Hi! I am Chloe Plumstead. Welcome to The Little Plum.A fashion and lifestyle blog With posts ranging from personal style to travel, feminism, and embarrassing stories, I talk about pretty much anything and everything that goes on in my life, always maintaining a nod to my love of fashion.
When I was preparing this sponsored content for Henry London Watches, I thought: “what can I write about that’s relevant to time? That I don’t have enough of it? How to make the most it? Where all of my time goes?” As I’m racking my brains and jotting down ideas, I think forward to the weekend just passed. Keiran and I had planned to spend the afternoon in Norwich since he had a rare Saturday off, and then Sunday was kept absolutely free to do nothing at all. I quickly asked Keiran if Sunday was indeed still free of plans, and he confirmed, at which point it hit me. Instead of talking about what I do do with my time, why not share what I don’t do (or rather, what I do do not doing - bear with me…)?
When we hear the word introvert, we instantly think of the watered down dictionary definition. “Shy”, is a description that pops up a lot, “reticent” another. Well, I’m neither. I’m a fairly confident person in the sense that, even when I feel uncomfortable, I can usually bullshit my way through anything, and as I’m sure you’re well aware by this point, I’m hardly uncommunicative when it comes to my feelings. If anything I have more feelings than time to share them, a situation of which my boyfriend is begrudgingly aware.
How can I be an introvert, I hear you scream, if I’m not shy or reticent? Because those qualities do not necessarily an introvert be, and oftentimes, are quite far off in terms of what it actually means to be introverted. In fact, the best way I’ve seen the introvert vs. extrovert dichotomy described, is this:
Do you draw energy from being around other people? Or do you need time to recharge by being alone? If it’s the former, then you’re most likely an extrovert. If it’s the latter, then you’re most likely an introvert.
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I’m not asocial in the sense that I’m hostile around other people or avoid interactions completely, but rather that being in social situations is draining for me, and after a while I need some solo space to refuel and feel myself again. I can happily schmooze my way around a press dinner full of unfamiliar faces, but by the end of it, I can’t wait to get home, take my pants off and eat garlic bread from my bed (also if you didn’t instantly think of ‘schmoozing the private school headteacher’ on The Sims just now then who even are you).
Big trips, days spent with the gals, a friend of a friend’s house party; these are all social events that I love being a part of and obviously enjoy, but as an introvert, however, I need time afterwards to climb back into my nest and recharge. I need time to be alone, to be quiet, to reflect.
The trouble is, as an introvert, that the need to take time to do nothing often goes unfulfilled. We feel guilty declining plans for the sake of doing nothing at all, or we fear that other’s wont appreciate that we need time for ourselves.
The people that know me best understand that I need my quiet time, but that doesn’t stop us introverts from feeling guilty when we inevitably say no to a wine and cheese night because we’ve simply run out of social juice. “Are we being antisocial? Are they going to get sick of us? Can we really make plans to do nothing at all?”
SHOP THE POST
Well today I’m donning my Introverted Fairy Godmother hat and I’m declaring that, yes, doing nothing is in fact doing something - nothing. Cryptic and jumbled as it is, allocating a day or an evening or even half an hour to let yourself recharge is time well spent, and if you’d been planning to keep your weekend free, then simply say that. “I don’t want to do anything this weekend” is a perfectly valid excuse for turning down that last minute family BBQ, and if you really don’t fancy going for a drink and mustering up awkward small talk with your colleagues on a Friday afternoon, then hey, fuck it, you’re already busy doing nada!
Time is precious. It’s overused, it’s cliché, but it’s true. Time is the one thing that once spent, cannot be reclaimed, so if making the most of it sometimes means doing nothing at all, then we shouldn’t neglect the need to do so. And hey, if some of that down-time is spent browsing the extensive Henry London collection, then so be it.
This post was sponsored by Henry London, but all opinions, wording and imagery are my own.
I was sitting in the car with Hannah yesterday, discussing our lives and the internet and work, and we came onto the subject of the hit Netflix show, Love. If you haven’t heard of Love, it’s a web TV series created by Judd Apatow - king of the rom-com - and stars the until now, relatively unknown Paul Rust and Gillian Jacobs.
Now, Paul Rust is far from the stereotypical Hollywood leading gent. Even for a rom-com, we’re used to seeing the likes of John Krasinski and Chris Pratt, who we’re tricked into thinking are the ‘funny’, ‘normal’ guys but who, in reality, are actually disgustingly tall, ripped and good looking. Also co-creator of the show, Paul Rust playing character Gus Cruickshank is an applaudable move away from the Men’s Fitness cover star guy, to the geeky, kinda not great looking but relatable guy.
The fact that Gus is portrayed as a not conventionally good looking character is part of his charm. He doesn’t need to be good looking, because he’s sweet, funny and clever. He’s quirky in a good way (not in the I-collect-doll’s-heads way), like recreating TV theme tunes with his friends over a beer at the weekend or being the ultra-polite, ultra-sensitive on-set tutor for a tween actress. We’re lured into loving him precisely because he isn’t a testosterone-fuelled macho machine, or the lad lad lad jock who just so happens to be a sensitive songwriter too.
Then, on the other hand, we have Gillian Jacobs as Mickey Dobbs. Mickey is a troubled, rebellious Manic Pixie Dream Girl, dressed head to toe in Urban Outfitters and one of her guitar-playing ex boyfriend’s flannel shirts. She’s that annoyingly beautiful TV girl that gets ready in 10 minutes by taking a quick shower and eating a piece of leftover pizza. On top of that she’s brave, funny and sensitive, but all of that comes in combination with the fact that she’s very attractive.
