Saturday, February 06, 2010

From Housework to Holidays

Until recently, a delightful lady called Val came once a fortnight to do some basic housework for us.

She did three hours of dusting and hoovering, which was not enough to do everything needed by any means, but it was at least a start and meant that at least a basic level of housework got done.

She was full of interesting stories about her two clever daughters - one a scientist in Canada, one a teacher. We've known her for years - my mother helped her younger daughter with her conversational French when she was at school. And Val herself was full of interesting stories: I particularly liked the ghost story about the face at the window when they were on holiday.

It wasn't so much that we employed Val: more that she met us, took pity on us, and decided to come to sort us out. She was forever bringing my mother things that might come in useful - - lampshades, clothes, homemade jam, that kind of thing. We paid her for the work she did, of course, but she wouldn't work for just anybody - she had to feel that she was needed.

But Val was sixty, and not in brilliant health, and this Christmas she retired. I haven't even bothered trying to replace her: she was irreplaceable and anyway now there's just the two of us living here, there shouldn't be THAT much mess, surely?

Of course, it's a fairly big late-Victorian house. Five bedrooms, high ceilings, large rooms. I love all that about it: but it does take quite a bit of cleaning. It would help if my parents had ever thrown anything away whilst they lived here - - or even if they'd taken it with them when they left. So one room is full of junk which I am always, pathetically, trying to sort: but I never get very far with it because I'm always too busy and there's always too much else to do.

We have decorated most of the house since we moved in here when we bought it from my parents in 1999. That's apart from our bedroom, which has decor dating back to when my Grandma - my mother's mother - lived with us. It's a lovely big room with windows on two sides but it really needed decorating, and a new carpet and curtains at the time that she died, and that was in 1991. Oops.

But the rest of the house has gradually had new carpets and new decoration - most of it white, because I like plain white walls that can have pictures on them, and I like the light and sense of space that comes from all the white.

Stephen doesn't have a particular aversion to housework and does a lot of the hoovering: it's his Sunday-morning job. But I do most other things just because I'm in the house more than he is so I see what needs doing.

My aim is to get it all clear and junk-free so everything is easy to dust. This is not easy. The house is full of ancestral clutter dating back to 1959 when we moved in. No item of furniture matches any other item, really. I am always so busy that I just don't have time to do what ought to be done - which is to put every item in the house out on the big back lawn and ban a lot of it from ever coming inside again.

About twice a year I get a skip and put loads of junk in it. It's very satisfying but over a period of ten years here I have realised that the junk doesn't get any less - - and I don't know why this should be. I think that every night when I am sleeping a Junk Fairy flies down the chimney and leaves a 1974 copy of Women's Own and some 1970s platform shoes. Ahh, I think, I can't throw those away, they're interesting - - - - but I can't find anywhere to put them, either.

What I need is a Houswork Week. A complete blitz - - - actually, thinking about what there is to do, it would probably need to be a Housework Fortnight. But I'm always too busy for any such thing.

Of course, I did have two weeks off last summer when we went to Italy. And I could, of course, have spent all that time getting the house in order instead.

But I didn't. I preferred to spend it looking at views like this one, which is from the top of the cable car in San Marino, in the direction of the sea:

Life is short: and I want to spend more of it looking at the world, not at the dust. The perfectly clean and tidy house will have to wait.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Make that a month of house tidying to get our house into some semblance of order - though most of the clutter is mine.
However, I don't think anyone every had an epitaph along the lines of 'her house was spotless, even to the last'. Cleanliness may be next to godliness, but I'd rather take the risk on that one. Besides, the longer you leave the dust, it only gets thicker... but it still only takes one wipe to remove it.
'Aropy!' I say. 'The new word for the sensible approach to housework... going along the lines of life being too short.'

10:17 pm  
Blogger Yorkshire Pudding said...

Lady, you have a problem! However, I am happy to inform you that for a mere £1,233.43p Yorkshire Pudding Transformations Ltd. will blitz your home, eject all the detritus and provide you with peaceful simple spaces in which to enjoy your remaining years. You know it makes sense. Call now.

12:56 am  
Blogger Jennyta said...

Your problem is having grown up and almost always lived in the same house. If you had moved around, you would have had to get rid of things on the way.
However, de-cluttering the house makes you feel so good when you have done it! :)

8:09 am  
Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

Our comedienne Phyllis Diller once wrote a book of helpful household hints. My favorite was "If you let your children write their names in the dust, don't let them write the date."

1:39 pm  
Anonymous Milo said...

I have been in my current place (first buy) for just over 7+ years. As I prepare to put it on the market I'm being forced to have a massive clear out. Like you I naturally seem to hoard stuff. Also, it feels very wrong to throw out stuff which has nothing wrong with it. When I do come to sell I'll be offering to give my neighbour 2 doors down some of the big items, such as the 2 sofas. She's a single mother with 2 children so would appreciate it I think.

I gave S all my old VHS tapes. Again, I couldn't put them in the bin as nothing with them. I would love to give lots to charity but even that isn't so straight forward. The Oxfam up the road is quite snooty about what they take.

2:20 pm  
Blogger Jan Blawat said...

My son is the 6th generation to live in our family home (a long time for Californians). It was never much to start with, every generation has made an improvement or two. When my husband moved out 3 years ago, I took the opportunity to lease a 20-yard dumpster. My son and I tossed stuff for 2 weeks. I couldn't believe I'd been living with that much junk! It was very cathartic. I have a comfy, tidy home now and I love it.

Call Yorkshire Pudding Transformations. I'd send my son, but the transportation costs would be much higher.

6:17 pm  
Blogger Diz said...

AH, Daphne, the secret is to enlist the help of a friend. They provide happy company, a helping hand as well as shaming you into flinging things. One huge help is Freegle - allows me to pass things on to others, rather than just consigning them to landfill.
All I need to do now is practice what I preach!
hmm, interesting word verification - stopmen

3:01 pm  
Blogger Kim said...

If you actually have 1970's platform shoes I will gladly take them off your hands. I have thrown out a load of junk when I moved in here, and when I moved in/out of my Flat back in County Durham and I also lost a Load of stuff. and yet I still don't have enough room for all of my stuff :p so I have no idea how much you must have, but I am happy to come round and help throw things out

and Milo I am the same as you I can NEVER throw out anything that is still usable in fact I still have some VHS tape and no Player :p


10:18 pm  

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