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Up until now, I think my posts have been pretty inoffensive. Thought I’d better ease myself gradually into this blogging business…
But today’s subject might be a little contentious. Oooh…
Hands up those who are genuinely tidy people…
Hands up those who can’t cope with clutter…
Hands up those who can cope with clutter, but can’t deal with a lack of hygiene…
I put my hand up for the last one only. Hubby would put his hand up for the first two. I mean, why even get married?
Seriously, I think some of the most tension-filled arguments between us have been regarding our completely different stances on tidying and cleaning.
I don’t LIKE tidying up or cleaning. Tidying up is for when something is FINISHED. As I love starting things, but not finishing them, the house is full of trails which clearly demonstrate which projects I’ve busied myself with over the last few months (OK, years) – a box full of origami modules that I WILL glue together one day; about 19 crochet flowers that WILL be made into a beautiful blanket; a pile of donated sheet music that I WILL get around to sorting out soon; several heaps of clothes – a charity pile, a give-to-friend’s-son pile, a give-to-friend’s-daughter pile, and a might-wear-if-I-lose-5kg pile.
You get the picture. And I can see how annoying that must be, but at the same time – where’s the fire? Why put deadlines on everything? And maybe I’m comfortable because clutter means character. Quite clearly my clutter indicates that I am creative, artistic, a lover of books, a musician…and a bit of a hoarder. So what?
It’s probably genetic anyway. Many Japanese people live amongst piles of clutter, simply because their homes are so small. They are expected to live in spaces that British people would consider about right for a medium sized bathroom. Of course, I KNOW I don’t have this excuse, but how can I fight my genes?
However – and this is also probably genetic – I have a special ability to SEE GERMS! They’re everywhere. They’re multiplying by the trillion, even as we speak. I have some stringent hygiene rules for our house and all its occupants…and I find that people who CAN’T see germs don’t see the urgency of handwashing, surface sterilising, chopping board segregation, shoe removal and keeping rucksacks off the table.
My grandmother was famously conscientious when it came to hygiene. If we bought cans of drink from a vending machine (and in Japan, we definitely did buy drinks from vending machines – it’s fun!) we had to carry them home and she would wash them in boiling water before we could apply our mouths to them. Is that not sensible though? How do we know what conditions those drinks were kept in before being loaded into the machines? How do we know they weren’t stacked in a rat-infested warehouse?
Anyway, moving on, let’s address the issue of cleaning. Although I don’t enjoy cleaning, when I DO clean, I like it to be done right. I’d rather not start at all, than do a crappy, half-arsed job. Might not be very logical, but there it is. So, in our household, you will hear Hubby’s muffled curses as he moves, slalom style, around my piles of organised stuff; and you will hear my (rather louder) curses as I scrub at tea stains in the sink, or huff in exasperation when I note the children’s sandwiches were made on the ‘RAW MEAT’ chopping board.
As for hoovering – it makes me weep. We have a Dyson. Hurrah. Expensive, powerful…and weighs a bl**dy tonne. It was NOT designed for a smallish woman to heft around the house; sessions with it have rivalled Boxercise or Body Combat for calorie expenditure and aggression.
I am also not cut out for wet work. Frequent exposure to water and detergents can cause the eczema on my hands to flare up until the fingers are cracked, bleeding and unbearably painful.
We wanted a clean house, but we weren’t capable of achieving one to our satisfaction, for one frustrating reason or another. It became a hotbed of resentment and silent passive-aggressive discontent.
It drove me mad that Hubby would come home from work, and regardless of how much I’d managed to do that day, go straight to the sink and move the cups around, or sigh loudly at a pile of papers on the table. It drove Hubby mad that he’d come home from work and feel unable to relax due to the cups in the sink and the pile of my papers on the table. I know it sounds kind of inconsequential, but believe me, after 20 odd years of living together, it’s the inconsequential stuff that causes relationships to crash and burn.
Hubby suggested we get a cleaner. It took me several days to get over what I saw as an implied criticism of my housekeeping, and several MONTHS to accept the idea of a stranger moving around in my house… but eventually Hubby made it happen.
And, oh my goodness, I wish we’d done it earlier.
It all makes sense to me now. There are things in this household that HAVE to be done by ME – no one else. For example, no one can play the piano in my place, do my school planning in my place, or go to the gym on my behalf. No one else can cook as well as I can, or do the laundry to my frankly OCD specifications. No one else can be my children’s mother, or my husband’s wife.
But our cleaner CAN mop the floor, hoover the house, clean the toilets and shower, polish the tables and dust the furniture. And guess what? She’s BRILLIANT at it!! In two hours she can make this house sparkle and shine – I’d never achieve half as much in that time, AND I’d be a horrible person whilst trying.
So, if it makes so much goddam sense, why do I feel skin-crawlingly ashamed whenever I am forced to admit it to a third party? Why do I feel as if I’d rather admit to being a member of a devil-worshipping, swingers’ secret society, than explain that we employ a cleaner?
Am I just paranoid when I imagine people are thinking, “But she doesn’t even work full time! What does she DO all day, for goodness sake?” or “Gosh. Imagine not being capable of cleaning your OWN house?!” Or, worst of all, “Who does she think she is?? Employing servants like some kind of Waitrose-going, pheasant-eating, tweed-wearing toff?” Is there any horror worse for a middle-class, privileged professional, than being seen to be middle-class and privileged? Even writing that last sentence makes me cringe, but in the interests of honesty, it has to stay in.
However, it’s Wednesday today. I’m going to go to work, and come home to a house that smells faintly of lemons; to a hall with softly gleaming parquet floor; a bathroom with sparkling taps and toilets; and a Hubby who isn’t stressed and pushing my piles around (so to speak)… so I think I’ll manage to get over myself.