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A Housekeeping Day


For those of you who aren’t keen on dusting and polishing, look away now, for this is a post which is the polar opposite of an article I read in the Sunday Telegraph at the weekend.  A husband and wife team of writers, Emlyn Rees and Josie Lloyd, has just published a book entitled Shabby:  The Jolly Good British Guide to Stress-free Living.

Of course, it had to happen.  After all that de-cluttering by Marie Kondo (and no, I’ve not bought her book but I have read a lot about it and know how it has sold zillions of copies) Emlyn and Josie have written about how the British really prefer messy homes.  For example, a coat rack that is at maximum capacity, a kitchen drawer filled not only with things such as the key which bleeds the radiators but also dead batteries, a bedside table that houses tangled jewellery and dried-up mascara … well, you soon get the impression (according to this pair of writers) along with the crumbs lurking on the kitchen table, that we Brits seldom clean and tidy our homes.

According to Emlyn and Josie, this sort of “Shabbism” as they call it can “bring a greater sense of fulfilment and purpose.”  Josie says that it doesn’t matter  if there are crumbs on the kitchen table if it means you have time to enjoy a cup of coffee and a conversation.”

My answer to this is, “Surely the one doesn’t preclude the other?”  Can’t we remove  crumbs and still have a conversation?  They continue by saying that shabbism is not an excuse to be dirty.  Well, excuse me, but if an unwashed smelly dog and crumbs aren’t dirty, what is?

Of course, this is the back lash- and hopefully for them a profitable one –  not only against Marie Kondo and her constant tidying, but also last year’s hygge which, like a rash, was everywhere.  I even bought a hygge book (more fool me; it’s now about as fashionable as a Slone Ranger in Gucci shoes with snaffles and a single row of pearls around a pie-crust frilled shirt) but somehow I never managed to buy that cashmere throw, light candles (a fire risk!) and what use would a pile of logs for a fire be when we don’t have a wood burner?  (Isn’t all that fossil fuel being burned bad for our health?)

I believe that there is a happy medium and I like to think that our home is representative of that.  It is clean and tidy, seldom will you find the worktops covered in crumbs (unless I’ve just sliced into a baguette and then I clean up afterwards) and I would feel very uncomfortable in the Rees/Lloyd because the picture painted of it is one where not only knife and fork handles but also the door handles are sticky, and you will find newspapers shoved under the cushions rather than into the recycling box.  I might be doing them a disservice, their home might be cleaner and tidier than they admit, but it doesn’t sound like it to me.

Housekeeping, like fashion, goes in cycles.  In the 1950s it was Domestic Science (or Home Economics) we were taught in school, elevating what really was cooking and cleaning above its station; in the 1970s Shirley Conran famously said that life was too short to stuff a mushroom.  That must be one of the most over-quoted lines from that decade.  Now we’re  into everything to do with the home; crafts – crochet and knitting in particular – are on the increase, and even Mary Berry has brought out a new book on household tips, and if some of them are anything to go by I feel I’ve slid into a 1940s time-slip, an era of dolly blue bags (who can remember those?) and Vim to clean everything.

And so today I took pleasure in housekeeping. I do it because it’s necessary if you want a clean and tidy house, not because it’s a fashionable thing to do. I made the bed (after allowing it to air) and then cleaned the whole of the ground floor which is quite a task for me (violins playing, can’t you hear them?) with arthritis and age not on my side.  I wiped all the windowsills in all the rooms, dusted ornaments, vacuumed, put the cushions straight on the sofas, cleaned the shower room and that involved not only the shower cubicle, the loo and the basin, but also the glass shelves …

I’m fussy about glass shelves. I like them dust-free and you know how glass shows every spec!  Also, items such as toothbrushes, deodorants, dental floss and toothpaste, foot cream –  all those things which are necessary but just a bit unsightly – live in a cupboard. I keep only attractive things on the shelves – well, attractive to me.  Yes, they could go into a cupboard or a drawer and that would save me work, but without possessions our rooms would look very bleak and uninteresting.  It is personal items which bring rooms to life.  It’s a case of balance.  Not too many, not too few.