And we’re not talking a normal 6/10 level of attractiveness. We’re talking Gillian Jacobs on the front cover of Esquire attractive. Although Love is presented to us as a more realistic rom-com centring around the difficulty of dating and the flaws in our characters, in actual fact, our female character has moved no further away than Angelina Jolie in every film ever. Yes, the female lead can have depth and humour and out-and-out shitty character traits, but she absolutely must be attractive first.
We don’t get that with the male lead. Gus isn’t cute, but that’s not a defining requirement of his character. Mickey, on the other hand, must first be cute, and then whatever else the writers decide. This isn’t a coincidence of the character, either. The other woman that Gus ends up dating is a blonde bombshell actress - one of the stars on the TV show that he works on. If Love starred Bradley Cooper, then this wouldn’t raise a red flag to me. Bradley Cooper is so good looking that I will even forgive him for doing the third Hangover film, but Paul Rust is precisely the opposite to make a point.
So why is it that can have a ‘real’ guy, but not ‘real’ women? Why does Love pretend to be switching it up with the dorky and quietly charming Gus, but in the same breath tries to tell us that both the beautiful Mickey and Heidi (the actress, played by Briga Heelan) are attracted to him?
Unfortunately this is something that we see not only across our TV shows, but also across society. Take a quick look at our women leaders, for example. I’m the last person you’ll find supporting Theresa May, but I also lament the amount of publications that focus on her footwear rather than her policies. The same goes for Nicola Sturgeon (although I am somewhat more of a fan); countless times have I seen her name splashed across the front page of a newspaper, only to be followed by a comment on her clothing or the amount of leg she’d dared to show on a hot summer’s day.
Our female performers suffer the same. Take Adele; despite her unbelievable talent and North London charm, her body as a plus-size woman is time and time again brought to the forefront of discussion, in a way that we rarely ever see for people like James Corden or Sam Smith (who I’m aware is now looking super svelte).
Truth is, I actually love Love. I think it’s funny, engaging and heart-warming and plus it’s available an entire series at a time, so it satisfies the binger in me. I’m just continually frustrated that in the TV shows and films I love, men are diversifying and being allowed to be not good looking, whilst the women remain static. PSA: women can be funny and talented without being pretty. And it irritates me that by not developing and exploring that on camera, we’re reinforcing the idea that to be pretty is the most important for a woman.
This is definitely something I’ve been able to come to terms with more over the past year or so. Building a career on what is largely a visual representation of myself, it’s often difficult to extrapolate ‘pretty’ from successful. I’m as much a victim of the “ideal” woman as anybody else, and I can’t deny that many times I’ve found myself wondering: “if I was taller, would I be more marketable? If I was thinner, would I win bigger projects? If I was prettier, would I be happier?”
In high school, being pretty (or fit or buff or peng or piff, depending on your generation) was a big deal. Even in sixth form, too. I remember a group of boys ranking all of the girls hottest to nottest one day, and I was placed lower-middle - an admirable result, kind of like ‘well done for trying’ ribbon. During my teens and into my very early twenties, I really, really, just wanted to be pretty. I wanted people to look at me and be like “shit, yeah, she’s hot”, because I had never been that girl growing up. I was the clever one, the short one, or the pretty one’s best friend (hi Jade, if you’re reading - this is very much still true).
But I think, both slowly and suddenly, I came to realise that I have so much more to offer. I’m curious, I’m sassy, I’m creative, and even though I take a decent photo and have my camera angles down to a fine art, I’m coming to terms with the fact that I’m never going to be the prettiest girl in the room. And that’s a-oh-fucking-kay, because that really doesn’t mean anything anyway. Being beautiful is great (and I can't deny that I wouldn’t switch roles with Emily Ratajkowski in a heartbeat), but actually, that is one the least defining and superficial characteristics a person can have.
Let’s champion being funny without needing that to be reinforced by pretty. Let’s question our women in power without needing to question their footwear choice at the same time. Let’s push to see more troubled, diverse and frankly, dickhead-ish women on TV without them having to fit the stereotypical white blonde prototype as a prerequisite.
There are two types of people in the world. Those that, when asked if they’d like to hold a newborn baby, extend their arms with glee and welcome the little thing into the warmest of loving embraces. Then there are those people who wince, say ‘no thank you’, and hope to God that the awkward moment of rejecting someone’s innocent child quickly passes.
I am the latter. Unfortunately my maternal instinct is limited to admiring children from a distance (a dangerous sentence if taken out of context, that’s for sure), and even then the admiration is limited to children who fall into a specific age bracket or who have one of the few qualities I find endearing in small humans. Firstly, babies make me feel uncomfortable. Not because of what - or who - they are, but because the codes of conduct for handling or interacting with a newborn are so complex that I'd rather not risk it.
In truth, I held my first baby about three months ago. And she was more of a toddler than a baby, so I’m not sure if this even counts. If we’re talking newborns, then in my 23 years, I have cupped a grand total of zero. I was offered the other day, but I politely declined (albeit as politely as you can when you decline a baby in front of their parents) having been instantly filled with the dread of “okay holding the baby is all well and good, but how do I take the baby? And how do I give the baby back? What is the protocol for the baby handover?”
Instead, I’m a foot tickler. I’m an “omg, I can’t believe how small they are” and expert conversation divergent, able to steer the conversation away onto a brand new, all-encompassing topic as soon as I feel I’m about to be offered 'the cuddle'.
