On Starting A New Habit That Replaces The Old: My #SugarFreeSeptember

Tips house taken by Binti Home

Start a new habit that naturally replaces or phases out the old one.

If you’ve been reading this week you know we’ll we are talking about habits and the secret we’ve discovered: The secret + easiest way to break a habit is to start a new one.

Nat spoke about unplugging her bedroom and bike riding this week. Today I’m inviting you into my home and life (that’s my kitchen), and sharing my new habit, and how I use another trick to make it even easier: start a new habit that naturally replaces or phases out the old one.

I have decided to take the Live it. Do it. #sugarfreeseptember challenge as I need to start a new habit to replace my go to habit: to reach for sweet things when times “get tough”.

If I was focusing on simply breaking the habit I would approach it by simply trying to NOT reach for sweet things when times “get tough” (i.e. wrong time of the month hormones, too busy, too stressed, too tired etc). It’s been my habit for years to reach for sweets – they are my comfort food, the things my parents (bless them as they didn’t know better) used to make me feel better when I was crying as a child. It’s a common thing to do and an easy out for parents as it usually stops the tears, but I digress: this is about me trying to undo this habit that I have had along for the ride for the last 43 years! And something about the 10 kilos I have put on since Christmas (ahem!).

So instead of going about it by what I should NOT do, I’m focusing on starting a new habit. On what I WANT TO DO instead.

small beginnings

Step 1: “Know thyself”

A few years ago when I left the banking industry and took some time out for my own health and family reasons, I started to pay much more attention to the foods that were going into my mouth AND also when I reached for the types of things that I know don’t serve me. So, I know my own patterns, which really is the first step.

Even before you embark on anything like changing or replacing a habit, it’s important to understand when you do that habit. So, take some time to observe, without judgement.

out with the old in with the new

Step 2: Choose a new habit that naturally phases out the old one. Or, piggy back it.

So I now know that I am, like my son, one of those people whose moods is heavily affected by whether or not they need food. And when I need food, I NEED. IT. NOW! So, I will generally reach for anything that I can put in my mouth straight away.  Because I’m hungry. I actually don’t discriminate on these occasions BUT often it’s the unhealthy foods that are instant/fast enough – chips, chocolate, cookies etc.

One solution was to ensure easy healthy foods were on hand (for example nuts – which are good to eat regularly anyway) and voila, a healthier Tip emerged.

brushetta bar

Another thing I know is that my self control is almost non-existent, especially in the wee hours of the evening (apparently we all get a daily dose of self control which gets used up by days end – interesting study somewhere about this), so:

My other tactic is to NOT have any unhealthy foods in the house…

OR, at the very least the types of things I am not actually interested in eating (like tea biscuits, which keep the kids satisfied when it comes to a treat but I can’t even be bothered eating!).

If there’s nothing unhealthy in front of me when my self-control is low then well, there’s no problem. So the new habit is keep my trigger foods away from the house.

If this all feels too hard for your habit, one of the easiest new habit tips I have is to “piggy-back” your new habit onto another existing habit.

For example, want to drink more water? Then the new habit could be that for every cup of coffee/juice/soda you have that you drink a glass of water first.  Not replacing the coffee/juice/soda habit per se, but adding a glass of water to the habit.  It’s a much simpler approach because what will actually happen is that you will both drink more water AND drink less of the other stuff (yes really).

So, if replacing a habit sounds too big a step then just try this method first. This also works great with kids – I always say to mine when they’re “soooo thirsty (for juice)” that water is the best thirst quencher so they can have their juice AFTER a glass of water. Totally works – they get more water in and they definitely drink less juice.  Win – win!

screw perfection

Step 3: “Screw Perfection” 

Quite possibly THE most important part of all this is to remember with a new habit, diet etc – none of us is perfect. We all fail sometimes. This is true for all habits. You are learning something new. It takes time. Accept that it’s part of the process and just keep going with the new habit.

I learned to tell myself:

“Oops, I fell off the wagon just then…but that’s OK – I am going to eat less tonight/tomorrow to make up for it and get back on the wagon.”