I also spent time arranging the flowers which we received for our wedding anniversary yesterday.  The scarlet gladioli are still going strong, so I put the new flowers a little distance away from them as the colours clashed.  But the gladioli will be there only for about one more day before they need to be removed.

I split the bouquet, some of the flowers are here (above) and some in the corner of the sitting room (below) …

And I broke down one last spray of white chrysanthemums into a posy for the hall table …

A lot of people fight shy of cutting flowers down, but sometimes this is much nicer than having blooms on the end of long, sometimes ugly stems. It’s the blooms we want to see surely, not stalks?

All this, of course, takes time, but there is also pleasure to be gained in making our homes look as attractive as possible, and without spending oodles of cash.   It took me much of the day, at a steady pace.  I vacuumed the rooms (husband usually is in charge of the vacuum but he was in the garage creating a space for the freezer, due to arrive on Monday, as well as finding a place for the industrial vacuum he keeps down there, a throw out from his working days but which is ideal for cleaning the interior of the car.)  I dusted and tidied all the rooms on the ground floor and we didn’t go hungry, either (who can cook and clean?  Not me!) as I had a pork casserole in the freezer so I heated that and we had it with new potatoes.

I have to admit the house wasn’t exactly untidy or very dirty,  it just needed a general clean, and that included our bedroom.  Of course, I’ve made a rod for my own back (what did I say about possessions?) in many respects as I tend to gather ‘things’, and in the bedroom, that means perfumes.  All have to be removed so that I can wipe the surface of my small dressing chest with a tightly-wrung-out damp cloth (I use washable Spontex, not disposable cloths which go into landfill).

Sadly, there are no flowers in the bedroom at the moment.  This is because many of the supermarkets are currently packing bunches of roses in mixed colours. While these can look pretty in the kitchen – little grandson brought us a bunch yesterday …

they would look garish in our bedroom, where only pastel pink roses or carnations look right.

Indeed, the day has been enjoyable and at the end of my exertions we have a clean and tidy house.  OK, some drawers need attention but none is filled with crumbs or dead batteries.  I have even done the small amount of ironing that needed to be done and put the linen away.  I like seeing a dusty surface  made shiny again, a basin without toothpaste smears, and clean towels ready to use.  Maybe I’m just not your average Brit, according to Rees and Lloyd!

Until next time.



About Margaret Powling

Margaret Powling
Margaret’s main interests are her husband and family, her friends, her home, her garden, writing, literature, architecture, décor, social history, photography, historic houses and gardens, and towns, villages and the countryside. She writes about the things she enjoys: flowers, scent, fine soap, monthly style magazines, and other such small indulgences, such as afternoon tea or simply enjoying her summerhouse with a book. She invites you to enjoy this virtual visit to South Devon, England.

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  1. simpleliving31.blogspot.co.uk

    I totally agree there is pleasure in making our homes look attractive, and your home is certainly that. Gorgeous.
    What a stupid word shabbism.
    I bought that Hygge book everyone was raving about last year and thought what a load of old twaddle and their is another book now what people seem to be snapping up, the Little Book of Lykke. I saw Mary has a new book out.

    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, I thought “shabbism” as a stupid word, too. I fell for the Hygge book, I’m afraid. I hold up my hands, I thought it would be a sort of comfort reading for winter, but as you say, a load of old twaddle!
      I’ll bet Mary hasn’t cleaned with vinegar and bicarb in years, surely she’ll have a housekeeper for such tasks! Again, jumping on the bandwagon of the current zeitgeist for everthing homely. I say, stick to Victoria sponges, Mary, ha ha!

  2. Eloise. (thisissixty.blog)

    Heavens, it infuriates me so much when celebrities pontificate about things outside their normal remit simply to make money.
    I like my home to be clean and tidy but I’m not obsessive about it. If I had a day full of housework plans and a friend rang and suggested a day out the latter would usually win. However, I will admit to hoping for no calls tomorrow morning. If I don’t do some ironing I will be going out in a bin bag!

    • Margaret Powling

      Oh, yes a day out would certainly win over housework, I totally agree with that. But I don’t actually dislike housekeeping, I find it quite satisfying creating tidy and clean home. Ironing is one thing which I’m not particularly keen on, so I’m really trying to keep it down by ironing loads that come in from the line or from the tumble dryer as they happen and now allowing them to pile up.