Toddlers, however, I think are cute af. When they kind of waddle around and lean on stuff and randomly start laughing in the middle of a conversation - that I can get on board with. They have chubby fat rolls like a Shar-Pei and look adorable in a plethora of fluffy onesies, from the cuddly sheep to the miniature lion. Toddlers to me are like puppies - I desperately want their approval and if they give me attention, I feel like the chosen one.
But then we go downhill again, because when kids start talking, I have literally no idea what to say to them. What is normal conversation for children? After a soft, drawn-out ‘hello’, I’m at a loss. Shall I ask them about their day? Shall I ask them what their favourite colour is? Shall I comment on the latest meme to hit Twitter and hope they’ll want to dive into it’s origins and proper use?
I also don’t want to be patronising. I don’t want to ask a kid if they like Thomas the Tank Engine to be met with a cringe and a “uhhh, Jeremy is 8, not 3” comment from their parent. I don’t want to be sassed by a kid because everybody knows you can’t really sass a kid back. I mean, where is the limit? I know I can't call a kid a dickhead (not to their face, anyway), but how do you politely tell a child to piss off when they keep making jokes about your v. fashionable shoes?
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There have never been any young children in my family. I was the middle out of five grandchildren with the youngest being five years younger than me, so growing up, I wasn’t surrounded by really young cousins or an extended family of random, distantly related babies. None of my friends have children and my Mum didn’t decide that at 50-something she wanted to be a Mum again, so my contact with little ones has been limited to friends of friends or my mates family barbecues.
This probably accounts for why I’m so desperately awkward around children, and why they're such a mystery to me. How old are they when they start to walk? To talk? Which comes first? Dogs, on the other hand, I'm well versed in. I’ve been surrounded by dogs since I can remember, so as soon as I walk past a pooch in the street I’m immediately leaping over myself to let them know how much of a very good dog they are. 13/10 doggo.
Doggy distractions aside, this is a public statement of apology for acting awkwardly around your child. Whether it’s already happened or it’s yet to come, I hereby express how sorry I am for not wanting to give them a hug or not indulging them when they keep bringing me random objects and expecting me to play (I've worked in retail and it's no joke, Ellie). I can, however, commit to being the cool aunt when they are rebellious teenagers and am more than happy to dogsit your lovely pupper in the meantime. Just come back to me when they're stealing your cigarettes and looking to listen to some good music, and I'm your girl.
Make a rented property your home can be difficult. Quite often, your landlord, property manager or estate agents will set out a list of things you can or can’t do, and unlike those who are buying properties, knocking them down and starting from scratch, you’re left wondering how you can possibly create a space that’s your own when, well, it isn’t.
My ideal house would have had plain white walls, rustic floorboards and not a spot of damp in sight. In reality, when we moved in, we had none of those things. Finding a nice rental property can be seriously difficult, so you have to be willing to compromise on a few things (although, like us, if there are issues with the actual functioning or build of the house, be persistent and keep bothering your landlord - eventually he will have to get it fixed, although most landlords will put it off for as long as possible).
Our landlord let us repaint the walls with neutral colours and we did a few deep cleans of the carpets, but we were still very conscious that we were limited in terms of how we could decorate. Whilst we would have loved to strip the walls, expose the floorboards and start from scratch, this would be a huge expense to us that we’d never benefit from in the long run and we wouldn’t want to damage the property and risk the wrath of our landlord.
Instead, we had to get creative and find ways to put our personal touch on the place. This included a few hours spent trawling Pinterest for good ideas, but mostly, looking at each room and thinking about easy elements we could include that could just as easily be taken away. With the help of west elm - who kindly helped us kit out our house with a few items that make it feel much more like a home - I’ve rounded up my top tips for decorating risk-free when you’re renting.
If, like me, you’re a lover of bed sheets and cushions, textiles are the difference between sleeping in a bed and sinking into your castle. I’ve gone through three cycles of different cushion combinations on our bed and I finally feel like we’ve achieved the perfect mix of tones, textures and sizes.
As our bedroom walls are white and I prefer the elegance of plain sheets, the age old cliché of adding a pop of colour is particularly pertinent in this case (and by pop of colour, I mean more of an whisper). These Mongolian Lamb cushions in Ink and Light Sage (sold out, but this Pebble colour is lovely too!) elevate the bed area from being completely monochrome, whilst the muted tones stop the flicker of colour from being too dramatic and out of place. I’m a huge fan of texture over colour when it comes to bedding, and this is evident again with the Roar and Rabbit embossed cover set which is beautifully finished with ribbon ties instead of buttons for both the duvet and the pillow cases.
If you wanted to move away from the bedroom, textiles are still easy ways of expressing a little personality in an otherwise neutral room. Our living room has a pretty industrial feel, so I’m always draping throws over the leather sofa or propping up Ikat cushion covers for an extra edge and dynamic. The other great thing about textiles with personality is that you can often switch between rooms; the cushions that were previously on our bed have now found a new home on a statement armchair we have in the spare room, again, carrying that little glimmer of personality across to what was otherwise a fairly plain area.
Indoor plants are a cheap and easy way of bringing a little life into your home, especially if you live in a flat without access to a proper garden. Rather than the plants themselves being the main attraction, however, I’m all about interesting planters and beautiful vases. This Turned Leg Tabletop Planter in Reactive Glaze again helps to introduce a little colour into my neutral shelving set, but the finish of the ceramic retains a rustic, not-quite-done appeal that stops it from looking too calculated. I’m always looking for pieces that look like they could have been picked up second hand from some hipster market in Shoreditch, pieces that look like they have a history and they’re now part of your home.
