The Problem With Giveaway Sites

Photo by Elaine Casap on Unsplash

If you’re familiar with sites like Freecycle, you’ll know that experiences are typically a mixed bag. These platforms can be a great place for genuine people who really want to make a difference to the world, but there can be more than a few bad eggs, too.

My most recent experience prompted me to write this article and share with you some tips and tricks. Whether you’re collecting or giving away, you’ll find some simple ideas below.

In the UK, because of some copyright laws, Freecycle is now known as ‘Freegle’. It’s really quite funky and there is a cool little app that you can download onto your smartphone. There’s a calendar that you can use too, so you can mark when you’re available for collections. Freegle works on the same principles as Freecycle – still usable, clean and suitable for all ages. Also, plants and seeds are fine, but no live animals. Simple stuff.

As a rule of thumb, it is expected that you agree a reasonable collection time, usually between 8am-8pm. This means that your fellow Freecycler isn’t disturbed early in the morning or late at night, and those of us (like my husband) who need to be up early for work can turn in at a sensible time. It’s also common courtesy that you keep communication open, and let a Freecycler know if you need to cancel a collection.

About a week ago, I offered up some acrylic paints. They were new and unsed and were for a project I had planned last year. Because of my father’s health and the subsequent grief, my plans sort of got put on hold and the project that I had in mind sort of doesn’t really matter anymore. Because of that, I decided to let the acrylic paints go.

The woman I promised them to said that she would be by at about 11am the following day to collect them and, as a blogger and a housewife, I said that would be fine. I usually walk Hugo after lunch anyway, once my blog posts are done.

At 11am, my door was still silent. At 12, 1pm and 2pm, still nobody had turned up. We got all the way to 8pm and so I decided that as there was no communication, she was probably wasting my time, unpromised the item that I’d promised to her and left it at that.

I got a message from her – she had to take her husband to the hospital and she forgot about the paint. Understandable! That’s very serious stuff. I told her not to worry and let me know when she’d like to collect it, which she did, at about 3pm on Saturday. Again, that was fine by me.

Once again, she didn’t show up.

I received another message from her telling me that she was running late and it would now be about 5:30pm. I was getting annoyed now, but if she was really having issues then she was really having issues, so I agreed.

Still nothing.

At 6pm, I received a message from her telling me that she was running late and if I’d leave them outside for her, then she would collect them. By now I was visibly vexed (according to my husband!), and so I put the paints in a carrier bag and left them on top of the gas meter box.

They were still there when my father-in-law went home at 10:30pm, so I bought them back in and told myself that she couldn’t collect them. Four missed chances was at least one chance too many.

At 7:57 this morning, three minutes before my alarm, I was startled awake by Hugo barking. My Tesco shop was due just before lunch, and the postman never comes around much before about 10:30am. I wasn’t expecting anyone else, so who could have disturbed me so early?

When I checked my Ring doorbell camera, there was a dark-skinned woman at my door.

My first thoughts were that she may have been from the local Jehovah’s Witnesses hall, so naturally, I didn’t bother to answer. When I received a message at 9am this morning telling me that she had been, I immediately withdrew the offer for good.

Missing a collection, making no contact and turning up unannounced is not okay. I do not like people turning up and picking things up from outside my home because if a crook sees someone else do it, then what’s stopping them? I like to be able to complete the transaction in person when goods exchange hands. Even if nothing else, it allows me to get to know the person to decide whether I want to give free goodies to them again.

With that in mind, here are some basic guidelines from my own experiences for you to take home:-

Agree A Sensible Time

I’ve had people ask to collect from my door as late as 10pm at night. No, 10pm is not okay. I want to be relaxing and enjoying some downtime with my husband then, not diving up to see who is at the door. Freegle’s guidelines are generally 8am-8pm anyday, which seems like a sensible policy to adhere to.

Don’t Be Greedy

The only time I will promise several items to someone is if I know them. If I know, for example, a Mum who has creative children, then I’d have no issues with promising several crafty bits and bobs to them. Sometimes though, I get seven or eight emails from one person for nearly everything that I’ve listed, and it’s nearly everything that has the potential to sell. If I get a whiff that a Freegler is just going to stick it on Ebay or pop into Cash Converters on the way home, then the deal is off. Two or three items I get let slide, but asking for most of what has been offered seems fishy

Mind Your Manners

In another recent incident, I had a woman turn up for two requested items, which I gave her. She responded with “okay Helen, thanks, bye!”, without even looking at me, and she was gone. It doesn’t hurt to make eye contact, it doesn’t hurt to say please and thankyou and it doesn’t hurt to exchange a few lines of conversation with the person who just gave you their unwanted goods for free. Treat nice people as nice people, always.