That is the best way to approach our bad habits and changing them.

It does not have to be all or nothing – it’s OK to slip up. Just make up for it and get right back on track. No self loathing required.

Moreover, sometimes when we fail it’s an opportunity to learn. Perhaps I’ll discover that I eat the most sugar when I’m at work. Well, then I need to adjust my new habit to make it easier to do it at work instead. Because we are all human. I know that I will probably slip up in September with the no sugar thing (there’s a wedding involved too!) but if, in the end, it means that I eat less sugar through the month and that I am on my way to starting a better new habit then it’s still a good thing.

start before youre ready marie foleo

Step 4: “Just Start”

Nat and I always say this because a lot of the time, the hardest thing is to start.

Most folk say, I will start my diet on Monday or maybe once I …

I challenge you all to just start – RIGHT NOW.  Whatever it is, wherever you are – just start.

Even if you’re just at the observation stage, just take one little step towards it.  For me, I am planning my sugar free September.  I am thinking about my meals and actually what I do need in the house for Monday (or out of the house, as the case may be). This weekend, I’m going to the store.  Come Monday, I will be ready.

Will you join me in starting a new habit in September? Would love to hear more in the comments.



images: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4


Art: The Must Have Home Accessory

  “Live with art, It’s good for you!” – Jen Beckman


Did someone say art? This week’s Happy House Rules is a bit like last week’s plant challenge: when added to your home it has a HUGE impact in changing the atmosphere of your space and life.

“Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.” ~ Plato

And so it is with art. You don’t need to own a particular artist’s piece or subscribe to a particular style. The art we’re talking about is art in your home that’s personal and makes you smile, feel inspired or remember wonderful moments in your life. It needn’t be scary or unreachable (though of course we encourage you to dream about some original you think is awesome ;). We’d like to introduce you to the idea that living with art is great, and even better, it can be really be FUN.

1. How to NOT get overwhelmed

There is a lot of art out there so I can imagine that it is a daunting task to figure out where to start – the best suggestion I have is to look around the web, in museums, fairs, friend’s collections and start saving pictures of the types of things that catch your eye – you’ll notice a pattern after a while of the things you like which can help inform you on the type of art to buy.

q1art via abigail Piero Gemelli

2. You don’t have to commit: Lean It

Consider leaning your art up against the wall, a windowsill or on some magazines. Also nice if you are too scared to make holes in the wall or can’t hang your art because you’re in a rental. Don’t let that little detail stop you! Piero Gemilli’s place above should be inspiration enough to try it.

3. Buy (or paint or print) ONE BIG WOW piece

The above pic is also a great example of how 1 single piece of art can change the entire vibe of a space – just place your hand over the B&W face in the picture and see what happens. Interesting huh? The takeaway is, once piece CAN completely change the feeling of a room.  The paintings below are also a perfect example of how one piece can give your room the ‘wow’ factor it needs – in addition, they are huge relative to the size of the room – which is another designer trick that ups the fab stakes. Don’t be afraid to supersize your art, especially if your space is small! I should know, my place is narrow but the second pic below is in my home. It actually makes the space feel bigger.


4. Consider Poster Art (Trending)

If buying paintings isn’t for you, then a very big trend right now, which is also relatively cheap and easy to do, is poster art. Never before has there been as huge a selection to choose from, from daintily drawn numbers to graphic text and shapes in black and white and full colour!  I wanted to show you my faves but, as there are so many, instead here are some posters from some of my favourite people Mariela, Cat and Kerry (click on the pic to get to their webshops):

Mountains OHM


Adobe Photoshop PDF

5. Buy what you love

Above all, the best advice when it comes to adding art to your homes is to buy what you love, unless you’re an aficionado and are buying for investment purposes. Though, even in that case, I would suggest to only buy it if you love it because you will have to look at it everyday. (Art should never be hidden away in my opinion!).


