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lifestyle

Working from Home: Expectations vs Reality

Before COVID, if there was such a time – I can’t remember, I always said “Oh no, I could never work from home. I’d miss the craic of the office too much, and I prefer leaving my work at work. I wouldn’t want to work where I live, it would just blur the work/home boundaries too much”.

But, nine months in and it turns out that I actually really enjoy working from home and am very happy to do so, even if I’m not happy about the circumstances forcing me to.

According to my ma, life’s all about setting expectations. So, that’s what I do (I’m a very obedient child). I had mine about what working from home would be like and what the pros and cons would be. But, not for the first, maybe the second time, I was wrong.

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Expectation: Do less exercise and be less active

Reality: I’m actually a lot more active than I ever was working in an office. Like a lot of people, because I don’t have to commute into work, I have extra time in the mornings and evenings.

Instead of just walking to and from work and going for a walk at lunch like I did when I was in the office, every morning I go for an hour-long dander before work, a wee walk in a park at lunch and then two walks after work. So, I’m actually a lot happier with my new routine and activity levels, and I feel a lot better for it – mentally and physically.

As well as the extra time, I think working from home has made us realise that we actually need to get out of the house, otherwise you’d literally spend the whole day inside it; and that really would negatively affect your mood, health and work-life balance.

Reclaim the Hour and a Half You're Forfeiting to ...

Expectation: Be easily distracted by things going on at home

Reality: There are actually fewer distractions for me at home, even with three other people constantly in the house. I share the ‘office’ (living room) with my brother, but he really doesn’t talk much, so even if I wanted to be distracted, I’ve not got much hope with him.

Sometimes, the postperson comes and I answer the door, sometimes I’ll have a wee chat with my parents in the kitchen while I’m filling up my water bottle, and sometimes my brother responds to me. There aren’t people coming in and out of the office (apart from me), talking about the news and the latest trashy reality show, and I can’t look out my window and people-watch in the office across the way. I miss you, green tie man.

The down-side of this is obviously that it’s less social than working in the office. But, I’m still able to have Skype team meetings, email colleagues and I can talk to my family at lunch time, so it doesn’t make as much difference as I thought it would.

Workplace Distractions Reduce Productivity | World Manager

Expectation: Be less productive

Reality: I actually think I’m more productive working from home. I have fewer distractions, wee messages and errands to run; I can just put in my headphones and get stuck into something that I need to do; I can send emails straight away instead of waiting until someone gets out of a meeting or comes back to their desk.

Plus, having fewer distractions (see above) probably helps me stay focussed more and lets me get stuck into things. I can sit and work away at things until they’re done, rather than having to stop and take breaks to chat to colleagues about work, weather and TV-related things.

Work From Home Coffee Sticker by The Busy Bee for iOS ...

Expectation: Wear leggings and jumpers

Reality: I was spot on. Shock.

This might sound a bit ‘out there’ but, it turns out that dressing casually doesn’t actually affect my ability to do my job? Mad. If anything, I’m actually able to concentrate more on what I’m doing because I can whack on warm clothes and be comfortable, rather than sitting shivering or complaining about being cold in an office. 

A warm Niamh is a happy and productive Niamh.

Benefits of WFH

Expectation: Sit at a desk facing a window with an aesthetic succulent on the side

Reality: Sitting on my couch with my laptop on a cushion. Aesthetic succulents are in the kitchen.

I don’t have an ‘office’ in my house. I don’t have a computer desk or a spinny chair. I don’t have the room for them either.

Everyone always says you shouldn’t work where you rest and should try to have a dedicated space for both to help set boundaries etc. Which, I still do even though I work in the living room, because I’m literally never in this room apart from for work. I chill and watch TV in my bedroom, so the two rooms don’t overlap for me. The only overlap is that I don’t have a work laptop, but I built that bridge a long time ago.

Self-Care Tools A to Z | Her Campus

Expectation: Have a poor work-life balance / boundary

Reality: Luckily, this isn’t really an issue for me at all.

As above, I don’t work where I rest or rest where I work. I also turn off my laptop at 5pm and leave the house like a bat out of hell to go for a walk. I’ve found that it lets me clear my head, stretch my legs and it helps create that distinction from working at the house and resting at the house.

How? Well, by the time I get back from my walk, work has been forgotten about and I’ve switched into chill mode. I found that this really helps my mood and mentality, compared to when I used to turn off my laptop at 5pm, walk out of the living room and collapse on my bed. The thirteen-stair commute just took it out of me, I guess.

Working From Home Wfh GIF - WorkingFromHome Wfh WorkAllDay ...

So, that’s my ‘WFH: Expectations vs Reality’. Obviously, it depends on your job, home situation, office set-up and personality. I’m really lucky in that I don’t live with annoying housemates, I’m not living by myself so I’m not isolated, and I can still do my job from my laptop at home.

Just as well that I enjoy working from home because it’s just been announced we’re going into another lockdown, so it looks like I’m in it for the long haul. The slippers are staying.

Categories
lifestyle

New Year Goals

This year – well next year tomorrow, really – I’m not making ‘New Year’s Resolutions’. Why? Because, we’re in the midst of a pandemic which will. Not. Go. Away.

It’s really hard to keep doing something every day or every week for a whole year when no one knows what we’ll even be able or legally allowed to do. “I’m going to start the gym” ; “I want to see France” ; “I’m going to make more of an effort to go out more or meet up with old friends” – well, coronavirus and the government have other plans, babe.

Even though I feel like making it to 2021 should be enough after the year we’ve just had, there are some things that I do want to do or improve this year. So, instead of making declarations we all know most likely won’t happen, I’ve made a wee list of things I’d just quite like to get done. When I do them, how often I do them and to be honest, if I do ‘em doesn’t really matter. Life gets in the way sometimes, and that’s grand.

So, here are my New Year “Goals”.

2021 golden foil balloons numbers with pink champagne and ...