  3. Absolutely love this post, and I so agree with you. It’s the difference between living in Hyacinth’s house or Daisy’s. I would prefer your beautiful home to a mess any day! Someday I hope to have my home be as pristine and attractive as yours, but circumstances don’t allow it at present (hospital bed in the living room, furniture squished all together, etc.), but I still go through the motions (not as much as I should!). :O) Thanks so much for this post. And you’ve done a lovely job with your floral arrangements! B

    • Margaret Powling

      I’m so glad you enjoyed my latest post, Bess. Looking after someone at home who is very ill can’t be easy for you, and the patient must come first, but also you need to look after yourself as much as possible, too, Bess. You are obviously going through a really difficult time and I am sure you are doing the best you can in all directions. You can’t possibly do as much in the home as you would like when you have someone to look after, it just isn’t possible. I do hope you are getting support as a carer, as carers need support as much as patients. Sending you all my good wishes and positive thoughts.

  4. Yes, I too prefer a happy medium with housework. A friend popped in yesterday, looked around & asked if I’d been spring cleaning. No, it was just the usual whip around & declutter routine. But I was flattered. It is just too easy to be too sloppy. And depressing. A home just feels better when a bit of dusting, wiping, vacuming and tidying has been done. I love the way that you arrange things and look after your indoor flowers.

    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, I think you should be flattered, Ratnamurti, by your friend’s remark, as it demonstrated how clean and fresh your home is. With indoor flowers, I think the secret is to change their water regularly. Not just topping up with water, but removing the flowers, rinsing out the vase and filling with fresh cold, but not icy, water. Yes, our homes benefit by a little TLC, just as we do!

  5. It amazes me today with how some people can live. Although I had a proper job for many years, my passion has always been homemaking. I enjoy cleaning my home so that I can then sit-down and enjoy the fruits of my labor. My OCD doesn’t allow me to rest until everything is in its place. Your home is beautiful. And, I feel it’s so we’ll managed. You’re an inspiration to many of us. My only problem is that I run out of energy sometimes! My best to you, Pat

    • Margaret Powling

      Hello, Pat. Yes, I worked, too. Not full time after the children, but I always worked and also helped my own mother once she was widowed (as she didn’t drive, so I would take her on all her errands, whether to the supermarket or the doctor) and I always strived to have our home looking nice, even when we had two small sons. I didn’t stop them from making a mess at the kitchen table, or having all their toys out in the sitting room, but what I did was explain how they must tidy most of their things away (unless it was something specially constructed that they’d spend hours on) and I got them to help, so they would learn how to tidy up.
      I’m sorry to hear you have OCD but perhaps we all have a little of this desire for order. I like the pans lined up in a descending (or ascending, whichever way you look at it!) order of size, and if Chris dusts for me and puts things back differently, I can’t rest until I’ve put them as I think they should go! Yes, I run out of energy, too, Pat, but then in my seventies, I expect not to be able to clean the whole house in one day any more as I used to when I was in my twenties or thirties, or even a decade or so ago. I try and get the important things done, the kitchen and the bathrooms and it is mainly husband who vacuums for me. Mind you, I’ve not yet tackled the bookshelves in the study!

      • Eloise. (thisissixty.blog)

        Hahaha! Just read to my husband the part about having to put things back in the right place after he hasn’t done so. Sometimes I move something just an inch or so, or turn it a few degrees. He cannot understand this at all.

        • Margaret Powling

          How alike we are in this respect, Eloise. I like things a certain way and even if they’ve been like that for years, it demonstrates when he puts things back that he’s never even noticed how they should go (for me, I mean!) I just get up and put them ‘right’, ha ha!

