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5 Ways to Live a Simpler Life

Inspiration, Tips, How ToLesley Pocklington2 Comments
5 way to live a simpler life by Swell Made Co. Photo by Sarah Dorweiler.

5 way to live a simpler life by Swell Made Co. Photo by Sarah Dorweiler.

Life is complicated. It just is. But it can be less so with small, but significant changes. Living a simpler life (or minimal) is not about deprivation, it's actually the contrary. It's about being intentional and making room for the important things in life. Here are some ways you can embrace simplicity too. If you're like me, it may be a slow and steady process with the challenges of family, careers and relationships. Even an ongoing one, but once it becomes habit you'll see a huge changes in your life. Because it's the little things that have a big impact.


“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
- William Morris


1 - Declutter

The first way (and one of the hardest ways) to embrace simplicity is to declutter. In all aspects of your life. Physically (stuff, stuff, stuff) and emotionally (yup, that baggage). For the last 15 years, I have been practicing minimalism in a way that works for me. It's truly different for everyone. No, I don't have stark white home. Yes, I still struggle with having "stuff" because I have a family of 4; but I am intentional and thoughtful about what comes into my home and have mastered lettings go of things that serve no purpose or bring no joy. I haven't read any best-selling books about it (although, I'm sure they're great). I just put it into practice whenever I can. Moving many times and living in efficient spaces (small) will force you to really consider what's worth having around. Take it one step at a time until it becomes second nature.

Start with one room and work toward the whole house. When buying things, ask yourself if you really need something. Think about how your choices influence your own peace of mind, but also the greater world around you (ethically and environmentally). Less is more. Quality over quantity. All of those things are true. Having less stuff makes space for gratitude and focus.

Once you practice decluttering in a physical capacity, you can apply that same mindset to your emotional space. This one is much harder for me. Letting go of old habits and relationships that are toxic to your well-being requires a lot more strength than letting go of physical things. Often because this type of clutter has been taking up space for far too long. So long, that it clouds judgement and the respect you have for yourself. It's okay. The same concept applies. If anything (including things) evokes negative emotions or makes you cringe, let that shit go. You'll thank yourself. Good vibes only, right?

2 - Get Outside + Move

Get outside! It's one of the simplest way to disconnect from the complications of life and reconnect with nature. Being in nature has been proven to provide benefits for our physical and mental health. From the physical activity involved to the clarity and focus it provides for your mind. Trees and fresh air have the power to bring a sense of comfort and calm and restore our energy in the simplest way.

Once it becomes habit, you'll crave being outside to just be. To breath and to listen to nature (and yourself). There is so much beauty in our own backyards, we just need to seize the opportunities to enjoy it. You can walk, run, meditate or do yoga. Do nothing or anything, but try it outside. Find the things that move your body and heart and stay with them. It might be a struggle at first, but pushing through to see the benefits is well worth it. 


"Simplicity makes room for the important things in life. It's up to you to determine what's truly important. Then, let the rest go."
- Lesley Pocklington


3 - Eat Well

Another simple way to be kind to yourself is to fuel your body by eating well. It doesn't have to be complicated. Some of the most delicious meals have only 5 ingredients. There are tons of cookbooks and blogs out there that tackle this fresh and simple approach. Keep it simple when it comes to nutrition and eat what truly makes you feel incredible. French fries make me feel incredible for about 5 minutes, it's true; but filling my body with nourishing food most of the time is a habit I just can't give up. 

4 - Invest in real life

This is another one that's hard for me. When I moved from a big city to a smaller one, I had a bit of an identity crisis and loads of FOMO (fear of missing out). Once I realized that simple human connections were far more important to me than visiting the next Instagram worthy restaurant (spoiler alert - the food is never as delicious as the cool wallpaper), all was well in the world. As much as I like to visit new places, I'd rather keep it simple and have an honest and real conversation with a pal over coffee or wine. It's that simple! Trust me, your heart and mind will be far more grateful for genuine experiences. 

It's so easy to get caught up in the world of social media when you view life from an unrealistic lens. Step back and see what's real and truly important to you and invest your energy there instead.


