Hannah Drake

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What I Learned from Marie Kondo

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Yes, everybody and their mother is talking about Marie Kondo and her new Netflix series. I actually bought her second book back in August though, so I feel like I can say I’m not totally on the bandwagon. (Though I didn’t start it until this year when everyone was raving about her show.) Regardless, there’s a lot to learn from her and I am here for it. I feel like I’m on a decluttering, simplifying, organising hot streak and seriously have to stop myself from starting a new project when I get a second wind just before going to bed. (Why does that always happen?!)

I’m slowly but surely making my way through the house, trying to embrace her method of going by groups of items rather than room-by-room, but the goal remains the same: declutter, simplify, and organise every inch of our house, leaving behind only the things that spark joy.


A friend shared this article from HuffPost on Facebook a few weeks ago that I found very interesting. From reading her book, I knew there was more than meets the eye with her technique. Her methods are deeply rooted in Japanese culture and the Shinto religion and it’s important to understand that before diving in. There’s a reason why she wants you to wake up your books by tapping on them or why she wants you to thank the things you don’t want to keep or why she greets the house before she even begins. Those things probably feel so foreign in western culture, but I’m so intrigued by this approach. It seems to foster a deeper connection to and gratitude for the things you do have, which is a far cry from the gross American materialisation that runs so rampant throughout the country and straight through my own life. I would rather have fewer things that I truly love—that spark joy—than a house cluttered with the latest trends and things I’ll never use or wear again.


It probably goes without saying that if you’re going through your clothes and pulling things to donate or get rid of, you’re going to end up with more space. However, when you reorganise things in ways that make more sense or are more convenient for you and when you implement the Konmari folding method, there is just so much more space. Before I refolded my clothes using her techniques, I was cramming piles of tank tops into my under bed storage and shoving more and more socks into my sock drawer. It was a disaster. Clothes were getting caught in the back of the drawers and it seemed like there was no space for anything else. When I refolded my socks, there was space in the back of the drawer. When I refolded my shirts, I was able to put all of them into one drawer instead of spread out between two drawers. When I refolded my pants, I made use of the little bit of empty space that was unusable before. I ended up pulling a few things hanging in my wardrobe to donate and now it feels like I can see everything hanging in there. There’s room to push the clothes apart and slide the hangers on the rack instead of nothing being able to budge. It just feels great! The trick, however, is not seeing the empty space and feeling a need to fill it.


In her book, she talks about getting rid of a screw driver because it didn’t spark joy for her. She was able to make do without one, but she realised after the fact that the screw driver did bring her joy because it served its purpose faithfully. This was so helpful to keep in mind when going through every category in our house. We all have clothes that aren’t for everyday wear, but useful to have when we have a special event that requires dressing up or wearing something specific. Other things around the house may serve a very specific purpose in your life or in your home and that might be enough to spark joy for you, even if you don’t feel warm and fuzzy about a screw driver.


I was shocked by the number of days the families on the show took to complete everything in each episode. Sometime it was over a month! But then it occurred to me that I too was nearing a month and a half of organising (just not doing it so intensely as these families). It’s been helpful to take my time and really be in the right mindset to actually tidy up effectively.

But on that same note, it’s been a serious struggle for me to not just buy all the things. Not stuff to fill the space in our house where the things we’ve tossed and donated once were, but actually storage stuff. I’m dying to get new drawers for our bedroom. I would actually love to get drawers for either side of the bed to double as a bedside table, but that’s a story for another day. Having more drawers would definitely condense how our clothes are organised and also allow for more room. Right now, Luke’s trousers are too tall when folded in the Konmari Method for our drawers. My jumpers also won’t fit in our drawers, but fit nicely in the under bed storage we have. Anyway, I did buy a few storage baskets for the kitchen (to organise cleaning supplies, dish towels, glass bottles and jars, and vases), some vacuum storage bags, structured storage bags (for bedding and bags), and under bed storage (for out of season clothing). But other than that, I’m trying to make do with what we have. I know we’ll upgrade our drawers eventually after we move so it’s fine for now. And in the meantime, who cares if we’re using cardboard boxes to organise the drawers in our kitchen rather than getting cute storage boxes or bins?