The Modern Wood Leg Planteris also great for keeping your indoor plant family happy. The concrete finish of this fitted perfectly into our industrial style living room, and the taller legs elevated it to a height that works well next as an accompaniment to other furniture in the room. Now the challenge is just to keep them both alive…
Statement & Functional Furniture
If you’re keeping the decor fairly neutral, you may be tempted to tread the same track when it comes to furniture. Don’t be afraid of some statement pieces, however, as these can transform a room and help to add that extra edge which makes it feel special. We spend a lot of time in our living room and whilst we have a few images up on the walls and have had a few pieces of furniture custom made through eBay, we still felt like there was something missing. Enter the oversized mirror of our dreams. This piece is extremely sturdy and so quite heavy, so, keeping to our risk-averse strategy, we've decided to prop it up against the wall as as much of a decoration as a functional piece of furniture.
Without a doubt, this is the most popular item in our home. I’ve had so many questions about it - both in person, and online - and it’s the first thing that draws the eye when people enter that social space. (FYI, it’s also great for Instagram, so you know, bonuses!) Similar pieces would be a Drinks Cart or Coffee Table with a difference - just think of something you need for a function purpose, and then take the bougie factor to 100.
And the most important part of making your house or flat a home, are those little touches you often take for granted when kitting out your space. I’ve surprised myself over the past few months with how much I’ve gravitated towards ceramics. Whether that’s coloured planters, like those seen before, oversized monogrammed mugs or bowls and vases, I love the personality that these pieces can inject.
I’m currently using these two bowls from the Alta range as stackable centrepieces for our dining table, but I’ll also be bringing these out as serving platters for big dinners or lazy Sunday BBQ’s. They’re beautifully made and the colour links in with the planters and also this baby Bud Reactive Glaze Vase, helping to tie together a thread of blue hues that isn’t too over-thought or forced. The vase sits happily on top of our chest of drawers, accompanying a few other bits and pieces that are scattered across my bedside table and the faux fireplace, each bought at different times and each with it’s own little bit of history. Those are the little touches which add a flare to easy decorating.
The items in this post were gifted to be my west elm, but all imagery, wording and opinions are my own. This post was not sponsored.
“We have to meet up for a coffee soon!” “Oh my god yes, we must. I’ll text you and we’ll get something in the diary soon.”
A couple of weeks ago I popped on one of Netflix’s new releases, The Circle. Starring Emma Watson, Tom Hanks and John Boyega (who I legit have the biggest crush on, FYI - John hit me up), the film itself was pretty pants (ignore that bit John), but a line from one of the more minor characters has struck a chord and I can't shake it off.
This guy was "anti-social", by today’s standards. He didn't want to be on social media, he didn’t want to exchange texts, and he lived in a secluded cabin just outside of town. His purpose in the film was to highlight the extent to which "social" culture has been ingrained into our psyches and daily behaviour, the most poignant moment of which came for me when, upon Emma Watson’s character saying she’ll text him to arrange a meet up, he simply replied ‘or we could just arrange it now, since we’re both here?…’
And just like that, one of my day-to-day practices was drawn out into the light and exposed as quite plainly bizarre. Why do we plan to make plans rather than simply making the plans themselves? Is it because we can't commit? Or is it because we don’t want to commit, just in case something better comes along?
"Let me check my diary…”, “I’ll just see what [enter generic bf or gf name here] is doing!”, “I might be free on ‘x’, but let me text you later and make sure…” All of these pre-qualifiers that we keep on tap to free ourselves from binding plans are all, if we’re honest, exactly that. They allow us - generation flakey - to make plans without really making plans, just in case the time comes and we’d rather be at home in front of the TV.
And we know that because, for the most part, we all carry our diaries in our hands and we can all easily find out what our partner/sibling/housemate is doing on any said day in minutes. Rarely is there a situation where we really don’t know if we’re free for plans, and even rarer is the situation that we can’t find out.
No, instead, we’re just so reluctant to agree to solid plans that we add a processing period in between; make it through the semi-finals and you’re on the home run to dinner and drinks (just hope that the surprise ‘I’ve had a really long day’ round doesn’t pop up).
Maybe it’s because we live in an age of instant gratification. If we want food from our favourite restaurant, we can have it delivered to our door in 20 minutes. If we want to indulge in a new series, we can stream 20+ hours directly from the TV. If we want a shag and a good story, we can swipe right and hook up with a guy in less than an hour. Waiting isn’t part of our vocabulary any more - we don’t even really know what we want to do now, let alone what we’re going to want to do in three days - and so tying down solid plans for a casual coffee actually feels more like predicting the future than agreeing to spend an hour with your friend.
Hands up - I’m the worst for this. I make abundant promises to check my diary/text you later,/let you know what I’m up to, but I all too often find myself following this up a week later with ‘so so sorry for the delay’ and even more promises to definitely make plans soon.
Our tendency to text over our tendency to talk has also made us lowsy when it comes to phone conversations. Rather than giving our friends a call to ask a question that could be answered in seconds, we send a WhatsApp message followed by three frantic emoji nudges because we need a reply ASAP. Remember the days when you used to just pick up the phone and ring someone to see if they were available? Now we send an email followed by a diary invite followed by a confirmation, just to pencil in a 5 minute conversation which would have been shorter than the whole organisational process of getting there.
But God forbid somebody should just call without warning us. That’s a one way trip to ‘just let it ring and I’ll Google the number afterwards’.
There’s a beautiful irony in our phones causing us to be more disconnected, but all too often they are an easy crutch; we can avoid conversations and calls and any definite plans by allowing our devices to be the silent middle man, and when we drop out of a meet up last minute with a ‘sorry, can’t make it tonight’, the consequences are limited to a disappointed emoji or an evening of ghosting from your pals - which, if you cancelled, is probably what you wanted anyway.