"Out of clutter find simplicity."
- Albert Einstein


5 - Slow down

Being busy all the time is overrated. We all know that, but somehow (like social media) it's easy to get caught up and pack your days full of appointments and activities. Even multitasking (which I used to be the "queen" of) has been proven to be ineffective and bad for your mental health. It's not an intentional or enjoyable way to live. So, slooow down and give yourself and your mind some space. Savour the moments and simple things that make life good.

That's why I love stationery so much. The slow, intentional act of writing a note is so rare and special these days. If you feel good about sending a note, just think about how the person on the other end feels. Just as good, I bet! 

Whatever brings you joy, you should do more of that instead. If you're feeling over committed, it's okay to simply say "no". In short, practicing simplicity is to not do anything, own anything or be around anyone that you don’t love. If it makes you feel bad (or not good) it has no place in your mind or life. Once you practice this kind of kindness towards yourself, it will flow into everything else. It's a process and a journey, but so worth it. Thanks for reading!

Swell Made Co. was created out a desire to simplify, but enhance my own life back in 2014. Since then, I have made a commitment to slowing down and making sure intentional choices flow into my business and personal life. Have you found ways to simplify your life? I'd love to hear them. Feel free to share in the comments or get in touch!


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The Best Air Cleansing Plants for Home

Tips, Plants, DecorLesley Pocklington1 Comment
The Best Air Cleansing Plants for Home. By Swell Made Co. Photo by Chantelle Watt Photography.

The Best Air Cleansing Plants for Home. By Swell Made Co. Photo by Chantelle Watt Photography.

Plants make people happy and do us good. It's true! Actually, it's scientifically proven. If you're an urban dweller like me, plants are a simple way to connect with nature on a daily basis. Houseplants bring beauty into our homes by elevating spaces, but they also help us feel creative and rejuvenated. Best of all, common indoor plants are capable of cleansing the air in your home.

NASA's Clean Air Study suggests that plants are capable of naturally removing common toxins such as formaldehyde, xylene, ammonia and benzene (found in paints, glue and other household items). While it might seem like magic, the higher oxygen levels naturally provided by plants have been proven to improve health and well-being. So, which plants are best for cleansing the air in your home? While, any plant will do, here are some of my favourites that are easy to love and care for if you're not a green thumb. If you're a plant killer, perhaps you should check out our Plant Lover collection. 

The Best Air Cleansing Plants for Home. By Swell Made Co.

The Best Air Cleansing Plants for Home. By Swell Made Co.

The Best Air Cleansing Plants for Home:

  1. Snake Plant

  2. Boston Fern

  3. Dracaenas

  4. Bamboo or Lady Palm

  5. Philodendron

There are many more air cleansing plants out there. Just ask when visiting your local plant shop or florist, these are great to get started and can be found commonly. Keep reading below to learn more about each variety.

Snake Plant - The Best Air Cleansing Plants for Home. By Swell Made Co. Photo by Chantelle Watt Photography.

Snake Plant - The Best Air Cleansing Plants for Home. By Swell Made Co. Photo by Chantelle Watt Photography.

1 - Snake Plant

The snake plant (sansevieria) has incredible air-cleansing qualities removing four of the five most commonly found household toxins. The snake plant (also called mother-in-law's tongue) is super low maintenance. It requires low to moderate light and low water making it a breeze to care for. Ridiculously easy.

2 - Boston Fern

Hang this dramatic fern (nephrolepis exaltata) in bright light and it will happily help cleanse the air in your home. Large and leafy this beautiful fern does require quite a bit of moisture even though it's considered easy-going. From this list, this plant requires the most care. Just give it regular mists and you'll both be happy!

3 - Dracaenas

There are 40 different kinds of dracaenas plants, so they're easy to come by. Red-edged and cornstalk are well known vareties. Another power houseplant, it removes four of the five most common toxins found in the home. Place it in a spot with bright to indirect light and water moderately. Keeping the soil moist, but not soggy is key to caring for this plant. 

Fiddle Leaf Fig Plant (#plantgoals). The Best Air Cleansing Plants for Home. By Swell Made Co. Photo by Lauren Mancke.

Fiddle Leaf Fig Plant (#plantgoals). The Best Air Cleansing Plants for Home. By Swell Made Co. Photo by Lauren Mancke.