Have you been watching Tidying Up or reading her book? Did you get hit with a bug to declutter and organise your whole house in the new year? (It’s okay if you didn’t!)

I just want to leave you with this tweet. Buzzfeed did like four articles featuring the best of Marie Kondo tweets, but this one is far and away the best.

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6 Ways We're Going Green at Home

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This year, Luke and I are tying to commit to being a little bit greener than we were last year. We have a ton of ideas and a list of products we want to purchase to help in that, but we’re trying to take it slow and staying within our budget. Still, you have to start somewhere, so here are six things on the top of our list, some of which we’ve already started, some of which we’re planning to start this month.


In November, our grocery store moved to a new, bigger location and I think it’s so fantastic that I actually look forward to going to the grocery store every weekend. (It kind of reminds me of a Super Target, except it’s at least 60% groceries. Maybe 70%.) With their new location came some other awesome changes, including Smart Shop and more loose vegetables. With Smart Shop, we can use our loyalty card to check out a handheld scanner before we start shopping. We’re able to scan and bag all of our groceries as we go through the store and then quickly check out at a kiosk. Since we have reusable bags (all stores charge 5p for bags in the UK), we skip the plastic bags in the produce section since they immediately become trash at home. Maybe it’s the idea of loose produce rolling around in your shopping cart that makes people bag their produce in extra bags, but it’s nice to have the option to skip that step. Unfortunately, they still package a lot of the produce (like apples in plastic bags or cucumbers in shrink wrap), but it’s getting better!

At home, we’ve made a concerted effort to move away from using one-use plastic baggies. We’ve built up quite a collection of quality reusable storage containers to store left overs, including things like 1/2 of an onion or other produce we used to just toss in a plastic baggie. We try to only use plastic bags when we’re freezing things like pasta sauce or dumpling filling that we want to freeze flat in order to maximise freezer space. Or when the sneak popcorn into the cinema. But even then, we’ve started reusing those bags since it’s just popcorn and we go often enough.

Reusable bags are getting increasingly popular and available at most grocery stores and even some shops. If it’s not an option for you to bag as you shop, invest in some cotton produce bags, like this set of 7.


I’ve never for one minute given any thought into how to best store different foods until I was responsible for my own grocery shopping and cooking. Since we’re trying to cut down on all waste, but especially food waste, that means doing a lot of research into the best methods to store different types of foods.

Did you know that mushrooms should be kept in the fridge in a brown paper bag? Our store now has “mushroom bags” next to the mushrooms in the store, and since we’ve started using it, our mushrooms have lasted d a y s longer than keeping them in the packaging they come in or transferring them to our own plastic storage container. It traps too much moisture in with the mushrooms and makes them go back a lot more quickly.

We’re also looking at getting a fresh herb keeper to extend the life of our herbs. Our grocery store only has one size available for most of the herbs and we often don’t use it all in one recipe and won’t use it again before it goes bad. Extending the life gives us more time to plan to use the rest in another recipe, which admittedly is another valid options. Along that same line, we want to try our hand at another herb garden this year. We didn’t have much luck last year when we tried to grow rosemary, basil, and coriander (cilantro). The basil did the best and we used it often, which was great. But this last summer was incredibly hot and we forgot to get someone to water our plants while we were away for nearly 2 weeks so our coriander got absolutely fried. It was yellow and dry when we got home and didn’t stand a chance at coming back.


This year, I bought some amber glass spray bottles and jars from Amazon to make our own household cleaners. I’ve been wanting to do this for some time, but I wanted to use what we had already purchased first. My reasons for doing this were two-fold: It reduces plastic waste by reusing the same bottles. (Not to mention they’re more aesthetically pleasing, something that we all look for in our cleaning supplies, right?) And it reduces the chemicals introduced to our house. It’s no secret we’ve been itching to get a kitten and a puppy and eventually we’ll have kids. All of those little creatures are going around putting their mouths on everything and we want them to be safe. We don’t want them touching or licking surfaces that I’ve just sprayed down with harmful chemicals. Come to think of it, the cat definitely wouldn’t do that because cats have more dignity than that.