1. Do Veganuary

I’m dairy-free and do four vegan days a week anyway but this year I’m committing to a full month of being vegan. I’ve followed Veganuary on Instagram, downloaded their recipe book and meal plans and screenshotted ones I wanna try, and I’ve told my family (who I live with) that I won’t be having any of their dinners next month so count me out. So, I’m pretty confident that I’ll do it. Plus, apparently I could save up to 900 square metres of rain forest by doing it? Pass me the chickpeas.

Going vegan for Veganuary - Ethical Blog from ...

2. Make Facial Toner

Do you ever do something, and then add it to your to-do list purely so you can tick it off?

Well, my toner’s highkey running out so I’m gonna need more in like four days and I found a homemade recipe I want to try out. So, making toner is now one of my goals. It might seem small but this ‘small’ activity is helping reduce plastic waste, carbon emissions, is more sustainable, and is one less way that I’m contributing to capitalism and consumerism.

See? It’s so much more than “just a toner”.

DIY-skincare | Live Naturally Magazine

3. Stop ‘Keeping things Good’

This is probably my worst habit. I get nice “smellies” as my granny would say (shower stuff or perfumes) and I’m like, “I don’t want to waste these, I’ll save ‘em for special occasions”. I never saw the point using fancy stuff to just sit on my couch working from home, so used them if I was going out or doing something instead.

But, considering I’ve spent the past nine months not being able to go out or do anything, I just thought, “to hell with it”. Because, the thing is, every day is a special occasion. It doesn’t matter if you stay home all day or don’t see anyone but the postperson. Why not make yourself feel, smell or look good?

So, my “goal” is to stop keeping my nice things good; to stop saving them for ‘special occasions’. If my big adventure is going to Lidl, then maybe I WILL wear my Jimmy Choo perfume. Why not? If that’s the height of excitement in my life, then I probably do need something, anything to make me feel good and happy.

Wear your favourite outfit. Use your fancy perfume, shower stuff or makeup. Wear your matching underwear. Crack open that wine you’ve been saving. You don’t need a special occasion to treat yourself.

Scrumptious Drink of the Week..... Go On, Treat Yourself ...

4. Blog Regularly

I’m not going to say “write one a week”, even though that’s what I’d like to do, because the chances are that that won’t happen. Sometimes, I don’t have the time, inspiration or I’m just not feeling it. Maybe, MAYBE I’ll be on holidays (see, I’m still an optimist). So, blogging regularly is my goal. It’s a vague and subjective word that I can’t really be challenged on. One a week? Regular. One a fortnight? Regular. One a month? You guessed it, r e g u l a r.

You Must Blog and Blog Smart in 2013

5. Be more Positive, Kind and Giving

There’s times when I’m like, “Hmm, I wish I hadn’t have said that” or “I shouldn’t have cared so much about that”; there’s times when I wish I was more patient, more positive, more understanding and more willing to just give things a go.

I think everyone has things about themselves that they think they could or want to improve on. So, I want to do that. I’m not saying I’m going to set out to be the most patient, upbeat or generous person to ever exist. Everyone has their own tendencies, traits and nature, and you can’t completely transform that. But, I do think you can work on it.

So, that’s what I want to. I want to work on it. Whether I achieve it, or how much I achieve it by, isn’t my main concern. My main concern is being more aware and mindful of how I act or behave, and try to do them in a better way.

Vague and subjective – nice.

6. Live More Sustainably

I feel ~pretty~ passionately about looking after the environment and not destroying the planet and future of every living thing on earth – how niche! I already buy, use and do a good few things which are more sustainable or environmentally-friendly alternatives. But, I can do more. And I want to.

I know not everyone actually cares about the planet, and it really melts my head (and the ice caps). But, I guess that’s all the more reason for me to do more. So, I want to keep buying, using and doing the more sustainable options and I want to buy, use and do more of ‘em.

I know not everything is a “sustainable” option for me, in that I wouldn’t be able to financially afford to keep buying or doing them. But, I want to do what I can. I can’t pay £12 for a bottle of mouthwash. But I can pay an extra £1 for loose apples. So, that’s what I want to do.

Yeah, it will cost me more. But, like my granda always said, “You can’t take it with you; there’s no point being the richest one in the graveyard”. And sure, if the life of the planet and everything on it isn’t worth spending an extra few pounds on, then what is?  

7. Keep Setting Goals

I’m going to go into 2021 with six goals, one of which are kinda time-sensitive to January, and be limited to that. I want to keep adapting, changing and improving who I am, what I do and how I do them. Let’s be real, not even God knows what’s going to happen this year, so it’s pretty hard to plan things in advance.

So, my final goal is to keep setting more goals and finding more things I want to do or change about how I live.

Vague, subjective and unprovable. Nice.

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lifestyle

Things I Want to Keep from 2020

There are PLENTY of things that I think we all want to leave behind in 2020, which will probably go down in history as one of the worst years ever. But, it won’t just be remembered as the year where everything pretty much went to hell; it’ll also be the year that taught me more than any other. Deep.

I’ve had plans disrupted and completely shot down, but I’ve had new opportunities open up; I’ve lost friendships but strengthened others; I stopped doing a job I loved, but started one I never would’ve thought I’d love; I didn’t get a graduation, but I graduated with a mark I probably wouldn’t have gotten; and I’ve learned to appreciate things that I just took for granted.

So, rather than leaving everything to do with 2020 behind, there’re some things that I actually want to take with me into 2021. Spoiler alert: Coronavirus is NOT one of them.

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Reading

I never really read much before March this year. I used to when I was younger, like (I was a big fan of the ‘Jane Blonde’ books), but I rarely picked up a book in the past 10 years.

But, that all changed when lockdown happened. I found I had little else to be at, so was like, you know what? Might give a book a go; see what the hype’s about. And, here I am, 63 books later.

One of my big discoveries since Covid is that I actually really like reading. I went through a rom-com phase, then a feminist book phase, and then moved onto crime because I was SICK of the sexist and stereotypical portrayals rom-coms, and there isn’t really much else in “fiction” that doesn’t involve people dying of degenerative diseases.  

