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Hannah: Welcome to Happily Ever After. The podcast, which seems to talk about all sorts of different things, but one listener described it as the place where we talk about what everyone else is thinking, but maybe not saying out loud.
I am your host, Hannah Harvey. I'm a writer and a parenting blogger at Mums Days. That's M U M S D A Y S dot com. If you wouldn't mind subscribing and leaving a review, that would be amazing because it basically means more people can find the podcast.
And I also would really, really, really love to hear from you. So please could you contact me through Instagram @mumsdays? You can message me anything really, but you know your stories of life and heartbreak or any thoughts you might have on the episode or any questions you want answering. And as always, you can find the details from this episode in the show notes.
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Hannah: Hello and welcome to Happily Ever After. It's me, Hannah from Mums Days, and it's December this week. So by popular demand we've got Cath back from clear the Clutter. Hello Cath.
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Cath: Hello, Hannah.
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Hannah: Guess what?
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Hannah: People were asking me what you thought about Christmas.
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Cath: Okay. And that's quite a big question.
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Hannah: What do you think about it? But more importantly, how can we do it in a way that is, I guess, less cluttered, less stuff, less stressful. So you've kindly agreed to come in and talk us through the festive period, step by step, in a clutter free way, which, as you know, my brain doesn't work like that. So I'm very excited to hear all this.
But before we get into that stuff. I kind of want to talk about your experience of what it's like going into people's houses and all the Christmas stuff because it's just such an emotive time, like having your, you know, getting out the old Christmas decorations. I remember my mom and dad had this, like really old chest. And when we got it out, we'd be like 'Yay, it's like all the old things' and there'd be broken stuff in there and things that look like, you know, the Blue Peter boat. We had those on a bauble. Loved them. But yeah, it's just so easy to accumulate tat. Yeah. Do you find that?
00:02:35 - 00:04:17
Cath: I think, especially if you've got small children who like making like half arsed angels that at school or like, bring home a bit of tinsel with them, you know, a berry on the end and because, because it's Christmas you are more inclined to keep that stuff or, you know, want to want to decorate with that stuff. And then because it's your child and because it's Christmas and it's and at the end of Christmas, you're more likely to to want to keep that too. And then you just you just, you know, have these piles of. Sort of slightly rubbish Christmas decorations knocking around for years to come, which you probably need to deal with, deal with at the time.
I mean, I go into I spend pretty much in fact, I've already got two bookings in now for the first week of January helping people sort and put away Christmas decorations and get themselves sorted. And I go into houses and I'm doing it next week as well. And one lady in particular I know because I sorted it out for her, her entire loft is full of Christmas decorations and we're talking like every room. She she's very much likes a tablescape, so she sort of decorates everything. But yeah, so that, but she, she becomes totally overwhelmed by it. You know the house it looks like Santa has been sick and you know, the whole house is is sort of filled with stuff to the point where it's quite difficult to find the turkey.
So you've got to you know, you've got to find some balance and organization in that. And it's not just about decluttering at this time of year. It's very much about organizing. And literally every magazine that you pick up has, you know, your ten top tips for an organised Christmas, blah, blah, blah. But again, I'd point out that the magazines also clutter and doesn't help your head. So have a think about like what you're bringing into your life at this time of year to to help you.
00:04:17 - 00:04:40
Hannah: Yeah, I feel like it's huge now. At Halloween and at Christmas to do these massive elaborate, like, table settings or like one of your top somewhere needs to be some kind of big display. And I'm just resisting it, I think. Yeah, but it's very easy to then be like, Oh.
00:04:41 - 00:06:07
Cath: I think the key thing about all that stuff, you know, all the holidays, Easter, Halloween, Christmas, whatever is thinking about what's important to you. Like we love an advent calendar in our house. Totally loving Advent calendar will have a lot we will have you know and it's not just about the chocolates. My mum makes little presents for my kids and all that kind of stuff. So that's all lovely, but it needs to be organized. You need to think about what's going to happen to the stuff afterwards. You know, we got one last year where we got lots of little bits of tat in it and you know, actually I took those into school and because it's the opening of the advent calendar that's important to my children, not necessarily the stuff that's in it, do you know what I mean? It's that excitement of each morning in December. That's important.
But you know, at this time of year, at this point in the sort of run up to Christmas, you know, everybody will be getting their decorations out. Everybody will be having a look at it. And that's a really key time to sort of go through things, work out what you don't need, work out what you can sideline. I mean, I've got tinsel. I don't like tinsel, but I have a bag of tinsel. I bring it out every year because I think it might be useful.