I looked into a couple of different methods and found a fairly similar theme. I knew I wanted to stick with just a vinegar and water cleaner, but infusing the vinegars was key. Hence the jars. Here’s what I did:

  • Put 1/2 cup dry ingredients into a 16-ounce (490ml) preserving jar. I did the following mixtures:

    • orange lemon thyme (peel from 1 lemon, peel from 1/2 orange, springs of thyme)

    • lavender sage (1/4 cup dried lavender buds, leaves of sage)

    • orange cinnamon clove (peel from 1 1/2 orange, 2 Tbsp whole cloves, 2 cinnamon sticks—although I used 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon because we couldn’t find any sticks)

    • lavender (1/2 cup dried lavender buds)

  • Fill with distilled white vinegar. In the States, distilled white vinegar should be readily available, but there’s no such thing in the UK. After some research, I discovered that the closest would be distilled white pickling vinegar. The key is the 5-7% acidity and the brand I found had 6% acidity.

  • Sit in a sunny spot (window sill is best) for 7-14 days. I opted for the full two weeks to allow for a deeper infusion.

  • Mix in a spray bottle at a 1:4 ratio with distilled water. Of course it depends on how big your bottle is, but the ratio is important. For every 1 part infused vinegar, add 4 parts distilled water. If you don’t have a purifier or filter for water, simply boil water and let it cool to room temperature before mixing.

  • Optional: Add a few drops of essential oil to enhance the scent. I use Young Living Essential Oils (though I recently bought a large bottle of lavender oil from Cotswold Lavender). They have cinnamon bark, clove, lavender, lemon, orange, sage, and thyme oils available.

Our vinegars will be ready to use this Sunday and I can’t wait! From everything I’ve read, these should easily replace your all-purpose and glass cleaners (and you’ll never want to go back!). However, do not use a vinegar-based cleaning solution on marble. It will erode the stone. Since we don’t have marble counter tops, I didn’t do any research into a natural alternative.

We also decided to make our own fabric and room spray, inspired by my Instagram friend Megan’s recent post. Add 30-40 drops each of two oils (she uses orange and bergamot) to distilled water. Again, use the amber glass spray bottles, which protect the contents from damaging UV rays. (If you’re storing them in a dark place, like in the cabinet under the sink, it should be fine in a clear glass bottle.


A few months ago, we bought a four-pack of microfiber cloths to use in our kitchen in place of paper towels. I was thinking about it this week and realised we’ve cut way down on the volume of paper towels we have used over the last few months. I wish I had exact numbers, but I didn’t think to keep track of it. Still, using the same cloth for a couple of days is a big difference than using a handful of paper towels to wipe down the counters after every meal.

Over the holidays, we bought some metal straws and a straw brush to start using more. I’m trying to remember to ask to not get a plastic straw when we’re out and instead use ours, but it’s a new habit that I need to build to. I recommend this set of 8 straws because it includes 4 straight and 4 bent, plus 2 straw brushes and a bag. We only have 4 bent straws and had to buy a brush separately and I do wish we had straight straws because they would be easier to travel with.

Luke got me a stainless steel water bottle in my stocking to replace a 5 year old Nalgene that definitely needed to be replaced a lot earlier. I really didn’t want to get another plastic bottle, but this does have a plastic lid.

I also currently have Keepcups and stainless steel lunchboxes in my Amazon cart waiting for purchase. However, it doesn’t make sense to replace a plastic item that you can continue to use and would have no other purpose for. So we’re going to wait to buy both items. We both have good non-plastic to-go cups and our plastic containers are holding up well to store left overs and pack lunches for now. We just won’t replace them with more plastic.


We’re trying to cut down on our waste in a lot of ways and one of the easiest is to switch to biodegradable products. Instead of plastic toothbrushes, buy bamboo toothbrushes. Instead of plastic q-tips, buy bamboo cotton buds. Instead of sponges, buy bamboo brushes. Switching from plastic to bamboo is possible for a lot of household options. And while it might be slightly more expensive, it’s worth investing in our environment.

