A Clean Sweep

by Margaret Powling-

Unless we engage the services of a cleaner the only alternative is cleaning our homes ourselves.  I know that if I had a cleaner I would be scurrying around, cleaning before he or she arrived, making sure that they didn’t have to pick up used tissues (not that I  leave those lying around, but there’s always a first time), underwear, newspapers, wet towels, and having coffee or tea ready for his or her arrival. 

Even though I could, at a pinch, afford to engage the services of a cleaner, I quite like the activity myself.  Yes, I have arthritis, which means some jobs are more difficult now than they once were, but overall,  and with all the modern equipment we have at our disposal these days – vacuum, steam cleaner for hard floors, more  cleaning products than we can shake a whole forest at, never mind a stick – as well as a nice end product (a clean and tidy home), it’s good exercise as well.

Husband was out this morning, helping our younger son with some home maintenance, and so I had the place to myself.  Rather than swanning around in my housecoat, drinking endless cups of coffee, reading the paper or blogs, I was up, showered and dressed (and yes, wearing makeup and hair freshly washed and blow dried) by 8 am.  After our breakfast, husband drove off to our son’s home, and I switched off my computer and started work.

I started in the kitchen.   Yes, it’s ‘dated’ now, installed in 1985, it will be 32 years old this year!   But it does the job.  Indeed, it’s a well-organized space.  I quite like our kitchen even though it’s north facing and is a little dark, mainly because of the walnut tree outside and my choice, three years ago, of black flooring, but we are considering painting the cupboards even though this will be a long and laborious job. 

Our kitchen overlooks our back garden, and the table is just large enough for us for breakfast, lunch, and supper.  The new white washing machine (Whirlpool make) stands out like a sore thumb (the dishwasher – which can’t be seen here – is black, as is the oven, sink and hob) but never mind, it does the job for which it was designed. 

I  removed all the things from the worktops, gave them (the worktops) a good clean, and then put everything back after I’d washed all the things which could be washed, plus cleaning out the toaster and bread bin, and the ceramic jars in which I keep the wooden spoons, etc, went through the dishwasher with the breakfast things.  The windowsill was also cleaned, and the fridge, and then the floor and, finally, the table was given a polish. 

I think these will be the daffodils’ last hurrah, but my goodness, aren’t these a delight, lovely creamy ones with deep apricot centres (from the supermarket earlier this week.)

I then moved on to the shower room – all the usual things were cleaned, the shower, the basin, the loo, and also the windowsill and the shelves. The two white ornaments (one of which is useful for makeup brushes) were washed – I use a little soft brush to get into the crevices (I also washed the makeup brushes.)

I don’t keep all my makeup on the shelves but in a lidded basket, and toiletries such as toothpaste and shampoo are hidden away in a cupboard, not only as they aren’t attractive items but also for the sake of hygiene.  Towels were changed, the floor was washed, and then I moved on to the hall …

Husband had vacuumed the stairs and landing only a couple of days ago, so I only had to dust the furniture … I changed some things around recently, and instead of framed photos of my husbands parents on our little Sutherland table (which are now upstairs in the bed sitting room)  on the table are some Oriental carved wooden figures (inherited pieces.)

(This photo is an old one, I’ve since changed the lampshades, but the desk remains in situ)

Once the hall was vacuumed and dusted, I stopped cleaning and prepared lunch – cold chicken, new potatoes and a green salad so that it would be ready for when husband returned from our younger son’s home. 

I then cleaned the sitting/dining room.  It is a reasonable-sized room (by UK standards, I mean, about 28ft by 13ft) with a square arch way dividing sitting from dining area.  When our sons lived at home, we had the dining table ‘up’ all the time and ate at this table each day, but now we’re on our own, we use the dining table as a sofa table and only put it ‘up’ when more than the two of us are having a meal. 

This is just the dining end of the room.  The camera angle foreshortens the look of the dining area, which is a decent-sized space.  The two Chippendale-style dining chairs belonged to my late uncle (we had the seats re-covered about ten years ago) as did the two marine paintings on the far wall (and which I had new mounds made last year.) 

