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Kirstie Allsopp: We all need to be less judgemental of ourselves and others

The presenter and property guru talks about self-acceptance, exercising for mental health, and why she stands by her love of ironing. By Abi Jackson.

Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas is available to watch now (Channel 4/PA)

Kirstie Allsopp knows exactly which snippet of wisdom she most wishes to pass on to her children – and that’s being open to opportunities.

“I believe more than anything else in the power of yes,” states the TV presenter, 52. “If there’s one thing I can teach my children, it’s the power of yes.”

After more than two decades fronting Channel 4’s long-running property series Location, Location, Location with co-host Phil Spencer, Allsopp – who shares sons Bay, 17, and Oscar, 15, with her partner Ben Anderson, as well as being step-mum to Anderson’s older sons from a previous relationship, Orion and Hal – is a household name. But, she says: “There was never a great plan.”

It all came about after she was hired by Guardian journalist Jonathan Freedland to help him find a flat, which he later wrote an article about.

“A television production company saw it, came to talk to me, I was like, ‘No way, I don’t want to be on telly’, then they came back and asked again,” Allsopp recalls, talking 10 to the dozen as we sit on opposite sides of a gigantic table in the open plan kitchen-diner of her Notting Hill home in London.

“They’d found Phil, they put us together, we did the pilot, and then Phil said yes to the show because he thought it would highlight his business. Little did he know he’d get 23 years down the line, no longer have that same business, but still be [making the programme]. People say, ‘God – you and Phil, you’ve got this brand, you’ve got this career’, but there was never a grand plan. It happened in a very organic way.”

It was big lesson in what can happen when you try new things, and this still shapes her outlook today. It feeds into her love of crafting too – Allsopp’s other big TV niche alongside house-hunting, with shows such as Kirstie’s Celebrity Craft Masters (2019), Keep Crafting And Carry On (2020) and of course Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas, which returns for a one-off special this month.

While she’s always had an appreciation for arts and crafts, it wasn’t until making the shows that she really began “experimenting” with making things herself.

“I was forced to just try things, and that really led me to believe that everyone has a craft,” says Allsopp. “Just try it, try it, try it, even if you think you’re not going to be any good at it.

“At the same time, I do believe in the 10,000 hours,” she adds, referring to the popular theory that it takes at least 10,000 hours of practising to truly master a skill. “I think that almost anyone can do anything if they do it enough.”

Shows like Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas have forced her to try more crafts (Channel 4/PA)

The joy doesn’t just lie in things turning out perfectly, however. There’s satisfaction in the process, she says. But do we sometimes hold ourselves back from enjoying these things because we don’t think we’ll be any good?

“Absolutely, that happens a lot. And I’d suggest to anyone who ever wants to try anything – find a local class, find a night school. We had so many people come on the Christmas show last year who’d learned things during the pandemic. There’s also the internet – anything you want to learn, it’s free. People are so kind, they share their learning.”

For Allsopp though, anything which feels mindful and calming is worthwhile – regardless of what others might think. “I get the same sense of satisfaction from tidying. And I think there’s a lot to be said for ironing!”

She recalls causing “a bit of controversy” back in 2021 after tweeting a photo of a pile of her ironed laundry. “There were tea-towels, napkins, all sorts of things I’d ironed, and then everyone was like, ‘You iron tea towels – what a waste of time, who does that?!’

“I think it’s really important to know that if making order gives you pleasure, that is the same bits of your brain being fired off as when you’re doing crafts.”

Constantly moving – which often means sorting things around the house – is how she relaxes. “Just sitting down [to relax] doesn’t happen. I’m not saying that in a weird, nauseating, showing-off way – it doesn’t happen because my brain is too racy, and I mean racy in the moving forwards way, not racy in the sexy way,” she adds, laughing. “So I will always have an audiobook and I will always be doing something with my hands.”

Accepting this about herself has been “a learning curve”, she reflects: “I think we all have to be more accepting and less judgemental of others, and we all have to be more accepting and less judgemental of ourselves.”

She might need constant motion and be a firm believer in saying yes, but Allsopp is aware of her limits.

“You have to understand that if you entertain 24/7, you burn out at some point. My job is to entertain – well my job is to find houses but at the end of the day, it’s got to be entertaining, otherwise no one would watch. And then if you have people to dinner every night when you get home…

“You do have to put some space in to wind down in this job. And that might be tidying, it might be doing something else when I’m listening, not talking – that’s why I love audiobooks.

“In fact, I think that is probably the key,” says Allsopp. “Trying to make sure you do as much listening as you do talking.”

Her other self-care non-negotiable is exercise, which she sticks to “religiously” at 6am before work.

“So this morning, I did not want to get up at six o’clock – there are mornings when I could really do with an extra hour in bed, but I don’t.

Because I know the only way to stop my back hurting – and the only way to keep up my mental health – is to exercise,” says Allsopp, who has a Pilates Reformer and rowing machine, as well as weights and a foam roller.

“It doesn’t make you any thinner! Unless you become an Olympic athlete or you’re exercising for hours a day. But it is essential,” she adds. “I do believe motion is lotion. I do it for my back, because I don’t want to be taking painkillers all the time, and for my mental health.”

:: Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas is available to view now on Channel 4


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