Judging by the Mess

very messy kitchen with ironing and washing up on every surface
a sort of a book review

Once upon a time I did a stupid thing. On impulse I bought a book called “The Home handbook-Quick and Easy Ways to Keep You Home Tidy, Clean and Beautiful” (by Rachel Simhon). I’m not upset about spending the money, it only cost the equivalent of half a kilo of steak or a large chocolate cake at the supermarket.

No, it’s because I randomly flicked the book open when I got home and my eye fell upon the section titled Children’s Bedrooms.

Suspended breath, I tentatively read. AH NO. Why oh WHY did I buy this book?! ‘Children’s rooms should (THAT WORD) routinely be cleaned along with the rest of the house (haha) – tidied daily, when the beds are made, and cleaned once a week (bigger HAHA). The housework can be incorporated into play even with very young toddlers…’ I haven’t read any further in that paragraph, I’m feeling waaaay too inadequate, little tears are pricking the corners of my eyes.

And it gets worse, I took another peek at the end of the chapter and guess what? Teddies should be laundered weekly too! I think we have enough teddies between my three girls – and myself (I have a few including an adorable soft pink bunny on our bed, which is not very manly but my DH is an understanding sort), as I was saying, enough to stuff a king sized mattress.

So if I laundered them all every week, plus all the sheets, duvet covers and towels and also the clothing plus occasionally the contents of the dressing up box I would definitely need to employ a full time laundress and buy another extra large family sized washing machine. Plus some more tumble dryers as we live in Ireland.

The problem is, I like to read…

You know, maybe it wasn’t completely an impulse buy. The truth is I’m a nerd and I like to read up about stuff. When I was pregnant I read a lot of books about how to be pregnant – successfully. Then I read even more books on how to give birth, which is mad really seeing that’s only one day’s worth of useful knowledge.

Besides, you can read all you like, your body seems to know how to do it anyway and if not the doctors will cleverly help it. Then I also read up about breastfeeding, raising babies, being a wife, raising kids, tweens, teens you name it! Anything and everything I want to know more about I read as much as I can.

Now housework may sound like a trivial issue but actually I spend quite a bit of my time looking after our household (we have four children, two dogs, two bunnies and two goldfish as well as two giraffes, two porcupines, oh wait sorry, that’s Noah – I read about him in another book). It’s my primary job so would that not require a certain amount of research and education? If most of my time is occupied by cleaning and tidying and making my home beautiful I’d really and truthfully like to know I’m doing a good job. Maybe that’s my type-A personality kicking in, I’m wanting to be a nerd housewife.

The problem is I never went to the university that teaches one how to do the job that potentially could take the most time in my day – that is if I was willing to give it that time. I never learnt how to be a good housewife! – The curse of the modern educated woman.

I know I didn’t pay much attention growing up about how often toilets should be cleaned. And in fact I grew up in South Africa so my Mum could employ a full time lady to clean our house when I was in high school and I can’t confess to being an eager teenager, willing to learn house keeping tips.

I really hate housework some days, it is so dreadfully boring and repetitive and thankless. Remarkably it’s taken me most of my life to realise something fairly fundamental. Cleaning is just not in my genes! Ask my Mum, she’ll confirm I’m sixth cousin or something to Catherine Middleton (Duchess of Cambridge) so, all I’m saying is, that could have been me you know. I absolutely know I would be an excellent manager of staff.

Shut up all those people who say housework can wait. It can’t really.

Some days I look at the chaos and ask myself, what do I hate more the mess or clearing the mess? Well I know the answer is usually the mess. The thing is, I can’t do anything until the certain level of the mess is sorted. I am paralysed by the mess!! I need the mess cleared and the fundamental jobs to be done before I can go out and do anything else remotely creative or helpful to anybody else.

There’s no denying that sometimes the cleaning just HAS to be done. Shut up all those people who say housework can wait. It doesn’t, it’s like dough that I forget about in my warm car, it gets bigger and overflows and then takes on a life of it’s own – ignoring it just causes further chaos. If you don’t keep up it smells really bad and nobody would visit. And you’d become lonely. Your children would be miserable as they can never find anything, which mysteriously always seems to be your fault.

So there’s the main reason why I bought the book, I acknowledge that I’m rubbish at this job and I NEED HELP. However, the ‘quick and easy bit’ on the cover beguiled me. I get the feeling I’m going to read the book and be left feeling more and more inadequate as I go along. I need to be brave and to be resolved,  I need encouragement to be happy doing the stuff that sucks my joy. Because although I know there is no such thing as quick and easy in any job, I do love it when everything is orderly, it has such a rightness about it that I am nicer to everyone. Funny that, when my house is tidy I’m kinder!!

Job satisfaction sensation overload supreme on those rare days when the beds are stripped and remade without any injury to myself (high bunks and tight mattresses pose a serious threat to the bank of your hands as well as your head on the ceiling). And when I make my bed then really do lie in it, straight away, at 10am, from bed-making exhaustion, I can relish that lovely fresh laundered smell thinking how lovely to take a little nap on the job. Can’t say many bosses would allow you that.

I appeal to you, my friends and other mothers who are sometimes stuck in a messy rut to send me little jabs of motivation. Remind me that the mundane jobs are important too. This is really not rocket science – we can do this – armed with our actually very inspiring hand books by Rachel Simhon, our rubber gloves, mops and buckets, let us conquer!

In about ten years time when I have perfected my home (or when all my children have moved out) you could come and visit and judge for yourself.

I have written a lot more about my mummy/housewife feelings here as well as here!

teenager's messy room

REAL teenage mess

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12 thoughts on “Judging by the Mess”

  1. I love buying the self help books too, whilst I would love a minimalist home, it isn’t going to happen here. If it’s not my two teens, it’s my husband with his decades old football programme collection or my yarn stash!
    Great tip on the dough! #TheMMLinky

  2. Oh gosh, I’m terrible for buying all the self-help and ‘how to’ books! I managed to stop short of Marie Kondo though, when I realised that there’s no way ‘minimalism’ and my home will EVER exist in the same sentence (except for this one!). And… you keep dough in your car? Or did I read that totally wrong?! #TheMMLinky

  3. Ohh I am SO with you on this! The way I’ve managed to convince myself to do housework is to think of it as an act of self care… I hate it when my home is a mess, so by keeping on top of it (HAHAHA yeah that’s not often, though getting better!) I’m doing myself a kindness. 😉

  4. Wow that book would definitely make me feel inadequate! I think I’ll carry on with my book from the book club! #TheMMLinky

  5. Kate on thin ice (@kateonthinice)

    I have so many similar books. I am so easy to market if you tell me “How to” be better at just about anything but self-confidence, housework and parenting most of all. The only way I have found that really works for me is to use old-fashioned remedies like white vinegar, lemon juice and so on and also to watch telly and jump up and do housework in advert breaks – of course this does not work so well when watching the BBC! #TheMMLinky

  6. I am crying with tears of recognition rolling down my face. I just bought “30 days to a clean and organised home” and thankfully this starts in small steps – day 1: sort out the spice cupboard. It does have a daily routine thing too, I am just skipping that chapter and working on the 30 days. I may contemplate the daily routine thing at the end of the month (then again, I probably will get to day 5 and lose interest)!! Thanks for keeping it real. #TheMMLinky

    1. Oh wow, 30 days, that’s truly impressive!! I’m sort of thinking that when my kids leave home I’ll have SO much time that I’d be better off leaving all the housework until then. However, it won’t do if I’m always grumpy for the next ten or so years. I think you are 100% right, routine is the best plan. Maybe I need to be more disciplined!

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