The thing is, the more disconnected we allow ourselves to become, the more difficult it is to claw it back. And this is even more detrimental in the workplace. Whereas a confident phone manner was once a given, more and more young people enter the professional environment with little to no experience in conducting a phone call, and this naivety speaks volumes to their employer. (Top tip: if you ever start a new job and you’re given the choice between phoning someone or sending them an email, always call. It gives a much better impression and you’ll appear confident and mature.)
So what should we do? Well, luckily for me, Keiran is sickeningly social and so often reminds me to just answer the phone rather than ignore it, or get out of the house when all I want to do is sleep and drink milk straight from the bottle. Other than relying on your butterfly boyfriend to drag you out of your social dungeon, why not start off with something simple...
The next time you’re with someone and they propose making further plans, make them there and then. Instead of nodding along and saying you’ll drop them a message later, just open your calendar, pick a date and commit to it. Don’t add an extra hurdle in between and don’t rely on technology to bring you back together - just sort it, on the spot. Maybe we'll all be surprised at how much we don't hate it.
But this wasn’t a cinema-screen worthy, burn-all-my-bridges, fuck-you kind of resignation - in fact, the whole exchange was so nice and supportive that there has to be some kind of human resources award on its way in the post.
Nonetheless, I finally did it. After blogging for over four years, I finally quit my job and took the decision to make this my full-time career. I made the transition at the start of the month and I’m now just over three weeks into truly self-employed life, and as a few of you have asked me how I knew it was the right time to take the plunge and how I feel now, I thought I’d reflect over the build up to my resignation and what personal and financial situation I was in at the time.
It goes without saying that everybody’s situation is different. I know of bloggers that have worked their way up from nothing so they could channel all of their energy into their content, and I know of bloggers who are extremely successful but still working part or full-time, either because they like the financial security or, actually, blogging isn’t their career priority. Each individual falls somewhere on the spectrum depending on their preferences, goals and current situation, so the timing of one person deciding to go full-time is often not likely to suit another. For example, going full-time when you live with your parents and don’t have larger rent or mortgage obligations is easier than doing so when you have a family home to run.
So, the big one: the financial side of things. Since January, I had cut down to working the part-time hours of two days a week; this acted as my security blanket, but I was only taking home about £550 a month from this so, by far, it was not enough to cover my rent and bills. When I started to seriously consider quitting my job, I had to factor in that I was going to be 8 days richer but five hundred odd quid poorer, and how I was going to either recuperate that loss in the meantime, or find a way to live without it.
For me, the crux was identifying the value of my time. I was spending 64 hours a month in the office, but if I were to spend those 64 hours creating content, I’d not only be earning more money, I’d be building my career and indulging my passion all at the same time.
And that content needn’t all be sponsored; taking the time to create more content (whether those are blog posts, YouTube videos or even Insta Stories) means that there is more for people to read, which in turn makes you guys want to come back or engage more and builds my platform for even better opportunities. So as well as a financial decision, understanding the value of my time was also a very important business decision for the growth of my career.
But back to the financial nitty gritty of things, I was getting regular enough work for a healthy enough fee to cover my rent and bills, plus a little extra to still enjoy my life. If you’re wondering ‘well ffs how much exactly is that?’, my bills equate to about £950-£1000 a month, and that includes rent, utilities, my phone, laptop, insurance, contact lenses and various bits and bobs like Photoshop and Netflix.
Realistically, I was going to need at least £1400 a month to ensure my financial obligations were met and that I was also able to buy my regular and expensive coffees. After about 6 months of consistently covering these costs, I felt I was financially comfortable enough to support myself without too much stress.
The financial side of things is most important in the practical sense, but being in the right personal space is also crucial. Keiran and I moved into our first rented home a few months ago and so I finally felt I had a proper base for creating YouTube videos and an actual home office whereby I could dedicate myself to my business without interruption. Simple things like taking a nice bed picture became instantly easier because I was able to create the exact aesthetic I wanted, and so I felt able to expand and improve in a way I hadn’t before.
More than that, I found myself heading into my part-time role thinking about all of the things I could have been doing blog-wise. My heart wasn’t in it anymore, and I’d reached this crossroads of needing to dedicate more time and attention to my content or otherwise accepting that I’d plateaued, and consequent growth would become more and more difficult.
The idea of quitting my job had been playing on my mind few a few weeks before I actually took the plunge, and when I did make the decision, it was like a switch went off in my head and I just knew. I told my boss the next day. That’s not to say I wasn’t terrified of making a huge mistake when I did, but my gut feeling was that this was the right moment, and the right thing to do.
STEP HEM JEANS
The first week was an emotional rollercoaster. I had real highs whereby I felt I’d made the best decision of my life and everything seemed to be going to plan, and, on the flip side, I had the real lows of money worries and actually, will I ever be able to get a mortgage and fuck, fuck, fuck, why have I done this?
These ups and downs settled after a week or so and I feel like I’ve now maneuvered myself into the best routine possible. I wake up at 6:45am, make a cup of tea, say hello on Insta Stories and then go about my day. Whether I’m editing, writing, doing admin or just trying to keep the house looking decent for adhoc social posts, I always make sure to never sleep in and get out to work in coffee shops as much as possible (this is v. expensive but sometimes you just gotta have that human interaction, you know? The cliché is real.).
And, honestly, now, I’m so glad I finally took the leap. I love being self-employed and being the boss of my own time, money and schedule, and I’m proud of myself for taking that risk and dedicating my all to making a shit hot career out of blogging.