4 - Bamboo + Lady Palms

Bring the Bamboo or Lady Palm into your home for a bohemian or tropical vibes and some serious air cleansing plant power. With a penchant for formaldehydes, benzene and carbon monoxide, these plants are more than just pretty. Plus, they are natural humidifiers as well. Easy to care for bamboo or lady palms require bright to indirect light and moderate watering. They can grow quite large given the space (larger pot) to grow.

5 - Philodendron

A common variety of the philodendron plant is the sweetheart plant with its adorable heart-shaped leaves. There certainly is much to love when it comes to this plant, with it's cleansing abilities and it's super low-maintenance nature. It can trail and creep around your spaces, which makes it even more endearing. Like most of the plants listed here, it requires bright to indirect light and moderate water.

All of the plants mentioned above thrive best with well-draining soil, so the roots don't drown/rot. Happy houseplant hunting and loving!


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How To | Freshen Up Your Home for Spring

How To, Giveaway, Decor, TipsLesley Pocklington2 Comments
Swell Made Co. x Lovefresh | Freshen up Your Home for Spring GIVEAWAY.

Swell Made Co. x Lovefresh | Freshen up Your Home for Spring GIVEAWAY.

Spring has sprung! Or, has it where you are? Here in Ontario, Canada, it's still a bit too cold to feel like spring, but warmer temperatures are on the way. It's never too early to freshen up your home for the spring after a long winter. Say so long to flu season and winter mittens, and hello to more time in the sun and the breeze from open windows. 

We've partnered up with our friends, Lovefresh, to give you 5 easy tips on how to do just that. Freshening up your home for spring just feels so good. Plus, we have a fun giveaway to help one lucky person get ready for spring. Keep reading for tips and giveaway details below. 

Spring cleaning the green way with Lovefresh.

Spring cleaning the green way with Lovefresh.

5 Ways to Freshen Up Your Home for Spring

1 - Lighten Up

The first way to get ready for spring is to lighten up! Truly. Put away wintery decor items and heavier linens and swap with bright and lighter items. Just like you would with your wardrobe (buh-bye winter gear), opt for things that will feel fresh and keep you cool in the warmer months ahead including bed linens, throws and even towels (like lightweight Turkish towels). Feels better already, right?

2 - Add Greenery

Whenever I see bunches of tulips outside neighbourhood shops, I know it's spring and can't resist taking a bunch home. Springtime is all about new growth and greenery. Bring the outdoors in and add plants and flowers to your spaces. They help clear the air and your mind. A little greenery does wonders to make your home feel springy. Plus, with longer daylight hours, more humidity and warmer temperatures; your plants will thrive. You don't need to be a green thumb to care for simple house plants such as succulents, cacti and low light plants like monstera, ferns and snake plants.

3 - Declutter

Feel lighter by simply decluttering your home. It will bring peace of mind too. Get rid of (or put away) any items that are taking up space and aren't serving a purpose. As mentioned in our past post about Wabi Sabi, clear the clutter and curate items in your home. Get rid of the items that impede you from enjoying your spaces. Less is more.

4 - Add New Throws Pillows or Paint

The quickest and most cost effective way to overhaul your home decor is to add new (or swap out) throw pillows. New colours, patterns, textures and fabrics will instantly change the look of your space. It's a fun way to try something new in your space without a big commitment. For tips on how to style throw pillows, read more about that here. Swell Made Co. has some sweet options for your spaces.

If you want to go a step further and are feeling ambitious, give your space a new coat of paint. Whether it's the whole room, or a feature wall. Nothing changes a space so dramatically (and quickly) as a new paint colour.

5 - Clean Green

The urge to do some spring cleaning is real. After all those winter months spent indoors, give your house a good clean the green way. Using products like Lovefresh's line of green cleaners helps maintain a healthy home and do good for the planet too. Lovefresh's line cleaning products is all natural, non-toxic and scented with the loveliest essential oils. And they're made in Canada.

Throw pillow covers by Swell Made Co.

Throw pillow covers by Swell Made Co.

Swell Made Co. x Lovefresh Giveaway - NOW CLOSED!

Now that you're inspired to freshen up your space for spring, we're delighted to offer this giveaway with our friends from Lovefresh, a fellow Canadian brand that brings you natural and sustainable goods for the home and body. 