 I found that reading’s a really good way to just take a break from everything and forget about real life for a while; it’s relaxing but still feels productive in a way? A lot more productive than watching Netflix anyway. So, reading a lot is definitely one of the things I want to keep up next year. I’m already waiting on five second-hand books coming in the post this week :))

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Journalling

Here, did you know I have a positivity journal? You might’ve missed the multiple blog and LinkedIn posts that mention it. Don’t worry, I’ll keep this short and sweet so I don’t repeat myself (again).

I started my Positivity Journal back when everything pretty much went wrong this year, because even though it didn’t seem like there was much (or anything, really) to be ‘happy’ about, I was determined to find it. So, I started writing down all the Good Things about my day.

Ten months later, I’m still at it. Every day, I just write the good things that happened, no matter how small they are. It really helps me find the good in the crappiest of days and situations; and appreciate the wee things. I mean, before March I never would’ve considered having a “nice breakfast” to be a particularly note-worthy part of my day, but now I realise that it is, because every good thing is note-worthy.

I also have a Gratitude app where I write one thing I’m grateful for every day. I intend to keep this up too, because it helps me keep a positive mentality and outlook, and for entertainment. After day 180 you really start grasping at straws and it’s funny to read back on. My favourites from this week are: “I got a lie-in until 7:20am”; or, “It didn’t rain today”. How SAD.

Sitting Outside

Before March, I never would’ve sat outside for coffee dates or anything. I mean, I live in Ireland not France, so al-fresco dining isn’t really something you think to do without having no option or being forced to by the government.

Before, whether it was 20 degrees (the one time every year it happens) or 2 degrees, you could bet I’d be sitting on the comfy seats in a coffee shop. But now, five degrees? Hop up and grab a bench. Raining? Bring a Bag for Life to sit on. Ten degrees? CLASS.

Even when the coffee shops and all were open for sit-in, I chose to sit outside in a nearby park instead; that’s still the case in December and it’s something that I want to keep doing next year.

It’s actually so much nicer to sit outside in the fresh air. There’s less noise, more people-watching and a lot less paranoia and risk of getting Coronavirus. Plus, there’s no wifi, so you’re not even tempted to go on your phone; meaning you can sit and focus on the conversation, coffee and your surroundings.

Mini Me Walking by Eva Chu | Dribbble | Dribbble

Walking (a lot)

I’ve always really liked walking, but I’ve never walked as much in my life as I have the past 10 months (excluding that grim time when we were only allowed one a day).

I started going for like five walks a day to break the day up, give me something to do and to get me out of the house since there was nowhere else to go and no one to meet. But, even though things are open and I’ve other things to be at (like reading my 64th book), I’m still out for a walk at any given opportunity. Eleven miles a day easy, like.

I absolutely love it. It’s so good for clearing your head, getting fresh air, having some alone time and stops my knees getting really sore. Plus, SQUIRRELS.

Where to Begin?: A Simple Yoga & Meditation Practice for ...

A Simple Lifestyle

Aside from the sheer chaos going on in the world, my life’s been relatively low-key and simplified since Covid.

All I’ve really done the past ten months is go for walks, read, chill, work, do some online courses and eat pineapple. I’ve gone for outdoor coffee dates and all like, but nowhere near as many as before (partly because no one’s in Belfast and partly because I don’t want to get Coronavirus).  

I hardly wear jeans, my office attire is leggings and jumpers, I’ve worn make up five times since March and I’ve only worn tan once. ONCE. That would’ve been unheard of this time last year. And I haven’t worn fake nails at all? Mad.

Once this is all over I probably will wear them all again because I do miss the tap-tap- tap and smelling like coconut biscuits, but I’ve enjoyed my lil ten-month beauty detox and I definitely plan on keeping up a more low-key lifestyle. The leggings are staying; but maybe not for work.

Love Yourself Sticker by Confetti Rebels for iOS & Android | GIPHY

Focussing on Me and Mine

One of the main things I want to take with me into next year is focussing on me and mine above everything else. Myself, my family and my friends are and will be my priority (as well as smashing the patriarchy and saving the planet).

I’ve spent my time and energy making sure I’m and they’re okay, instead of trying to maintain friendships and acquaintanceships (?) that don’t really mean anything. Yeah, I lost some friends and lost touch with some people, but that’s grand; that’s life. Instead of worrying about who’s not in my life anymore and why, I’m worrying about the people that still are.  

I don’t care about people I used to mail or went to school with, who’s got a girlfriend now, who liked my last Instagram photo or who didn’t wish me happy birthday. I just don’t care.

I do care about my own well-being; I do care about my family and friends; and I do care about getting through this year, next year and every year after that with them.

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Environment

The Climate Crisis: It’s Not Just Consumers’ Faults

This has always bothered me, but I just read another article on BBC which is telling consumers how to reduce their CO2 emissions by a “fraction” and it’s honestly the last [plastic] straw.

Consumers are told to “stop watching TV in HD”; a Channel 4 documentary told us that our social media “addiction” is “killing the planet”; and Coca-Cola is telling us to “please recycle”.

Yes, consumers and individuals should be doing everything that they can to reduce CO2 emissions, energy consumption, food, water and plastic waste and save the planet. But, I’m honestly getting frustrated that so much of the blame and responsibility for the climate crisis seems to be put on us.

Bill McKibben: This Climate Strike Is Part of the ...

Consumers are blamed for how much single-use plastic we bin; but, why aren’t supermarkets, online clothes retailers and other global companies blamed for wrapping stuff unnecessarily in single-use plastic?

We’re told to buy loose fruit and veg, which I believe that we should. But, why isn’t the same pressure put on supermarkets to sell loose fruit and veg? Or to sell more of it? Or to not charge a way higher price for them?

Britain, UK, Europe. Selection of fruit and vegetables ...

We’re told to stop wasting food. What about the suppliers and food establishments that overproduce and over-stock? Why don’t retailers stop ordering and stocking more than they’ll sell? Why don’t they dispose of their food waste better?

I use my brown food bin and I think every household should. But, so should every workplace, school, food establishment and supermarket. I’ve seen so many restaurants and cafés that whack all their food leftovers into their black bins, supermarkets throwing out food that isn’t sold, and I haven’t come across any food waste bins at school, uni or work.