But actually, I know when I get that out in a couple of weeks time, that's that's going to be going. And it's a brilliant time to pass things on, to give things to school, to charitable organizations and loads of places where could really do with Christmas decorations can use them for different things. There's loads of refugee charities at the moment that you want Christmas decorations for community halls and that kind of thing.
00:06:08 - 00:06:58
Cath: And the other thing to think about also is with your children and actually with you is, you know, they are aware most children that Christmas time means that they're going to get extra stuff. So get them to think about what's the stuff that they've had all year that they don't actually need or they don't actually want anymore. Is there something that they really like that actually they could give to someone else? You know, there's loads of shoebox appeals and things like that at this time of year, so get your children to think about the fact that they're lucky they're going to get more stuff. So what is the stuff that they no longer need or no longer serves them? What do they not use or not love? You know, the general stuff around decluttering and see if they can they can get rid of stuff. So you want to be looking at getting rid of anything that's broken that they're not playing with or that they're happy to pass on to make space for the inevitable onslaught of stuff that you know is coming your way.
00:06:59 - 00:07:45
Hannah: Hmm. That's nice in two ways, because I find Christmas can be super overwhelming, and all you're thinking about is buying and organizing and planning and doing. But if you actually put your focus somewhere else in decluttering and like making space for these things, then. It's almost like it's an it's just an anxiety feeling, like I need to be doing something because it's Christmas. So therefore, if you're focusing your mind on something really super practical. Yeah. And clearing stuff out and being, you know, like, say, putting old toys that you don't want anymore and giving them to somebody who does want them, then you're actually stopping yourself, buying more things and getting more overwhelmed and creating space.
00:07:45 - 00:08:17
Cath: Yeah. And you're also, by doing that, without sounding totally cheesy, embodying what Christmas is about. Yeah. You know, we all we all complain every year that it shouldn't be about stuff and overeating and, you know, all that stuff. But then we all get sucked in and carried away with it. So a bit of sort of mindful thinking about actually what can I do with what I've, what I've got to help other people is going to be, is going to be a really sort of useful way to ground and work that out.
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Hannah: I think for me, Christmas time can be a time for overcompensating because it's so easy to go overboard. And I think especially now I'm on my own, it's like I'm trying to make up for the fact that it's just me. So it feels like it might potentially be not as special for my kids. And I've just accidentally bought an enormous Barbie house.
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Hannah: Well. So Black Friday sales and all that. So I saw this one. I was like, Oh, that looks manageable. It originally been £150. Half price. And then I had like a voucher from, you know, like a points accumulation scheme. So I use it as well. So it basically costs me £30 for this house and a little set of outfits. But when I've got it home, it almost wouldn't fit in my car. And I just thought that just sums up Christmas a little bit because my kids will get something elaborate from me and then something else from their dad and it's all just over compensating.
00:09:27 - 00:11:15
Cath: I mean, Christmas presents are a tricky one. I mean, I think the thing that I'd always encourage people to do for Christmas is think about what you think the person you're buying that present for will actually want rather than the value of a gift. And Martin Lewis, the money guy goes on about this a lot. So for example, I know that my children love opening presents, but they're not actually that they're not bothered at all, actually at the moment about the value of stuff. So I don't worry about spending the same amount of money on each kid. I don't worry about who's got, you know, more presents or less presents unless it's like blatantly obvious. But what I worry about is getting them lots of little things that I know that they'll use lots of chocolates, satsumas, all that kind of stuff that I can wrap up and that they've got stuff to open because I know that's important to them.
I know, you know, adults, people, you know, especially if you're going to places on Christmas Day and people want to swap gifts, you know, there's loads of good things that you can do to sort of minimise that, you know, sort of Secret Santa, try a charity shop Christmas, where everybody just buys a present from a charity shop. I've known other people where they take a gift that they've really liked and then they sort of give that out to somebody else.
But there's a really there's lots of ways of sort of thinking about how you sort of pare down and think about what the person receiving needs or wants rather than what's going to make you feel better because you've got armfuls of presents, I guess. And I guess what you're talking about is a key bit of that. You know, Nancy will absolutely love a Barbie house, I'm absolutely sure. But you've still got to live and work in that environment that you're putting that monstrosity.
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Hannah: So it's going to have a whole wing of my house. Which I don't have.
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Cath: Yeah exactly. That you're going to put it into. And I guess another thing around presents is, you know, I've had a couple of conversations with people this year is that actually we don't need to buy each other presents. I've got one friend who I, I see most February's and we just go out for tea instead of buying each other a Christmas present. My brother and sister in law, they buy for my children but we've decided this year we're not going to buy for each other.