I’ll be back later in the week with some tips about different ways to think about and display your art and a bit about 3D art too. Until then, we’d love you to play with us on Instagram, Facebook or Tumblr or send us an email, whatever is easiest for you but definitely play our happy house rules this week and:


* if you’re playing on social media – snap a pic, tag us @apartmentdiet & #showusyourart so we can feature you

Images: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4

Feng what?! Let’s talk about flow…

Flow picImagine a river flow across your floors.  Where does it rush through, where does it get stuck and where does it nicely meander?

I sometimes get asked if I know about feng shui – not entirely sure why, though being part Chinese might have something to do with it.  Not to be at all negative about the feng shui movement but I’ve never really been able to get into it because, let’s face it, that’s a whole lotta rules to remember (it takes years to become a feng shui master) and it’s just not my forté BUT I do find myself adhering to some of feng shui’s most common sense principles without fail. This isn’t a post about feng shui however, it is actually a post about flow…but instead of talking about energy flows that most of us mere mortals find confusing, I’d like to use an analogy that I read about in Maxwell from Apartment Therapy’s book The eight-step home cure. What he compares it to is imagining a river flow – water spreading across your floors as it were.  Where does it rush through, where does it get stuck and where does it nicely meander? Fast rushing rivers in your home are dangerous (if you replace water with running kids!) and too curvy rivers end up with crud stuck in the bends (or the stuff in our homes we generally call clutter).

The happy house rule is for the flow in your home to meander like a healthy river bends – this encourages you and everyone else to take a journey through your home and hopefully to stop and appreciate each and every part of it along the way.

Now, how do you know if your home flows nicely?  You could just walk through and see how easy/hard it is to do, but if you find it hard to see this in your own home then I’d love to suggest Nat’s trick of watching a 5 year old for the first time try to navigate your house. It’ll become abundantly clear where they get stuck or where they run straight through!  (If you don’t have your own 5 year old then borrow one – I’m sure their parents would be happy to have them off their hands for an hour or two – win win!) A couple of pictures from Maxwell again to illustrate bad flow vs. good flow: good and bad flowI hope this helps your eyes not glaze over when someone starts talking about the energy flow in your space!

If if you are interested in understanding more about feng shui then I would recommend Karen Kingston‘s books as she’s one’s of my favourite authors on the subject…

but for now, off you go and find your 5 year old to help you create a happy healthy flow in your home.

DIY Essential Quick Paint Tips

We’ve been talking about the power of paint this week as it is pretty much our number one thing to do to give a space (or furniture) a lift so I just wanted to give you a couple of quick tips to get you started with paint (because once you start it’s far less scary AND your decorating toolbox will seriously open up once you start seeing the potential of everything “once it’s been given a lick of paint”)!

Tip 1. Chalk Paint: It Paints Over Everything

I recently went to an interiors fair where I saw someone painting with Chalk Paint (Annie Sloan’s specifically) and I couldn’t get over how quick and easy it is. No messing about, just pop the paint straight on and transform away to a velvety matte finish. So, if you’re scared or confused about sanding, priming etc then definitely give chalk paint a go. (Don’t confuse this with chalkboard paint, which is also a fun type of paint to use but not the paint I’m referring to.)

Tip 2. Look at Form Rather Than Colour (& Don’t Be Afraid)

Someone that stands out as not being afraid of painting almost anything is Paulina Arcklin – who likes to gives the white treatment to everything she finds (though I also do see blacks and greys too.).  While white white white is not my style per se but I do love her style committment and how it works for her. I would NEVER have considered some of her painting projects – I love her creativity and imagination with it and I assure you, once you start ‘seeing’ (i.e looking for good shapes/forms rather than focusing on the colour) this way that the possibilities are ENDLESS! If you also look closely in the picture below, the plant is in a bag that has been painted too. Check out her blog for other great painting DIYs and also a visual feast of fab photos and styling but the message here is, don’t be afraid to try painting unexpected things AND pick 1 or 2 colours to keep it cohesive.

