A guide to being a first time buyer

Back when I first started looking at places to buy, I spent ages on Google searching for advice and answers to the many questions I had. The longer the process went on, the more I struggled to find the information I needed and although I did find a lot of useful stuff online, I couldn’t find anything tailored to me – a fairly clueless first time buyer with a massive amount of anxiety about the whole thing.

We had a bit of a roller coaster time with our first attempt. After about six weeks of searching we found a place and went for it, got an offer accepted, got the ball rolling, paid for searches and did a lot of paperwork only for it to stall. After that, problem after problem started to crop up and we realised why it’s said that buying a home is one of the most stressful things you’ll ever do. As frustrating, upsetting and irritating as it all was, waving goodbye to four months commitment on a place to start over taught us some valuable lessons about the world of buying. it also turned out to be a good thing, as we’re much happier in a different area and feel much more settled.

I kept wishing I could find a place online that had more than a few snippets of information, so this is my effort at making that happen. I noted down all of the things that we struggled to understand and the things surprised us or made us want to shout “WHAT EVEN IS THIS???” to put together the below in the hope it might help a few others. This is all based on my experience so of course it doesn’t have everything you might need, but I hope it contains at least one useful explanation!

First things first – getting the mortgage sorted

We went through London and Country for our mortgage advice, which is a completely free service and I couldn’t recommend them enough. They took all of our financial information, talked through exactly what we wanted to do and spend and came back with mortgage offers from four different banks. Alongside this we did our own enquiries to compare, and once we had chosen a mortgage product, they guided us through the whole process.

If you don’t want to use a broker you can make appointments at banks to apply for a mortgage in principle (online calculators exist for basically all of them so I’d suggest finding the best couple of offers online and making appointments with those) but be prepared for a wait. Banks seems to have very long waiting lists for appointments in-branch so get organised in advance. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to make offers on places without a mortgage in principle/decision in principle, so this should be your first port of call.

You can get some information on the cost of buying a house from upfront fees to leaseholding costs from The Money Advice Service.

viewings, estate agents and questions

We used the classic combination of Right Move and Zoopla to search for places to view. It’s also worth signing up to mailing lists of estate agents in the areas you are looking at. It can be easier to get yourself on open day lists for popular places if they can contact you directly. We also had trouble getting booked in for viewings at first as we weren’t quick enough, so I’d strongly recommend doing your searching and phoning in the morning as the best places get snapped up FAST.

When we were at viewings I used to forget all of the diligent and sensible questions I should have been asking and just made awkward small talk instead –so take a list on paper and make sure you use it!

I wrote a post on questions to ask estate agents and things to consider that might not be obvious. There are little things you can do like running taps and flushing loos to check water pressure, as well as asking to look inside lofts or basements (which can hide all kinds of issues and secrets).

Also, this is an important one, if you’re buying a flat, make sure you check the number of years left on the lease. The EA should have this information and if they don’t ask them to try and get it. We learnt that when leases slip below 80 years, a property price starts to fall until it is renewed. Renewing a lease can be very costly (upwards of £6000) so consider this very carefully. You can get more information from the Lease Advice Service.

Easy research to do online when choosing a home

There’s plenty of stuff you can look up online to help you decide if you want to live somewhere.  Since we were initially looking at moving to a completely new county, we used a few different websites to do research:

Crime stats by postcode – not much fun but worth knowing.

House price data from the Land Registry – you can look up what other places nearby have recently sold for.

Find our if a property is at risk of flooding – if you’re anywhere near water it’s worth paying the small amount for the proper report. You can also get flood maps through this link.

Street Check – you simply enter a postcode and get a load of information on the area from housing and culture to employment and the all important broadband speeds.

Ask the local authority – we did some digging around with one local authority to ask about road planning and flood defences and got a lot of information for free. We simply looked up with LA we needed and googled for contact details, gave them a call and followed instructions. We also asked the local council if any building work applications has ever been submitted for one property we liked that was very old.

Putting in offers

This post looks at the questions you can expect to be asked – particularly when putting in an offer. I thought it would be as simple as calling the EA and naming a price, but of course it isn’t.