We’re also trying to use fewer paper products. I mentioned above we’ve made the switch from paper towels to microfiber cloths, which has made a noticeable difference already. I also made a new grocery store template to use after going through a whole note pad just for grocery lists. I laminated it at work and use dry erase markers on it. I punched a hole in the corner and added a ring to it so I could hang it up on a hook in the kitchen. If you want to use it, you can download a copy:


To be honest, I’ve been kicking myself for months for not doing this sooner. We throw away a lot of food scraps that could become compost. When you throw food away, it goes to a landfill where it rots and produces methane gas. The nutrients of the food are never able to return to the earth. The amount of wasted food is absolutely staggering and the percentage that is actually composted is a mere blimp on the radar. We certainly want to take responsibility for our food waste and do our part to help decrease the damage a banana peel tied in a plastic bag is doing to our earth.

We’re definitely not experts at any of this stuff, but we’re committed to making these changes in our household this year. My hope is that by this time next year, we’ve decreased the amount of plastic we use drastically, we’ve decreased our food waste, and made other substantial changes in our lifestyle to help our environment. It’s absolutely a learning process and we need to do more research on all of these things. But we’re taking the first steps and pledging to be better and that’s what matters today.

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Home Tour: 2018 Christmas Edition

At HomeHannah DrakeComment

Welcome back to Chateaux Drake, my friends! Grab your holiday beverage of choice (I recommend eggnog, hot cocoa, or mulled wine), cozy on up, and enjoy our Home Tour: 2018 Christmas Edition. Maybe I shouldn’t say this because it’ll jinx it, but if all goes according to plan, this will be our last Christmas in our first home, so while things might look kind of similar to last year, they’ll likely be pretty different in 2019!

Like last year, we’ve only decorated our downstairs. My family has never been one to decorate every room in the house, instead sticking to the main shared spaces, like the living room, dining room, and kitchen. Although, I think when we were younger, my parents let us have little trees on our bedside table. Who knows, I could be making that up. What about you, do you decorate the bedrooms as well? I’ve been seeing lots of home Instagrammers who have added garlands to their beds and little trees to their bedside tables, which I quite like, but isn’t happening for us this year.

My two favourite places for Christmas decor in the States are Target and Michaels. Both places have some really great stuff at reasonable prices and I’ve snagged a bunch of it on sale after Christmas. Because I had so much Christmas decor before I moved, I haven’t had the need to buy a ton of stuff in the UK which means I don’t really have a go-to spot yet. However, I’ve picked up a few things at stores like IKEA, Tiger, TK Maxx, and HEMA, as well as at our grocery store, Sainsbury’s. I feel like my Christmas tastes are in a constant battle of the red, white and green combo with knit textures and fair aisle designs versus the simple and elegant white and gold with metallic tones and lots of deer. Luckily, the two work fairly well together.

This year, our Christmas decor starts outside! I mentioned that we made three wreaths to hang up this year, something we wanted to do last year but never got around to. We hung the biggest one on the front door on December 3rd. (It was previously hanging on our kitchen door that opens to the living room. The plan was to put it up on the 1st, but we forgot and weren’t home much that weekend.) Here’s hoping it will last the whole month on our door and not get stolen.

Luke made the wreath itself by twisting together some flexible twigs we collected in the park one weekend in November. Because it’s so big, he secured it with twin in three spots around the wreath, but it’s pretty sturdy on its own. We added the fresh pine, tying each piece to the wreath, tucked in some fresh holly, and filled it out with these pine cone ornaments we got from the craft store. They already had a string attached, so we just cut it and tied it around the wreath. I made a bow from IKEA ribbon to add to the top and Luke suggested we hang it from the ribbon as well, but it’s also on a hook in case the ribbon comes unglued. In total, it cost £2 for 6 pine cones and 95p for the whole roll of ribbon, so not a bad deal at all!

Home Tour: 2018 Christmas Edition The Dining Room

Last year I talked about how we had just started using our dining room thanks to finally putting some curtains up. (I also mentioned I wanted some lace curtains to hang on the bottom windows, but we never got them.) We’ve used the room a bit more this year, thanks to being able to entertain more frequently and no longer having a table in the kitchen.