Paulina Aarklin before after for AD blog


Tip 3. White Paint is NOT always Best To Make A Room Brighter

My last tip of the day is something I learned when I was hired to paint out someone’s old kitchen walls a stark and bright white. Besides being the wrong paint that she bought for me (so gloopy and it took FOREVER!!!), she was also rather mad when I was (finally) done because well, it just looked bad. The reason being that the white paint just made her old ‘white’ kitchen tiles and grouting look extremely dirty. It was something I kept in mind when painting our bathroom which also has older white tiles (I went for a very pale blue instead) and have just been reminded about as we’ve just painted the stairs white again (so now the wall above them looks filthy – oops). A good thing to remember when you’re playing with paint and choosing your colours, especially white.

Now brushes out, go forth and PAINT!

Let it go – Part 2 (it’s not just about ‘stuff’)

Last week we talked about some reasons why we keep stuff and also the psychology of clutter but there’s more to this ‘letting go’ business than just dealing with your physical clutter.  Here at apartment diet, we always like to start with the physical as it’s much easier to let go of things (yes, really) than it is to let go of our beliefs, fears and expectations in life. What we have experienced is that physical change can start the process of creating new (better for us) habits and emotional changes too. Having said that, it would be remiss of us to simply say that moving things around the house will equate to happiness – there’s a little bit more to it than that!

So, I wanted to share something that helped me with my overwhelm, as I am a typical type ‘A’ personality with a history of perfectionism, martydom and a delusional belief that I am a superwoman!




You see, it was all going swimmingly until motherhood happened to me.  First my daughter, 7 years ago, then 2 years later my son + several renovations before, during and after both pregnancies + returning to work running my own financial consultancy + sitting on a few boards + coaching + mentoring + studying and … well, there’s the rest of life of being a wife, a friend, a daughter and trying to squeeze in me time (yeah right) + a child that woke 3 or 4 times at night until age two and well, you get the picture. I was stressed, tired, fat and completely overwhelmed with life. Luckily for me, someone magical called Natalie re-appeared in my life to save me from total destruction and together we created apartment diet. We tested all our theories and made mistakes on ourselves (or more correctly, on me!) and came up with our unique approach of dealing with the stress, the tired and the overwhelm by starting with physical actions. Teeny tiny steps that even someone that’s ‘losing the plot’ could imagine taking. Like ‘remove 1 thing’ or starting with a corner etc … since we started, I have slowly but surely dealt with many years of clutter and thrown out more things than I own! I have let go of a lot of things and the reasons for them that I talked about last week but it wasn’t until fairly recently that I decided to let go of more than just stuff.

Perhaps this happened because I did the work on letting go of my clutter and I now have space to deal with the real issues at hand, I’m not sure, but actually that’s not the point.  The point is that I decided to let go of ‘doing or having it all’. Yes, that’s right – I have let go of my superwoman disguise and am now embracing the idea of asking for help.

ask for help quote

I have let go of perfectionism (well mostly) and am settling for ‘good enough’…with that, I have also incorporated my beloved 5 minute rule into all aspects of my life which not only helps me get more things done, whether they’re to do with personal friendships or work emails, but more importantly, help me feel more secure as I still have the feeling of being on top of the gazillion things that come my way on a daily basis.  I think this is particularly relevant these days as most of us have less time and many more things to deal with! But the biggest part of what I am doing is letting go of my expectations of myself – as a wife, a mother, a woman. What started as a joke about 6 months ago has now turned into the way we do things in this house – I {shock horror gasp} decided to go on a cooking strike. Now before you say anything like many folk have (“that would never work in our house” or “but we’d starve if I stopped cooking” etc) let me just tell you what happened.  I told my husband that I could no longer cope with cooking dinner on top of my daily demands and gave him one easy recipe book to use. Then, I simply stopped cooking dinner. It freed me from a breakdown (I’m convinced of it!) but it also planted the seed of the idea that I don’t have to do everything all the time. I’ll be honest here, I still occasionally feel guilty for “not being a good wife” as I watch the hubs cook but with time it’s subsiding – and, if I’m being completely honest, I actually think that we’re eating much more interesting and healthy meals, now that he’s in charge!

The BIG lesson for me here is to let go of control. Give someone else the space to ‘shine’ (in this case, my own masterchef!). The other big lesson is learning how to say ‘No’ (I am notoriously good at saying yes, sure, of course) – and I don’t just mean say no and then feel guilty about it but to actually say no, GUILT FREE. You’ll be suprised how much time you can free up this way, just by saying no like you really really mean it!