So I think like sort of grown up conversations, again, not trying to get taken over by all this like Christmas hype, that people must arrive with armfuls of presents. Every Christmas advert you watch, you know, somebody in a door with a beautiful armfuls of wrap presents, you know, and it's nice to buy presents for the people that you love. But do it. Do it thoughtfully and mindfully. Again, not just, you know, think about what the people receiving are going to need.
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Hannah: So what do you think is a good. Like, say you had to buy a Secret Santa present. Yeah. How do you work out what people want?
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Cath: Well, I guess the thing from that is, is thinking about. Thinking about what they do. So, you know, the My Secret Santa present last year was for a friend who I know walks her dog every day and buys a cup of coffee. So I bought her a voucher for the coffee shop that I know she goes to. So it's that it's that kind of and also. You know, when I talk about things that you love and that you use in the sense of decluttering, I think that's also a useful thing to think about in presents. And I think because Christmas gets so overwhelming and people get to the last minute or people think, Oh, I'll get them, you know, you sort of just end up buying something because you need to take something. And if you know, taking someone out for a drink after Christmas, you know, giving them a voucher for going for a walk and buying them lunch, I know there's all kinds of things where you can just think, you know, and we see this in our kids as well, that sort of gift of time and whatever.
Again, totally cheesy, but it is it is something that's useful to people. I've got other friends, you know, that I know really, really love jewellery. So I would actually, you know, buy jewellery or I'd buy jewellery for my mom or whatever, because I know that's something that she really loves. But I think it's really important to think about the person you're buying for rather than the fact that you need to buy a gift.
00:13:36 - 00:13:44
Hannah: I think a voucher for grownups is a really good one. Yeah, because you've done that for me before. Like, I live near two really nice coffee shops. So you got me?
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Cath: Yeah, I have. Yeah.
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Hannah: Yeah. Vouchers for those two coffee shops.
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Cath: Yeah. But again, I think it depends on, on, you know, the person I de-clutter a lot of people who just have a drawer full of vouchers that they've never got around to using because it doesn't occur to them to you know, so it doesn't, it doesn't occur to them or they're not organized enough to have a voucher with them at the point that they they need it.
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Hannah: Yes. That is a danger with me.
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Cath: Yeah. So again, with you, I might instead of buying you a voucher next time, I might just take you for a walk and buy you a coffee. Do you know what I mean? It's that thinking about what's useful for the person that's receiving the gift. But I think that also brings us onto if. You know, people the number of times I'm in people's homes and I'm like, Oh, well, I don't like that. I don't use it, but such and such bought it for me.
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Hannah: So literally. My next question, what do we do with presents we don't want? Yeah.
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Cath: So I think this is a really obvious one for me. The joy of present giving and receiving is in that moment, right? Yes. Nobody. Unless they're bitter and twisted. And let's hope we're not friends or family with people that are bitter or twisted want you to keep something that you don't love or use. Right. Nobody. Nobody wants that. So I think the key thing is to understand that the unwrapping of a present and the person's pleasure in giving you something is the thing that's important. And afterwards, what you do with that is of no concern to the person that that gave it to you and is not a reflection on them because they've still been beautiful and kind and given you something. But you need to do with that object or that thing exactly what you want.
So, for example, you know, one of the things I want to come on to at the end of this is what you do after Christmas and getting rid of the stuff that you know doesn't serve you or, you know, won't help you, you know, food bank if you if someone's giving you jellied fruit or Turkish delight which seems to be a thing at Christmas, God knows why. But if someone's if someone's given you those things and you're not going to use them, then give them to you know, then give them to people that will enjoy them and will like them. I find like loads of things where I open a cupboard in people's houses and there's a load of sweets and chocolate left over from the previous Christmas that are out of date and it's such a waste. Yeah. So make sure after Christmas you do a sweep of the things that you know aren't going to, aren't going to serve you.
Regifting is really, you know, it's absolutely what everybody should be doing, especially, you know, on Christmas Day. I really urge people to look at everything their children are opening. And if they've got duplicates, you know, those Crayola sets, you know, where people get pens, you know, loads of times, you know, and sort of weighed in, pull out the things that, you know, that they're not going to play with or, you know, that they're not going to like or someone's bought with beautiful intentions, really, really good intentions, but they're not going to work and keep them back and use them during the year to to to give to other people.
00:16:29 - 00:16:47
Hannah: And even your own kids. Yeah. Like, so Nancy's just had a birthday. We had a party, she got 27 presents with multiple gifts in each one. And I have literally taken about three quarters of the presents away. So I can re gift at Christmas. Just joking.
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Hannah: No, no, no. I was going to say just say for things like when we go on holiday. Yeah. To make up little kits so that she's got something to open and, and play with or you know when it's just midweek and they want a treat yet and you've got it at hand you don't have to then be buying new things.
