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  • It’s time to swap quantity for quality

    It always amazes me that just when Christmas is over and you realise how much money you’ve spent on cards, presents, decorations and food the New Year sales come along. It’s hard not to be seduced by all those huge discounts – but, really, do we actually need more stuff?  Is it time to buy less and choose well?

    Don’t get me wrong – I love a bargain as much as the next person. If I spot something I’ve got on my list to buy and it’s reduced in price that’s a real bonus. But I’m not into buying things I don’t really want or need just because they’re on sale.

    I hate that over-buying contributes to so much waste. As you’ll have read in my last blog, I only ever give my children three Christmas presents (it’s sort of a French thing!) and hopefully they like them as much as they tell me they do. But according to one report, around 50% of Christmas gifts get binned within a year. Even more troubling, a survey last year found that one in ten unwanted Christmas presents will probably end up in landfill. That’s really bad news for our planet.

    Like a lot of people, I try to be eco-friendly and it’s certainly a big part of Tidy Books. I’ve never been interested in designing trendy products that quickly go out of fashion and are then disposed of to make room for the newest model. I recently had a customer who told me she’d had her Tidy Books bookcase for 15 years and that made me really happy. I love that my company makes timeless, well-made products that will never look dated or need to be replaced, so that our customers can buy less. Their longevity means they can be passed down to younger siblings, not thrown on the scrap heap.

    tidy books, bookcase, quality, buy less, kids furniture The Tidy Books Personalised bookcase. Photo credit Les Enfants a Paris

    “We still have our original Tidy Books - now at least 15 years old and only slightly the worse for wear having survived x 2 owners and x 2 long distance house moves!” Alison, one of the first Tidy Books customers

    I take the same eco approach to manufacturing . Everything in the Tidy Books range is made with sustainable, FSC-certified wood and doesn’t contain any toxic chemicals.

    As a consumer myself, I’m careful about what I buy. It’s not that I forced myself to become a conscious shopper – it’s simply that once I understood how buying too much or buying the wrong things can affect the planet I lost my desire to over-consume. It really wasn’t difficult to shake off that ‘Buy, Buy, buy’ mentality, I just naturally started to shop differently, and I can buy less without worry.

    I think that when I buy less and choose better has made me a calmer, happier consumer. So, if you do spot me in the New Year sales, I’ll be the serene shopper looking for quality, not quantity – but, of course, still holding out for a bargain!

  • When less is more at Christmas

    I remember one of my first Christmas Days in England. We were at my sister-in-law’s house and I couldn’t believe the amount of gifts her young daughter was getting. She’d unwrap a present, throw the paper to one side, open another present, throw the paper... and on and on until she’d got through about a dozen presents.

    Coming from France, this was completely alien to me. When I was growing up, I’d receive one main Christmas present – a doll perhaps – and a couple of little things to go with it. This wasn’t just my experience – other French kids got pretty much the same deal. That’s because in France children only receive gifts from Santa Claus. So there was never any issue with relatives struggling to find bigger, better, pricier presents – it was all down to Father Christmas!

    Unlike France, it seems that families in the UK are under huge pressure to buy kids’ Christmas presents. Recently it was announced that British children under the age of 12 will receive on average 11 toys for Christmas this year. The money saving expert Martin Lewis believes that young children ‘want what they want – whether it costs £2 or £200’ but that many parents can’t stop at one small present because they feel guilty that they’re not spending enough on their kids.

    It’s tough when you’re bombarded with messages about ‘must-have toys’. And it can be particularly difficult for relatives who live far away and want to show their love through a big gift. One solution could be for everyone in the family – parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles – to club together to buy one special present. Something that’s not this year’s fad but a gift that’s thoughtful and memorable – and will last beyond Boxing Day.

    christmas, christmas gifts, Tidy Books, reading, books, bookcase Dive into books this Christmas

    Of course here at Tidy Books that’s something we firmly believe in. We make products that your kids can get years of enjoyment out of and that they can continue to use as they grow. And our products don’t need batteries either!

    I absolutely love giving gifts at Christmas – and after all these years I still believe that less is more. Don’t tell my teens, but this year, like every year, they’ll only find three gifts under the Christmas tree!