I decided to put our Willow Tree Nativity set in the same spot as last year, this time on a bed of fresh pine and pine cones left over from our wreath forages. My mom got us the Willow Tree Prayer Angel last year for Christmas, along with a candle stick to serve as her stand. I would love to add the Three Wise Men, more shepherds, and more animals to our set in the future. Willow Tree is definitely an investment, but I think they’re gorgeous figures and they remind me of my favourite Christmas book, The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey.

For the sideboard under the front window, we got a mini tree from IKEA this year. It fit nicely into a pot we had for one of our bigger plants before it outgrew it. I added a short string of copper lights and made a bow out of some old Christmas ribbon I got from Target a few years ago.

The sideboard is also a great place to display our small Santa collection. My mom has the most amazing collection of Santas, adding a new one every year. She has wood Santas, metal Santas, paper mache Santas. She has rustic Santas, classic Santas, skinny Santas, even a bobblehead Santa. She’s got a drunk Santa, a pope Santa, a skiing Santa, an American Santa, a flying Santa. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! I’ve always loved her Santa collection and it was my favourite thing to set up when we got our Christmas decor out. Last year, while she was visiting us in the autumn, she bought us our first Santa from a Christmas shop in Stratford-Upon-Avon. I found this year’s Santa at TK Maxx a couple of weeks ago. The tradition at my mom’s house is that Santa brings the Santa every year and places the new one among the others on Christmas Eve. We’ll definitely take on that tradition in a couple of years—or maybe even next year—but I just couldn’t bear not having any Santas out last year or only one this year. Forgive me, Mom!

I finished the sideboard with one of our “Christmas Buddies”, Gary Frick Jr., some antlers, and some pillar candles from IKEA surrounded by a garland I got from the dollar spot at Target. I also added the hanging mitten tree from Target to our games shelf. And I finally got some faux poinsettias from IKEA to fit in my J O Y mugs from Anthropologie! I’ve been wanting to do that for years!

On our table, I have the birch tealight holders that I got from Etsy for me and my sisters a few years ago, some holiday placemats that I snagged on offer at Target, and a festive salt and pepper shaker. I mentioned at Thanksgiving that we added some boards to our tabletop to expand our table, which makes four place mats and a centrepiece fit nicely, but it also means we have to have a tablecloth down as well to hide the fact that it’s just boards.

Home Tour: 2018 Christmas Edition The Living Room

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. The ultimate compliment I can receive on my house is that it’s warm and cozy. And that’s definitely the goal for my living room, not just at Christmastime (or in the autumn), but all year round! I love the addition of the Christmas tree with its twinkling lights and the fact that it means rearranging the room ever so slightly. The lamp by the couch and the pile of cozy blankets next to the tree just make it feel exactly that: warm and cozy!

We usually have a white tray on the bench, but I switched it out for the green tray that I previously used for our hot cocoa station to make it a little more festive. I also switched out the Hello Fall candle from Bath & Body Works for the Flannel candle from Bath & Body Works. (They seriously need to start shipping to the UK because I’m always so hesitant to burn them lest they run out!) I also added the little red truck and tree that I got for $3 from Target and a knitted bauble garland, also from Target.

We got our tree from IKEA again this year because they’re all the perfect size for our house and they’re all £25 and come with a £20 voucher to use in the new year. (We remembered to use our’s last year on the very last day it was valid!) Last year we picked up some mixed metallic baubles from IKEA to fill in the holes on our tree and after Christmas, we grabbed the shiny and matte copper baubles from Sainsbury’s in a post-Christmas sale. Like my mom does with the Santas every year, we also got an ornament every year, so I have a decent collection combined with some ornaments from my dad’s house as well. Luke and I have started doing it as well, so he now has two! We decided to only put up my generic ones rather than adding the ones that are obviously mine or from my younger years when I was really into Disney and turtles. We put our tree in a red bucket from IKEA, which is what Luke’s family would always do. I’ve only ever had a tree stand and a tree skirt, but I like this way too and it’s certainly easier than trying to screw all those bolts in evenly!

Our mantle is different than I’ve done in the past. While I’ve still used the same items (the trees, the birds: Percy Chadburn and Julian Hawthorne, the deer head silhouettes I made), I went for an asymmetrical look instead of my usual symmetry. I also wanted to make a garland with the rest of the greenery we had for our wreaths, but I ended up just laying it on the mantle with the eucalyptus from Thanksgiving and trying to hide the ends. Luke also found these pine cones under a tree at our work. When he first showed me one, it was completely closed and so heavy, but since we’ve brought them home, they’ve started to open up from the bottom. To balance out all the green, I added a Christmas Spice candle from Sainsbury’s that smells heavenly!