Don’t Go Alone

Ideally, nobody should collect (or donate) alone. If you don’t know the area, you don’t know who lives there and so it’s worth having someone with you, just in case trouble kicks off on your way there. Similarly, you’re opening your door to a stranger and it always pays to have someone with you if there is a problem. 99% of Freecycle and Freegle folks are lovely, genuine peeople, but there are always the odd one or two. Stay safe and always have someone nearby during exchanges, especially more valuable ones.

On a sidenote, if you’re collecting furniture, please, please always take people with you who can help you, and have a vehicle that is big enough to transport the goods. I gave two drawer units to a young mother, but her nor her friend could do any lifting and she couldn’t fit them both in the car. Remember, you’re dealing with a stranger, and some of us have health issues.

Try To Stick To Daylight Hours

Again, similar to above, it’s safer for you and safer for them if everyone can see what’s going on. Try to agree a time for a collection during daylight hours, if you can.

Keep Your Dog Under Control

You may love Fido, but your Freecycle friend may not. I collected some hamster bedding once (way back when I had a hamster) and I was met by a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Fortunately, the only part of him that caused me any pain was his very whippy, waggy tail, but if people don’t know the dog, they’re likely to be very nervous of it. Also, if your dog is a nervous dog or likely to scent the newcomer, then you owe it to your visitor not to let them get peed on. Pop Fido away for five minutes, please.

Be Authentic

I mentioned the sneaky sellers above, but some Freecyclers don’t actually mind if their goods end up being sold, they do, however, ask for a right to know. It’s fine to receive unwanted goods to sell at a car boot sale or garage sale, but please be honest and don’t con anyone out of cash. If you plan to sell the goods, tell them. If you’re selling them for a good cause, be honest about that too. Most givers will be fine if you’re selling the goods to raise funds for a charitable cause, but will unlikely be more peeved if you’re just planning to pocket the dough without telling them.

Don’t Forget The Moderators

Lastly, don’t forget the moderation teams. Whether they advise you on staying safe or how to behave, they are also there to make sure that everyone is behaving appropriately. I haven’t had to contact them often, but I didn’t hesitate when a married man collected an unwanted handbag for his wife, then proceeded to hit on me and refused the item when I turned him down. Most people on these platforms are genuine, but the moderation team is always there if things do go amiss.

How have your experiences with these recycling platforms been? Let me know in the comments!

Keep smiling, everyone!

Helen xx

Blogging Tips: How To Use Jetpack’s Star Ratings (And Give Half Star Marks!)

Hello Lovelies,

If you’re like me, maybe sometimes you like to write a cheeky little review for something or somewhere and you want to throw in a star rating to give your review that all-important reviewer feel. If you know how to add them then great, but if not, the process is very simple:

Provided you have the Jetpack plugin enabled, simply Add New Block > Search for a block > Enter ‘Star Rating’ > Click Star Rating and select however many stars you want to give. Easy!

Now, let’s say you and some friends went to watch a new flick and you’ve written up a review. It was okay, but it wasn’t great and you want to give it half marks. This is where a lot of bloggers (myself included, until yesterday!) get stymied;

Currently, you have two options. First of all, you can award it 3 out of 5 stars, which you don’t really want to do because that’s not the half marks you advocate. Secondly, you can set the blocks star count to the full 10 and then highlight half of them. Nightmare!

So what is a reviewer to do? Well my friends, have have no fear, Helen is here with her handy dandy reviewer guide to star ratings.

To give half star scores, simply pick the number of stars to the nearest whole number. In this case, 3 stars.

Now, click the last full star. In this case, the third star. Ta da! That star is now only half filled in!

WordPress (or Jetpack) really needed to take the time to create a wee pop-up tutorial or something to tell you how this works because honestly, had I not clicked a star by accident then I never would have known and I’ve seen many other bloggers tripped up by this also (just ask Google). If you write reviews like I do, it can help keep your reviews looking smoother. I now have to go back through all of my reviews and tweak my star ratings to be closer to the truth because somebody didn’t take the time to write out a few lines which would have told me what to do!

There you have it folks. I hope this article helps you if you use star ratings for anything!

Over and out until next time,

Helen xx

Helen’s 20 Minute Housework Helper!

