My first husband and I both worked full-time when we moved into our first house. Since he was a chef, we also ran a small catering business from home and I sold Tupperware on the side. We were busy. Apart from the kitchen – not wanting to poison our clients – housework wasn’t a priority. I tackled the dust when I happened to notice it.
I’m not observant.
I gave up the day-job when I had my first child (staying on wasn’t really an option back in the 1970s. Maternity leave didn’t exist, and a one-off maternity allowance had only just been introduced).
Even once you’re used to having them around, babies and toddlers (plus three Jack Russell Terriers and two fish tanks) tend to draw attention away from the housework.
Eventually the children were all at school or playschool. I found myself able to walk the dogs at a sensible hour (not at 6am) clean the fish tanks without someone playing in (or drinking) my water-change, go shopping unencumbered by children, and still have time to think.
At this point I was still tackling the housework only when I noticed it – old habits die hard. The advantage of my cleaning regime is that when it has been done, I notice the difference. In spite of appearances to the contrary, I like the difference. The trouble is, in such a short while, it needs doing all over again!
We lived in a big old Edwardian house. (For ‘Edwardian’, read ‘dust trap with coving and carvings and lots of corners’.) I reasoned that if I were more systematic the place could be clean all the time. On Mondays I could vacuum upstairs, on Tuesdays downstairs, on Wednesdays wield the duster, Thursday clean both bathrooms, and Friday blitz the kitchen.
That was when I realised it was time for me to get a job.
So there I was again, walking the dogs at silly-o-clock. . . But once I was earning enough, I planned to get a cleaner in weekly, to dust and vacuum.
Does anyone ever earn ‘enough’? But I did actually sign up with a cleaning agency for a while. I don’t recall how long we kept this up. On Wednesday mornings I would be rushing around clearing toys from the floors and stairs, yelling at the kids to pick up their clothes. . . (The children’s bedrooms weren’t part of the deal. I wasn’t earning that much.) In the end the preparation for cleaning day was more stressful than (not) doing it myself.
My next brainwave was to allocate ‘pocket money’ jobs that rotated each week for the children to ‘earn’ their pocket money. These included vacuuming, dusting, clearing dog muck from the back garden (with a long-arm super-scooper), watering the plants… you get the idea. Some jobs were more popular than others. Each might get done properly every fourth week when the most conscientious of the children came around to it on the rota.
Memories fade over the years. When I planned my retirement (by now in much smaller premises) I harboured similar delusions about a housework routine, but somehow they have come to naught.
The dust thickens and I attack it only when I can’t avoid noticing it. (Hubby number two tells me to take my specs off – bless him.) Cleaning is always an interruption to other things I want to be doing. In fact the only time I take myself off with a view to tackling some housework task is when I’m avoiding something else (such as editing my ‘pratice’ novel).