00:17:05 - 00:17:23
Cath: Yeah. So I do think that's really and I don't think I get I don't think people should have guilt or be worried about that because like I say, I think it's the the point of gift giving that is and receiving that is important, not necessarily what happens to that object afterwards. And I really think people should hold that at the front of mind.
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Hannah: So the only purpose of that object in that moment is to be given and received.
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Cath: Yeah. Is to.
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Hannah: Now it's already served its purpose to.
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Cath: Show that you love someone and you've done that.
00:17:33 - 00:17:54
Hannah: Yeah. And you've received it nicely as well. And what you do after that is totally up to you. Yeah. I love it. Do you have any tips for making life easier then? Because I've been thinking about things like. Is it okay to buy a good quality fake tree over a real tree?
00:17:55 - 00:18:12
Cath: I mean, I think when it comes to trees, a bit like when it comes to decorations, I think it's up to it's up to you to decide what serves you best and what serves your family best. So I don't necessarily have a view on fake trees versus real trees, but I do have a view on is what you're going to do with that tree after Christmas.
00:18:13 - 00:18:25
Hannah: That's what I'm thinking. So I'm like, I remember one year there were needles everywhere and I couldn't work out how to get rid of this tree. We were in the middle of nowhere. It's a bit different now. I can just put it in the back lane and I think there's, like, a pickup service.
00:18:26 - 00:18:35
Cath: No, no, no. That's dangerous in itself. I think there's a pick up service because if there isn't a pickup service and then you've got loads of random like dead trees knocking around in your back lane, that's also not good.
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Hannah: Okay, there was a pickup service because it definitely was taken.
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Cath: Okay. That's a bit weird because people anyway. So but my point is, if you if you're going to get a real tree, make sure that you know how you're going to get rid of it. Are you going to chop it up and put it in your brown bin or your green bin? Although local authorities don't like logs, so be careful with that. Are you going to pay a hospice or a charitable organization to come and collect it and recycle it properly for you? Are you going to dump it in your back lane like Hannah does and hope that it disappears? I don't know.
And then if you've got a fake tree, have you got the box to put it away? Are you going to keep it nicely to next year? Do you know where you're going to store it? It's, it's that bit of thinking that's often missing. Not necessarily the which way you go in terms of actually getting the tree.
00:19:24 - 00:19:33
Hannah: Yeah. So even if you get yourself a fake tree and you're like, yes, I'm totally nailing sustainability here, can you put it somewhere for an entire year where it's not going to annoy.
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Cath: Annoy you, get dusty..
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Hannah: You've been up in my attic
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Hannah: And that's dangerous. So we're not doing that again.
00:19:38 - 00:21:21
Cath: Yeah, but and also but can you keep it so that when you get it out the following year, it still as 'Wow' as it was the first time you got it out of the box rather than just, you know, people shove it in plastic bags, put it in the attic, it gets all dusty and dirty. You get it out. The following year, you go 'Oh, I'm going to get a new one', which is not sustainable in the slightest.
So, I mean, I think the other things to think about in terms of being organized is thinking about food. You know, everybody has a tendency to buy too much food at Christmas, but make sure and if that's what you want to do and and that's what you can afford to do, then that's absolutely fine. But again, think about afterwards. You know how you're going to use that, what you're going to eat, how you're going to do it. I think you need to be ready to recycle. I think you need to think about that in your own gift giving. So, you know, we know now that you can't recycle foil, you can't recycle glitter. You know, if you get a piece of paper and you scrunch it up and it springs back, it's not going to be recyclable.
So think about in your own gift giving, how you're wrapping and what you're doing. And then on Christmas Day, make sure you're in a position to either be able to recycle or if you are saving wrapping paper, which is a want of people. You know, people like to sort of gather up wrapping paper to use in future and make sure you actually blooming well use it and don't just keep it in a bag, which happens a lot. And so make sure you recycle that.
Organizational tips, especially for small children. Make sure you've got batteries for things and make sure you've got scissors so you can cut things out of boxes when they want to play with them, you know, all that kind of thing. Like I say, be prepared to sort of swoop in and salvage things that you think they're not going to play with or that you can, you know, use use again or give to other people. Yeah. Um, so yeah, and with your, with your presents and whatever, think about people's habits rather than the fact that you need to give them a gift I think are the, the sort of main things there.
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Hannah: Yeah. Lovely. Well, shall we end on your tips for kind of getting back to normal after Christmas?
00:21:30 - 00:21:44
Cath: Yes. So I think there's. There's a few things around this. You know, as much as it's lovely decorating your house, it's equally as important as the way that you take stuff down and put stuff away.