Good evening folks!

Last week I promised that I would write a list of how I cleaned my home in only 20 minutes, prior to the police officer turning up. Today, I am going to share with you exactly how I did that, and exactly how long each task took me.

Disclaimer: Before we begin, I’m going to assume that you are fairly on top of your housework overall. Perhaps things are fairly okay, but it’s the middle of the week and you have a surprise visit from your distant aunt? Have no fear, we’ve got this.

This routine is a bit of a cardio workout, Remember, your aunt is on her way and the clock is ticking – so let’s get moving!

  1. Toilet bombs

I used this recipe to make some bergamot and eucalyptus toilet bombs, which are essentially just small, happy-smelling bath bombs. Make them in advance and store them in a glass jar in the bathroom, then you can toss one in and give the pan a quick scrub before your guests arrive.

Time required: 30 seconds

2. Wipe around

Grab yourself a soft cloth, dampen it with some antibacterial spray and give any visible surfaces a quick wipe. When you’re done, toss it in the wash and launder it for next time (unless it’s a paper towel, in which case it goes in the bin). If you’ve used my cleaning drawers suggestion, you can shave off valuable time by not having to walk about the home for cleaning supplies. Generally, it took me 4 minutes to clean a mantelpiece, a TV unit, 2 storage units, a coffee table and an end table. A workout for sure! But worth it. Don’t forget, it doesn’t need to be perfect, just wiped down. You can restore perfection when you have the time for it.

Time required: 4 minutes

3. Out of sight is out of mind

Invest in some good quality storage ottomans! We have two of these faux leather bad boys in our lounge and you would never know that one is chock full of to-be-sorted oddities. If it’s to be kept and sorted, pop it in there for sorting after the visit. If it’s rubbish, it goes in the trash. Pop the lid on et voila! Your secret is safe with us.

Time required: 3 minutes

4. Sweep, don’t brush

Look, I’ve already assumed that you’re on top of your game so your floors shouldn’t be that dirty. If they’re not, then you should able to get away with a quick sweep with a brush, rather than the vacuum cleaner, which is slower and takes longer. Sweep up any bits and pop them in the trash. A brush will clear up the bigger bits anyway, and the smaller bits that the vacuum picks up aren’t usually immediately visible so they shouldn’t really matter for now. Make peace with it, and make a note to vacuum later on. Unless your guest has a dust allergy, the fact that you haven’t vacuumed that morning shouldn’t matter too much.

NB. If you have pets, consider a rubber brush as they are superb for getting up pet hair, too!

Time required: 3 minutes

5. Claim the kitchen

If your guests are coming over to see you on a whim, then they are coming over to see you, not your kitchen. Claim to be in the middle of the decorating (we know you’re not) or something and tell them that you’d hate for them to get wet paint on their clothes and you’d prefer that they stay out of the kitchen. Sure, lying is never really a good thing, but do you want to have to clean your whole kitchen on such short notice? Didn’t think so.

6. Invest in a dishwasher

In the time that it takes you to clean the rest of your home, your dishwasher can be cleaning the teacups, coffee mugs or glassware for you. If you’re organised, kudos. If not, most dishwashers have a quick wash function that will have your crockery or glassware sparkling is typically about 25 minutes, long enough for you to stall for those extra few minutes while everyone gets inside and seated. I’m just saying that if your dishwasher has such a function then you should probably learn how to use it. If you don’t have a dishwasher, see it as an investment for saved time and energy.

Time required: 2 minutes (plus running time while you clean!)

7. Spray the pets away

If you’re dog (or cat) mad like I am, you’ll know that your home smells of.. well.. dogs (or cats). For us, that’s no big deal, but for some guests it can be a dealbreaker. Invest in a good quality fabric freshener, give the curtains a light mist and open the window slightly. The scent will travel around the room and hide and unpleasant aromas. If it’s cold outside, lightly mist the backs of your scatter cushions, waft them slightly (to dry them) and pop them back. Provided you don’t overdo it, your guests won’t notice.

Time required: 30 seconds

8. Steam your hard floors to life

I made the transition from a rag mop to a steam mop last year and I had only one question for myself, “why didn’t I do this before?”. Steam kills bacteria instantly and can help give your hard floors a perfect lustre. It heats in a minute and dries within seconds too, requiring no time and leaving no sign that you’ve been busy cleaning.

