Saturday, 15 March 2008

Just Enough is Good Enough

Confession time. I am not a born ‘clean freak’. I am not even a very convincing pretend one. What I am, at heart, is bone idle. I would much rather sit and read a cookbook than dust the bookshelves and I would much rather bake (and eat) a cake than clean the oven. Even now I would much rather build Lego tunnels and squidge playdough with my son than, well, just about anything else. In fact, just today I made a cardboard-and-tinfoil robot with Christopher, while sitting in a very messy room. And it didn't matter, because we had fun.

I approach housework in rather a slapdash fashion, but I always hate ending up in a huge panic if we're expecting visitors. Living in secret fear of ‘unexpected guests’ is no way to be. The washing machine used to lie dormant for days at a time, then be suddenly confronted with four consecutive loads when we realised that we had nothing to wear.

As a stay-at-home mum, I feel that part of the deal is that I take care of most of the day-to-day running of the house. That is not to say that my hubby arrives home from work, puts his slippers on and sits in his favourite chair for the rest of the evening. This is not a 1950s American sitcom (thank God). Everyone in the family (okay, maybe not the cat) has their part to play. If it’s not done, though, it’s ultimately my problem, and I try to find ways to do what needs to be done without coming over all, y'know, scary. I've discovered a talent for organisation I never knew I possessed. I (usually) know where things are without hours of searching and last-minute panics. I open the fridge and no badly-wedged jar of mouldy jam falls out to smash on the floor. I get dressed easily and quickly every morning, having looked in my wardrobe the night before and chosen an appealing outfit in peace. We can invite people for dinner, or to stay for a weekend, without spending untold hours cleaning just before they arrive. Getting even slightly organised means that it soon takes only a short time each morning (no more than an hour a day for me; during Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4 for me, which seems apt) to finish the majority of the housework for the day.

This is, emphatically, not about being a perfect domestic goddess, nor is it about 'playing house'; spending hours decanting your laundry detergent into fancy bottles and tying up bundles of clean sheets with silk ribbon. I have better things to do and so, I'm sure, do you. A homemade cake and a few pretty touches can make all the difference to your life if most of it is spent at home, but let's not get carried away - this is about doing what needs to be done with the minimum of fuss and still having time to enjoy being a mum, being a wife and occasionally, just being yourself...such heaven.

Best of all though, I can be proud of my home. I look forward to having guests and actively encourage visitors (although we generally need to keep our bedroom door shut to hide the stuff I've thrown in there at the last-minute when I realise I've run out of time). So the fact that often I feel like I’m still pretending to be a grown-up, efficient, houseproud type doesn’t matter. Cutting corners is OK, really. As long as it gets done, there’ll still be time for a G & T.

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