  6. I totally agree with you Margaret about enjoying a clean and tidy home. I’m not obsessive, a nice sunny day out would definitely take priority, but I certainly couldn’t live in a home which was grubby and chaotic. Your home always looks beautiful, warm and welcoming, and I love the way you arrange the flowers. I always used to put a bouquet in one vase but have now started to split them up into smaller arrangements which is more attractive and means there are flowers in more than one room. Some while ago we invested in a rechargeable vacuum cleaner which I find very useful for picking up bits in between major cleaning days, especially as we have a cat who leaves fur wherever she sits despite frequent brushing! Time to get up now and get started on my own housekeeping! X

    • Margaret Powling

      Hello, Dot, and good morning to you down there in Cornwall. It’s a lovely morning here (I’m writing this at 9 am on Thursday morning) and I hope it is with you, too.
      Yes, I would certainly cast aside all housework for a day out, I’m not obsessive (well, I don’t think I am!) but yesterday we set aside for being at home and it gave me an opportunity for cleaning. I don’t have a cleaning rota, which would be sensible, as I don’t like regimentation. This is why I don’t do a menu for the week and cook for that.
      I think we sometimes think that a large bouquet, as they are usually so well arranged these days, should just go into a vase as they are, but sometimes you can’t see all the flowers that way, they are very tightly bunched. And so I separate them up and put them in an assortment of vases. Sometimes their colours will dictate the containers or where I put them, and as I say, sometimes they really do need cutting down so you see the beauty of the bloom and now a tall stalk.
      We bought a very cheap re-chargeable vacuum but it wasn’t worth the money, after the first few goes it was useless, but there are some on the market which are excellent (much more powerful) and perhaps we will invest in one of those, although recently the EU ruling has decreed that no more really powerful ones will be made or imported. This is silly as you will still need the same amount power to remove the dirt, whether in two minutes by a powerful one, or ten minutes by a less-powerful one!

  7. Oh dear, that article sounds like a real case of jumping on the latest fad Margaret, I could not live in a dirty house for all the tea in china and take pride in keeping my house tidy and clean. That said I don’t really follow the MK way of living either, I have many treasured possessions (mostly inherited) that I wouldn’t dream of de-cluttering and find some of these minimalist homes a tad cold and clinical but that is just my opinion. At a push I would describe my style as country but that’s purely because it suits my home.
    A visitor to our cottage once remarked on how tidy it was and then said ” well you don’t have children do you” which was a tad crass to be honest as that option was taken from me, I just smiled sweetly, said thank you and joked that I do have dogs which take some looking after.
    Your home is beautiful Margaret, love those perfume bottles.

    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, I agree, Elaine – perhaps being messy is the next big thing or, as I prefer to think of it, an excuse for laziness. I love country style, natural fabrics, natural objects – birds feathers, seedheads, wooden boxes, baskets, linen and cotton fabrics, pebbles from a beach – but I think our home is more country house, although not grand by any means, just a very ordinary 1980s house.
      Some people can be so crass, Elaine. I sometimes wonder if they mean to hurt? I know someone who can say the most hurtful things but with a smile on her face.
      You would like my collection of old perfume bottles, Elaine – I don’t have them on show at the moment and they are but nothing to the collections of perfume bottles I’ve had over the years and then disposed because of lack of space to arrange them. But I do have one or two pretty ones in the upstairs bathroom. I almost bought a lovely Art Deco perfume bottle in the Quay Antiques Centre on Tuesday!

  8. I sat down to read your entry just after I’d finishing dusting and vacuuming, I also gave the kitchen worktops a good clean down and I’ve got two lots of washing on the line. So glad I did all that or I would have felt shamed into doing something! I do like things to be reasonably clean and tidy, it bothers me otherwise. My hallway bothers me a lot because it really needs decorating and a new carpet but until our cat is gone (she’s 19) it would be a waste of time and money. The previous cat wrecked one side of the stair carpet and the current one (they overlapped) has worn a little trail up the left hand side where she hobbles up to her bed on the landing.

    Your home looks lovely and you have a real talent for colours.

    • Margaret Powling

      Oh, I’d hate to make anyone feel shamed into doing something, Alison! It’s just that I quite enjoy a good cleaning up day, because at the end of the day you can see a noticeable improvement. Oh, your poor elderly cat. The only thing you could do is take up the carpet and paint the floorboards. But perhaps best to wait until your dear cat is no longer with you. But rather to have pets and a worn carpet than not to have pets, I think. We used to have cats, but not for the last ten years. I miss not having them, but I certainly don’t miss the calcified cat food on the kitchen floor, as they always used to make a mess regardless of how much paper I put under their bowls. And the grey one, Oliver, was very dim-witted. He didn’t know how to use the cat flap regardless of how we (and our other cat!) tried to show him, so it had to be kept propped open 24/7 winter and summer, and in winter it let in a howling draught!