00:21:44 - 00:21:48
Hannah: Do you not think there's a moment after Christmas where you suddenly go, Right, I've had enough.
00:21:48 - 00:21:49
Cath: Fed up now. Yeah.
00:21:49 - 00:21:51
Hannah: You just want to like, get rid of Christmas immediately.
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Cath: Yeah. It's one minute past midnight on New Year's Day.
00:21:55 - 00:21:56
Hannah: Yes, that moment.
00:21:56 - 00:23:13
Cath: That's when it is. So. Yeah. So think about. So though I'd encourage people to sort of get rid of your decorations before you put them up once they've been up and you know, if you still love them and you like them, then actually take them down, store them properly. If you don't like them and you know that you're not going to put them up next year, get rid of them in January. Do not keep them just in case, because that's a that's just a waste of time, space and energy. So make sure that you're that you've got things away and put them away properly so that they last for next year. And stuff. Like I've already said, you know, do a sweep of your house, make sure that you're that, you know, you're at the food bank with, with stuff that you don't need or at the charity shop with, stuff that you don't need.
And another tip for Christmas, just thinking about Christmas decorations is everybody puts their Christmas decorations away, shuts the loft or the garage or whatever it is with a big sigh, goes back into the house and then see something that they've missed. And then that thing like knocks around all year. So I package, I'd package all your Christmas decorations up, get them ready and then give it 24 hours to sweep. But we have a little competition in our house, who can find the thing that we've missed, you know, with free Haribo for whoever comes up with the thing. But do a big recce around your house, because otherwise there'll be like a bell in your cutlery drawer for, like, you know, for the rest of the year, which is really annoying.
00:23:13 - 00:23:26
Hannah: They're doing a lovely thing at Ruben's school where they're taking in a jumper from last year that doesn't fit them anymore and then doing a big jumper swap. Yeah. So Ruben's taken in some jumper that, Yeah, it doesn't fit anymore. And he's really excited to go and pick.
00:23:26 - 00:23:27
Cath: Because he's going to get a new one.
00:23:27 - 00:23:28
Hannah: That's pretty. That's really nice.
00:23:29 - 00:23:29
00:23:29 - 00:23:34
Hannah: So obviously Christmas Jumper Day is coming up and then I don't have to buy him another one.
00:23:34 - 00:23:35
Cath: Perfect. We like that
00:23:36 - 00:23:37
Hannah: We like it
00:23:37 - 00:23:38
Cath: Let's promote that idea.
00:23:38 - 00:23:55
Hannah: Yeah. Oh Cath that's been really good. I haven't got my Christmas decorations out yet, but I think I'm going to have a really good rummage through and make sure that I do take things that I don't want anymore.
00:23:56 - 00:24:33
Cath: Yeah, I mean, like, there's lots of places and charity shops, but also, you know, local pass it on sites or on Facebook or whatever. There's lots of people looking for at the moment, looking for specific types of decorations and those kind of things. And with your kids stuff, you know, it's the same as with kids art. We've talked about this before, but, you know, get, get rid of the stuff that's rubbish or is going to embarrass them when they're older or or whatever, you know, and keep the stuff that's cute and sweet and that you're going to put on your tree every year. But you know, nobody needs - to finish where we started half arsed angels like sort of sagging around the place. Make sure you're sort of are a bit more disciplined with that.
00:24:34 - 00:24:36
Hannah: Lovely. Well, thank you so much, Cath.
00:24:37 - 00:24:37
Cath: No probs.
00:24:37 - 00:24:45
Hannah: I hope you have a really good time in the run up to Christmas, helping people prep and then again afterwards.
00:24:45 - 00:24:47
Cath: Yeah, it's usually a busy time after Christmas.
00:24:47 - 00:24:49
Hannah: Yeah. Oh, well, thank you so much.
00:24:50 - 00:24:50
Cath: No problem.
00:24:50 - 00:24:51
Hannah: See you later, Cath.
00:24:51 - 00:24:52
Cath: Happy Christmas.
00:24:52 - 00:25:34
Hannah: Bye. All right. Thank you so much for listening. And have a great week and I'll see you next time for another episode of Happily Ever After with me, Hannah Harvey. I would be very grateful if you wouldn't mind leaving a review or subscribing because this helps more people find this podcast. And of course, if you've got a friend who you think might enjoy this episode, please do recommend it to them as well. For anything else, your thoughts on the episode or any questions, please do get in touch with me through Instagram @MumsDays or you can email me. Hannah at Mumsdays.com and I genuinely love hearing from you, so please do get in touch. Byee.