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We’re told to recycle, which, again, we should be doing. I mean, it’s 2020, who the hell doesn’t recycle? Honestly, like. But, why aren’t companies told to use more recyclable packaging? Why don’t councils give us public recycling bins? Why don’t schools, universities and workplaces? Why aren’t there recycling bins in cinemas, shopping centres and food establishments as standard?

Yes, we should recycle. We should also be able to recycle easily. I shouldn’t have to put my plastic in my handbag and take it home with me so I can recycle it.

And Coca-Cola, the largest plastic polluter in the world, is telling me how to reduce plastic waste? Seriously, like.

Reduce Plastic GIFs - Find & Share on GIPHY

We’re told to “shop responsibly”, which we should. But, I think more pressure should be put on retailers to sell “responsibly”.

This is how it feels to be a consumer:

Scientists: Stop watching things in HD

Electronic brands: CHECK OUT OUR NEW 4K HD3DTV WITH A 65” INCH PLASMA CURVE SCREEN

Scientists: Stop using your phones and internet so much

Mobile phone network providers: GET ALL YOU CAN EAT DATA FOR £10 A MONTH. NEVER RUN OUT OF INTERNET AGAIN.
Internet providers: OUR FIBREOPTIC SUPERFAST BANDWIDTH COMES AS STANDARD.

Scientists: Please stop buying fast fashion. Shop sustainably.

Clothes brands: BUY THIS DRESS FOR 8P!! 99% OFF SALE!!

Scientists: Stop flying on planes.

Airlines: WE HAVE 500 FLIGHTS DEPARTING EVERY DAY. CHECK OUT ALL OF THESE FLIGHTS FOR ONLY £9 EACH WAY. FLYING IS FUN! FLY WITH US – WE’RE GREEN!

Scientists: Reduce plastic waste, especially single use plastic.

Online Retailers: HERE IS A BIG BAG OF AIR AND 3 SHEETS OF BUBBLEWRAP INSIDE A SUPER BIG BOX WRAPPED IN 4 METRES OF PACKING TAPE!

Supermarkets: Feast your eyes on our wide range of plastic-wrapped fresh produce! If you choose to buy loose items, please put them in the plastic bags provided 🙂

Do you see the issue?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I know that consumers are partly responsible for the global climate change, plastic waste and death-of-the-planet crises we’re in, but that’s it: we’re partly responsible.

Considering the fact that 1/3 of the world’s carbon emissions are produced from 20 firms, I think it’s pretty damn rich to make consumers feel like it’s our fault for going on Instagram or watching YouTube in HD.

Let's Save the Earth together by chester1010ir on DeviantArt

I am trying to make a difference and I’m doing what I can. I know a lot of people aren’t, and believe me, I’m judging them for it. They should be told to wise up and actually consider the impact they’re having on the planet. But, so should the bigger contributors to the problem.

Tell consumers to act responsibly, sustainably and in an environmentally-conscious way. Tell us to pull our weight in the fight to save what’s left of the planet. But, help us out by providing adequate resources and facilities. And help the planet out by holding the agricultural, energy, fast fashion, retailers, food and transport industries accountable, too.

Rant over.

Categories
lifestyle University

Working Full-time after Graduation: Month One

Well, I’ve officially finished my first month working full-time after graduation. Needless to say, it wasn’t how I imagined it’d be back in February when the world wasn’t a living nightmare and I could still hug people without fearing for my life.

I imagined sitting in an office wearing a snazzy blazer, not sitting in my living room wearing leggings and slippers. I imagined a desk with a computer, not my laptop on top of a cushion on my couch. I imagined a 30 minute commute, not a 30-step one. How wrong I was.

Team Work From Office (WFO) vs Team Work From Home (WFH) | by WebEngage |  Medium

After graduating, I was lucky enough to continue working two days a week in the role I started in back in April. As per my previous blog posts, this suited me really well. I mean, a two-day week and a midweek-weekend? Who wouldn’t love it?

Then in November, I started working four days a week instead. To be honest, I was a bit anxious about starting because apart from my placement year, I’ve always worked part-time. I didn’t have to worry about tax, national insurance or pensions. I didn’t relate to Dolly Parton. Days were a social construct.

And I Dont Pay Taxes GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

Even though I was really happy, grateful and excited about the job, working full-time after graduation is pretty terrifying. It’s like, well this is it. Here I go into adulthood. No going back now. This is my life until I retire, I guess.

It’s not that working full-time is scary; it’s that you realise you’re actually going on capitalism’s neatly constructed journey to adulthood and the scary stops are next. They’re on the horizon. I’ve finished school and uni, I’m working full-time; so, what’s next? A house? Kids? Life insurance? Shoes with ‘ankle-support’? Talk about a mid-life crisis.

I mean, I knew that working two-days a week had to come to an end at some point, but it suddenly became real. The lil bubble of pretending-not-to-be-an-adult-or-have-responsibilities I had in uni was finally popping, meaning I was actually becoming a grown-up.

bubble — BT Online — Business Today Online Journal

BUT, that was five weeks ago. Now, I’m a lot more settled and a bit less dramatic. I’ve actually really enjoyed this past month and I can’t believe it’s over already. I forgot how quickly time goes in when you’re working full-time (suppose the fact that it gets dark at 4pm doesn’t help much).

It’s been a strange experience because I’ve been working from home the whole time. But, I’ve really liked that aspect of it. Mostly because I get to stay home where I feel a lot safer and more comfortable with everything that’s going on, but also because my day has a better work-life balance. Working is a big part of my day, but it’s not all of it.

Finding Work-Life Balance

Because I don’t have to commute, I have more time before and after work than I ever would’ve had in an office. I’m able to go for a walk before I start at 9am, go for a walk in a park at lunch time, then go for a walk after work, and still have a few hours in the evening to relax. But, when I was on placement, it was pretty much get up, commute into work, work, commute home, have dinner and then collapse out of exhaustion.

So, I think having this time for myself before and after work has really helped me mentally adjust and settle into working full-time. And the three-day weekend doesn’t hurt, either like. Even if I do go back in an office if when things calm down, at least I’ve sort of found my feet a bit and got a wee routine going, so it won’t be as big a shock to the system.