    What will your children find under the tree this Christmas?

  • Emile’s book-buying adventure

    I’ve always loved buying books and it seems my 12-year-old son, Emile, has caught the bug, too. One day last week he went straight from school to spend some of his Christmas money at the local book shop. He took along a couple of his mates to help him choose and when he got home he proudly showed me the two Japanese Manga books he’d bought.

    Emile’s book-buying adventure made me smile. I loved the independence of him picking the books that he wanted without having an adult around. And the fact that he wanted to share the experience with his mates was very endearing – I could just picture them all in their school uniform browsing the bookshelves.

    Emile loves his new books and they’ve inspired him to get back into reading – something that, I hate to admit, had recently taken a backseat to his Playstation.

    For younger children, too, choosing their own books is a great way to foster independence and encourage reading. When I used to take Emile to the library I’d let him look at the shelves and pick his own books. I’d ask him what made him choose a particular book – was it because it had a colourful cover or featured his favourite animal or had a funny title. I found that understanding what he liked helped me to steer him towards similar books as well as encourage him to try different books to widen his reading.

    Of course I kept an eye on the books’ reading levels, but I wasn’t worried if the book seemed a little bit below or above his level. Even if a picture book was a bit easy it was still great for sparking his imagination and if it was a bit too hard for him then I’d read it to him or we’d read it together.  

    I think there’s something about children choosing their own books that gives them a real sense of independence. And independence was also something I really wanted to nurture with my Tidy Books bookcase. I designed the bookcase with front-facing shelves to make it really easy for small children to pick and choose their own books and put them back themselves. It was about giving kids ownership of their own little library and the confidence to use it.   

    Tidy Books. children, kids, bookcase, furniture, alphabet, reading, books Makes it easy for kids to pick up their books - The Tidy Books Bookcase!

    Judging by Emile’s book-buying trip, it seems that growing up with a Tidy Books bookcase helped to instil confidence and independence as well as a love of books. Mind you, having a bookaholic mum who’s always designing new products to encourage kids’ reading may also have had something to do with it!

    * What was the first book your child chose independently – and why? Drop me a line to let me know.

  • Your Christmas de-clutter starts here...

    You can’t have Christmas without a bit of chaos. On Christmas Day I look around and can hardly see the carpet for scrunched-up wrapping paper. There are newly-opened gifts scattered everywhere, discarded sweet wrappers down the sides of the sofa, needles from the Christmas tree all over the floor... And I love it! It’s a scene that makes me happy because for all the mess it reminds me how lucky I am to have a family who enjoys being together at Christmas.

    Come January, though, that happiness will be wearing thin. That’s when I’ll look around my house, see all the clutter and be desperate to get the tidy-up operation under way. The Japanese have a great word for this – oosouji, which literally translates as ‘big cleaning’.  In Japan, it’s a New Year tradition to practise oosouji. During the last week of December, everyone cleans, de-clutters and organises their home ready for the coming year.

    I think it’s a brilliant idea. Don’t tell my children but I’ll be insisting on a bit of oosouji in our household before the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve. They’ll be responsible for tidying their rooms and putting everything neatly in place. Now I have to admit that their job is going to be made easier with my Sorting Box, a toy storage box that has three separate compartments. What they put in there is up to them and they can hardly complain about clearing up when the box makes it super-easy to find what you need.

    Tidy Books, Sorting Box, Toy Storage, kids furniture, toys, get organised, kids room, children

    In fact, that’s exactly the point of the storage box. It was designed to keep kids’ toys and games stored neatly in an organised way. Instead of throwing all their things into one seemingly bottomless box, kids can put their Playmobile together in one compartment or use the three separate spaces for different Lego bricks. It’s really nice, actually, because kids get to choose where their bits and bobs go – but at the same time everything is nicely contained in one chic-looking box.

    Tidy Books, Sorting Box, Toy Storage, kids furniture, toys, get organised, kids room, children


    Of course my children, at 12 and 16, are a little too old for a toy storage box but handily The Sorting Box is great for all ages – just swap toy trains for an Xbox, DVDs, whatever. It’s also very useful for grown-ups, for storing things like scarves, belts and make-up. Hmmm, I think I may even use mine to store my Tidy Books design tools...

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