Time required: 3 minutes

9. Pop-up!

Invest in a pop-up hamper that you can store out of sight and spring open at a moment’s notice. Whether it’s for odd socks or coats, pop them in there and get them out of sight in another room, or cupboard (shh!).

Time required: 2 minutes

10. Empty the bin

To round up, if you have a lounge bin, be sure to empty it. It’s such a small thing and yet the sight of an empty bin in and of itself can go a long way in making your home look more clean, tidy and organised.

Time required: 1 minute

So there you have it, my 10 step approach to getting my home ready for surprise visitors in under 20 minutes!

Don’t forget, this is not a general cleaning routine and should not be used as one. This is merely a quick 20 minute spruce up routine to help you get ready for those naughty surprise guests!

How do you cope with surprise visitors?

Let me know in the comments!

Until next time,

Helen xx

Helen’s HSP Survival Guide – 18 Tips To Help You Cope!

Hello Lovelies,

I received a letter on SLOWLY last night from a lady who, like me, considers herself to have an empathic/highly sensitive nature. While she was in a bit of a slump, I realised that it’s not only her nor me that experience these lows. Unfortunately, all empaths and Highly Sensitive People are predisposed to extreme highs and lows that perhaps go with feeling more intensely than most people do.

In my relationship, it’s not only me that is an empath/HSP. My husband also has a highly sensitive nature and perhaps that’s what allows us to be able to have a beautiful, vibrant relationship full of adventures and new experiences. Unfortunately, with his ability to appreciate the finer things in life, he is also prone to anxiety, depression and feelings of overwhelm.

So with that in mind, here are 18 tips that have really helped me cope with being a HSP:

  1. Write

I was advised to keep a journal as part of my therapy, but you know what? Writing is just something I do now. My dearly beloved calls me “Jane Austen” because I write, and I write, and I write a bit more! I love writing! And as an empath, you might, too. Buy a diary to keep your thoughts in, or try an online encrypted journal like Penzu.

2. Listen to music

This is one of my favourites and I find it best works if you really ‘feel’ the song. My current favourites include “Big Spender” by Kiana Lede, which is really upbeat and talks about having enough money not to be impressed by a guy’s wealth) and Sia’s “Unstoppable”, which talks about having to put on a brave face and not be seen as weak.

3. Breathe

This was a piece of advice my mother always gave me, just take a deep breathe in, hold it, release slowly. and repeat It’s simple, but surprisingly powerful.

4. Get out in nature

The practice of Shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) has been a huge game-changer for me, and even just 30 minutes of walking through the woods can really help, I know when the weather is bad because I don’t go for my walks, and when I don’t go for my walks, I feel more anxious and restless as a result.

5. Get plenty of rest

Rest, even if not sleep, is so important to empaths and HSPs. We get exhausted easily, and exhaustion means our patience and good mood decreases. I personally sleep about 6 hours at night, with a half hour nap in the afternoon (bi-phasic sleeper). Although I don’t get my full eight hours, I usually find that I don’t need it. Most people need 7-9 hours sleep, so find what works for you.

6. Laugh often

This is so important because I find laughter really helps to relieve the overwhelming feelings that come with life’s problems. Not only does laughter help resolve stress, but it’s also proven to help combat anxiety and depression and decrease blood pressure. So laugh, and laugh often.

7. Eat well

It’s easy to live on all that’s not good for us, but if you’re diet is a steady flow of pizza, friend chicken and soda, you won’t be feeling great. Sugar, fats, salts and additives can wreak havoc on your nervous system, so do be sure to have the bad stuff only in balance and in moderation. Skinless chicken, eggs, green steamed veggies, tomatoes and peppers are all great, tasty things to be eating, too.

8. Limit stimulants

Caffeine, nicotine and drugs are all stimulants for a reason, they stimulate you. Your nervous system is frazzled as it is, and still you frazzle it with even more stimulation? Take a break and your body will thank you.

9. Drink the right stuff

Water! Lots and lots of water! We all know how this works, but if not, water helps to flush the bad stuff out of your body which leads to a calmer you. My favourite ways include fruit cordials (“squash”, here in the UK) and herbal teas. Twinings SuperBlend Calm is my current favourite and it’s completely caffeine-free.

10. Talk & share

Poor Matt. Poor, poor Matt. Talking and sharing can be great for empaths and you can often gain valuable insights from speaking to other people. Unfortunately for Matt, he usually has to listen to me whittle on for hours. Regardless, a problem shared is a problem halved, so you should always make time to talk.