I dusted all the furniture, changed the flower water (on the bookcase is a posy of freesias – small, delicate flowers but with such a wonderful scent), and vacuumed the whole room. 

Tomorrow, I will clean our bedroom and the study (but not the bookshelves … that’s a job too far at the moment!) and then, if I’ve the energy, clean the upstairs rooms (guest bedroom, bathroom and bed sitting room.)  As these rooms are not over-used, they just need refreshing –  a quick dust and vacuum. 

When husband arrived home we had our lunch, and then sat in the summerhouse with cups of tea while I watched Escape to the Country on the small TV in there.

It seems a bit silly, really, devoting a whole post to a morning’s housekeeping but, as I say, unless we engage the services of a cleaner, this is something we all have to do, and therefore cleaning takes up quite a large portion of our lives – unless we want to live in squalor, that is!   And there is some satisfaction to be gained, is there not, in seeing our homes looking clean and fresh?

Enjoy the weekend!

Margaret Powling


  1. Eloise

    You have a lovely home, Margaret. Like you, I feel good knowing that my house is clean and tidy, but (and I wish I could say that I was like you in this respect), I do not enjoy housekeeping. Since my husband is retired whilst I work part time, he now does most of the everyday housework, though we share ironing, each doing our own. I used to use an ironing service when we were both at work but it seemed too much of an extravagance when we finished. I do have to take over with those jobs that get done less often, such as washing down paintwork and the kind of cleaning that needs more than a lick! For example, he cleans the bath but it’s me who gets an old toothbrush and works it around the base of the taps. One thing I do enjoy is sorting out cupboards and drawers; I find it very cathartic. I especially like sorting through wardrobes and rearranging clothes.

    07 . Apr . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, I enjoy cleaning out the wardrobe and drawers, too, it is very cathartic, I agree.
      Thank you for saying we have a lovely home. We don’t decorate often and so I hope it doesn’t look old fashioned, but rather traditional. It’s a 1985 dormer house, with three rooms in what, in a more regular-shaped house, would be the loft space. I confess to having rather too many ‘things’ dotted around, it’s a rod for my own cleaning back, I’m afraid. We also share the ironing, but if there is a more rigorous cleaning job to be done, husband does it because my hands have been weakened by arthritis. Yes, an old toothbrush is such a useful tool! Ideal for around taps. I keep an old toothbrush in my Housekeeper’s box for such jobs.
      I should’ve added that the day started with changing the bed linen and using my lovely new washing machine and then hanging out the laundry on the washing lines which are strung between the house and the walnut tree. I love to see a line of washing blowing in the wind but I have to have them neatly arranged on the line. But still, I think we all have a bit of OCD in us, and a tidy washing line is my bit!

      07 . Apr . 2017
  2. Maria

    By coincidence I’ve just finished watching an episode of OCD Cleaners and then checked on new blog posts and here comes your post about cleaning :). I second Eloise, you have a lovely home, traditional but that reflects your taste and character. The daffodils are really beautiful and I like a Cupid holding your make-up brushes. Thank you for the inspirational post. I can’t say that I always love the process of cleaning, though sometimes it’s meditative and calming but I definitely love the end result.

    07 . Apr . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      Thank you for your kind words, Maria. I enjoy cleaning, strangely enough, when the weather is sunny and fine and I can open the windows and the whole is light (without the need for electric light, I mean.) Yes, the little cupid/putti which appears to be holding a nut shell of some kind, is ideal for my makeup brushes. I’m glad this post is inspirational. I love to make my home clean and tidy, but of course, doing it I see more and more jobs that require our attention! But I hope never to become OCD, I don’t use gallons of bleach or clean the same area over and over again.

      07 . Apr . 2017
  3. Eloise

    Haha, I do like a tidy line. My husband is NOT good at creating one and does not understand the issue at all. The smell of line dried washing is very satisfying. Aren’t we a funny lot? I certainly agree with your OCD comment.