Now let’s just see where it takes me. *all fingers and toes should now be crossed pls!*
P.S. If you have any questions at all, please do pop them down below or find me over on Instagram or Twitter @chloeplumstead. Until next time lovelies x
GUCCI BAGS & DUPES
The mini pill, the injection, the implant; my contraceptive history stretches back to age 18 when I was finally getting reliable dick (who needs a family friendly opening anyway?) and needed to protect against an unplanned pregnancy. Since then, I’ve trialled a number of different methods, each with their benefits and drawbacks, with my most recent of changes happening this past Monday when I had my implant removed. The process of actually having it taken out proved to be long-winded at best and a dire reflection of our sexual health services at worst, and having spoken to both my IRL friends and you lovely lot on social, I’ve come to realise that this, unfortunately, is the norm.
I’ve always resented having to take contraception. I think that this is an important point to open up with, because the onus of contraception is focused largely on - if not almost solely on - women, and we suffer both physically and mentally as a result.
Let’s be real for a moment - condoms are hardly the flavour of the month anymore. There’s no point coming to a conversation on contraception with the naive idealisation that either single people or people in couples rely on condoms as their main form of protection. Condoms have become somewhat of a stop-gap - that in-between solution that people use either if the sex is temporary (FWB or drunken hook ups, for example), or if there is a more permanent solution to come, with that more permanent solution being the female partner engaging in a female-based form of contraception.
Thinking of it now, I honestly couldn’t think of a single couple I know who use condoms as their central contraception. And a large part of this, I think, comes from the woman’s internalised fear that the guy’s sexual pleasure is going to suffer somewhat as a result. “He said it doesn’t feel as good with a condom on…”; we can cite awkwardness, our own personal sensation and the fear of them splitting as the reason why we don’t prefer them, but in all truthfulness, isn’t it because we don’t want to be a shit lay? And thus we put a lad’s sexual enjoyment above the health of our own minds and bodies.
Since 18, I’ve pumped multiple unnecessary, unnatural and unwelcome hormones into my body. The whole time I’ve resented having to do so, even though I’ve been complicit in my own pressure to opt for hormonal contraception by not wanting to use condoms. The latest of my forays into the world of contraception was the implant, which I had put in around a year and a half back. All was well for a while and I began to think that I’d found the option for me, but unfortunately, about 6 months ago I started bleeding three weeks out of the month, resulting in me having to wear a panty liner most days ‘just in case’.
As luck would have it, I was then approached by Natural Cycles - a hormone-free certified contraceptive app - to engage in some sponsored content. Worry ye not, this is not said content, but this opened up my options and provided the motivation to finally have my implant removed.
And that’s where the palaver began.
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I live in the middle of town - a stones throw to my local doctor’s surgery. “This is perfect,” I thought, “I’ll be able to book in next door and it will be out within the week.” I called to make an appointment, only to be told that they no longer offer that kind of service and I would have to attend the sexual health clinic over three and a half miles away. I don’t drive, so this instantly pissed me off. I’m lucky enough to be able to afford Ubers and taxis so I didn’t have to rely on anybody for transport, but what if the situation were different? What if I were a 14 year old girl who was too scared to tell her parents about her sexual life but still wanted access to proper care and professional advice? What if I were a young single mum who couldn’t afford the £18 round journey just to see a nurse for a 10 minute session? What if I wasn’t able bodied and transport was difficult for me to access?
To make matters worse, in order to have the implant removed, you have to go for two appointments. That’s right, two. You need to have the initial consultation, which is a routine - and in my opinion, pointless - conversation about why you want it removed and what the procedure will entail. You then have to book a separate appointment for the actual removal session itself.
I was very lucky in that I was able to pick up a last-minute cancellation which meant the space between my two appointments was only a week. Having spoken previously to the nurse, however, and to many of you on social, it seems that the normal waiting time is at least three weeks. At least.
And the reason for this seems to be that there simply aren’t enough sexual health doctors and nurses. During my first appointment, the nurse I was chatting to apologised for not being able to remove the implant there and then, explaining that only a few staff members are qualified to perform the procedure and unfortunately, they had then left to see patients at another clinic in another town because the resources were spread so thin. She even wished me luck as I left to make my next appointment, suggesting that it might be quicker to attend a clinic over 15 miles away because the waiting lists were so long.
I know girls that have turned up for appointments at their doctors only to be told, woops, no, we no longer offer sexual health services. I know girls who’ve had their implants put it without being told that they would have to get it removed somewhere else miles and miles away. I know of girls who have been waiting 6 weeks just to get an appointment to discuss sexual health. And that’s not right.
At present, young people are being pushed into a corner. Sexual health services are becoming more and more difficult to access, and as a result, our choices and our wellbeing are being limited beyond our control. It almost feels like you have to work for your contraception now; fill in this form, book this appointment, make this journey and do a double twirl and back flip when you see the first nurse, and you might just be able to bag yourself some free condoms.
For fear of being dragged off on a self-inflicted tangent, I’ll tie this one up here, but if you have any similar stories or experiences then this is definitely a topic I'd love to discuss further, so please either pop something in the comments below or come and find me over on social @chloeplumstead.
Festival fashion is a bit like marmite; you either love it or you hate it (or you’ve never really tried it so you’re kind of on the fence). You’re either decked from head to toe in sequins, feathers and a fluorescent bejewelled unitard, or you’re wearing your boyfriend’s jumper, and old pair of jeans and some beaten up Stans. The great thing about festivals is that it’s a rule free zone when it comes to fashion; you’re free to wear as much or as little as you want, whether that be extravagant as an expression of your sassy alter ego, or subdued for the sake of comfort and for easy peeing in the inevitably awful portaloos.