If other people are bidding too, you might end up in a bidding war, so calculate how high you can afford to go and think about stamp duty and deposit too –and stay by the phone! In some cases if multiple bids are put forward, you’ll be asked to give your best and final offer. We also learnt the hard way that it’s best to get your offer in as early as you can. We lost a house we really liked because two bidders had offered the same amount and since we were second to get it in, we weren’t successful.

During the bidding process we were asked for copies of our mortgage in principle and proof of deposit from all three EAs that we went through, which we did not expect and initially weren’t prepared for.

As much as I resented doing this, it’s worth getting savings account statements prepared or proof of deposit from a third party if you’re being gifted it. A bank statement with a date stamp suffices. Our mortgage advisor told us that EAs have no right to see these things, but they’ll ask anyway to make sure they aren’t taking bids from people who aren’t truly in a position to buy. The Home owners alliance offer tips on haggling over a price and the sealed bids process.

If your deposit is coming from a third party and not your own savings, you might also need a letter from that person confirming the money is a gift. If its a loan, you’ll need to fill out a form saying so, as all of this gets considered by your lender. You should get advice on all of this from your broker or mortgage advisor at the bank.

Picking a solicitor

Once you get an offer accepted on a home, you’ll likely be asked to move quickly on appointing a solicitor. You don’t need to wait until you’ve had an offer accepted to start getting quotes. We did this simply by asking people we knew for recommendations and good old Googling.

Often, EAs will offer you a quote from their solicitors, or a firm they’re in partnership with. There’s nothing wrong with having a look but don’t feel you have to use them because you don’t. When it comes to choosing one, read reviews, compare quotes and think about location. If you feel you’d be happier having an office to pop into (you can save money on postage by taking forms directly into offices) then look for one based close to home, though it doesn’t matter if you never meet your rep face-to-face. We never met ours as he was based in Manchester but we were in regular contact and had no issues on the communication front (though you should get a feel for this in reviews).

Really Moving is an online service that can help you find solicitors in your area and offer reviews. Rated Solicitors does much the same.

What will you need to pay them for? Well in short, every single thing they do. Ask for a  purchase estimate before you appoint, which should offer a total on legal fees, searches, checks and stamp duty, calculated on the property price -this won’t be the final price but should give you a good idea of where you stand.

Exchange, completion and moving day

There isn’t much to say on this as (hopefully) it’s pretty straight forward. Once you’ve finished the paperwork and got all queries back you can look at dates for exchange and completion. You might face an extra charge if you complete within one week of exchange, so if you can space them out you could save money. You don’t have to do much on either of these days, but we were told to check in regularly with our solicitor for updates on completion day especially.

Stay calm

It is stressful, but it also doesn’t have to be. Our second attempt was smooth, relatively easy and straight forward. My best pieces of advice would be to stay in contact with your solicitor and the EA as much as possible. Ask for regular updates from your solicitor (you’re paying them after all) and stick to your guns. If something feels wrong, it probably is. It’s a big deal to buy your first home, so don’t rush your decisions and it really is true that if you don’t feel 100% happy with a property then tread carefully. Oh and good luck!

9 online homeware stores that deserve a little attention 

 

I keep googling ‘homeware stores UK’ in the hope of finding some new places to shop from. I’ve found a few round-ups and lists of online homeware stores that aren’t just Ikea or John Lewis or Oliver Bonas (not that I don’t love all of those – I just want some different options) but then I get to the sites themselves and often find my status as a non-millionaire a problem.

I have a whole new home to fill very soon as I’ve managed to accumulate basically zero furniture in my 26 years (adulting like a pro) and I don’t want to buy EVERYTHING from Ikea.

I say this, I will buy many things from Ikea.

While I don’t want to overload and buy loads of stuff I don’t need, having lots of empty space to fill seems as good a reason as any to get some shopping done. After many weeks scouring the internet, Twitter, Instagram, blogs and magazines I’ve put together a list of homeware websites/shops that are affordable, sell all the things you’ll likely need to function and plenty of pretty bits for staring lovingly at too.

