By nature, I am a tidy, clean person whose delicate sensibilities are assaulted by dirt, clutter or mess.
I, like William Morris, the famous designer of gaudy wallpaper much loved by the colour-blind and terminally smug, believe that nothing should be in one’s house which is neither useful nor beautiful. Sadly, by transposing this mantra to the contents of my house, not much would be left. The kids would scrape through on the latter clause, perhaps, but I’m not sure I’d meet either of the criteria.
No one else in my house is either clean or tidy. They are slatternly, filthy and strew their detritus over impossibly large surface areas. I know it’s fashionable to say that children should get dirty/lick germs off the floor/surf on landfill sites etc, but in fairness, the people who say this kind of trite nonsense aren’t standing by the washing machine offering to do my laundry. I’m all for a bit of dirt. Just not a huge amount of dirt. Especially if it’s trodden into my bed and discovered at 2am when I’m half-cut and unable to remember my own name, let alone how to operate a vacuum cleaner.
All my lofty ideas about dressing my children in natural fibres so their innocent skin could breathe without being hampered by a layer of chemicals went out of the window when I realised that they were both far too toxic to wear anything hewn from hessian or hemp. Five minutes in linen and my children will look as if they’ve just crawled out of a skip, even if you’ve kept them in a hermetically-sealed, empty Perspex box since the moment they got changed.
But still I persevere. And so, it comes to pass that it is time to ‘deep cleanse’ the house, a job that should by rights involve the chemical incident unit from the local fire station, a battalion of obsessive compulsive cleaners and an exorcist, but which in reality involves me with a rag and some Mr Muscle.
In the true spirit of one who procrastinates about procrastinating, I have devised a handy 10 point list to help all of you out there who are contemplating a spring clean in the near future. By reading it, you are wasting precious scrubbing time. Read it twice. Read it until it’s summer and therefore illegal to spring clean in all civilised parts of the world.
1) The custom of an annual spring clean began more than 3,500 years ago when an ancient Jewish tradition involved thoroughly cleansing the home in anticipation of the spring-time holiday of Passover. The idea was to remove any leavened foodstuffs (generally breadcrumbs) from the house – ‘bedikat chametz’ involved searching for crumbs by candlelight. In the olden days, this passed as entertainment.
2) In Britain, the practice was adopted in springtime because, after dusting, the high winds of March would blow away any debris. Or blow it around the house, one or the other.
3) You know that you are mentally prepared for the mammoth task of cleaning your house from top to bottom when you can answer ‘yes’ to the following question: “Can I cope with whatever horrors might be lurking behind the fridge?” Only the hardcore make it past this particular deal-breaker, fewer still cope with pulling the oven out to have a look at what’s underneath (I believe I may have struck oil behind mine. Other options are too distressing to contemplate).
4) Typing ‘spring cleaning’ into Google throws up around 277,000 entries – proof, if ever it were needed, that people will do absolutely anything to avoid getting out the dusters and the window cleaner, including building their own spring cleaning tips websites.
5) Using ‘fun’ spring cleaning products, like leopardskin-patterned dustpan and brush sets or a hilarious pair of rubber gloves with fake ermine cuffs, will not make the actual task any less miserable, sadly. It will just make it a miserable task you are completing while looking like a total twat.
6) You don’t have to use industrial amounts of chemicals to clean your house – you can use vinegar for most jobs, instead. Then, in addition to being clean, your house will smell like a pickling factory, a fish and chip shop or a particularly rancid tramp.
7) Always clean from top to bottom. If you live in a bungalow or a flat, consider yourself completely exempt from spring cleaning due to circumstances completely out of your control.
8) Snow White famously spring-cleaned the dwarves’ cottage with the help of her forest friends. Your family pets are highly unlikely to offer anything but a hindrance and are very possibly the reason you need to spring clean in the first place.
9) If you simply can’t motivate yourself to spring clean, make a point of seeing the positive side of living in impenetrable filth. Those cobwebs are a ready-made Halloween decoration, and if you spray them with a little glitter they’ll look a treat at Christmas.
10) Ardent spring cleaners won’t just stop when the house is sparkling. With the merest encouragement they will also start zealously spring cleaning their finances, their relationship and their entire lives. These people must be avoided at all costs unless you are amongst their number or enjoy feeling deeply insecure, worthless and desperate.
Thus far, I have cleaned out one drawer, and I am utterly exhausted. Next stop: dusting the Tequila bottle.