‘Curly Curl Method‘ so doesn’t use shampoo and only uses approved conditioners without drying alcohols, silicones etc… She uses olive oil protein treatment for her hair, which leaves it naturally glossy and tangle free.

                Healthy hair, beauty, health, wellbeing, natural hair treatments, haircare tips, life hacks, Raw Childhood
                Raw Childhood post olive oil protein treatment.

                Banana gets mixed reviews; some people swear by it whilst others find it messy and hard to remove. I think it depends on hair type somewhat, so proceed with caution! Using over-ripe bananas that are thoroughly blended and strained, preferably mixed with oil, is my best advice. 

                Dry Hair/ Flaky Scalp
                The natural treatments named above also effectively combat dry hair or a flaky scalp. Any of them can help, so find the method that works best for your hair.

                haircare, beauty, healthy hair, hair tips, DIY hair treatment, natural hair treatment, health, wellbeing, Living Life Our Way
                Squiggle’s previously dry curls post coconut oil treatment.

                Hair Loss
                Hair loss is sometimes caused by having a dry flaky scalp, hence the importance of the above tips. Of course there are also various other reasons for hair loss too; including stress, hormone changes or imbalances, vitamin deficiency, autoimmune issues, and other medical reasons (including cancer treatment for example). Or sometimes it is simply in your genes! But whatever the reason, hair loss can affect a person’s confidence and self- esteem.

                hair loss, harley street hair clinic, beauty, health, wellbeing, natural hair treatments, haircare tips, life hacks, Living Life Our Way
                Hair loss

                Whilst in some cases hair loss is only temporary and/ or can be rectified by addressing the underlying issue, for example through proper nutrition in the case of vitamin deficiency, in other cases this may be more difficult to tackle. If it is not just a temporary issue, and other methods have failed, then there are also potentially other options to consider; such as hair transplants in extreme cases, or Advanced Tricho Pigmentation Treatment. This is especially worth considering if it is really affecting the person but they are not at the stage of hair loss where a transplant is an option, or if they cannot have one for whatever reason. 

                I firmly believe that beauty comes from within and we don’t need to change our appearance to feel good. But I also think that if something is making someone feel stressed or miserable, and bringing them down, then doing something about it is a positive thing. It can really help that person’s overall wellbeing! 

                What are your top tips for healthy hair? Tell me in comments!

                Now I am off to take my own advice on general good hair care… 

                *Disclosure: This post is written in collaboration with Harley Street Hair Clinic. 

                How To Give Your Home A Summer Makeover #InteriorInspirations 

                The weather may still be unpredictable but summer is officially here, so it is the perfect time to give your home a fresh new look! This summer, why not go for some of the following ideas:

                #InteriorInspirations, interior design, home decor, home and garden, home inspiration, summer look, room makeover, Living Life Our Way
                Stock Image

                Bright and Bold Colours

                Whether you opt for one or two select colours, or grab yourself a whole rainbow of items, choosing bold colours will really make the room pop and give you that summer feel. On my pinterest board below, you can see how this works particularly well on plain, neutral backgrounds. Contrasting colours also go beautifully together too if you are working with brightly coloured walls.

                Flower Designs

                Pretty flower patterns, give any room an outdoorsy summer vibe. From upholstered furniture to simply throwing a few cushions onto a sofa, and rugs to huge wall hangings, anything on this theme really creates that summer feel you are looking for.

                Bring Nature Indoors

                Moving on only very slightly from the flower theme, bringing nature into your home is another great way to get that summer look. I have written before about nature print wallpaper to bring the outdoors inside. This works well all year round and summer is certainly no exception. Real or artificial plants and flowers finish off the summer look perfectly in any part of your home. See my pinterest board below for some creative ways of doing this.

                Strong Geometric Patterns

                Duvet covers, throws, cushions and other home decor items in strong geometric patterns using bold colours on a light background are not only eye catching but undoubtedly summery too. This even works on an entire wall if you want to turn the striking meter up to the max!

                Set the Scene

                Another tip is to use world maps, beach or ocean prints that instantly draw your thoughts to travel and vacations; you’ll feel like you are on your summer holidays without even leaving your room!

                Don’t Forget Your Other Senses!