11. Keep warm/cool

I am extremely sensitive to temperature changes and too much heat will make me feel panicky, while too much cold will make me feel tired and depressed. If you’re like I am, make sure you wrap up warm in colder months and flake off in the summer heat. A nice cooling fan and water mist can really help cool down an overheated nervous system.

12. Make time to unwind

Whether it be in a hot bath or with a good book, make some time for you. My treat is always a nice long, hot shower. It’s sort of a meditative practice, I imagine letting all of my troubles just roll off of me and down the drain. Whatever works to help you unwind, do it. Frequently.

13. Try natural healing

Massage, aromatherapy, relaxation tapes.. For me, I love ASMR, or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. If you’re hightly sensitive, you may experience “the tingles”, too. They’re a great thing to explore if you’re looking for ways to feel calm.

14. Cut out toxic people (and triggers)

I’ve written a post before about ghosting and toxic people, but if someone is only adding negativity to your life, wave them cheerio. If they don’t add to your life, why should you be adding to theirs? Your time is far too important to be wasting on people who aren’t worthy.

In a similar vein, a therapist once told me “if you don’t want to do it and don’t need to do it, don’t”. I don’t like horror movies or action movies, so I just.. don’t watch them. If something bothers you and you don’t need to do it, don’t do it!

15. Make time for your hobbies

What’s that one thing you like to do, but just don’t seem to get time for? Well, now you can make time for it. If everybody else is entitled to time to bake, sew and play computer games, so are you!

16. Learn to say no

As an empath, learning to say no can be extremely difficult and yet it so important to do. We can get so bogged down in the wants and needs of other people and then end up wondering why we have no time for ourselves. Saying no doesn’t make you a bad person, it just means that you recognise your own limitations. There is nothing wrong with that!

17. Consider therapy

I make no bones about the fact that I have been through therapy, several times, in fact. If you need it, therapy is a great tool to have available. You won’t lie on a couch why a therapist ponders over your symptoms and they won’t ask “how does that make you feel?” to every thought or memory you have. Therapists aren’t trying to help you unearth childhood traumas that might be behind an annoying habit, they are there to help you look differently at the thoughts you have been having, and to look at ways of changing your relationship with them. If you suffer with anxiety or depression, I’d highly recommend therapy over medication, any day.

18. Above all else, learn to love yourself

Your empathic, highly sensitive nature is a gift and a burden. Being sensitive means you’re more likely to cry and soppy movies, but you’ll also find extensive beauty where others don’t see it, and that’s a great thing! Instead of kicking yourself and wondering why you’re so damn sensitive, remember, you have a gift to connect with others and and an ability to see beauty in all kinds of situations, and that’s a trait that not everyone possesses.

Stay well and keep smiling, folks.

Helen xx

The Cleaning Drawer: What It Is, And Why You Need Them

Hello lovelies,

I wanted to introduce you to an idea that I was introduced to quite recently by a good friend of mine – the cleaning drawer.

Yes friends, a drawer full of cleaning things, one in every room.

I know, you’re probably thinking right now “but Elena, that’s so silly!! I just keep all of my cleaning things under the sink!” and that’s great! Really! I do that for the most part, too.

But have you ever thought about how often you trudge to the kitchen for a bit of anti-bacterial cleaner? A bit of kitchen roll to wipe a surface or a microfibre cloth to do a smudge of dusting? How much time and energy do you spend walking to and fro, collecting those things? How much energy do you have for cleaning after all of that walking? How much time gets wasted?

This is why you need a cleaning drawer in Every, Single. Room.

I know, even I hadn’t considered it until now and yet, when I thought about it, I too had spent half of my time walking back and forth for bits to clean a room, and then leaving them out because I couldn’t be bothered to walk back to put them away (the shame!). It’s not only energy, but time as well, and time is time I could be blogging, looking after myself or spending time with my family. Time matters, people!

But thanks to my cleaning drawers, that’s not an issue anymore. I can just pop my cleaning supplies away when I’m finished et voila! Whether it be a surprise visitor or a relaxing evening with my husband, I’m ready.