Now that I’m doing it, working full-time isn’t as scary anymore. I’m not afraid of the next few stops on my journey of adulthood, because it too, is a social construct. Plus, I’m actually quite looking forward to my retirement, what with the nice wee £40 pension pot I’ve already accumulated. I’m thinking Maldives, maybe?

Categories
Environment lifestyle

How to Have a more Sustainable Christmas

I love Christmas, loads of people do. The planet, however, does not. According to The Sunday Post, six million Christmas trees, 227,000 miles of wrapping paper, two million turkeys and 74 million mince pies are thrown out every Christmas in the UK. I couldn’t find the figures for Ireland but I’m assuming it’s equally as scary and disgraceful.

So, I thought I’d do a wee post with some ideas of how you can have a happy Christmas that won’t make the planet sad. My gift to you. 🙂

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Try not to Buy Everything Online

Buying presents online seems like a great idea, since you can buy everything whilst sitting in your jammies and have it delivered straight to your door. You’ve got a lot more choice and don’t have to listen to the torture that is retail Christmas music. But, when you buy things online, they normally come wrapped up like a “Pass the parcel”, with an unnecessarily big box, five plastic bags full of air, or packed so tightly in polystyrene you’ve to rip everything apart like a savage.

Not to mention the CO2 emissions of flying that parcel over, plus the lorry delivery, then the van that dropped it round.

A more sustainable option is to buy things in-store; shortening the journey from the item to you, reducing the packaging and the electricity of having your laptop plugged in for hours. Even better is to go for local shops which are a short commute away, this again reduce CO2 emitted from travelling and helps support your local economy.

Shop Small and Continue to Support Local Businesses - City ...

Shop Small

Chances are, you’re going to ignore my advice about buying online and will do it anyway. Since there’s a pandemic and no one knows what the craic will be with shops being open in December, I’ll let it slide this once.

When you are shopping online, try to avoid massive global companies (@Amazon) which produce a large amount of carbon emissions, packaging waste (and evade tax lol). Instead, go for small, independent retailers. There are so many unique, quirky and downright funky small businesses you can find on Instagram, Etsy or just by searching online.

A lot of these sellers specialise in handmade, high quality and sustainably sourced and packaged products. And, there’re things that you can’t just pick up anywhere, didn’t even know existed and are one of a kind, making it an extra-special present for your giftee (?)

Even though Etsy is a large online retailer, but, it specialises in small, handmade products from independent sellers and offsets the carbon emissions from every purchase. Plus, they do TopCashback; cha-ching.

Png High Quality & Free High Quality.png Transparent Images #13984 - PNGio

Buy Fewer, High Quality Gifts

When you’re buying presents, try to buy high quality things that will last and can be used again and again. There’s not much point buying something that can only be used once and has to be thrown out, or falls apart the day after Boxing Day.

High quality items are usually more expensive, but they tend to be made with longer-lasting materials and are more likely to be made with ethically-sourced and sustainable ingredients/parts. This means that they’re less likely to end up in the bin (and eventually landfills or the ocean) are more likely to be kept for longer and therefore help reduce waste.

Plus, buying fewer products is better for the environment than buying fifteen smaller, cheaper ones would, by generating less CO2 and waste in the production, transport, packaging (and disposal if the person hates it).

10 surprisingly thoughtful gifts for £5 and under - Save the Student

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Don’t waste money on gimics or buying things purely for the sake of it. Try to buy things that you think the giftee will actually use and appreciate. It’s better to buy something functional like a blender if the person needs one, than buying them a blanket with your face on it that they’ll want to set on fire as soon as you leave.  

Everyone wants to buy something “fun” as a present, but ‘fun’ normally means pointless, is purely for comic value or will end up in the bin/back of someone’s wardrobe. You can get useful things that are also nice, like a potato peeler that looks like an avocado or a pretty reusable coffee cup.

Sure, you can’t spell functional with fun, amirite? Eh? Eh?

Eco-friendly Christmas wrapping ideas

Reduce your Wrapping

Last year, me and my sister decided to do ‘plastic-free’ present wrapping. We basically wrapped all our presents up in brown paper (mostly cut-up Primark shopping bags), newspaper and wee boxes we had lying around.

As the saying goes, “it’s what’s on the inside that counts”. Your presents don’t have to look like an extra from a Channel 5 Christmas film or a department store display. Reducing your wrapping helps reduce the mass of waste generated from wrapping paper, Sellotape, tissue paper and those pointless bows that fall off after two seconds. It also saves you money, time, effort and the series of inevitable paper cuts.

Instead of buying 18 metres of plastic-coated wrapping paper and a solid three rolls of Sellotape, why not try using plain brown paper and then tying it with a string or yarn? It’s a lot kinder to the planet, your wallet and makes you look hella artsy.

Or, if you’d rather keep things super simple, you could just put your presents in boxes or shoe-boxes and use brown paper or newspaper instead of tissue.

Traditional Christmas Dinner Recipe | HelloFresh

Buy What you’ll Eat, and Eat What you Buy.

If there’re six people having a Christmas dinner at your house, buy in enough food for six people, not sixteen. You don’t need to buy three cauliflower cheeses, 28 chipolatas and three packs of brussel sprouts “just in case” or because they’re on offer. Think about what you’ll eat and how much you’ll eat. Then buy enough to do.

“Sure, the leftovers can be eaten during the week”. Aye, but the novelty of a turkey sandwich kind of wears off after the fourth day in a row, doesn’t it? If you find year after year that a full turkey is too much (let’s be honest, they’re massive and a nightmare to carve), why not try buying in a crown? Or a breast or two?

Similarly, if there’re several families coming together for dinner (government regulations pending), pre-plan who’s bringing what. Someone can bring a dessert (anything but a Christmas pudding – ew), someone else can do a starter and someone else can bring the Shloer. Save yourselves ending up with three identical cheesecakes and one very sad vegan.

Planning and buying in the right amount of food helps reduce the huge amount of food waste produced every Christmas (including 17 million brussel sprouts), and it saves you money and time. Win-win.