Historically, I’ve fallen into the latter camp. I’m a lazy dresser and comfort is definitely key, so more often than not, the planning that goes into my festival outfit consists of 15 minutes spent deciding between one denim item and another, assessing which will be the most forgiving when I dive into my deep-lunge dancing after one too many bevvies. Pop on a pair of old white trainers, lovingly ruined by many festivals gone by, and I’m pretty much good to go. I don’t even take a bag with me, instead opting to pop my ID, bank card and cash into Keiran’s pockets so I can keep my hands free for an impromptu Macarena session or the inevitably embarrassing jumping fist pumps.
That being said, I do often regret not indulging a little more in the cult of festival fashion. It’s not often you can pop some nipple tassels on and wade through a field filled with thousands of people without being promptly escorted to the back of a police car, and I sometimes feel like I miss that golden window of opportunity to go a little wild. That’s why, this year, I endeavoured to up my game a little bit.
Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t been bathing in glue and then leaping head first into a pool of sequins, but I’ve definitely diverted a little from literally wearing my boyfriend’s jumper and some knackered old jeans like it’s a standard hungover Sunday. Festival fashion for the low-key fashionista can sometimes be difficult because fluorescents and glitter aren’t our natural arena, plus our natural instinct is to ~ always ~ put comfort first (and I’ll be honest, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever find me in a fishnet dress because being warm is my main priority in life), but hey, news flash, you can do both comfort and style without compromising massively on either.
Keep your peepers reading to see my fave picks from the ASOS Festival Collection, and let me know which side of the scale you fall on - minimal with a pinch of something special or loud, or proud and queen of the festival ground. Happy festival-ing!
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This post was sponsored by ASOS but all imagery, wording and content is my own.
If we use the term ‘dating’ loosely, my history stretches way back to being 14. Admittedly, these ‘dates’ consisted of going for a walk around the local park, sitting on the very front row of the cinema (no-one sits there - much easier to hunker down and snog) or strolling idly up and down the local high street, but when your repertoire is as limited as mine, you have to count as many as you can.
If we’re talking ~ proper ~ dates, then I’ve had three, maybe four at a push. I’m not a good dater, but I am a serial boyfriend collector. From 18 to 23, I've had about 8 months of being single, and within that time I managed to rack up what a lot of us would agree are the major dating faux pas. Here’s the catch though - I’ve never really taken dating seriously. I arranged four or five dates through Tinder and cancelled them all because I couldn’t be bothered to go, when I did go on dates, the ultimate goal was to get drunk and have some good stories to tell and if a boy didn’t want to go out with me again (even if we’d slept together the night before so I had ultimately been pumped and dumped), it was no biggie.
Some people feel 100 times more confident when they are a part of a loving relationship. They feel uplifted by their partner, given more confidence by having a permanent cheerleader on hand. Oddly, I am the other way (through no fault of my boyfriend's, I must add). I’ve written before about self sabotage in relationships and how, over time, I come to doubt both myself and my partner’s feelings, but this is the flip side. When I’m single, I’m at my most confident. So he doesn’t want to see me again? Aight. So I asked an awkward question that socially should have been saved for the third of fourth date? Who cares. So I invited my friend along because I was getting slightly bored of the date (more on that later). Better to have a good time, right?
Even though my dating history is succinct, it is mildly entertaining. Think of it as a very Ipswich version of Girls - a little bit sexy and a little bit Suffolk. There are no rooftop bars or art gallery openings to be found here my friends, oh no. It’s all Vodka Revs and a dodgy old pubs - v. Carrie Bradshaw.
“So are you a feminist then?” So few other words can get a guy quite as hard, quite as fast as these. Two first dates I had, two first dates I asked. Luckily for me one of these first dates turned into my now boyfriend, made even more slightly surprising by the fact that we continued to date even though he didn’t give the instant - and correct - answer of yes, and so was subject to a 45 minute drunken grilling about why he of coure should be a feminist and why my vagina is my own property to offer out at will.
If I was to - God forbid - ever become single again, I would still ask this on each and every first date. It’s a time saver; if my date was to reply with ‘I don’t believe in feminism because it focuses on women’, ’what about all of the issues facing men?’ or flagged up the meninist Twitter account, I would instantly know that this first date was also, coincidentally, our last date. If, like Keiran, my date seemed relatively unsure, I would then relish the opportunity to delve deep into my repertoire of ‘does that seem fair to you?’ facts and see if the subject could be swayed. It’s an entertaining challenge, if anything.
Bringing a plus one to a date - unannounced
Here’s the story: I met up with this guy at a local pub for a couple of drinks and a relatively chill date (spoiler alert: we had already slept together after a night out and had been texting, so I thought, you know, not a high pressure situation). Fast forward a few drinks in and I can feel something building inside of me. It simmered slowly at first, but then that simmer grew into a bubble and that bubble grew into a BOOM - yes ladies and gentleman, I was mega pissed and ready for a night out.
And who can go on a night out without one of their best friends? So, naturally, I snuck into the toilets and text my friend, who then showed up unannounced and to the complete surprise of my date. Bizarrely, not only did he carry on drinking with us, he went home to get changed especially for the occasion. That’s right - he went home and then came back. By the end of the night I was so pissed I don’t really remember heading back to a Premier Inn to sleep with him (high point of my young life), but of course I did, and the story, luckily for you, only gets more cringe. As I tried to sneak out, I got to the hallway of the hotel and realised I couldn’t get downstairs without the key card and that, surprise surprise, my phone was also out of battery so I couldn't ring reception. I then had to knock.on.the.door and get him to escort me down to my extremely awkward 6am taxi.