We live in a small flat, so I only really have 4 lots of cleaning supplies – the kitchen, the lounge, the bedroom and a shared one for the bathroom and hallway. They’re small, unobtrusive kits designed only for the cleaning needs of that particular room. For example, the one in the lounge (pictured) has:

  • A small bottle of anti-bacterial spray – A little goes a long way for a quick wipe down or for a spot of moisture for dusting.
  • A small bottle of glass cleaner – For mirrors and windows.
  • A bottle of fabric freshener- the caps do not come off of this stuff, so I had to reluctantly settle for keeping a full-sized bottle in here. For spraying on soft furnishings before guests arrive.
  • A box of tissues – so I can top up the tissue box holder if we run out at 10:30pm during a sad movie.
  • A roll of kitchen roll – For those all-important wipe-downs
  • A couple of microfibre cloths – I adore these for dusting! Use them and toss them in the wash – perfect!

You see? Just this little kit allows me to maintain the lounge, typically within on 10-15 minutes and without having to walk from room to room, saving me time for the bigger tasks like vacuuming.

What’s more, at a pinch, you don’t even need to vacuum before guests arrive. A quick sweep with a broom and they’ll think you spend your days cleaning.

*Giggles* If they only knew..

Here are 5 tips for putting your cleaning drawers together:

  1. Make a list of the rooms that will require them 

For me, I only required four kits. If you have a 3-bedroom house, it might be the lounge, the kitchen, the dining room, the entrance, the master bedroom, the bathroom and two children’s bedrooms, as an example.

2. Create lists of what you will need for each room 

Think about what is in each room and decide what you need to maintain it. For example, anti-bacterial spray and some paper towel is fine for a coffee table, but you’ll want bleach spray for the bathroom and kitchen. Do you have anything that requires regular replenishing, like automated air fresheners or tissue boxes? You might want to make a note to contain supplies for these, too.

3. Reduce the size of your kits, if you can 

For me, space is at a premium and so having smaller bottles of two of the three cleaning products in my lounge was a lot easier than trying to store 3 500ml spray bottles. You may find it necessary for some rooms, for example, you may only want a small kit for a home office. Unfortunately, the fabric freshener couldn’t be reduced and I refuse to buy smaller packets of tissues (which come with an abundance of plastic), so there are some things that I couldn’t reduce the size of. 

I also refuse to use anti-bacterial wipes because of the length of time they take to decompose.  Although anti-bacterial cleaner is still bad for the environment and something I use sparingly, I at least know that it’s not going to sit in landfill for the next 100+ years. If steam wasn’t likely to lift the laminate up on some surfaces, I’d steam everything in my home. Unfortunately, there are some surfaces that steam just isn’t suitable for.

4. Decide where you are going to keep these supplies

A cleaning drawer is a great idea, but naturally you may well want to not leave a bottle of cleaning spray where young children can reach. If children aren’t an issue, then a drawer (or even an attractive box on a shelf) can be a great solution, but if curious little ones are of concern, consider up high places or lockable boxes. 2 of my cleaning drawers are cube storage drawers, the bathroom one is a few supplies simply tucked on the shelf behind the toilet cistern because I don’t need to worry about inquisitive minds. Find what works for you.

5. Now that you have them set up, make sure everyone knows where they are!

It’s great to have these cleaning drawers and boxes, but they should be for the whole family, not just for you. Even if you look at non-toxic, child-safe cleaners (like white vinegar or lemon juice), anyone who is old enough to clean, should be cleaning –  and often!

I hope this little housework tip helps you and I hope it helps you conserve energy for those bigger tasks and those brighter, better moments.

Over to you, what do you do to help make housework easier?

Stay well, everyone!

Helen xx

 

My Help On Monday: Criticism- How To Give It, How To Take It (And Two Times I Was Harshly Criticised)

Last week, Matt and I visited The Inn On The Green, and then reviewed our experience following our visit. As is standard procedure, I write two reviews- one for my blog, and a shorter summary that I post on TripAdvisor, no biggie.

Now, experiences at The Inn On The Green weren’t exactly stellar. As a reviewer, I can only be honest and say what I did and didn’t enjoy, and that’s all I set out to do.

So when I saw the response from the manager to my original review, I was quite surprised.

Most managers that I have reviewed have taken any criticism on the chin, taken my pointers on board and gone back to work unscathed. Not this guy.

According to him, I fabricated dishes and I was hard to please. He pretty much chewed me out for being among the 5% of people who weren’t satisfied with how his pub operates.

Yeesh, now it’s personal.

For a moment, it took my husband and a few deep breaths to stop me bouncing onto my laptop and bashing out exactly what I thought of him. It wouldn’t have resolved the issue, but I would have definitely felt more relieved.

But then it struck me, his excessive use of (sometimes multiple) exclamation marks struck a chord.