    07 . Apr . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      Ditto, Eliose, husband here just hangs things as they emerge from the laundry basket. Yes, we are a funny lot!

      08 . Apr . 2017
  4. Elaine

    I could bake and cook very happily in your kitchen, it is so well organised. Love the Portmerion!
    No bleach allowed in this house, alas. We are very rural, not on mains drainage, so bleach and strong chemicals would cause problems – which is one of the reasons I enjoy finding alternatives, like the dandelion brew.
    Your home is beautiful and your energy levels amazing. I have only one complaint to make about this post, you didn’t allow us any sneaky peeks at your bookshelves.

    08 . Apr . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      I must reassure you that very little bleach is used here, too, Elaine, but I haven’t found anything that cleans the loo quite as well as some beach. I am certainly not like the woman on a certain TV programme about OCD cleaners, who uses bottles, yes bottles, of the stuff every day. Oh, I will have to show the bookshelves again sometime! They’re all a bit unkempt at the moment as I’ve not had a ‘weed’ (and that isn’t ‘read’ said by someone who can’t pronounce her ‘r’!) of them for about three years. But the kitchen, even though the cupboards, which are oak, although old, is well organized and I can reach most things without stretching too far. When I see these huge kitchens I think of the journey one must travel just to take a hot pan to the sink, and I thank my lucky stars my kitchen isn’t large, neither is it too small.

      08 . Apr . 2017
  5. Jo

    I’m not a lover of household chores, there’s plenty more interesting things I’d rather be doing, but I couldn’t live in squalor. There are some things that don’t have to be done quite as often now there’s only two of us at home for most of the time but I do have to vacuum every day having a dog.

    08 . Apr . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      Hello, Jo. Believe me, I don’t do chores every single day, apart from the basic minimum – bed making, keeping the sink clean, etc. But while I wouldn’t want my epitaph to read “She kept her house clean and polished” I do like it to be clean and tidy as it’s our environment, it’s where we spend much of our time. But I do leave time for other things, my photography, reading, visiting historic houses and gardens, walking around our lovely coast, gardening (or rather being foreman in the garden, issuing instructions, ha ha!), meeting friends if only for coffee and, of course, my magazine writing (and this blog).And, as you say, now that there are only two of us here now, the place doesn’t get really dirty or untidy. Often it’s just a case, as was yesterday, that everything needed a freshen up. I think if you keep on top of things – indeed, using that old cliché which is often used for other situations, “not allowing the dust to settle”, you don’t need to do really strenuous cleaning all that often. But yes, a dog would make a difference. When we had cats, I was forever cleaning the area where they ate, they never mastered a knife and fork!

      08 . Apr . 2017
  6. Marlene Stevens

    Wow you have done such a lot today, I actually enjoy a bit of housework, I can’t stand clutter or mess, I don’t clean everyday though, and it is a way of burning calories . You have such a lovely home.

    08 . Apr . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, I did quite a lot of housekeeping, Marlene, and I certainly felt it by bedtime as I was very stiff and sore everywhere. This is the trouble with arthritis – sorry to moan, I don’t mean to, but just to tell it as I is! – the more I exercise, the more stiff I become afterwards! I could exercise all day long but 8 hours in bed and I’m as stiff as a boat horse, to use the old saying! But while I’m doing the work, I don’t feel too bad. Perhaps it’s mind over matter! Like you, I can’t stand clutter and mess. And by clutter I don’t mean my books and ornaments, pictures and flowers, ha ha, but the detritus of everyday living, yesterday’s papers, for example, and all the junk mail which falls from magazines and papers and also arrives through the letter box, and also things that seem to come into the house that really should be in the garage or garden shed (I won’t say who’s responsible for that kind of clutter but there’s only me and Himself here, and it’s certainly not me!) I’d done all the things I can do to stop junk mail, contacting the Mailing Preference Service, but it still comes, whole bundles of it. But thank you for saying we have a lovely home.