1) M&S

Okay, now this is probably obvious to everyone and I thought I’d get it out the way, but I honestly never really thought about M&S for homeware. I love their food and I love their clothes but that’s always been the extent of my Marks and Sparks browsing. Turns out they have a lot to offer.

What they’re good for: KITCHENWARE! The above spring coffee mug was brought home by my boyfriend the other week and they have loads of similar, lovely kitchen/cookware bits.

2) Wayfair

This is my current favourite website. They sell practically everything in the home world and they change their offerings so often you’ll never get bored of browsing.

What they’re good for: Sales – they have a new sale every couple of days on different products or themes or even by room. They do a good selection of contemporary sofas and lots of lovely light fixtures too.

3) Red Candy

The point of Red Candy is to be bright and bold and buy less beige and they can certainly help there.

What they’re good for: Clocks and photo frames are especially worth a look.

4) Lo and Behold

I found this site through just typing ‘homeware’ into the Twitter search bar, and while they don’t actually stock that much, you can find some gems. Very modern, very smart and all of the colours and patterns are understated and chic.

What they’re good for: Throws, bedding and lights.

5) The Range

I feel like maybe most people know about The Range, but late to the party as ever I only found their site a few weeks ago. Lots of furniture – big furniture, small furniture, they sell everything. It’s not all my cup of tea but there are some really nice storage pieces and coffee tables.

What they’re good for: Reasonable prices, good storage and lots of selection.

6) The Little House Shop

A lot of the stuff on here reminds me of H&M’s home offerings, but they do a bit more in the way of jazzy lights, bigger selection of prints on cushions and random stuff like toys.

What they’re good for: Lights, hanging mirrors, cushions and planters.

7) Cuckooland

I came for the name, stayed for the wooden storage. When I first landed on this site I wasn’t really sure it was really for me (although they the most amazing kids teepee beds that make me want to be 8 again), but they have some really nice stuff.

What they’re good for: Chests of drawers, storage units, garden stuff, kids furniture.

8) Howkapow

Expect bright, cheerful and quirky.

What they’re good for: Unusual candles, pretty mugs and cups, quirky kitchenware and fun gifts.

9) Bouf

Not the cheapest in this list, but it’s the bigger stuff you’d pay more for anyway that they win at. Lots of trendy hexagonal shaped furniture and really nice  painted wood.

What they’re good for: Bookcases and dining chairs.

5 little coping mechanisms for when life gets you down

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I was supposed to spend the weekend just gone catching up on various stuff, blogging included, after a stressful couple of months but it didn’t happen. Since I’ve been blogging less, I’ve used social media less and I’ve gotten used to being detached from my phone and the internet more and I think that change will stay. It’s no lie that social detoxes do wonders for the mind and for anxiety. I’ve been ill the past week with some sort of virus and cough and stayed inside for 48 hours, so rather than stare at screen all weekend, we drove down to Worthing to visit Dan’s dad and had a lovely, fresh and airy little break. (Thanks @Dannyboyjnr for the photo skills displayed above).

We’ve managed to get on top of  most of our issues including living situation, home buying, car owning and storage issues in the past ten days, but it hasn’t been the prettiest start to the year. I definitely think adult life should come with harsher warnings, or even just a good sit down in a pub for half hour where someone tells you that things will get shit, then probably worse, then be really hard before they get better. Insert mum, dad, Hermione Granger, a wise cat – whoever you like.

These are the things that have got me through this irritating little patch of life and I can confirm they have all eased my woes for at least fifteen minutes, but some for much longer.

1) Walking

You cannot beat literally walking your worries away. The further into my twenties I get, the more I seem to want to go for walks. Obviously countryside and sprawling views of natural beauty would always be preferred, but even walking round the block or a longer way home from the station will do it. We blew away the cobwebs on the Sussex Downs on Saturday then spent Sunday morning strolling around Arundel and I feel a million times better for it.

2) Paying closer attention to sleep

I’m quite bad for letting myself get overly tired then having a casual 12 hour sleep marathon to try and fix it, but it doesn’t work for me. Being extra strict on bedtimes and setting alarms even on weekends (I mean, nothing before 8:45/9 because I’m not an alien) stops me from over-sleeping, which just makes me feel gross and lethargic and is all a bit sad.