This wasn’t about me, this was about him.

Him, and the way he handled criticism.

Badly.

Let me be honest, there are two British celebrities that really resonate with me. Heck, I’d even go as far as to say that they inspire me.

Simon Cowell, and Gordon Ramsay.

Not exactly ‘nice’ guys. Agreed?

But you see, once you get past that tough cookie exterior, they are among some of the nicest, most thoughtful, most genuine people you could ever meet.

And I’m pretty much the same.

I can be a bitch, and I can be a complete asshole. But I’m a bitch and an asshole because I want to see you win and I want to see you succeed. I’m not going to sugar-coat things.

Just like Simon Cowell and Chef Ramsay.

Two Times That I Was Criticised

Make no mistake, I am human, and as a human, it means I am fair game to critique. If you want to criticise what I do and you have a good reason to, feel free! In fact, I welcome your criticism because it allows mo to shape the way I do things and make my blog better for you. Go ahead and criticise me!

Story 1: My Writing Club Story

When I joined my local writing club, I was really hopeful to make lots of fellow writer friends. There were 5 of us, three elderly ladies, one younger girl and me. One of the older ladies was the group leader, and she sort of decided what we were going to do, or what we would write about.

Very early in, I realised that we all had very different writing styles. The young girl liked to write about growing up in Africa, two of the ladies wrote poetry, the leader lady wrote prose and then there was me – who wrote pieces aim to assist, guide and inspire. Leadership stuff.

For whatever reason, the leader lady gave us all ‘homework’ to do at the end of the first week, we all had to write a piece of prose about someone we knew, without saying who that person was.

So, I wrote a piece about my neighbour.

It wasn’t a particularly nice piece, sure, but I wanted to convey the emotion that I felt. I wanted to convey the disgust and detest I felt for him for the way he would stand in front of me and lie so frequently and so prolifically. I had some strong emotions about him, and I took that chance to get them out.

She hated it.

It wasn’t prose at all, she said. But the emotion was there. My detest for my neighbour was apparent.

So, then, even if it wasn’t prose, it was still something.

Emotional, powerful. Hey, that was okay.

Each person in the group was told how bad their work was, they were each, in turn, criticised for the work that they produced. Even the poets who struggled the least with the challenge were told how they could improve. At that point I realised that nothing short of perfect prose would be good enough and I decided to disregard her feedback. I don’t write in poetic styles anyway, so that was fine for me.

Although I’ve never been back, my reaction to her criticism was to calmly and quietly leave the group at the end of the session, and vow never to return. I didn’t attack her, I didn’t berate her and I didn’t shut down to everyone else. I just decided it wasn’t the right place for me, and left.

The last that I heard, the leader lady has now left and the group is now led by someone else. Of what I’ve heard, they’re also doing quite well producing articles for our monthly local newspaper, so kudos to them.

Story 2: A Bad Joke

Sat on the seafront in Northern Cornwall, my brother pointed out the sun and said that the sun was in the sky. Amused by his pointing out the obvious, I made a bad attempt at trying to be funny.

“Is that what it is? I thought it was a giant ball of fire.”

I know, I know, it was painful.

“Well yeah, that’s exactly what it is” he said bluntly.

Yeah, that’s exactly what it is. Awkward.

“I’m sorry sis, but if that was what you call humour then.. wow”

Wow yourself!

I was deeply aggrieved and possibly rightly offended. He just didn’t criticise my joke. He criticised me.

Criticism: How To Take It, How To Give It

In life, anything we can do can be criticised. For as long as we can form opinions, and the opinion isn’t favourable, then we’re likely to dish out some criticism. That’s just what we humans do.

The difference, though, is in how you do it.

If, like the writing group leader lady, you just criticise something that someone did, then that’s fine and fair. You aren’t judging them, you are judging something they said or did. That’s good. If you criticise someone for something about who they are (like my brother did), then you’re likely to lose friends, and your criticism will probably be ignored completely. Throw in a compliment or two with your criticism (who can say no to the “compliment sandwich”?) and you’re good and ready.

The difference between helpful criticism an unhelpful criticism, is how you give it, and the intent.

When I criticised the pub, I was not criticising the pub nor the manager. I was criticising my experience. The pub itself was nice and I’m sure the manager is decent, too. It wasn’t about hurting him, it was about allowing potential paying customers to make a decision based on collective reviews. One bad review on TripAdvisor wouldn’t put me off of visiting an establishment, personally, but ten bad reviews on the first page might change my mind. Places like TripAdvisor require a huge level of honesty.

