Life Chez Dee Episode #83: More to life than dusting
It was my birthday yesterday. There’s lots I could start writing about now about my birthday, but this isn’t the direction I’ve planned for my writing to take, and in any event, I’ve actually written a piece journaling my thoughts on reaching a milestone birthday … which, if you fancy reading, can be found on my blog page Life Chez Dee, called “Officially Quinquagenarian”.
I need to begin this writing though on the morning of my birthday, when mid-morning, at the time when I’d opened my cards and presents, the clear up operation had begun, starting with putting the paper and torn envelopes into the recycling bin, intact envelopes saved (they always come in for something), and I was ready to display my cards on the mantelpiece. It was at this point I found it necessary to get out the duster and polish, and wipe away the thin grey layer which had settled, before I could commence with standing all the cards up. Yes, yes, I know, we’re in lockdown and there’s plenty of time to be getting the house sorted, cleaned and tidied, but the truth of it is that there isn’t much time quite honestly. I’m busier than ever, fitting in my work, teaching Oliver, going shopping and feeding hungry mouths. It may not be for some, but I’d say cleaning was at the bottom of my agenda, and has been for some time.
Don’t interpret this to be that my house is filthy … it isn’t, and far from it, but cleaning is done when necessary, rather than obsessively, rooms are often tickled over, and lately I’ve not really found the time to do any more than that.
Before I had the kids the house was immaculate, tidy, dust free. Having kids changes that (for most people), but I do remember stressing over it for a while before I realised that acceptance of mess was the only way forward if I was to keep my sanity; admittedly the easiest way of coping with much of the mess was by shutting the door at the end of the day, and sitting in a different room. I’ll will admit though, that from time to time, even now, the straw will break that camel’s back and I will have a meltdown about the mess, the dirt, the clutter and the fact that every horizontal surface in the house is used to deposit something; but kids are messy, and they don’t care about it either, it really doesn’t bother them. I remember years ago receiving so much advice, from so many people, about spending time with the children, doing lovely things, making memories; that the cleaning would wait, and would still be there long after the precious time with the children had gone. Time flies, life is short, mess is never ending in a busy home, and so accept it and live with it I say.
Of course, there is always a need to clean, but not to the point of obsessing about it, and not to the point of living in sterile conditions. That dust on the mantelpiece is amazing on the one hand, that so much has accumulated in so little time, but it’s harmless dirt, and a reminder that we have been busy living, doing, enjoying other things, little things, big things, important things, memorable things, not spending our days dusting.
I’m aware of the times we’re living in currently, and I’m using more anti-bacterial spray at the moment than I think I have ever done. Surfaces are wiped regularly, and certainly before food preparation takes place or meals are served, but with plenty of handwashing going on, there really isn’t much more germ prevention which can be done. It is said that a little dirt is good for the immune system, and that’s so true, maybe we can be a little more vigilant at the moment in germ killing, but generally my rule of thumb would be a little dirt will do you no harm.
Spending hours and hours on cleaning means that we don’t do other things, all those important things in life that are worth far more than a clean and tidy house. This is our home, not a show house, not a gallery or museum. This is a house, with a family, with kids and with cats.
So what if there are a few cat hairs on the lounge carpet, so what if the front room needs a dust, it means the house is lived in, and that we are living. It means that our home is inviting, it is warm, it is comfortable. The door is open, friends are welcome any time, the kettle is always on, and you take us as you find us. Come in, keep your shoes on (unless of course they’re caked in as much mud as Oli’s football boots), and make yourself at home.
I tend to do a bit of cleaning every day, just as I go from room to room, and see the odd thing which needs doing, rather than have a dedicated day or days to have a massive cleaning session. I tend to tidy up somewhat before I go to bed, however late it is. I’ll make sure the dishwasher is unloaded, and the items we’ve used that evening I’ll wash by hand, and leave on the draining board to air dry, and put away at breakfast time. I’ll tidy the odd bits and bobs lying around like remote controls, magazines, strewn shoes and cat toys; I’ll fold the blankets, plump the cushions, and any random other items which have migrated downstairs from the boys’ rooms, I’ll pop onto the stairs to be carried up as someone passes … which is a ridiculous dream I know, as there’s only one person who takes those things up, and that’s my good self. Anyone would think that the stairs have some magical powers rendering the items placed there invisible to everyone except me. Keeping on top of the tidying I’ve found easier with the addition of more baskets; not only does this provide a specific home for certain items, but the house looks tidier with everything put into a basket and hidden from view.
I don’t like cleaning I have to admit, and I’m probably in the majority there. Some will employ cleaners to come and do the job for them, others will like me feel the same way. I think the job I hate the most is cleaning windows. I have a window cleaner for the outside … a proper window cleaner who uses soap and water, who climbs a ladder, who uses a squeegee (if that’s what they’re called) … I never wanted my windows cleaning with one of those water fed mops on a pole – call me old fashioned. The insides I try and time to do at the same time as the outsides are done, but I have to say that I tend to only manage that every third or fourth visit by my window cleaner, and tends to be when I’ve noticed they need a clean as the sun streams through showing up every water splash, finger print, nose print and speck of dust.
I rarely clean the bathroom because I don’t like that job. I’ll clean the washbasin, and I do the loos (upstairs and down) daily, if not more often, as they always seem to need a good wipe down – that’s what happens in house full of boys I suppose. The shower I let Justin sort; I hate cleaning this, he doesn’t seem to mind, and he does a really good job.
The kitchen gets a fair old clean and wipe down daily. It’s used a lot, the back door comes straight into the kitchen, and that is also used a lot. The floor always seems to be a mess with crumbs and plenty of other spillages, along with lots of outside dirt and paw prints; and it’s more than necessary to wipe the surfaces, cooker, sink and floor daily.
I don’t have much ironing, I tend to fold when it comes out of the dryer, or off the line, or the radiators. A good shake, a neat fold, and that’ll do. Shirts need pressing nicely, and I’m lucky that my mother in law does these for me; she likes ironing, it helps massively, and so that’s a win‑win.
Oliver’s room is a tip. There’s so much stuff, which he really should clear out. Games, jigsaws, books and collector cards. His desk is overflowing with paper and pens, there’s a lot of creativity going on there; there’s an armoury of crossbows, pop guns, bows and arrows, nerf guns and darts which he inherited from Edward; and a menagerie of soft animals which I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Aragog hadn’t moved in!
William’s room is a no go area really. It’s a right mess, stuff all over the floor, bin overflowing with cans, crisp packets, chocolate wrappers and apple cores (the latter being an improvement from them being thrown under the bed and left to turn into their shrivelled petrified state). He laughed how our last cat, Nico, used to walk along his windowsill, dusting it as he did so, his coat turning greyish white, rather than the sleek glossy black cat he was.
I’ve known so many people over the years who are totally obsessed with cleaning, who either find cleaning so enjoyable it’s like a hobby, or where the obsession has taken over to the point of having OCD. If I could afford to have a cleaner I think that would be rather nice, but I think I’d find it stressful having to clean and tidy things before they came. It all boils down to, I suppose, what we believe to be a priority, and life and living life is my priority, not cleaning.
by Elizabeth Dee
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[This piece was orginally written for and published by Lytham St Annes News; republished by Elizabeth Dee on Life Chez Dee 18th January 2021]