3) A ‘three things to accomplish’ list for every working day

I’ve actually found work a relaxing escape from dealing with daunting admin and life decisions lately (no YOU need to sort your life out) and I saw someone on Twitter going on about hand-writing three things you want to achieve every day when you first sit down at work. I did every day I worked last week and a couple the week before and it’s quite nice, if not just because ticking something off a list is satisfying as hell.

4) Separation from the news

I can’t ever be that far from current events partly because I work in a press environment and partly because I just don’t like it, but a little bit of down time is good for the soul. The news is freaking mental 99% of the time at the moment, and when I’m not pulling ‘WHAT THE F’ faces I’m feeling sad about the state of the world, so time away from Twitter and news sites has been cathartic.

5) Eat better, feel better

Yeah, yeah, yeah I know, LAME. But as someone who doesn’t really have a bad diet anyway, I really notice the difference in how I feel physically when stress eating kicks in. Roaming the kitchen looking for anything carb-laden and chocolate covered has been a 2017 hobby of mine. I need to stop though, and I have mostly (apart from this weekend because cake and red wine and life) and when I eat well, I do feel a billion times better for it. Now I just need to dose up on willpower and I’ll be dandy.

One trip back to university, several realisations

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The past few weeks haven’t been what I would call a great time. They’ve been long, stressful, sleep deprived, frustrating and largely disappointing and I’ve needed reminding almost constantly that the glass should always be half full. I haven’t had the time or spare energy to maintain any hobbies, including this blog and my beloved running/exercise regime has been non-existent. Gloomy Lauren is gloomy.

However, I am refusing to let stress and all the non-joy that comes with big adult decisions and processes ruin any more of this year. You will be a good year 2017. You bloody will. (I guess I’ll have to also work on not watching the news 24/7 to make myself believe it’ll be a good year).

With all the stuff we’ve had going on, the trip I took back to uni with Dan about a week ago hasn’t really come back to the front of my mind until now. We were asked by an old tutor of ours who we’re still in contact with if we would come back and take part in an audit of the department we studied under for our journalism degrees, which we happily agreed to. We both had, and I think I speak for most of my good university friends from my course here, a really good higher education experience. We loved our course, had sociable tutors and lecturers, a great balance of practical work and theory and brilliant people to learn with. Obviously this was all helped along massively by VK Pineapple, cocktails from saucepans, mass sleepovers and many Thursday nights spent watching indie bands and dancing til 2am. It was better than I had ever imagined uni would be when I was younger and getting stressed about filling in UCAS forms online and being put on hold by student finance for all of eternity.

Going back last week meant walking through the town we spent so much time aimlessly wandering, past the pubs we spent more money than we had in and then all the way through the campus. It was weird. More than weird actually, and the nostalgia level was through the roof. Peering into the canteen we used to buy coffee from and passing the courtyards we sat in and rooms we learnt in felt like a trip to someone else’s life. Like something that happened to someone you know really well from hearing stories over and over again- it just didn’t feel like that person was me. I guess that happens over time and especially when so much has changed. As part of the audit we were asked about our jobs, how life is panning out, what we took away from the course and carried with us into post-uni life and about how ready we felt to take on the real world after graduation.

What it really gave me, apart from a glass of good red wine and chance to go back to my old pub haunt and feel outraged that it’s now gastro and fancy, was a chance to remember I’ve done okay. The start of 2017 has felt so frustratingly lame compared to what we had imagined, that I started to feel like nothing in my life was what I wanted which is a slippery slope to start falling down. This little trip down memory lane helped me realise that I am a functioning adult with a good job and I no longer drink from saucepans (sadly) because I’ve built a life and a career and for the most part, things have gone smoothly. I just need patience and deep breaths and a sunnier outlook on the rest of this year and I think everything will be fine. Thanks KU for the degree and the friends and the great cheese baguettes and for still letting me know that life is good all these years later.

Living with less and wanting less

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For the past year I’ve been living with access to only half of my belongings. For the past couple of months it’s been less than half. Half my clothes, accessories, books, beauty products, shoes, photos and appliances are all in boxes, split across two houses.

