Thee beech trees, Crickley Hill, Jan 08

[Image taken by me at Crickley Hill, January 2008 – three beech trees.]

My house – the downstairs part anyway – is currently eerily clean. Is is very very bare and very very tidy. Earlier on, Ariel had only one of the two living room lights switched on, and music playing, and it looked just like a room waiting for the people to arrive for a party: where are the guests, can they all be late?

The point of this post is that – while despite the spookiness of it I am quite gratified by having for once a really tidy house (well one really tidy room anyway) – the whole process of tidying up and sorting out took ages. It’s been a work in progress since before Christmas and it took hours today to finish – hoover the floor, get all the toys out, sort through them to discard broken ones and freecycle outgrown ones and reorganise the toy corner so all the newly-acquired Christmas/birthday toys will have somewhere to go, move the furniture around, and generally clear off the magical-automatically- self-cluttering table that is only ever clear for a maximum of 12 hours after I last cleared it (8 hours and counting – if we count the night time when I’m not even in the room we are in for a record)… Anyway. Hours.

That’s what cleaning does. It takes hours. How much time do women (and yes it is primarily if not exclusively women who do this job) in other houses spend getting their homes tidy and keeping them that way? My house is among the messiest around, I’m sure, which leaves me wondering – how do these other women find time to keep their houses orderly and clean? Does that time have to be stolen from other, more worthwhile activities? You bet it does. I wouldn’t have a blog if I had a consistently tidy house and while that might not sadden many people, it would sadden me.

And the other point is that once my house was clean I turned into an ogre. One of those really strict mothers who won’t let their children do anything. No we can’t do playdough, I’ve only just cleaned the table! No you can’t get that dinosaur toy out you haven’t put the jigsaws away! No you can’t have two toys out at once! I’ve just tidied up! No you can’t put that on the piano, it goes on the table!

So I walked a mile in the shoes of a woman with a clean house, and I experienced a freakish horror of mess, and it was all induced by cleaning. If my house was not especially clean and tidy, and I hadn’t just worn myself out cleaning and tidying it, I would not have cared about the playdough, or the dinosaur toy, or where on earth the thing that should have been on the table actually ended up. But it was, and I had, so I did – and I didn’t like it much.

The moral of this story? Too much cleaning is bad for you. It wastes your valuable time, and it turns you into a twitchy, stressed-out cleanoholic.