      • We’ve tried putting a bed downstairs for the cat but she won’t use it, preferring to hobble up the stairs. Still she gets me up at least five times every night so I dont feel that sorry for her….

        • Margaret Powling

          Your cat rules our roost, Alison, bless her! Getting up five times a night to her, though, that is devotion to your beloved pet. But I’ll bet you don’t call her “beloved” at 3 am!

  9. Dear Margaret,
    I am so glad to have found your blog. Many of your thoughts and values echoe my own, which I find both comforting and inspiring, even though we are at different stages in our lives. I stopped full time teaching when I had my children and am grateful that I was able to do so and provide a (mostly) calm and nurturing home for my hard working husband and children – now 18 and 16. I would not have wanted it any other way as I think a clean and tidy home is good for our overall well being. When things get messy and out of hand I feel out of balance. Life is difficult at times, for all of us and I try to make our home is a comforting haven. I also love visiting well cared for homes (as I feel I do yours through your blog) I hate clutter, but I do love to see cherished possessions that reflect their owner’s tastes and personalities thoughtfully arranged. Much more than clinical emptiness or items purchased just to make an effect.
    However, there is one area where we differ. If you were to pop round right now you would find a clean and welcoming home. As I have a day off work I have walked the dog, hoovered, cleaned the outside downstairs windows and started to make a quiche for tea. But, I am sat at the computer still in my old, tatty dog walking clothes, no make up and no jewellery except for my wedding ring. My hair is clean and tied back, but I’m not really sure how it looks because I haven’t checked since 7am! When I am working I look presentable but when I am at home I make absolutely no effort and I’m struggling to find the motivation, time and money to do bother. I sometimes feel sorry for my husband coming home to such a scruff bag! It is beginning to bother me. When I was younger I would just have thought I looked natural, but now I am older (47) I am realising that I just look plain, frumpy and middle aged. I need to make an effort.
    From reading your blog I can see that you always bother and this really impresses me because if I know I am going to be at home all day cleaning and pottering I just wear tatty, saggy, unflattering clothes that are easy to kneel down in (for cleaning or a spot of yoga) and that really don’t matter.
    I would be so grateful if you could share your motivation. I am not lazy in other areas of my life. Indeed I thrive on being productive! But this is definitely an aspect I need to improve. When life is troublesome and worrying I make even less effort as my appearance then seems of even less important than normal.I am always making excuses to myself but, as life rarely runs smoothly this is frequently the case.
    Thank you for all you share and for the way you show appreciation of the little things in life. It really is a gift and one that I am trying to show my children as I feel there lies the route to true contentedness.
    Sorry for such a long comment and congratulations on your anniversary,