When we first left our flat just over a year ago I kept looking for stuff that had been put away. I kept deciding I needed something and hunting through drawers for it, to then realise it was fifty miles away stuffed in a cardboard box.

For a while I found this extremely irritating. For a while I was annoyed probably once a day that so much of my stuff was in storage. I thought that this would carry on and imagined how amazing it would be when the time came to get it all back, but now the time draws very near, I’ve forgotten what most of it is.

Now, I’m actively shoving things into storage. A couple of months ago I put even more of my modest collection of belongings into suitcases and boxes and deposited them into the loft. I now have actual real space in my wardrobe. I can move the clothes along the rail. Jumpers don’t go mysteriously missing between two other jumpers for months on end. I have one bag of toiletries and make up. I have one drawer of pyjamas and gym wear. I have one (very small) drawer with general stuff in- you know like chargers, random stationary, a watermelon camera case and a Harry Potter colouring book. I haven’t lived with this little stuff in a very long time and I really like it this way.

Don’t get me wrong, I am very excited to have several rooms of space. I’m excited to know where things are. I’m excited to be able to display things. I’m excited to be reunited with my blender. I miss the really nice candle I had next to my bed that smelt like berries. I’d like some of my photo frames back because the photos in them make me feel better on really crap days. But I have no urge to see most of that stuff again. I have very little urge to have drawers full of things I rarely touch or think about or that I can never find the energy to sort through while I choke on the dust they’ve collected.

I used to take comfort in buying things. I still do, but it’s so much less to do with having a lot to show for myself and simply buying because I’m in a shop and something catches my eye. Now I think about pretty much everything I buy. I’m not going around writing essays on my need for material possessions and I haven’t become boring and minimalist, I just don’t just pick up and chuck in a basket in a shop and then pay mindlessly. I actually think about where it will live and when I’ll use it and if I’ll still like it in a month. I save money for expensive things I really, really like rather than splurging constantly on stuff that just fills an impulsive need. I still have lists of purchases I’d love to make, but it’s stuff I have thought about and know that I’ll appreciate.

It’s got to be good to realise to some degree that one person doesn’t need 800 candles.

Fika- A Scandinavian lifestyle concept for a 24 hour lifestyle 

 

So you know how throughout the last couple of winters people have been getting all giddy about Hygge and then a load of books came out telling us how to do it? As nice as that is and as much I am 100% down for a cosy life, I found another Scandi lifestyle concept I’m more interested in while researching Finland the other day in bed- for holiday purposes obviously.

It’s a very simple one, and I think we do it to an extent already, some more than others for sure, but I for one would love to do it more- Fika.

Fika is a Swedish and Finnish concept which essentially means to ‘take a  break’ with colleagues, friends, family- whoever you can round-up, and most commonly involves having a hot drink and focussing on each other rather than work, technology or daily stresses. So yeah, it might literally mean, having a hot drink and a little rest, which I and I’m sure most others need little encouragement to do, but the concept is a little bit lovelier than that.

In Sweden and Finland, people usually take two ‘Fikas’ in a day, morning and afternoon, to chat to the people they are with, drink something warm, have a break from work and regroup a little. The world of al-desko lunches and working while you scoop salad into your mouth with a phone wedged between your shoulder and face is the working life that we’re increasingly used to. I like being busy. I like busy days that go fast and having enough stuff to get through to keep my mind occupied for a full days work, but I also spend every waking spare second staring at a phone, on a train, deleting things from said phone etc etc. I’m hardly alone in that kind of lifestyle and if anything it’s getting worse.

We know we should rest our eyes from screens, get up and walk about a bit, step foot outside for a walk and give our brains a break from thinking and buzzing and scrolling, but how good is anyone at that these days? I stare at my phone all the time. I stare at a screen all day at work,  I use my phone while I commute, I use it basically organise my whole life, which is great in many ways but bad in many others. There are messages, emails, social media, 24 hour news cycles, buzzing, bleeping, ringing and then the inability to fall asleep at night because by the time you close you’re eyes there’s just a white light behind them and the urge to check just one more thing.