      08 . Apr . 2017
  7. Jo

    Dear Margaret
    I am so glad to have found your blog. I found your description of cleaning routines and photos of your lovely home very calming and somehow optimistic! I love to keep our home looking good, but I can be lazy in my efforts at times!
    May I ask a question? In a previous post you mention a mascara from Lancome that you thought was the best you have ever used. Please could you tell me the name of it? I need a new one and could do with a recommendation.
    I hope you are enjoying a sunny weekend.
    Best wishes Jo.

    08 . Apr . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      Hello, Jo, and thank you for your very kind comments regarding my blog. If I can encourage someone to take a pride in their home and if not exactly to love housekeeping, then not detest it either, I feel I’ve done a good job. We can all be lazy at times, myself included, and I don’t have a specific cleaning routine – I just try and keep on top of things, so to speak. It’s a case of putting things away rather than leaving them lying around, cleaning the basin in the shower room before it gets really splashed with toothpaste, replenishing the soap before it’s a mere sliver (we still prefer soap to liquid hand wash, but we have a lavender liquid hand wash in the kitchen things like that. If the house is tidy to start with, cleaning then isn’t a huge effort, and certainly not in centrally-heated homes where there is no dust from coal fires.
      The mascara by Lancôme is called Hypnose. It was actually a sample freebie from the young woman who applied my make-up. At the end of the make-up session, I bought an eye shadow palette and eye-brow makeup, but the brow makeup didn’t work for me when I tried it, althoug the shadow palette is lovely. However, the freebie of the sample mascara wand was excellent.
      You have a good weekend, too, Jo, and do look in again.

      08 . Apr . 2017
  8. Jo

    Thanks Margaret,
    Lancome mascara costs more than I would normally spend, but I have got out of the habit of wearing make up which is making me feel frumpy! I don’t ever wear much and I hope a good quality mascara will stay put and not smudge or I will find another excuse to not bother!
    Thankyou for taking the time to answer my question.
    Best wishes Jo.

    08 . Apr . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, I blenched when I saw the price of that Lancôme mascara, Jo, and bought some Max Factor at a fraction the price. Now I wish I hadn’t! It might be OK for some, but I might as well have torn up my money. I find that when I remove the wand from the tube of mascara it is so full that first I have to wipe it on a tissue (which is wasteful) because if I don’t, then my lashes just get clogged with too much. I found that the Lancôme applied the right amount of mascara and also, and this is a bonus, it actually smelt pleasant. As with you, I don’t wear much mascara. I have sparse lashes now, and if the mascara is thick, they look worse than not applying any. It was no trouble to answer your question, it’s lovely that you and others read my posts and I’m very touched by the kind comments my readers have made.

      08 . Apr . 2017
  9. Lara

    You have a lovely home and everything is well cared for. Much of our furniture was ‘inherited’ from parents or friends or bought from second hand shops but is all in good condition. I prefer older style furniture anyway as it has more character than flat pack stuff from IKEA.
    When you said that your kitchen faces north, I momentarily thought ‘so what’s wrong with that’ and then realised that orientation is a bonus for us in the Southern Hemisphere, not those in the northern hemisphere. I often forget that when watching U.K. or Canadian real estate or renovation shows (of which there are so many on Australian tv, esp cable/subscription tv).
    Your table in the hallway is divine, as is the desk and accompanying chair.
    Thank you for another lovely tour. I’ve had a lovely time away with you this morning, reading about five posts in a row, all without leaving home !
    Now after reading this current post and watching How to Be Chic’s Fiona Ferris recent video on makeup for a day at home you have both inspired me to dig thru my makeup collection this morning (while Hubbie is out and I have the place to myself this Sunday morning) and find a suitable eyeshadow. Now that autumn has finally arrived in Australia and the humidity has abated I have no more excuses. You have both motivated me 🙂

    08 . Apr . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      When we lived in our previous home, a bungalow, our kitchen faced west, so of an evening when I was cooking supper the setting sunlight poured in making the kitchen over-hot in summer. So there is a bonus, even in our northern hemisphere to having a north facing kitchen! We designed the kitchen ourselves when our house was being built and it works very well for us.
      The little table in the hall was one my parents bought when they were married in 1940. I have a photograph of myself, ages about four, standing beside it and now it’s in our home. My desk possibly started life as an Edwardian dressing table, but my mother bought it for me as it is now (i.e. without any mirror between the little drawers on top) for my 12th birthday. I was absolutely delighted with it and used it to do my homework and now it’s in our hall.
      How lovely that Fiona – who encouraged me to have a blog – and I have been able to motivate you!