What You'll WIN:

  • An art print of your choice from Swell Made Co. - Value $24-32

  • A throw pillow cover of your choice from Swell Made Co. - Value $48-52

  • Marble and Granite Cleaner by Lovefresh - Value $15

  • All Purpose Cleaner by Lovefresh - Value $15

  • Glass/Mirror/Stainless Steel Cleaner by Lovefresh - Value $15

How To Enter
One entry per person. Open to Canadian and USA participants only. Giveaway closes at midnight EST on April 17, 2018. A winner will be drawn at random on April 18, 2018. Good luck and happy spring from Swell Made Co. x Lovefresh!

Cleaning products for a healthy home from Lovefresh.

Cleaning products for a healthy home from Lovefresh.


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Confessions of an Entrepreneur | Taxes

Small Business, Confessions, TipsLesley Pocklington2 Comments
Confessions of an Entrepreneur by Swell Made Co. | Taxes

Confessions of an Entrepreneur by Swell Made Co. | Taxes

It's that time of year. Dreaded, dreaded tax time. I'll confess, as a small business owner this is one of my biggest stumbling blocks when it comes to running a business day-to-day. Bookkeeping, accounting, finances -- they all just make me want to curl up on the couch and take a nap. To be even more honest, for the first year of business; I had NO IDEA what I was doing when it came to filing taxes because it turns out running retail business versus (and in addition to) a freelance, low overhead, service-based business is a lot more complicated. So, any flow I had when it came to tax time needed an overhaul and a reality check. 

It turns out, it's not all so bad. Once you have some systems in place, it's not only easier; but crucial for keeping track of the financial health of your business. Staying on top of bookkeeping every month (I personally can't get more frequent than that) will not only help you see trends and help you create goals for your business; but it will make tax time a breeze (sort of) because you're already organized. That's key.

Here are some incredibly useful tips from my friend, Julie Middleton. Julie provides small business support with bookkeeping that helps you set informed goals and focus on your customers (what you do best). From working with Target (remember Target Canada? Sniffle.) to TD Bank, Julie knows a thing or two to keep your small business on track.  

Tips for getting you and your small business through tax time. By Swell Made Co. and Julie Middleton, Bookkeeper.

Tips for getting you and your small business through tax time. By Swell Made Co. and Julie Middleton, Bookkeeper.

Julie is going to take it from here. I suggest you pay attention, kids. If you still have questions and are operating a small business in Canada, you can get in touch with Julie

How to Make Tax Time Less Painful

As a small business owner, you can file your own taxes; but it often saves money to use a professional accountant. An accountant has the expertise to maximize your deductions and minimize your taxes. Here are some bookkeeping tips to reduce the cost for an accountant to file your taxes and make tax season less painful:

1 - Find out what your accountant needs

Talk to your accountant to get a clear understanding of what they need from you. Do they want the physical receipts, or a summary? Do they have forms for you to complete in advance? What is their turnaround time? Setting up expectations early on will save time for both of you.

2 - Be as organized as possible

Group expenses together and label them with categories (home office, inventory purchases, travel, etc.). The less time the accountant spends figuring this out, the better. It's wise to figure out a system and find tools that work for you early on so it becomes habit. That way, you can track expenses/sales on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis -- giving you a snapshot of your business throughout the year. Not just at tax time, but it will certainly make tax time less painful. You can go the DIY route and use tools like QuickBooks, FreshBooks and Wave Accounting or even a good old fashioned spreadsheet. If you have the option of outsourcing your bookkeeping, even better.

3 - Take advantage of tax deductions

As a small business owner, you can write off a huge variety of expenses to claim tax deductions. Track business expenses such as inventory purchases, insurance, travel, media/advertising costs, meals, capital property, etc. Don't forget about home office expenses (if your home is your principal place of business or if you meet with clients in your home) such as internet, heat, power, water, and mortgage interest. You can also expense vehicle usage including gas, parking, and maintenance. Here is a great infographic with the top tax deductions for small business owners in Canada.

4 - Summarize Your Expenses

Add up each expense and double check your results. Keep a spreadsheet with the totals and include this in the file you are sending to the accountant. If you use accounting software like Wave Accounting, FreshBooks or QuickBooks, print a profit and loss statement for the year.

5 - Don’t forget your personal tax receipts

You need all your personal stuff too! Gather all of your personal receipts for childcare, RRSP contributions, medical/dental, T4s, etc.