I don’t think practising ‘Fika’ is going to solve the fact that humans getting more and more addicted technology and our eyes feel weird if we aren’t gaping at a white light with news or WhatsApp beaming out at us, but it’s good to try.

We shouldn’t really even need a name and a concept to follow to take a break and enjoy some proper, human interaction, but I find it easier to adopt an idea like this.

 

Pulling the good out of 2016

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It feels weird to try and say anything about 2016 in a general context. It’s been a very odd, often sad year and also one that I’ve found confusing and frustrating. I know I’m not alone in that though. I was talking to my colleague yesterday while we hovered in the kitchen making tea and we were talking about the good things that have happened this year.

It was mostly sentences formed of ‘well 2016 has been quite shit but…’ and the but is important. There’s got to be some good to pull out of times we find hard, even if it is just on a personal level. My good bits are a weird mixture of stuff, some of which sounds very insignificant but has been important to me.

The big one- saving enough to buy a house The whole process of house buying has been long and stressful and not something I’m keen to repeat any time soon, but it’s also momentous and I feel relieved we’re nearing the end of it.

Running my first 10k This didn’t seem like it would be possible a few years ago due to my joint issues and Ehlers Danlos syndrome, but I actually did it. To me running a 10k felt like running marathon in terms of achievement, because  I didn’t ever expect my body to be able to run 3k let alone 10.

Changing my health and fitness This has been a long and not always successful journey but I feel like enough has changed for me to be happy and to know what I need to focus on to keep up the much improved wellness I’ve been feeling.

Falling in love with New York City This has been a relatively quiet travel year for me because of saving, but before we moved and started putting away our money like real adults I saved up for a trip to NYC for Dan’s birthday as a surprise and we LOVED it and can’t wait to go back.

Watching loved ones fight back aganist cancer My mum and best friend have both fought cancer in the last couple of years and while they’re now in the clear they’re both still fighting the long-lasting effects of treatment and mentally overcoming the journey. They’ve done a lot this year to kick cancer in the backside and make everyone proud.

Spending time at home I thought moving home for the year would feel weird and be suffocating as taking Dan with me has meant we’ve been tight on space, but it’s actually flown by and been nice. It’ll feel strange to be away again once we finally move.

Two weeks of glorious sunshine I spent two weeks in August soaking up the sun and relaxing with my family in Cyprus and it was so lovely. I spent a lot of time there when I was young and it was nice to go back and see the village we stayed in and the people we  know there. Oh and the amazing Greek fusion food.

The weirdest trip to Wales ever My friends and I go on an annual trip where we rent an Air Bnb house in the middle of nowhere, stock up on food and wine and become recluses for a few days. This year we went to Wales and it was a disaster. Two of us had horrific colds, one person got ORAL SHINGLES, we went to A&E, an emergency dentist, we bought burn cream, we drank Lemsip and we still had a good time. Proof that my friends are probably for life.

You have been awful 2016, but there has been fleeting moments of life being beautiful and all that jazz.

Falling in the depressing black hole of the social media scroll

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I would really love someone to stand over me and snatch my phone out of my hands when I’ve had enough of the internet. This person or creature would need to be able to pick up on my sudden change of mood and be able to remove my phone or chuck my laptop out of the nearest window before I sink too far into the ‘why isn’t that my life?’ depression. If you fancy the job please submit your CV, I make a really good cup of tea.

It’s been written about to death, but the levels to which the internet affects happiness and perspective on young people right now is obviously still high. I see stuff about it every day. I am one of those people, despite how much I try to disregard the filtered view of others I get from scrolling social media and reading blogs, who still feel like they’re missing the mark.

When you’re scrolling through posts there’s always someone out there having a better day than you, having a nicer weekend than you, eating better food than you, forever buying new clothes, forever travelling to beautiful places and in the end, you just want to be someone who isn’t you. I don’t feel like this very often, but I know I spend way more time than is healthy glued to my phone and on social media. The other day I was sprawled on my bed in the evening feeling frustrated and angry at my body for making me unable to exercise due to a flare up of EDS and it took three things to turn my mood from annoyed to fully vile.