Anways, I’ve waffled on enough for now so will leave you with this experiment.

Just say you’re taking a break and stop doing something that someone else could reasonably help with for the next week and see what happens.

You never know who might surprise you!



Let it go – Part 1 (a.k.a. why we keep stuff)

Just let it go etsy Honeyboo

This is a pretty BIG one on the Happy House Rules scale which is why we often start with it (i.e. let 1 thing go) and then return to it later (let a whole lot more go!) once we ave talked more about stuff and why we keep it, during our courses and consultations. There are many different reasons why we keep things so this post is all about trying to hep you figure out why you’re hanging on to something that seems to be weighing you down in some way.

* Keeping things “just in case” – you know, because you might need it, one day. This is often about a lack of trust in the future & your ability to provide for it. (I used to do this – a LOT. Time to trust it will all be OK.  Because, it will.)

* Identity – sometimes you might feel that your identity is tied up with your belongings. Examples of this could include old concert ticket stubs, old gifts from friends etc. Your things aren’t you – YOU are you.

* Unwanted gifts – As we discussed last week, we’ve all been given things we don’t like but feel obligated to keep. We are giving you permission to get rid of these.

* Status – ‘keeping up with the Jones’ for the reason of boosting self-esteem. But really, who are the Joneses anyway?

* Security – it’s reasonable to have a basic nesting instinct and want to create a home which serves your needs but there is a point at which more things do not make you feel more secure.

* Territorialism – this is all about the ego, which wants to possess and control things. So we buy stuff.

* Inherited “Clutteritis” – learned patterns from our parents/people that raised us. Think about if this might be the case for you … and remember, patterns can be changed.

* A belief that more is better – something the advertising moguls have brainwashed us into believing.

* “Scroogeness” – refusing to let go of things until you’ve gotten your money’s worth out of them…even if they cost you nothing to start with. I totally do this even though it makes no sense whatsoever.  Oops.

* Using clutter to suppress emotions – do you feel uncomfortable with too much empty space around you or too much free time? Ask yourself what you might be avoiding.  (This was also a big one that I had to deal with – I mean imagine if I didn’t have all this stuff to deal with, then what? Scary …)

* Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders – if you’ve reached a stage where you cannot throw anything away, ever. This is a serious level and while clearing your stuff out can help, therapy is also a necessity. This is where you need to find a professional, pronto.

* Spaces of argument – this term, coined by Nat, essentially is a physical representation of an argument you are/aren’t having with your partner or flat mate (or even yourself). Our suggestion – fix it. Do what you have to. Take responsibility for your side of this and just simply end the argument. Let it go and move on. If the “discussion” needs to happen, then address it & resolve it too.


before after spaces of argument

“See that pile of paper that’s been cleared? That was there for months and months (or even a year or two) and it just continued to grow. Hubby helped it grow by picking up my papers around the house and putting them on top of this pile. Anyway, he said, she said … I realised that this wasn’t clutter – this was an argument. A physical representation of the argument we weren’t having about my paper problem. So, my job was to end the argument.” ~ Tip

Take the time to process these and write down anything that came up for you. Did you connect with any? Have any others? We’d love to hear from you.

Poster by Honeyboo on etsy

* Source: Many of these reasons for keeping stuff originate from Karen Kingston. We have expanded on them from our work with our Apartment Diet clients.

Shop the house

lampshade DIY before and after


A fancy way of saying use what you have but much more fun, “shop the house” is a real way to change your room(s) without spending a cent. I was short on cash a while ago but still wanted to “finish” all the bits and pieces in our home that still had to be done.  The above quick lampshade DIY was a result of shopping my house and finding a broken lampshade and bits of remnant fabric from an old set of curtains I had shortened a while back. Add some wire and voila, a solution for the ugly bare lightbulb. It was “good enough” until we could afford something nicer!

“Shop your house” also ties in nicely with our Happy House Rule of movement – moving things around to keep your home looking fresh for your eyes (as we stop seeing things that remain in the same place after a while).