      09 . Apr . 2017
  10. Jeannine

    Lovely home. I really like the arrangement in your kitchen – looks like a very comfortable size and very efficient for working in. I do have a question – I note you have a washing machine in your kitchen and I see that it many pictures of kitchens in the UK. Where are your dryers? Or do you not have dryers?

    09 . Apr . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      Thank you, Jeannine, for your kind comments about our home.
      Our homes in the UK are usually smaller than in the USA, Canada, Australia (not sure where you live, and I apologise if you have said in a previous comment) simply because, as you will be aware, we are a nation of some 60 million people living on a relatively small island, and homes – especially new homes currently being built – are really crammed into small spaces. Therefore, such things as washing machines are usually in the kitchen, especially in older houses, Some more modern homes have a utility room beyond the kitchen and a washing machine and a tumble dryer would be placed there. Our house was built in 1985 and there simply wasn’t anywhere we could have a utility room built (although some four-bedroomed houses in our Close do have utility rooms) and still have a reasonably sized kitchen, and so our tumble dryer is in our garage, which is sited underneath our sitting roo, i.e. part of the main building. Mind you, a lot of people in the UK still don’t use tumble dryers, especially if they are very environmentally-oriented, but I don’t know how they get the laundry dry in winter because even if we don’t have extremes of temperature here in the UK, we do have wet winters with few what I would call “good drying days”, and getting things dry can be a problem without a tumble dryer.

      09 . Apr . 2017
  11. Pam in Texas

    I loved the tour of your beautiful home and the account of your day.
    Very inspirational. You are so organised and it shows.
    I think that you have a great balance between work and relaxation and that is how it should be.
    Nice to keep busy and see the fruits of your labours, thank you for sharing.
    Pam in Texas.

    10 . Apr . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      Glad you have found my post inspiring, Pam. Some days we work hard, other days we need to rest – our older bodies tell us to! I try to be organized because it tends to make life easier. Thank you for your kind remarks regarding our home, do look in again.

      10 . Apr . 2017
  12. Joy

    Well, I thoroughly enjoyed your post about house cleaning, and you have a lovely house. I like your kitchen, it looks warm, cozy, and welcoming. I like the wood color of your cabinets… my husband remodeled my kitchen a couple of years ago and it is modern with white Shaker style cabinets and stainless steel. I find myself ‘warming it up’ with color and wood tones. If I had to do it over, I’d have a rustic country kitchen (unfitted) with storage pieces of various sorts and sizes. I also noticed your lovely Portmeirion bowl on the table, I have some bowls and platters of that pattern. With all this talk of make-up, now I’m becoming enthused!

    16 . Apr . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      Thank you for your kind comments about our kitchen. The cupboards are oak, not veneer, and this is why (thus far) we’ve not painted them. They are rather old now as we had the kitchen installed when our home was new in 1985, but husband is very reluctant to paint over oak even though I’m not keen on the orange-look of the wood. Husband used what is called patina on them in 2000 which brought up the grain of the wood beautifully, but now we either must paint them or use patina again. We actually designed the kitchen ourselves. The builder was installing this kind of kitchen in the other 20 houses in our Close, but asked if we might do our own design and this is what happened, so we had extra tall cupboards as well. Your Shaker style kitchen sounds lovely and yes, an unfitted kitchen would look lovely, and far less clinical than a lot of the modern kitchens look today.

      17 . Apr . 2017

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