I saw a photo of someone on my Instagram feed in gym clothes looking pretty perfectly toned and posting about training for winter runs, I then got an advert targeted at me on Facebook for homeware I could never afford after snappily swapping apps. Then to finish me off I went into my emails and saw I had been invited to yet another PR event that I wouldn’t be able attend because it’s in the day and I have a job.

These three things, separately, don’t really mean anything. This person looking good on Instagram would not get a second thought from me 99.9% of the time. The most likely outcome usually would be me looking for where they got their leggings because they’re always so nice. On that evening though, it just amplified my ‘I can’t exercise and I’ve been comfort eating crap all day so I’m just going to get fatter and fatter’ mood even more. I just felt worse about myself and angrier at my health for looking at one photo.

The advert for homeware appeared because of the stuff I’ve been looking at for Christmas presents. Cookies and data collecting and all that stuff the internet does to advertise things to you came together to make me feel worse about money and worse about not being able to buy things for myself- this shouldn’t matter. I’m not a materialistic person. I don’t go shopping much. I don’t have online baskets full of stuff waiting for payday. I just suddenly felt inadequate and left out and behind from an advert telling me I need a marble crockery set.

The event thing is perhaps the most stupid. This happens fairly often to me and I usually just politely decline and don’t dwell. I have a job that I like and I’m happy in. I can’t go out in the middle of the day to meet PRs and have tea with people. I know that, yet that evening I was suddenly of the opinion that it was unfair, stupid and I shouldn’t have to pick between the two. Hello first world problems brat, how are you?

I don’t like the version of myself I feel when I overdose on the internet. Social media isn’t the place to be when you’re feeling down- not for me anyway. Sometimes it can lift me up- a lot of the time I consume it thankfully and I contribute. I post and tweet and will carry on doing so- I tried the whole digital detox thing and I hated it. When I’m feeling bad about myself, most of the time a jaunt on social media ends in a downward spiral of asking why I don’t look better, why my house doesn’t look as good as those I see splashed on online, why I don’t have more money and why I can’t afford six holidays a year.

It’s not pretty to fall down the black hole of the scroll and I really hope that as time goes on, young people get better at separating reality and filtered lives. I don’t know how that can happen but it’s definitely what I want for when I have children who despite my best efforts will most likely be scrolling themselves before I know it.

6 ways being an avid social media user has genuinely altered my life

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When a colleague asked me if I go home from my job working on social media and spend the evening looking at even more social media, I wanted to say no. I suddenly wanted to be able to say that I’m not all-consumed by scrolling, posting, snapping, replying and commenting, but that would be a lie.

I spend my life online. Ever since I had to start a Twitter account as part of my studies at university, I’ve grown increasingly more wrapped up in the life I lead on the internet- because it is a life. It’s like having another life, but a version that’s in snippets and smaller updates. Starting this blog to connect with people who have the same rare disease as me was another thing that spurred on my social media use.

About four years ago, I was nowhere near the level of social consumption I am now. My Instagram account was stale, only being updated with photos from nights out or my dog weeks after they happen, I used Twitter for pretty much one function only (connecting with a certain health community) and my main Facebook use was posting photos. it was starting working in the digital marketing/social media sector that took things to a whole new level, which isn’t surprising. What does surprise me, is that I don’t want to put it down at the end of the day, despite it being a job 9-5, I don’t feel like I have had enough or need a break, I just keep going.

I’ve read loads of stuff about taking social media breaks and the benefits of unplugging and I did last year for a couple of weeks- one of which was spent deep in Irish countryside, so it was easier to pry myself away with no signal and no option but to surrender my phone to the bottom of the bag. But I don’t feel like I need to cleanse myself from all this time online. I recognise some part of the culture of sharing and looking so much at other people’s lives that’s bad for us. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that seeing what others have and comparing your life to what you see plastered over Instagram isn’t good practice. It makes some people very, deeply unhappy. Google it and you’ll find tons of people who blogged to say so- then probably shared their blog on social media. It all comes full circle.

I won’t be signing out and having a hiatus of the online world any time soon, but there are ways that it affects my life that I have become more and more aware of:

1) I get all of my inspiration from stuff I see on social media.

