Yet again I have confirmed my status as a bit of an oddball.
This time it’s the over our house, which you will know is currently on the market unless you have been hiding under a rock or muted me online until today.
We’re supposed to hate house viewings, right? All that tidying so that complete strangers can come and examine our property and ask awkward questions about the neighbours.
Well, I love them. The house has never looked so good. We have a total system (and a list, of course!) for the tidying. And I adore taking folk over the house – I’d forgotten I can be charming, or at least friendly – showing them all the great things we put into it to make it home.
It feels like saying, over and over, ‘this is our house. Isn’t it lovely?’
I always dreaded selling a house for the same reason I imagine everyone does – keeping the damn place clean and tidy.
But it has been a source of gratitude in more ways than one. I like having a house worthy of the phrase ‘spick and span.’ Well, I do now, after the first few days of not being able to find anything because everything had been put away! I like not nagging the kids to clean up their own rooms
(because I hate the idea of raising lazy kids)
and just doing it myself, with headphones and podcasts on.
Also, I have lived without this level of cleanliness for over ten years, and not died of dysentery. I have no intention of living in a sterile, empty house once we move to the new place. Sorry Mr HB!
We try to keep the living room tidy so we have a room to collapse in with no clutter.
Mr HB did a bit of re-decorating the other day there (I’m not allowed to paint, because I’m no good at it) and the house was upside down for about a week. I walked into the living room one day and the little round table had:
a book, some newspapers, a pile of nerdy-geek cards belonging to the kids, an empty glass, and a bowl with crumbs in the bottom
And I remembered it used to be in the living room of my childhood home, because this is what it looked like – only back then would have been the Radio Times, the yellow space-invaders game, a tea mug, and a crisp packet folded into a triangle by my sister.
The Delights of Domesticity
There ARE actually one or two things that I appreciate about working from home. They include:
- Following the sunlight around from room to room as the sun arcs in the sky.
- Lavender dead-heading. It’s aromatic, repetitive and curiously calming.
- Pumelling the pillows when I’m angry. Plus the duvets too, for good measure!
- Drying the washing outside in the wind. It smells so much fresher than airing it on the radiators…
- Inviting friends around for dinner. The simpler the cuisine the better – so that I can keep my focus on the sizzling conversations we have.
- When Beloved cleans up uninvited. (Hmm. What’s his angle?)
- Having my own chair, which is MINE.
- Creating Penny’s Ironing Rules. Minimal ironing. Period.
- Nurturing next door’s cat. He’s Nero to me…
- Tracking the bats that flit about in the streets at moonrise.
Domesticity – don’t you just love it? Here’s my personal top ten least favourite tasks, in no particular order:
- Scrubbing urban seagull shit off the front window.
- Swabbing all kitchen surfaces after Beloved’s weekend cooking extravaganza.
- Wiping down every single white surface in the house. (Who – exactly – invented white surfaces? Any why?)
- Disinfecting the toilet. (No. Flushing water does not do it.)
- Hoovering the plants. (Yes, there’s an art, and hoovering isn’t recommended. But it’s much quicker. Sorry plants!)
- High speed dusting – complete with hoover attachments.
- Cleaning the ‘self-cleaning’ oven. (Really? Yes. Some Nameless Numpty forgot to include the metal racks.)
- Disposal of soured milk. Especially when you are dairy-free.
- Bouncing cold mailshot letters. Ignore at your peril, they multiply exponentially.
- Pest removal – including ants, bees, wasps, moths, flies, rats and mice. Not forgetting the occasional deceased squab/baby seagull.
I’m hanging out the laundry. Of course.
It’s lovely, once Spring comes, to be able to hang it outside. The smell of laundry dried outside is right up there with the smell of your child’s shoulder or grass after a May shower.
I have photographs of nappies (for the five minutes that we used disposable nappies), strung out on the bottom lines. I knew I was too tired to remember it myself.
We have two lines. A high one, for trousers and sheets, and a low one, for the kid’s clothes and socks.
But this morning I noticed a change. The oldest’s trousers and tops are big enough for the top row.
It’s both bitter and sweet: good to know that we are further away from nappies and broken nights, sadness that those cloistered days of babyhood are over.
The tuna steaks were a bit over done.
I don’t eat tuna anyway, but I was on a fast day, so hadn’t even been responsible. It’s not like Mr HB. Slap dash is how we refer to my cooking, not his.
But as I scrubbed out the tuna pan, I remembered. He’d come to help me bring in the laundry. The smell of tuna had filled the house once we returned. It was why I put the clean clothes into the hall, not the kitchen.
I’m keeping this memory as proof. It’s not that I am not good at cooking, or couldn’t be, if I wasn’t doing 100 other things at the same time. If the actual labour doesn’t distract me, the emotional labour does.
This isn’t a ‘women’s’ thing. If you are distracted, then the tuna will be over done.
‘Can you do the hoovering?’
I’ve been ill for a week, (I know, I’ll stop going on about it soon, I promise). Once I could look around me again, I saw the familiar piles of earth from school shoe grips, little pieces of paper from the last craft project, and the wispy dust that seems to come up from the floor itself.
‘Can you do the hoovering?’
On the second day, I was well enough to hoover myself. But it was the principle of the thing. Why should I hoover now? Why hadn’t he hoovered while I was in bed? Why is the hoovering ‘my’ job?
‘Can you do the hoovering?’
The third day, I asked this of myself. He can’t do the hoovering. But he’s always working – against the box he was put in as a boy. It’s enough.
‘Where do the dollies go?’ I say.
‘We don’t want the dollies anymore, Mum.’
I don’t care whether they want the dollies now.
It was having them in the first place that mattered. My sons, having dollies. They played regularly with them, often in the pink buggy.
They know that pink doesn’t belong to girls.
They dote on their teddies, now. Their nurturing instincts are intact. I worried, before, that they could be eradicated by a house full of lego, cars, the colour blue.
Maybe I worry too much.
Maybe I don’t worry enough.
I put the dollies in the box of hand-me-downs. They will go to sons of a dear friend.
There’s no such thing as girl’s stuff, my son says.
The rest of the toys: cars, Lego … and yes, teddies … get put away, neatly for another day.
Today I have been thinking about … storage.
As the laundry basket finally empties after a full month of overflowing, my thoughts turn to storage.
I don’t have enough storage.
I have just about enough for my clothes, unless the laundry basket is empty. Books operate on a strict one in, one out policy. DVDs are regularly culled; thank goodness for Netflix. The CD collection is bizarrely exempt. In terms of work space– we actually have a hot desk in our house. I have press coverage and a contract and nowhere to put them.
But of course I’m going to say ‘but,’ and be grateful, for if I didn’t have a surfeit of items, how could I complain about storage? I’m also going to add a ‘let’s not hold on too tightly to our stuff.’
It’s not people. It’s only things.