If you do have leftovers, eat them. Whack them in the freezer to be reheated another time, make a turkey curry, stir-fry or fajitas; or, if you can’t be bothered looking up recipes just give them to your dog. Simple.

Christmas Tree Decorations - Buy Online at Whitehall Garden Centre

Reuse your Goddamn Decorations

Believe it or not (believe it), you don’t have to buy a brand new Christmas tree, several sets of fairy lights and 20 boxes of tree decorations every single year. Like, no harm, but who genuinely cares if your tree looks the same as last year?

Decorations are decorations. They all pretty much look the same anyway. Think of all the things you could do with the money and time you’d spend picking out and buying shiny balls on string. Stop harming the planet, for one.

Buy in the odd decoration if you see one that you really like, there’s nothing wrong with that. But, buying in boxes upon boxes for pretty much no reason other than to replace the perfectly good ones in your roofspace is again, just contributing to plastic and landfill waste, and your increasingly long credit card bill.

If you feel really strongly about having different decorations this year, why not try swapping them with your friends or family? Buying them second-hand in a charity shop or online marketplace, and selling your own?

Merry Christmas Singing Sticker by Katie Thierjung / The Uncommon Place for  iOS & Android | GIPHY

There you have it. A few things you can do to have a more sustainable Christmas. I mean, isn’t a planet to live on the best gift you can give, anyway? Eh? Eh?

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lifestyle

Boredom Guilt: Should I be doing something Productive?

I don’t know if it’s just me (hoping it’s not), but I have like an inherent need to be busy or productive all the time, even if I have nothing to ‘produce’. You know the way dogs need constant attention, stimulation or some form of energy exertion? That’s me.  

Bored Text Sticker for iOS & Android | GIPHY

I just get bored so easily and hate doing nothing. Like, relaxing to me is not ‘relaxing’; doing something is relaxing. Doing nothing is just STRESSFUL because I spend the whole time trying to find something to do. I’m very high maintenance for myself, you know.

It’s like when you’re flat out and think, “Aw, I can’t wait to have some time off to relax”. But then when you do have free time, you feel like you should be making the most of it and doing something, so then you can’t actually relax. Nightmare.

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Me on my days off

I remember when I was younger, I used to go bouncing into my ma who was sitting up to her eyes marking coursework, and I’d jump on her bed and say, “I’m bored”. You can imagine how popular I was. Much to my ma’s distress delight, I did this all the time. And every time, I got the same response: *sigh* “Niamh, I wish I had time to be bored”.

This reply really bothered me, and I remember being so indignant at the suggestion that being bored was a privilege?? To me, it was more like a punishment. I would’ve rather been marking students’ ICT coursework than sitting about without nothing to do except pester my ma.

Stewie Mom GIF | Gfycat

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realised that being bored actually is a privilege, but I still hate it. Rather than just having a dislike of having nothing to do, now, it’s more like a feeling of guilt. Like, I feel guilty for doing nothing, because I feel like I should be making use of my free time and doing something productive.

I really noticed this ‘boredom guilt’ over the past seven months. I’ve been working part-time, so have had five days a week to be a lady of leisure. In normal circumstances (not that I can even remember what they are), I’d be meeting friends, going for coffee, having a paddle about the shops or going away on wee holidays. But, those haven’t been options, or legal.

Instagram Launches 'Stay Home' Story & Co-Watching Feature Amid COVID-19  Outbreak - Search Engine Journal

So, I’ve just been going for walks, reading, writing, decluttering and reorganising anything I can get my hands on, with a few outdoor coffee dates thrown in. In between, I was thinking about what I should do, what I could do, and what I would do. How FUN.

I knew I’d never have this much free time and this little responsibility until I’m retired, and by then I’ll probably be too old to enjoy it. But, I kept flipping between “I should use this free time to do things I won’t have time to do once I start working full-time” and, “I should enjoy being able to do nothing, because I won’t be able to once I start working full-time”. It’s like a constant cycle of “What should I be doing?”

How to Have the Most Fun in Your Free Time, According to Science | Time

As time went on, I did get more used to having so much free time, and I realised just how lucky I was. I had a job – one that I liked, I was able to work from home and wasn’t on the front-line, I had loads of time to myself and was healthy enough to enjoy it. I realised that being bored was just a side-effect of the ‘privilege’ I had.

I learned to appreciate having the time to myself, and what I could do to fill it. I learned how to enjoy having free time and keep myself busy or stimulated (I think I’ve read every single free Kindle book there is). I also forced myself to do nothing but ‘chill’. Even though I didn’t want to and knew I probably wouldn’t enjoy it, I knew I needed to relax and give myself a rest.

my gifs: jenna | Tumblr

Even though doing nothing makes me feel stressed and guilty, I’ve tried to make the most of having nothing to do. Maybe in the future, I’ll look back and think, “Hmm maybe I should’ve done more online courses, written a book, started a side-hustle or developed a six-pack”. But, maybe, I’ll look back and think, “I’m glad I enjoyed my free time and took it easy while I had the chance, because right now, there’s nothing I’d love more than the time to be bored”.

I know my ma will definitely be hoping for the latter.

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lifestyle

Adult Friendships: Losing Friends and Looking after Yourself

I don’t know if I’m the only one, but once I hit 20 I kind of assumed that the friends I had were the friends I’d keep having. I figured, okay, we’re not in school anymore; the days of drama, fall-outs and ‘fights’ are pretty much over. I lost the energy and ability to care about petty arguments and passive-aggression. You just get to the point where you think, “I can’t even be bothered with this.”

But, contrary to popular belief (by me), me getting older didn’t change the fact that I lost some friends; it just changed how it happened and how I felt about it. Same thing, different way, different attitude, really.

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I’ve found that losing friends isn’t really fights, disputes and confrontation anymore; it’s more just fading out. You might try to arrange to meet someone, but they keep saying they’re too busy or cancel last minute, so you eventually give up.

Maybe someone does something and you just sort of think, “If that’s the sort of person they are, I don’t really want to associate with them”. But, you don’t necessarily bring this to their attention and have a full-blown discussion, fight or unfollow them on social media the way you do when you’re younger.