We hung Luke’s wreath with holly leaves, dried lemon and orange, and cinnamon sticks from the mirror. He made the wreath itself like the one on our front door, but because it’s smaller it’s just holding itself together. We dried the citrus in the oven at 75°C for about 4 hours (check on them every hour or so). The house smelled amazing while they were drying out!

I finished off the mantle with our stockings (I think from Target) and a little garland I made with some of the smaller gold baubles I got from the Target dollar spot years ago. I also replaced our melted and unlightable pillar candles in the fire place with some fresh ones I used for our Thanksgiving table just to clean it up a bit. Well, that and so we could light a “fire” in December.

My mom sent us two classic Christmas books last year, The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey and The Polar Express. I wasn’t quite sure where to put them, so for now they’re on top of a crate. She seriously came through for us last year thanks to Amazon. Those books bring back ALL the childhood memories. I remember reading Jonathan Toomey with my mom for so many years (okay, even still) and The Polar Express at my dad’s house growing up. And it’s completely okay to be a child again on Christmas, if you ask me!

This year, I also got some festive cushion covers from H&M Home to switch out for the holidays. (And I’m still looking for the ultimate cozy throw. I’m thinking faux fur. Or a gorgeous plaid. Okay, maybe both!)

Home Tour: 2018 Christmas Edition The Kitchen

I kept it simple in the kitchen. I’ve been seeing a lot of Instagrammers add little touches of Christmas to their kitchen counters, but we just have so little counter space that it’s all so precious! Hopefully in our next home we’ll have more surface space in the kitchen. It would certainly come in handy this time of year.

I added the little candles we got from Sainbury’s last year to our window sill, along with the menu chalkboard that will forever have the four main food groups from Elf on it because it doesn’t wipe off. I also put up the two garlands I normally have on the mantle above our kitchen window along with a string of lights. I love seeing the glow from the living room when the overhead lights are off.

Over on the bar, I set up a hot cocoa station on a three tiered stand I got off eBay. Let me tell you, I’m OBSESSED! The last seven (or so) years I’ve done the same thing and kept it pretty standard with cocoa, mallows, and candy canes. This year I obviously went above and way beyond.

On the bottom tier, you’ll find some festive mugs I snagged from TK Maxx for £4 each, two different kinds of candy canes (but both peppermint flavour), Bailey’s, cinnamon sticks, jumbo marshmallows, and some caramels.

On the middle tier, we’ve got mini marshmallows, Amaretto (you gotta try it in your next cup of hot cocoa!), festive jelly beans, some chunks of chocolate, and the main event: hot cocoa mix.

DIY Hot Chocolate Station

On the top tier, you’ll find some festive paper straws, a little tin of peppermint hot cocoa, peppermint sticks, cayenne pepper (maybe that’s your thing!) and little mitten shakers that have cinnamon and nutmeg in them.

I got almost all of the jars from IKEA. The KORKEN jars are perfect! I got the 1 litre and the 0.5 litre, but the 1 litre proved to be too tall for the stand. I also got a pack of the mini KORKEN jars, a couple of the VARDAGEN jars that are 0.3 litres each. Tiger also had some great jars and the washed herbs and spices jars from Sainsbury’s were great too. Luke found the corked bottles for the liquor from Amazon. They came in a three pack in a couple of different size options. I also wrapped another string of copper lights around the bottom of each tier to make it twinkle a bit.

Home Tour: 2018 Christmas Edition

And to finish off the kitchen, I added our final Christmas Buddy, Melvin Crowley, and another Sainsbury’s candle to the bar! I also picked up some festive tea towels at TK Maxx that came with a Santa pot holder. We normally don’t have pot holders out and the tea towel on the oven is usually the most functional, but it’s Christmas and it’s time for festivity over functionality. (I’m mostly kidding about that.)

This post contains affiliate links, so I may make a commission off any purchase you make through the link.