                Last but by no means least, remember it is not all about looks! Fragrance your room with a smell that reminds you distinctively of summer, play some relaxing ocean waves sounds and choose some cool summer textures to fully complete your makeover.

                Chill insurance are encouraging people to share their summer interior tips using the hashtag #InteriorInspirations on social media. They have also produced a fabulous ebook too, full of great ideas! 

                Do you have a favourite summery item of home decor? Or perhaps a top tip for keeping interiors cool in the summer? Get involved in the discussion on social media and/ or leave me a comment!

                *Disclosure: This is a collaborative post. 

                Cassiobury Park, Watford: Paddling Pools and Splash Park – BRAND NEW 2017

                Cassiobury Park in Watford, Hertfordshire has been undergoing a huge restoration project over the last year, thanks to a £6.5 million investment with help from the Big Lottery and Heritage Lottery Fund. The transformation includes brand new paddling pools and splash park, which we were keen to check out soon after it opened! 

                Cassiobury Park, paddling pool, splash park, water play, Blue Mind, places to visit, Watford, Hertfordshire, summer, families, days out

                There is a main paddling pool and a smaller one, as well as a splash park and various water play features too. It has push button controls suitable for all abilities and seems to be mostly accessible (although we didn’t have any wheelchair users with us). Users can enjoy a variety of sprays and fountains of differing heights and styles, plus paddle in the pools themselves too of course! There is plenty of space both in and out of the water, and a (very) small amount of shaded areas. 

                Cassiobury Park, paddling pool, splash park, water play, Blue Mind, places to visit, Watford, Hertfordshire, summer, families, days out

                Cassiobury Park, paddling pool, splash park, water play, Blue Mind, places to visit, Watford, Hertfordshire, summer, families, days out

                Cassiobury Park, paddling pool, splash park, water play, Blue Mind, places to visit, Watford, Hertfordshire, summer, families, days out

                Cassiobury Park, paddling pool, splash park, water play, Blue Mind, places to visit, Watford, Hertfordshire, summer, families, days out

                There is a sustainable park hub building that includes toilets and changing facilities, as well as a café. The hub also has a community and exhibition room, plus education facilities. For more information about the wonderful transformations that have taken shape at Cassiobury Park, see Watford Borough Council website.

                Needlite: Bringing Daylight Indoors 

                Needlite are a small, Danish start-up who invented and designed a unique daylight desk lamp, which launched in the Nordic market just under two years ago. The idea is simple: provide the user with efficient work light and provide the much-needed daylight at the same time.

                Needlite, daylight lamp, health, mental health, wellbeing, indoor lighting, home decor

                Needlite, daylight lamp, health, mental health, wellbeing, indoor lighting, home decor

                The Needlite has a simple, modern design. It is easy to use, either via the sensor or by downloading the iphone app. One simple touch allows you to turn it on/off, and change the brightness. There are various other functions too. I love how funky and modern it is!

                Needlite, daylight lamp, health, mental health, wellbeing, indoor lighting, home decor

                But there are more important benefits to the Needlite. Did you know that many people in western countries spend more than 23 hours indoors per day on average, all year round? That is not enough daylight! Yet humans need daylight for numerous health reasons; including energy, mood, digestion, sleep, recovery from illness etc… General indoor lighting is poor on quality and never contains daylight; the blue wavelength is not present in traditional lighting, which makes Needlite different to other indoor lighting.

                Needlite, daylight lamp, health, mental health, wellbeing, indoor lighting, home decor

                So whilst it might not seem very relevant to consider investing in a daylight lamp at this time of year, it is actually beneficial all year round. I am going to be trying it out further over the coming months and will share my thoughts with you in an update post later this autumn, but I can already see how it would be useful!

                Needlite is sold in the UK through www.wellworking.co.uk at RRP £399 (although it is currently on sale at £359 at the time of posting). Check the Needlite website for stockists in other countries.

                *Disclosure: I was sent the Needlite daylight lamp free for the purpose of review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 


                What Does Family Mean To You? #FamilyMadeSimple 

                What does family mean to you? The truth is, family means different things to everyone. Long gone are the days of 2.4 children as standard. I look around me at friends and aquaintences, and I see a wonderfully diverse range of family units that include single parents of both genders, same sex couples, multicultural families, married and unmarried partners, and blended families. In addition to the childless couples, family sizes range from one child to half a dozen or more. Some families live in close proximity, whilst other (still close knit) families are geographical far apart. Some are related by blood, others aren’t. There is no standard; every family is beautifully unique in one way or another.