    • Margaret Powling

      Hello, Joanna, and thank you so much for your long and interesting comment. Never apologise for a long comment, I find all comments interesting to read and you have raised some important points here, to do with motivation regarding one’s own appearance as much as the home’s appearance.
      As you rightly point out, we are at different stages in our lives, you with teenage children and myself a retired person, but we share a love of family and home, making it our refuge (which is what all homes should be, the place where we are the happiest. Not everyone feels this way; I once had a friend – sadly no longer with us – who was only happy when going on holiday and, in a way, I found this sad. Yes, it’s nice to have a holiday but as the old saying goes, East, West, Home’s Best. Well, it is for me.)
      Regarding my motivation re my appearance, I would say this, and of course, this applies to me and perhaps not to others: when I look a mess, I feel a mess. Simple as that. Also, you can bet your bottom dollar if I am looking a mess, baggy jeans, tatty T-shirt, toenails with chipped polish in tatty sandals, hair in need of a visit to the hairdresser, someone is sure to call! And so my motivation is to think that Someone Might Call! Some would say people should “take me as they find me” but I don’t want to be found looking a scruff, but that’s just me.
      And so each morning I shower, wash my hair (it’s short and if I didn’t it would just stand on end) and blow dry it, clean my teeth thoroughly, and then apply makeup (and after showering I always use body lotion and foot cream.) All this takes around 20 minutes (25 minutes at most). I am sure we can all find 20 minutes for ourselves once a day if we try.
      Regarding clothes, I don’t have expensive, fancy, dressy clothes. I buy mainly neutral colours, navy, black, grey, white and jolly things up with scarves or some costume jewellery. I wear the same clothes for going shopping as I do around the house, only the ones for shopping are just a little newer – i.e. indigo cotton (not denim) jeans from Per Una (M&S) and a navy long-sleeved scoop neck T-shirt; I also have this outfit in black (indeed, I have several lots of these outfits so although it might look like I have only one pair of jeans and one T-shirt, I just buy several of them as I like them and am comfortable in them.)
      If I’m going to do messy household tasks which might cause my clothes to become splashed with cleaning fluid, I wear an old pair of leggings and as soon as I’ve done the messy job, I change into jeans again. I find that if I’ve showered and done my hair and make up and put on clean clothes, even if they’re not the smartest, then I am presentable. In winter I sometimes wear one of my old Crew Clothing dresses with navy opaque tights.
      Another motivator is that at my age, with grey hair and being only five foot two inches tall, one tends to become invisible! A few years ago I was in a shop waiting to be served when a much younger, taller woman behind me was beginning to be served first. I spoke up and said, politely, that it was my turn to be served whereupon the shop assistant said, “Oh, I didn’t see you there!” I felt dreadful and then I thought, yes, when I was young all old people looked the same or, worse, I didn’t pay them much attention.
      Therefore, I have my hair well-cut and highlighted. This costs quite a lot several times a year. I could allow my hair to be its natural dustbin grey, but I think “what the hell, I don’t want to end up looking like a sheep!” (which is what my late mother and I called those little grey-haired old ladies with woolly perms!) and I wear make up and lipstick and do my nails (even though they are not the best nails in the world, but that’s thanks to chemo which saved my life, so I’m not complaining.)
      I think we owe it to ourselves to try and make the best of our appearance. It’s nothing to do with showing off, or even being a country or a town person. Indeed, as I say, when I look a mess, I feel a mess. That motivates me into trying my best to look presentable.
      I do hope this has helped. We’re all different, everyone must do whatever suits them, trying to look smart is how I like to be. It wouldn’t suit everyone, I do appreciate that.

      • Thanks Margaret for your encouraging reply and for sharing your motivational tips.You are right we do all owe it to ourselves to look our best. Perhaps I need to try and view myself in the same way I view my home!
        Best wishes Joanna

        • Margaret Powling

          I hope my motivational tips have helped you, Joanna. I’m by no means a fashion plate, believe me, I just don’t want to look a total wreck even if ‘just’ at home for the day. I know we all have our bad days, when we just don’t want to bother, but if I don’t bother, I know I end up feeling worse. And, I confess, without some makeup I actually look ill. Furthermore, when women get to a certain age (you are far from this, I might add!) they can, if they’re not careful, begin to look a little masculine. Of course, I don’t mean they need to plaster on makeup like a clown, that would be silly, because then couldend up looking like a drag act, but a touch of make-up, some mascara, brow makeup (to cover those wiry grey hairs), some blusher and lipstick, a good haircut … well, just little touches do help, and help us with our self esteem, too.

      • this is an inspiring reply, Margaret. 20 – 25 minutes to clean oneself up and look presentable. I’ve never timed it, but now I shall deliberately put aside those minutes each morning, rather than a quick shower and quickly dress. Sometimes I get stick in the garden (not often), or do a big cleaning thing, or work on a project, as soon as I get up…. and of course, looking nice gets forgotten. And then I do start doing this more and more, and looking presentable goes out the window. New commitment: 1st thing, tidy oneself up!

        • Margaret Powling

          Thank you, Ratnamurti, for your lovely comments. As I’ve said to Joanna, my morning regime works for me, it doesn’t necessarily work for everyone, but I know that if I look a mess, I feel a mess. There are days when I don’t feel well and then I simply shower and put on something comfortable (which doesn’t mean to say that my indigo jeans and long-sleeved T isn’t comfortable, it is, but I mean a little bit looser) but usually I stick to my getting-up routine. Of course, being retired, this is easier for me. I don’t have to rush in a morning (well, rushing first thing makes me feel a little unwell, so I avoid rushing early on, unless we have an appointment we cannot avoid) but even when I went out to work and had the children to sort out for school, too, I always showered and made myself presentable. I would add that I do wear an apron in the kitchen and one for housekeeping, this can be quickly removed if Someone Calls, and also it saves clothes from unsightly splashes.