Most people do not set out to belittle you, nor do they set out to offend or upset you, and so it is important to try and see it that way. Criticism is not, generally, meant as a personal attack against you, but as negative feedback against the thing you did.

When we get criticised, it’s easy to overreact and lash out. Try not to let that be the case. Overreacting to criticism does nothing to preserve your credibility and is likely to make people refuse to give you an opinion again. Instead, smile and say thankyou, then decide exactly what you’re going to do with it.

12 Ideas For Coping With Anxiety & Depression

All of the ideas in this post are entirely from my own experiences and are 100% commission-free!



And not an antidepressant in sight.

1. Bach’s Rescue Remedy

I cannot advocate these enough. Legal and safe, Rescue Remedy gives me a sense of calm and clarity, rather than the groggy, half-awake state like something like benzodiazepines. If all you want and need is a touch of calm and reassurance, I strongly recommend Rescue Remedy. Also, the pastilles just look like little jelly candies, so nobody will know you’re calming your nerves.

2. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

I realise this here is going to be controversial, but I found Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT Therapy) to be a great help for me once I researched and practiced it away from a none-too-useful therapist. Analysing my thoughts rather than just talking about them helped me to understand my triggers and to treat myself with the same compassion and support that I would give a friend.

3. Being close to water

Be it the fountain in my garden, the ocean, the stream.. if I can hear water, bizarrely my anxiety eases. Close your eyes and just listen to the flowing water. Try to imagine your stresses washing away in the flow. With a little practice, its surprising how well this works.

4. ASMR

ASMR, or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, can be a great tool with anxiety. An estimated one in 10 people experience ASMR, or “the tingles”, a pleasurable tingling sensation which is triggered by certain sounds including crinkling, tapping and hair brushing. Whilst not everyone experiences it, for those of us who do, it can be a great temporary relief from our negative, anxious thoughts.

5. The “HALT” technique

Used for mental health and addiction, HALT is an abbreviation of the 4 biggest causes of relapse – Hunger, Anger, Loneliness & Tiredness. When you can identify the trigger, you can do something about the problem. Hungry? Have a snack. Tired? Take a nap. Do not underestimate how well HALT works..

6. Exercise

I’m not even talking about a huge, pain-staking blow-out at the gym. A ten-minute walk, 20 minutes on a bike, whatever, it’s up to you. Exercise burns off that jittery feeling which is crucially what anxiety is. Your body is in “fight or flight” mode and you’re sat there doing nothing. Get up, move and burn it off. You don’t even need to do much. Jog on the spot or do 20 star jumps. Trust me, you’ll feel better for it and your body (and mind) will thank you, too.

7. Swimming

I’m adding this one to my list separately because it’s exercise, and then it us not. For me, swimming is as much a meditation as it exercise. When I swim, I like to imagine that I’m sweeping all of my worries behind me as I swim forward. Try this powerful visualisation and see.

8. Touch

Never, ever underestimate the power of touch. Cuddle therapy exists, massage therapy exists and for good reason. Touch releases oxytocin and serotonin that allow us to feel safe and allow our minds to relax. It is said that a 3-minute hug can reduce or even cure depression, so cuddle, cuddle, and cuddle some more!

9. Grounding

Not like your mother used to do! Grounding is one of my favourite techniques which works similarly to mindfulness to bring your focus back to the present moment. Instead of focusing on your thoughts, focus on 5 things that you can see, 4 things that you can hear, 3 things that you can feel, 2 things that you can smell and one thing that you can taste. Still anxious? Repeat the exercises with different answers for each of your five senses.

10. Distraction

Some therapists hate this because it’s more about running away than it is about tackling the problem, but sometimes it’s just not possible to start doing your therapy homework. Draw, write, listen to music, play with a pet, do whatever it takes to feel a bit calmer again.

11. Peppermint tea

A concoction suggested by my mother uses 2 drops of alcohol-based peppermint extract with a little sugar (or sweeteners) and warm water. Peppermint oil has a wonderful way of clearing the mind, calming the nerves and bringing about a sense of ease. Plus, it’s the perfect reason to have a mint humbug a day – sounds good to me!

12. Essential oils

Yep.. I know.. more hippy stuff, but they work! Like all others, lavender is my favourite to calm a racing mind, but peppermint helps to clear the head and lemon or orange do great to boost the mood.

Which ones are your favourite? Let me know in the comments!