                For us, whilst I wouldn’t consider my own family unit particularly diverse, we do have an only child, with no plans to extend our family; it feels complete already. Our family lifestyle is somewhat different to most too, in that we home educate Squiggle rather than taking the traditional schooling route. I guess that shows how modern family life can differ in other ways too!

                The following infographic What Makes A Family? has been produced by Slater and Gordon Family Lawyers and has some interesting stats and information about modern families.

                #FamilyMadeSimple, Slater and Gorden, family law, modern family life, general life, parenting, lifestyle

                What does family mean to you? 

                I asked some fellow bloggers this question. Some came up with lovely, sentimental and insightful answers…

                Family means Christmas Day, Sunday lunches and the only kind of hugs that make you feel better.Planes, Trains and Meltdowns

                Family means those who you can rely on and who support you and make you happy! Family is not just blood. The Smallest of Things

                Love, support and understanding.The Incidental Parent

                Family means everything to me. My Mother doesn’t do anything with me, and my kids and I think that’s one big reason to why I keep the rest of my family close. They are the ones I can go to if I need a chat and we’re always there for each other.Life As Mum

                Being together through thick and thin. Being happy to be just spending time with family, whether you are on a fun day out or relaxing at home.Dillydrops

                To me, my close family are the people who know me better than anyone else, who I can completely be myself around, and who love me without judgment. And vice versa.Five Little Stars

                Someone to support you through the tough times and celebrate the small victories!Two Hearts One Roof

                Family means to me being around people who want to spend time with me and will be there with me no matter what. Always have my back and stand up for me.The Mum Diaries 

                Whilst others had a more witty, lighthearted response…

                People to argue with that are available on tap.The Money Shed

                But Beth really sums it up perfectly…

                Quite simply – Everything ❤️ ~ Twinderelmo

                So, what do you think makes a family? Tell me in comments and/ or join in the discussion on social media using the hashtag #FamilyMadeSimple

                *Disclosure: This post is written in collaboration with Slater and Gordon Family Lawyers.

                What To Look For When Renting/ Top Tips For Landlords #RentalInsights

                Recently homelet.co.uk carried out a survey and have found some interesting stats about tenants:

                • Overall 86% of people were either very happy, quite happy or somewhat happy with their landlord or letting agent
                • 75% of people surveyed claimed to be happy with the response to maintenance requests
                • 43.6% of tenancy agreements do not allow pets
                • 12.5% of people surveyed have had their deposit withheld with 39.1% of these down to cleaning and 19.3% down to re-decorating costs

                We are long term renters but have also been landlords ourselves too, so we have seen it from both sides of the fence. We have had some poor experiences as tenants, but have also had some very positive ones as well. Over the years, we have rented privately and through letting agents, in house shares, as a couple, and as a family, and have had our homes managed by many different companies along the way. Therefore I am pleased to take part in HomeLet’s #RentalInsights campaign, to share our experiences and top tips!

                renting, letting, landlord, tenant, HomeLet, #RentalInsights, home, property, landlord tips, renting advice

                Renting as a family (especially with an SEND child) means that our experience, and our priorities, maybe different to other people in some regards. I know that before we started a family, we personally had a very different view on renting, whereas what we look for has shifted now that we are parents. For example, we used to move around every 6 months or so; a scenario we are most definitely very keen to avoid now! We both used to work full time so rarely gave any thought to how much notice we were given or how often access was ‘required’. Infact we were probably pretty quick to complain if things weren’t dealt with very promptly! These days, that is a disruption that we want kept to a minimum and we need flexibility with regards to timings, with as much notice as possible given too.

                The top priorities we have when looking for a family rental home, aside from location and so on, are three fold:

                Firstly, it must be a long term let. As a family, and especially with an SEND child, long term means years. Many agents consider 6 month contracts to be a long term let, so it is important to clarify what is meant by ‘long term’ for the particular property that you are considering. 

                Secondly, we need somewhere that accepts pets. They are part of our family; rehoming them is absolutely not up for consideration. However, as the survey suggests, this reduces our options by roughly half before we can even begin to think about any of the other factors that we need to consider. Sometimes a personal letter to the landlord, an offer of a higher deposit and/ or clauses added to the agreement can help with finding a pet- friendly property.