          • Thank you Margaret and Ratnamurti
            I just had to laugh at myself after reading your last comment Margaret, because I do always wear an apron. Whether I am preparing a meal in my smarter work clothes or my very scruffy clothes. It is a habit and feels as natural as washing hands before food preparation. However, I realise that my apron is actually smarter than the clothes it is protecting half the time!! How’s that for distorted logic?
            I bet you could write a great blog post on this Margaret. Thinking back to my grandmothers in their 80s and 90s they always kept up appearances, perhaps it is my generation. I think we are one extreme or the other. I frequently come across mothers who are manicured, coiffured and very well presented but seem to have no time to hear their children read (I know I am being very judgmental here, and there may be other reasons – but that is how it appears) and then the other extreme.
            I think you have hit the happy medium.
            Best wishes,

          • Margaret Powling

            oh, that’s so funny, Joanna, that your apron is better than the clothes it is protecting! Ditto here! I bought two new aprons in recent weeks (which I posted about, soon after I bought a new ironing board cover from the same company) and they are really smart and sometimes underneath are my old – but clean – faded indigo jeans!
            Yes, keeping a happy medium is the ideal, I think. I remember when I was young a friend had a very elegant mother, always in the very latest fashion, blond hair always ‘set’, often wearing a large ‘picture’ hat (these were popular in the 1950s) and high heels, makeup, jewellery, but seemed not like what a ‘mother’ should look like to me! We can’t help but be judgmental, it’s human nature I think, as what else, on first encounters, do we have to go on but someone’s appearance? Even before they open their mouths to speak, or smile, we look at them and sum them up, sometimes quite incorrectly, but it’s what we tend to do. Perhaps it’s inherent in us, our ancient brains having to do this in the past to sum up friend or foe.

  10. I was giggling as I read your description of the cluttered house but then screwed up my face about the crumbs everywhere and sticky door handles. Ick ! I mean, I know some tasks are inherently messy – such as repotting plants where you end up with soil everywhere or sorting through your out-of-season clothes when you empty out the closet in the spare room or a suitcase to work out what to keep and what to give away – but don’t you also clean up afterwards ?? And the thought of old newspapers shoved in every corner of the lounge room rather than recycled !?! I agree with your sentiment that attitudes to the home /housework come and go. I haven’t read the Marie Kondo book either, but have read so many opinions ABOUT it that I feel as if I have read it. 😉 Each to their own, I suppose, but if it gets to the point that your crumbs are attracting cockroaches (which I know you don’t have in the UK but proliferate here in Australia) and the door handles are sticky I think it’s a sign that you need to get handy with the cleaning products and some elbow grease !!

    I am as guilty as the next person of grumbling to myself when doing any of the chores I don’t particularly love but then I love the look and feel of when it’s all done. Climbing into bed with clean, fresh sheets in the evening when you’ve stripped, washed and aired everything earlier in the day is my idea of heaven 🙂

    I wonder if the book will be a bestseller ……..

    • Margaret Powling

      Hello, Lara, and thank you for your comments … like you I feel I’ve read the Marie Kondo book because I’ve read so much about it! But we do have cockroaches in this country only perhaps not as many. Thankfully, we’ve never had an infestation and I don’t know who has, but I remember seeing them when my parents bought their newsagent’s shop in 1951 – it was very old, run-down property and not clean as the owner had had 17 cats. Cats are lovely, but 17 of them in a small property isn’t ideal! Indeed, far from ideal! But you are right, the benefit of chores is having a clean home and such small luxuries as climbing into a bed with clean, fresh sheets. I have no idea whether this book about ‘shabbism’ will strike a chord as easily as last years books on hygge … somehow I doubt it. But there again, a book on the short list for this year’s Man Booker Award was one that I bought, read the first page and disliked it so much I sent it packing to the charity shop. I could be wrong and ‘shabbism’ might suddenly be all the rage!

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