Several years ago, at one of the first parent and toddler sessions I went to, I found myself sitting around discussing housework with a group of mums. Once they were past the usual shock and awe at being in the presence of a man who knew one end of a hoover from another, we had a comradely chat about how none of us was being quite as thorough with the household cleaning as we had been in the era before children. An endless succession of nappies and feeds was sapping our time and energy. Where once we'd scrubbed and polished, we were settling for only a quick wipe. Those places which had previously been fine with only a quick wipe were merely getting an occasional guilty glance.
It was good to share our angst over the dirt that had accumulated in our homes and helped reinforce our mutual relief that the world hadn't ended. We'd all settled on our own new definitions of 'clean' which we could both live with and achieve. To sum it up, one mum said, "I've learnt that skirting boards are self-dusting. Once the piled dust on top reaches a certain level, any more just slides off."
This wasn't as reassuring as she meant it to be, however. My immediate thought was, "Oh, heck! Skirting boards are supposed to be dusted?"
Thankfully, I'd had very little sleep and I barely remembered who I was. I forgot the thought almost instantly and went to find another chocolate biscuit and a refill for my coffee. I had a small child who took stupid amounts of time to look after. The housework was a secondary priority. No soft furnishings had started shambling around of their own accord and that was good enough to be going on with...
Two more children and most of a decade later and I'm finally at the point where a spring clean might be feasible. The thing is, the world still hasn't ended. Apart from having to fight off the odd mutinous cushion with a stick every so often, the gradual descent of hygiene standards hasn't produced any consequences.
Er... Not too many anyway:
- I used to think that jumpers needed washed about once a year but that was because I had several and I hardly ever wore them. I was forever doing something which required rolling up my sleeves. Washing-up, changing a nappy, bathing a child - you name it, I was doing it. So why bother with sleeves in the first place? I roamed the house in a t-shirt, ready to respond to the next mess or disaster. I was constantly on the move and the heating was turned up, so the jumpers lived in a drawer.
Now the kids are at school all day, I leave the heating off. Jumpers are my friend. I wear them all the time. It turns out they do need washed more than once a year.
Febreze only works for so long...
- I dusted some black and white wedding photos the other day and discovered that they were, in fact, in colour.
- Some things obviously need cleaned. A light switch which feels sticky isn't pleasant, for instance. On cleaning one recently, though, I noticed that the entire area surrounding it was a much darker shade of beige than the rest of the wall. The lighting in the room hid this fact well but I knew I really had to do something about the grimy paw marks. The problem was, I suspected a large amount of scrubbing might be involved and that was before I took in a couple of other locations in the room which needed similar attention. Luckily, I had some of the original decorating materials handy.
Nothing shows dirt who's boss faster than painting over it.
- I used to kick loose crumbs under the fridge. After having had various mouse incursions, I now hoover a lot. And keep all the food in sealed tubs. And keep a lid on the toaster. I hardly every clean inside the fridge but I'm fairly certain they can't get in there. It's not like there's ever anything in the fridge anyway. I go to the shops, buy fresh food, fill the fridge, the kids come home and the fridge is empty. It's very strange.
- We needed a new oven five years ago but we put off getting one until we were ready to replace the entire kitchen. We needed a new one of those ten years ago. One delay after another has meant we still haven't quite got one yet. Nonetheless, my heart really hasn't been into cleaning the old oven for half a decade. I mean, it gets heated up to a couple of hundred degrees in there on a regular basis. How sentient can that slime in the bottom be?
Yours in a woman's world,