Needless to say we didn’t see each other again. In fact, he still avoids all eye contact if I see him now. Amazing.
“How many people have you slept with then? Name them.”
If you can’t request receipts for every sexual partner your companion has ever been with on your first date, then when can you?! Oh, later on in the dating schedule? Maybe when you’re actually a couple? Right…
Needless to say I obviously did not get this memo circa 2015 and so I now ask you to picture the scene. A lovely young gentleman (okay, it was Keiran again and it was the same first date) are sitting at a bus stop, eating cheesey chips with mayonnaise and ketchup after a few drinks turned into a legitimate night out, and I, cooly and calmly, pop the question. No, not the question, although knowing me I probably did enquire as to whether he’d ever want to get married and what did he think of the name Claude?? No, instead I asked: “so how many people have you slept with, and who are they?”
Granted, this may seem like stereotypical psycho girlfriend behaviour to some (and this was in the very very very pre-girlfriend stage), but just give me a moment to state my case. Number one: I was totally shit-faced (excuse enough for most things, me thinks). Number two: our friend groups overlapped somewhat and he’d already slept with a few people I knew of so I thought, hey, why set myself up for the random awkward surprises - let’s just ask now! It’s a miracle that he didn’t ‘pop to the corner shop for cigarettes’ and never come back, but somehow he navigated the question with charm and here he is, still dealing with my deeply personal sex questions a year and a half later.
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I had a casual 1000+ words written out for this post, which was intended to be a light-hearted take on the positives of moving out - I’ve now scrapped that (although I’m sure the same content will pop up at some point this week), opened a new document on Pages and started again.
And the reason I’ve started again, is that there’s something larger that I want to say about this set of photos. I’ve spoken before about feeling uneasy about summer dressing before, and I started the year with a piece which loudly and proudly declared that 2017 was my year of being fat and happy. No holds barred, no treats forbidden, and certainly no late night self-loathing.
Thanks to a combination of contraception, a boyfriend and the fact that I am simply eating more and caring less, I have put on weight. If you’ve kept up with my blog for a while, you’ll probably be able to see the difference, but up until around the last two months, I hadn’t really noticed anything too dramatic. Even now, to be fair, I’m still a size 10, but I can see in photos that my face is rounder, my arms are chubbier, I’m not quite as slim from the side as I was before.
It’s hard to look at photos of yourself sometimes, especially when you can see yourself changing before your eyes. Over the past two months, when reviewing photos, I’ve had various moments of “oh fuck, is that what I really look like?”, followed by whipping my top off and taking a quick once-over in the mirror to see how close to reality it is. Whereas previously I would have spiralled into a pit of self-hatred before, I now try really hard to take a step back, take a deep breath and move on from the thought.
Side note: negative thoughts about your body image or yourself as a person are like tampons. The more they get, the more they soak up and the bigger they become. Let’s just say I’m trying to keep the flow light this year.
Nevertheless, I do have moments where I’m struggling. I look at these photos and I see that my face is chubbier and I see that the sleeves of my t-shirt fall at the widest part of my arm, amplifying what is already a real problem area for me. I see that my legs could only ever dream of a thigh-gap, I see that my knees are, weirdly, fatter than ever and I see that in terms of my body shape, I don’t look like a lot of other bloggers.
And what you guys see in the blog post is the finished result - 10-15 images that have been edited and uploaded as the best of the bunch. I, on the other hand, see 150-200+ of these, and it’s like 200+ reminders of the things that make me feel self-conscious about yourself. Any nugget in my head about the ugliness of my weight is poked and poked 200 times over, backed up by the worry that people look at me and think “she thinks she’s skinnier than she is”.
I guess this post is a mini PSA to say that even those who champion positive body perceptions still have bad body days. Moving past your learned idea of the ‘ideal’ body is a journey (v. soppy, v. cliche but v. true), and sometimes, along the way, you fall down. More than waving a little arm in the air and shouting “hey, I get upset too!”, I wanted to show that even though my Instagram page may be all nice clothes and sassy attitudes, I do still feel bad about my body from time to time. Just because I wrote a post in February that said I wasn’t going to care about my weight anymore, doesn’t mean that change happened in an instant. I’m working towards it, but it’s definitely a process.
I think, though, what I really wanted to reflect on is that we give so much credence to the negative perceptions of our body that one bad element - whether that’s a bad photo, a bad comment, a bad angle - completely overpowers anything good. When I went through these photos this morning, I came close to binning them all and then spent the rest of the day contemplating the gym and which trainers are you supposed to wear there?? and God I really need to stop eating bread! Gone were good feelings I had on Friday thanks to fresh new hair and some relatively clear skin - nope, that was all wiped, thanks to my chubby little arms and tiny sausage fingers.
We all too often roll the red carpet out for the first criticism that pops into our head and let it live rent free, burning away, whilst anything remotely positive gets an instant substitution. Even though I have more good days than bad, still when I see a super slim blogger lounging on the beaches of Bali, I find the question of “am I wasting my best body years?” creeping in and becoming king of the roost.
But I understand that me accepting my weight gain and actually saying “no, I’m not trying to change this” goes against the grain of everything I’ve ever been taught, so the process, unsurprisingly isn’t going to be easy. I just wanted to share with you that I have really shitty days too, to share a little bit of my less-aspirational, haven’t-showered-yet-today human side. This post may well have been a totally jumbled, slightly incomprehensible mixed bag of thoughts, but hopefully you managed to keep up with me and hopefully, even a little bit of it resonated with you.
Until next time lovelies x
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