It’s a bit more like a ‘mutual separation’ or an ‘amicable split’; you might just stop messaging each other and arranging to meet up, and you might never intentionally see them again. Both of you might have accepted that the friendship’s pretty much over, but no one’s actually acknowledged or addressed it. You pretty much just ghost each other, really.

Prospective hires, companies guilty of ghosting - Bizwomen

As I’ve gotten older, my attitude to friendships has changed and I’ve become a bit more mature about things. Well, I like to think I have, anyway.

I’ve accepted that people change. The person you became friends with isn’t necessarily that same person anymore. You mightn’t get on, share the same values or opinions, or you might just grow apart. It doesn’t matter whether you met when you were 8, 16, or if it was only a year ago, time and age don’t dictate the extent that we change.

Maybe no one changed and you’re both the exact same people you were before. But, maybe your priorities, attitudes, what you actually want and who you want to be around has. That’s f i n e .

Change [GIF] | Typography quotes, Change is good, Lettering

I’ve learned to surround myself with people who make me feel good, bring out the best in me and brighten my day. I’ve learned that anyone who leaves me feeling worse than I did before I met them, who drains my energy or whose attitudes and principles go against what I stand for, shouldn’t be in my life. I’ve also learned that sometimes it’s better to let people and friendships go rather than cling on to and force relationships that just don’t work anymore.

I’ve learned that friendships can end without anything being anyone’s fault. Someone not being your friend anymore doesn’t necessarily mean anything has “happened” or went wrong, and it’s not always about you, either.

Self Care Sticker by Melanie Johnsson for iOS & Android ...

Friendships can be like collateral. Sometimes, people stop talking to their friends because they’re focussing on taking care of themselves. Maybe their mental health isn’t great, maybe they have issues at home, maybe they’re really busy and priorities lie elsewhere than socialising these days. Or, maybe you actually did piss them off.

It might be tempting to text and say, “What did I do?” or “Why did you stop talking to me?” or “How come you’re not liking my Instagram posts lol”. But, the person could be going through a lot, and the last thing they need is for you to make it about you. Sending an, “Is everything okay?” or “Hey, haven’t heard from you in a while so just wanted to check in” or something like that would be better. They mightn’t reply, but you can still try. (Sick rhyme).

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I believe that friends and having people who have a positive influence on you is so important. I think we need a support network that we can share our highs, lows and everything-in-betweens with.  But, I also believe that self-care and putting your own wellbeing first is more important.

Some of my closest friends are going through a hell of a lot right now and I haven’t heard from them in months. I’ve reached out to let them know I’m thinking about them and I’m here for them, and I’m also giving them space. They can talk when they want to, if they want to. I don’t know if that’s the right thing to do, but it’s all I really can do.

Maybe they’re doing okay and have just decided to prioritise themselves rather than replying to texts; maybe they don’t want to have to put on a front and pretend everything’s okay if it’s not; maybe they don’t want to reply because they feel they’ll have to explain what’s happening or why they went off-the-grid; maybe they’re not really that fussed on rectifying the friendship. All of those are perfectly acceptable reasons not to reply.

Self-Care with a Disability: What does that look like ...

I do think we need friends to get through life, but it doesn’t have to be the same people every step of the way. It’s the same with romantic relationships, like most people will have several partners over the years. People come and go in our lives; that’s normal. But, I guess it’s only recently that I’ve accepted that and not seen it as a bad thing.

Instead of focussing on ex-friends and “what went wrong” or “what you/they did”; focus on yourself. Focus on the people who bring you joy, fulfilment, support, honesty and who you couldn’t imagine not having in your life. Focus on doing the same for them. If someone makes you feel worse, has a negative impact on you, or displays toxic traits, cut ’em out. It’s not so much ‘losing friends’ as changing who you’re friends with.

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lifestyle

The Young Hustlers

During COVID, so many businesses have gone into administration and collapsed, the economy is a bit of a mess and there’s less financial support for those who are unemployed or want to start their own business. But, people aren’t sitting about waiting for the crisis to be over and for the job market to bounce back a bit; they’re taking things into their own hands.

I’ve seen a lot of people starting their own businesses and “side-hustles” during the pandemic. A lot of them are under 35 and the majority of the ones I’ve come across have been recent graduates under 25. This is the age group most negatively impacted by the COVID unemployment crisis*.

We’re finding ourselves without jobs, job opportunities or a sign of things changing anytime soon, so maybe now’s probably the perfect time to experiment. It’s not so much, “When one door closes, another one opens”; it’s more, “When one door closes, open another one yourself.”

You’ve got people launching their own skincare and cosmetics brands; making jewellery (especially polymer clay earrings, they seem to be all the rage these days); baking buns and cakes; making face masks and matching scrunchies; people designing and selling prints; turning photos into line-drawings; and yeah, you’ve got the odd MLM pyramid-scheme thrown in there too.

It’s not just products, either; I’ve seen marketers, content creators, bloggers and proof-readers offering their services, as well as designers and illustrators who are creating logos and marketing materials for these other brands. Even when people aren’t using their skills to generate an income, I’ve seen so many blogs and websites offering advice and support for things like wellbeing, finances, careers and student life. People are starting podcasts, vlogs and are writing and launching their own eBooks.

People are getting damn creative with ways to make money. They’re becoming more independent, self-sufficient and are doing something they actually like and care about. Maybe it isn’t going to bring in enough money to live on; maybe they’ll just break even. Or maybe they won’t. But, they’re willing to sacrifice their time and money to give it a go.

I honestly have so much respect for people, of any age, who decided to give something else a go in such an uncertain time. It takes so much nerve, creativity and hard work to start a new venture. It doesn’t matter if it’s selling things on Etsy or going on the Apprentice. Starting a new business or a side-hustle of any size is brave and ambitious, especially in the midst of a pandemic.

Not everyone has the time, resources or ability to start their own side-hustle or learn new skills in the hopes of turning it into one. Not everyone who does will be successful. And that’s okay.