6 - Know your business and the deadlines

Sole proprietors and incorporated businesses will need to provide the accountant with different information (and may have different tax filing deadlines). Know what kind of business you have, and when your deadlines are. Not only does this include the annual income tax deadline, but keep track of dates for HST remittance, instalments (if you utilize them) and RRSP contributions.

If you are filing your own income tax return, TurboTax is a great tool that will walk you through the process for free (up until you file the claim). So, if you're comfortable with DIY, the tips above still apply to keep you organized and in the know when it comes to your small business. Finally, grab some wine and snacks to get you through the process. It helps!


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BE BOLD - 3 Must Haves for Strong Brands

Tips, Small Business, BrandLesley PocklingtonComment
BE BOLD - 3 Must Haves for Strong Brands by Swell Made Co.

BE BOLD - 3 Must Haves for Strong Brands by Swell Made Co.

Creating a strong brand is more than having a great logo and well defined products or services. A brand is about how your customers feel and what they say when they interact with your brand. Be bold, be you, be different and develop your own style and voice. A distinct visual style, a unique voice, and consistency are key to creating a strong and memorable brand. The process can be uncomfortable, but it's necessary. Look inside before you project your brand out to the world and it will guide you in creating a brand that you can stay true to.

As a designer that works with small businesses to develop brands, I've seen the benefits countless times for my clients. There's nothing better than seeing a small business start strong with passion and vision, great products or services and a solid brand. These are the 3 must haves for all strong brands:

Visual Style

While your visual style isn’t just a logo, it’s a solid place to start. Invest in a great logo and use it everywhere (almost). Integrating your brand means extending your visual style (and voice) to every aspect of your business. From packaging, photography style, postcards to your email campaigns and everything in between. Truly. Think of everything as something that can be branded. It can be subtle.

Tip - Use style guidelines and well designed templates for your marketing materials. Having the same colour palette, logo, type, and general look and feel throughout will set you apart and save you time. You don’t need to be fancy, just consistent. Don't be afraid to "police" your visual style and when in doubt, keep it simple. 

Voice

Create a unique voice that reflects your brand. This is just as important as your visual style. They actually go hand in hand. Your voice isn’t just copy, but how it sounds in your consumer's mind and how it makes them feel. This voice should be applied to all written pieces from social media posts, email campaigns, product descriptions to bios. Your voice inspires visual imagery as well. Don’t be boring. Be bold.

Example - An example that I love about voice by Ann Handley, goes a little something like this. You have a hotdog and you're about to use the condiments. You can say "Give me the mustard" (authoritative), or "Can you please pass me the mustard?" (standard, but polite), OR "Pardon me. Do you have any Grey Poupon?". Great, right?  

Consistency 

You can have a distinct visual style and unique voice, and mess it up here. Consistency of your brand is paramount. Once you define your visual style and unique voice, stick to them. Seriously. Of course, they will evolve over time; but being consistent is the most important part of developing a strong and memorable brand. It may be tempting to add another font, a new trendy colour, or a new message; but it only adds confusion for your customer. Go back to your style guide and ask yourself if it’s a good fit.

Tip - Hire a trusted pro to guide you through the process and bring you brand to life. A good designer will help you launch your brand confidently. Better yet, they’ll empower you with tips on how to drive it forward consistently.  

Now it's time to flex your branding muscles and do a little exercise. Again, branding yourself is a big process, but this will help you get a good start. Think of it as a warm up.


Exercise

  1. Describe your visual style. Write down simple words. Edit down to a few.

  2. Describe your business and how it makes your customers feel. Again, write down simple words. Edit down to a few.

  3. Define your brand messaging. Using the edited words you collected above as a guide, what are the key messages you want to share about your brand? Be thoughtful, concise and develop your voice. Your brand messaging should consider the following: Who are you? Why do you do what you do? What is it like to deal with you?

  4. Define your customer. Don’t rely on what you think they think. Know what they think by doing research. Your branding should speak to actual customers, not “dream customers”. Knowing them will help you define your brand and messaging.

These questions are inspired by a process Ann Handley, author of Everybody Writes, suggests when it comes to voice and branding, and from Eva Jorgensen of Sycamore Street Press on visual style and branding.

Thanks for reading! If you'd like to chat about branding for your small business, get in touch. I'd love to help! You can see some of my recent work here