Kirstie Allsopp chats to Katherine Landergan about finding happiness, the joy of children and why her life is complete.
If you wanted to sum up Kirstie Allsopp in a few words, they would be a few of her own words.
“I’m someone who pushes to the nth degree. You can’t do what I do unless you have a generally optimistic, positive outlook on life.”
The London-born TV presenter is best known for the hit property programme on Channel 4, Location, Location, Location, but she is also a regular in other shows like Kirstie’s Homemade Home and Kirstie’s Handmade Britain, and was most recently on our screens a few weeks ago with Kirstie’s Crafty Christmas.
With so many programmes aimed primarily at helping people - be it with finding a house or with making that house look nice - it’s not a huge surprise that Allsopp is one of nature’s ‘givers’, and that she is worried the modern world exists in too much of a ‘me’ culture instead of focussing on making others happy.
“You can only find happiness in other people’s happiness,” she says emphatically.
“You cannot, as an individual, find your own happiness alone. It is only by making other people happy that you can be happy yourself.”
It all sounds very admirable, but Allsopp is the first to cheerfully admit she is not always so good - well, not when it comes to the temptation of starters and puddings anyway. Because while she says she revels in healthy, tasty food - a dish of fish, spinach, and asparagus would be “a dream meal” - she also gives in to some weaknesses.
“I’m no saint,” she laughs. “I will indulge in bread at restaurants or a bowl of ice cream.”
She is also keenly aware of her alcohol intake, and will not drink to excess.
“But I am no puritan, I absolutely love having a drink,” she says. “But I think that going prolonged periods of time without alcohol is a very good idea too.
“And if you’re getting to the point as a working mum if you’re look at your watch and thinking can I have a glass of wine yet, then maybe stop for a week, stop for a month.”
Allsopp’s fitness routine is similarly sensible. Rather than slogging it out in the gym for hours, she does short, intense workouts for 20 or 30 minutes, about four times a week. Finding time for fitness isn’t easy, but Allsopp says she will incorporate exercise into her schedule - no matter how busy she gets.
She says: “I have been known to do a couple of circles of the block in the middle of the night.”
It’s this balanced attitude to wellbeing - and to pretty much everything else - that has helped Allsopp’s soaring popularity as a female presenter. More than anything, she has proved you don’t have to be super-skinny to be a TV success and that radiating health and warmth is much more important.
It’s a winning formula that also made her an ideal candidate to front Procter & Gamble’s Everyday Effect campaign, which launched last year to show how small things can make a big difference. The campaign looks into the various stages of a person’s life, such as becoming a new mum or returning to work after having a baby, and focuses on how important the little moments are.
Allsopp, a mother-of-two with two step-children, says that because young mothers have such little time, they should “write down things the things that are important to you, and hold onto those”.
“The first eight weeks after having a baby is pretty manic. But after you have your second child, and you’ve got a two-year-old bouncing off the wall, it’s even more manic. So it’s about thinking about your day and just thinking, ‘what can I hold on to?’”
Despite her own packed schedule, Allsopp says she treasures the small but all-important little things in her own family, such as bringing her children to school.
“It’s not something I manage everyday by any stretch of the imagination. But I try to make sure at least twice a week, because contact with the school as a working mum is very important.”
For those who have witnessed Allsopp’s ‘domestic goddess’ side in her Handmade programmes, it will come as little wonder that another ‘small thing’ Allsopp treasures is household chores.
“I’m not doing the ironing because I have to, but if I get a chance, I find it immensely therapeutic.”
“I’m absolutely convinced that those repetitive tasks that one does everyday, organising and regularising one’s home, and keeping it tidy, is enormously therapeutic.
“I know it is for me, and I have many working mum friends who feel the same. That to know that their child is going to school with clean hair, clean teeth, clean uniforms, and their house is clean is what keeps her sane.”
Despite all the cleaning - which Allsopp confesses she does have some help with - she also says carving some time out for herself is important too, and she makes sure she gets out of the house and meets up with a friend, even if it’s just once a week.
“Being able to have the time to have a coffee with the friend, just having that human contact with another mum is really important.”
Allsopp also prioritises spending time with her partner, Ben Andersen.
“I think for me it’s having the time to discover everything with my partner. That’s the thing that maintains my wellbeing,” says the mother-of-two simply.
Perhaps is another key factor in this wellbeing is her ability to leave the past in the past, and believe “it does all come out in the wash”.