All too often, young people get interrogations, judgements and disapproval about our career choices. *Cue angry boomers telling us we’re ruining every industry ever*. “Why don’t we get a proper (meaning office) job?” Here’s a few possible reasons:
1) There aren’t many opportunities and those which exist are very hard to get because we’re competing with people who have 35 years of experience [read: boomers].
2) We’re too busy buying avocados and destroying the napkin industry to think about jobs
3) We don’t want one.

Not everyone has to have an office job. Not everyone can have one. We’re constantly told and made to believe that getting an office job is the only way to support yourself financially and establish a career. But, how many office jobs have been cancelled or lost in the pandemic? How many of these side-hustles and start-ups have happened as a result of this? So, enough about getting a “proper job”. Every job is a proper job. Believe it or not, there are several ways to make a living and career.

Listen to the chair

Work 9-5 in an office; make clay earrings and sell them on Etsy; do whatever the hell you want. Start a side-hustle, a main-hustle or an isn’t-going-to-earn-money-yet-but-soon-hustle if that’s what you feel like. If you want to start a blog, magazine or website even if it won’t make you make you money, then do it. Make your money, make your happiness and make your own career ambitions. Don’t let avocado-hating mortgage-lovers stop you from pursuing what you love.

*https://speakerpolitics.co.uk/headlines/161-coronavirus/2265-young-people-among-most-affected-as-job-losses-continue-following-covid-19-financial-impact

*https://www.cnbc.com/2020/09/29/under-25s-are-giving-up-on-their-dream-job-due-to-the-pandemic.html

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lifestyle

How to Start a Positivity Journal

I think it’s safe to say we could all use a lil (or a lot) of positivity in our lives these days. In the midst of a pandemic, it can be hard to stay upbeat and cheerful, but I think it’s even more important to try to stay optimistic during these tough times.

For me, lockdown starting back in March was the perfect opportunity to start a Positivity Journal, so I could focus on the good things and ignore the chaos around me. I found it really helped me change my mindset and attitude to life, as well as be grateful for everything I have. So, I thought I’d share a basic guide to starting a Positivity Journal, in case anyone else wants to keep their glass half full.

1. Buy a Fancy Book

Well, now you FINALLY have a use for that blank notebook you’ve kept in your wardrobe for 3 years because you don’t want to “waste it”.  Or, if you can’t bring yourself to do it (wimp), here’s an excuse to go out and buy that stationery you convince yourself you need but don’t actually need. Raid Paperchase for all its worth.

cute notebook school diary/Notepad Spiral Agenda Organizer ...

2. Make a Nice Cover Page

I spent a solid 2 hours measuring, writing bubble writing on coloured card (old file dividers), cutting them out and pritt-sticking them on to the first page. Make the cover page nice and pretty, whether that’s just writing “Positivity Journal” in twirly joined-up writing, printing something out and sticking it on, or going absolutely mad and drawing everywhere; whatever floats your boat.

If you’re not in the form for being creative, leave it blank and come back to it later when you’re feeling it or when you’re trying to put off doing something more important. Don’t rush it or do it half-heartedly; start as you mean to go on and all that.

Positivity Journal

3. Plan your First Few Pages

I used the first few pages of my journal to take stock of my life by writing: “Things that Make me Happy”; “Things I’m Grateful For”; “People I’m Grateful For”; and “Goals”.

Some other suggestions are things like:

  • What I’m happy with in my life
  • Things I’d like to change
  • Habits I want to stop/start
  • Proudest Achievements etcetc.

I’d really recommend doing this, because it helps provide focus for what you want to do or achieve, and lets you reflect on where you are now, what you appreciate and what/who has a positive impact on your life. These are the things you want to keep in mind for staying positive. Plus, it’s nice to look back on when you’re older.

Do whatever tickles your fancy and suits your personal goals or what you hope to get out of your Positivity Journal best. There are LOADS of prompts, templates and printables online so have a look!

How to Start a Gratitude Journal | the dimple life

4. Plan your Layout

Before launching into your daily entry, think about what you want to write about. What subheadings or headings do you want to include? It’s all well and good having seven separate sections and a mood tracker planned out, but you need to think about what you’ll actually stick to.

Ask yourself a few questions:

  • What do I want to focus on?
  • Realistically, how much energy will I have in the evenings to fill this in?
  • What do I normally do? – E.G There’s no point having an “achievements” section if you don’t feel like you frequently achieve things; maybe a “things I’m grateful for” section would be better etc.
Make an Organizing Plan in 2017 with a Livable Solutions ...

5. Start Drawing

Now that you’ve planned what you’ll write about, it’s time to map out your sections and write your headings.

Do it for a few days or weeks if you have the time; you’re better off doing this sort of prep in advance while you have the energy, because, the last thing you’ll probably want to do after a long day is whip out a ruler and do fancy bubble writing.

Doing it advance also means that you’re more likely to stick to your structure and layout; you’re more likely to fill it in if the sections are already sitting there, than if you just have a blank page. It can be tempting to go, “to hell with it” and just trim your usual six sections down to three if you’re knackered. Or maybe that’s just me, I don’t know.

Bullet Journal Weekly Layout Ideas

6. Get Writing

Now you’ve planned what all you’ll write about, done all your fancy headings, drawn out some neat wee lines and some aesthetic doodles; it’s time to get writing. Let all your feelings, thoughts and emotions out, honey.

Make daily planning an inspiration

7. Stick to It

There’s nothing worse than deciding to start something like this, giving up after a week and then looking back six months later thinking, “Damn, I wish I had’ve kept that up”. And there’s nothing more satisfying than finishing the book and flicking through it all, thinking “I’m so glad I kept that up”. Make your journalling a habit, you’ll thank yourself (and me) later.

Try to get a wee routine going of when you’ll fill in your journal; whether that’s in the evenings, the morning after, during a tea-break or gap in-between lectures, or on a set day. It might take some playing about to see which time of day suits you best, time-wise and energy-wise, so experiment a lil. Doing it at a similar kind of time every day or week makes you more likely to stick to it.

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Well, there you have it. A simple guide to starting your own Positivity Journal, or whatever name you decide (although Happiness Planner© is already taken). Now, go forth and seek the silver linings!