                Thirdly, we look for a suitable landlord/ letting agent. If initial conversations suggest that the attitude of the landlord, or approach to property management, is going to cause us stress and/ or prevent us from feeling like it is our home, we dismiss it. We also ensure that we are upfront about our own circumstances (home educating, SEND child etc…) so that we can find a good match for us. 

                renting, letting, landlord, tenant, HomeLet, #RentalInsights, home, property, landlord tips, renting advice
                stock image

                We have had some totally appalling experiences along the way though, both as a couple and as a family. This includes landlords letting themselves in without warning, agents showing round viewings after we have said it is not a convenient time, drastic rent increases regularly, keeping deposit without justification (prior to the compulsory deposit schemes) and even being evicted in the midst of our child having a health crisis (through no fault of our own; it was simply because they decided to sell). It can quickly turn into a nightmare if you find yourself in a difficult situation, so I recommend both landlords and tenants are clued up on their legal rights and responsibilities at all times. 

                The key points we would give to landlords/ agents is to build up enough of a working relationship with your tenants that you understand their personal priorities, and vice versa. Are they the type of tenant who will want every little detail dealt with immediately? Or do they need any essential work done around their schedule? Are they away alot anyway so people letting themselves in (with prior written notice of course!) is irrelevant to them, or are they a homebody who values their privacy and wants to be left alone as much as possible?

                The absolute crucial thing to remember is, for the period that they live there, it is the tenant’s home. And most people want, and need, to feel at home. It can be stressful living in a property where you feel like you are just visiting, or are made to feel uncomfortable in any way, and that in turn can affect peoples’ health and wellbeing. So putting yourself in the shoes of your tenant is a must.

                Understanding abit about the tenants and their situation, and knowing what matters most to them personally, helps everyone to have a more enjoyable, relaxed and positive experience. 

                *Disclosure: This is a collaborative post written as part of HomeLet #RentalInsights campaign. 

                Highlights of 30 Days Wild

                So, it’s now July and therefore 30 Days Wild is officially over. It has been loads of fun! There have been so many wonderful adventures and activities that I could not possibly name them all, but here are some of the highlights:

                My Top 3 Random Acts of Wildness:

                Visit to Gobions Wood, Hertfordshire

                Rock hunting

                Seeing a hedgehog for the first time ever

                Other Peoples’ Highlights:

                Wildlife cocktails, mud masks, building wildlife hotels, nature picnics – can’t pick one! Derbyshire Wildlife Trust

                Litter picking jumps out. Spending time with someone I love in nature + art inspiration = idyllic. In fact, community would be joint first favourite thing. Really hoping lots of people #staywild. Going to miss everyone! ~ Grow Eat Gift 

                love nature, grow eat gift, get outside, outdoors, 30 days wild, #30dayswild, #staywild, #livinglifewild

                Loved doing 30 Days Wild for the first time this year. It has helped my daughter greatly; she has Autism and we have been out and about together with her camera. She is very happy to have been chosen as the first person to take part in a new project by wildlife.net She is thrilled to have a slide show on YouTube featuring her wildlife photos and they have given her her own page on their site. I am very proud of her and thanks to 30 Days Wild for helping her and giving her lots more confidence. She has even sold one of her owl paintings- awesome. ~ mum of Emilived 


                The kiddies really enjoyed making ice bird feeders.
                The World is Their Classroom

                This is my favourite, my son catching newts. Happy Handley 

                Being chased by a crazy chicken on Day 25 was the funniest moment but having a reason to get the family outside and spend time together has been the best part. croftie goes wild

                What were your highlights? Tell me in comments! 

                Don’t forget that just because 30 Days Wild is over now, it doesn’t mean your ‘wild’ adventures have to end! Carry on your wildness and share using hashtag #StayWild 

                For my first #StayWild act, I have signed up for family membership of our local Wildlife Trust. Have you joined yet? Find your local trust.

                The Wildlife Trusts, Hertfordshire, 30 Days Wild, #StayWild, #LivingLifeWild, membership, wildlife, nature

                And if you are looking for a new challenge, it is now Plastic Free July too! #PlasticFree