I’d been searching for the “perfect” couch for a long long time and we had nothing to sit on (which in hindsight is a little crazy really) so I decided that the garden furniture could come inside for a while as it was winter anyway … it was actually a great move as it helped me decide the size, style and proportions that I need – hopefully one day I will be able to afford that too!



So next time you think your room is missing something, before rushing online or going shopping, have a quick look around your home – it’s more than likely that there is something you already have that just needs to be relocated.

Happy shopping!

PS It’s also worth letting others know what you are looking for as it may well be something they are looking to let go – friends, family members etc have been known to let you shop their homes too!

Less is More

It’s been a hectic week and I’ve been meaning to post something here and I have just realised that actually, to honour this week’s happy house rule that I should just, in fact, do less and to repeat last week’s 5 minute rule, I should just do it now! So here it is:

less is more more or less

This is not just about having less but DOING less. Choosing quality over quantity where possessions are concerned but also with respect to what you choose to do each day.  Decide what’s most important and make it count.


Words via DesignedforLife

Do you have 5 minutes?



Nat and I came up with this rule as we were designing our 5 week “Change your space, change your life” course – I don’t recall the details but it had something to do with the book I was reading at the time called Getting things done by David Allen where he talks about a 1 or 2 minute rule for getting all those little things, that unecessarily clog up our already too full to do lists and add weight on our subconscious, done and off our plate. We decided to extend it out a little bit to 5 minutes as it’s more realistic in terms of getting all those household niggles done, so here it is, in a nutshell:

“If it can be done in 5 minutes then do it NOW.”

Don’t be fooled by its simplicity. If done consistently, this rule is a life changer (I’m telling you from experience here that it has changed my life, especially since mummy brain after two kids which has left me rather forgetful, and our clients have also told us how much of a difference it makes)!

I have also successfully used this type of rule when dealing with emails and other work-related tasks.  My colleagues are baffled by my efficiency. Let’s keep this between ourselves okay?

Happy getting it done week to you all,


PS The photo is by Shira – check out her great blogpost for another take on the 5 minute rule which is a bit more like our “Just Start” rule but also a great way to get going.

Ready, set, find a place! (Or let it go…)


This might seem a bit of an old fashioned Happy House Rule (HHR) for some of you but it is a constant we believe and always holds true. When something in your home doesn’t have a home of its own then where is it likely to end up? On the floor, on the dining table or on the back of a chair? It doesn’t really matter where, to be honest, because wherever it does end up, it will feel like clutter because it’s somewhere it shouldn’t be.

Nat and I have a whole bunch of great HHRs for all kinds of clutter (more to come in the following weeks I promise) but if you want less of the messy kind then here is your challenge.

– Devote a reasonable amount of time and commit to finding locations for all the things that you use that are currently homeless.

If it’s something that looks good, consider finding a home for it in plain view (usually adding it to a display or putting things in a tray are easy ways) and if not, then hide it away in a drawer or cupboard etc BUT keep access to it convenient (both for use and so that it gets returned easily) and logical (because that’s just plain efficient and we love that!).

If it’s something that doesn’t belong, that you don’t use and doesn’t have a home then why do you have it in your house?  Consider letting it go (or returning it to whomever left it there!).

Not sure about letting go?

This is a much bigger rule that we will talk about in detail later but I was thinking the other day that we often talk about clutter. It’s a bit of a buzzword these days but what we mean is:

Clutter – things in your space that you don’t engage with (i.e. use regularly or that make you smile), things out of place (often referred to as “mess”) and other people’s stuff (usually called something to the tune of “crap”).

We all have stuff we like that needs a place & some organising and we also have clutter that doesn’t belong anywhere in our house & doesn’t serve us (anymore). I most certainly do and I’m currently focused on making sure it’s on the way OUT. This happened yesterday as I tidied & cleaned (apologies for the low res pic – it was just a happy snap before it all left the house yesterday):


Tip cherry picking declutter end April 2014


So, ready, set, find a place (or let it gooooooo),



Photo 1 via @sarahshanahan_lifestyle