From travel, to bedding, to projects I want to take up in my spare time, I do things because others have done them and reported back on social media. Often just one photo sells me something, which is why brands love Instagram so much. Photos of places people are having holidays has pretty much dominated where I have wanted to travel to in the past couple of years. I no longer actively sit down and search for things I want to do, I just see and think ‘yep, gimme some of that.’ I’m not sure if this is good or bad- but seeing as Pinterest, a social site made for inspiration is thriving, it would seem I’m not alone.

2) My diet is impacted.

I so often decide I want to eat something because I see a photo on social media, or I see a recipe on shared. It used to be that someone would mention a certain food, or I’d smell it or see someone eating it, but now it’s all online- no nice smells (although how long until you can include the aromas of your Thai green curry on Instagram is anyone’s guess), no quick taste, no conversation- just a photo and I’m sold. Good for burger joints, bad for my bank balance. Though one positive is that most of the food I gravitate towards online is healthy, so the stuff I see and decide to eat is usually green and good for me.

3) I look at the world like I’m looking through a camera.

This is actually something that I annoy myself by doing. Photo sharing is pretty much my favourite part of social media, especially photos of places, be it a far-flung beach or a nice corner of London, I love it. Now though, it means I’m always looking at stuff for photo angles, or nice colour schemes, or thinking about how it might look cropped to a square. It’s annoying even typing it out. I’d like to drop this habit, but I don’t feel that’s likely.

4) I ‘know’ a wider variety of people than ever before

There’s a big difference between knowing someone personally, as in there are opportunities throughout the year when you get close enough to physically reach out and touch their arm or something, and talking to someone online. The idea of ‘online friends’ used to make me cringe. Why on earth would I want friends I haven’t even met in real life? How do people even call themselves friends when they’ve only ever typed to each other? In all honesty, I used to associate the idea with desperation or with people who don’t go outside, but that’s ridiculous. The internet is SUCH a big part of our lives now, as is social media, that unless you really keep yourself to yourself, you’re going to come across ‘strangers’ all the time. If you’re active on Twitter, you’ll likely end up tweeting strangers. You’ll start talking to them. You’ll read what they have to say, you’ll find common ground and get along. For me, this has mostly come about through actively participating in a health community, and from blogging. I ‘know’ people all over the country- know about their lives, their likes, dislikes, holidays, experiences, where they ate last night- it might sound weird to some, but it’s become the norm for me now.

5) It’s boosted my confidence

You’d think it would be the other way round, but actually, social media and being confronted with so much detail on others lives makes me feel comfortable. I don’t feel insecure or like I don’t measure up to the many people behind the many accounts I follow, who all put the best of themselves out there. If they can do it, why can’t I? This is probably something that affects social media users in a big way- caring too much what people think, but there are so many ‘users’ out there, I don’t really care if the odd person looks at something I’ve posted and thinks ‘ Lauren you are rubbish’. I feel in a way, quite liberated and a world away from the overly self-conscious person I once was.

6) I feel braver

Okay, so this might sound incredibly lame, and is probably a measure of the power of social media, but I take more risks and do more that scares me now because it’ll look good on social media. I only actually realised I was doing this very recently and the thought itself sounds a bit stupid, yet it’s done me a favour really. Paragliding, mountain climbing, tuk tuk driving,- amazing experiences and things I’ve loved doing, but mostly inspired to do because I’ve seen others do it online and wanted my own experience to share. It makes me braver. That sounds mad, but it’s true.

 

 

 

Interior style crush 2- wooden furniture

It’s probably okay to call this research at this point. My latest Pinterest (the website I never thought I’d understand or use but am now addicted to, obviously) obsession- wooden furniture. Wooden furniture of any kind. I would be quite happy if I found a house on Right Move which just happened to have loads of this stuff in, left behind. Since this is immensely unlikely and will never happen, it’ll have to exist in a pin reality for now.

Above are all from Swoon Editions 

Above are from KezSmith1976, Holly McGlynn, Fateme Haghighi, Sarah and Bendrix

Above are all from Sarah and Brendrix