Posted in Personal life

Top Tip on Time Management

In ironing, a fabric is heated through the gla...
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When I gave up my full-time job in January, I had a rosy vision of future domestic bliss.  Dust would be permanently banished from the top of my piano and I’d have a regular acquaintance with the bottom of my ironing basket.  Every meal would be cooked from scratch, using veg home grown by me in between dashing off brilliant freelance articles.

So I was startled the other day to realise that my house is now messier than ever.  Yet with my life no longer dominated by the day job, how could I be too short of time to do housework?

Then I had a revelation.  Just because I no longer work full time doesn’t mean my daytime hours are idle.  I’m busier than ever, with three regular monthly columns to write, my online blog, private PR clients knocking on my door and a new part-time job helping to run a charity.  These all take up a lot of time. And, in ex-politician’s tradition, I’m spending much more time with my family.

In my previous incarnation, “I haven’t had time” was a frequent excuse.    But now I realise that’s not the issue at all.  Rather, my priorities have changed.

So now, if looking to explain why I haven’t done the ironing (or the dusting, or the hovering) my standard response is:  “I’ve been giving priority to other things.”  And boy, has it been fun!

A friend’s late mother lived by a simple maxim: “B***** the ironing”.  That sums it all up, really.  In fact, I’m thinking of having it made into a lapel badge – that is, when I’m not too busy giving priority to other things.

This post was originally published in the July 2010 issue of the Hawkesbury Parish News.

Posted in Personal life

Give Me A Wetwipe and I Will Clean the World

wetwipes of Thailand

I am not renowned for the quality of my housework. Until recently, I could blame my laxity on having a full-time job while also raising a family, but as I gave up the job in February and my family consists of just the one husband and child,that excuse doesn’t pull the same punch these days.

Since drawing the rheumatoid arthritis card a few years ago, I have in any case had to be economic with the scrubbing brush, as my hands can’t take the strain. (Well, it was a welcome excuse, to be honest.)

I’ve been frightened of vacuum cleaners since the age of about 2. One of my earliest memories is hiding from the hoover in horror. (It’s called zuigerphobia, as you ask.) Fortunately the recent trend for laminate flooring and my subsequent elimination of carpet in my house mitigated in the favour of floor hygiene.

But now I’ve discovered the joy of household wetwipes, the dust and germs are starting to lose their battle in my home.

Of course, as a modern mother, I got through a crate or two of baby wipes when my daughter was smaller. How did our parents ever manage without them? When I was a teenager and the environmental debate about disposable nappies was starting up, I cut out a cartoon from the newspaper that showed a lady carrying around her baby in a bucket, saying “On balance it seemed the best solution”. It seemed like a perfectly good idea to me. But baby wipes stopped being a regular feature in my shopping trolley some time ago.

Then when I had to give notice to my cleaning ladies when I left the job that paid their fee, I started to linger a little longer in the cleaning products aisle at the supermarket. There I discovered a fascinating range of wetwipes for the home. Polish-impregnated wipes to do away with grubby yellow dusters and icky polishing cloths, window wipes, kitchen counter wipes, bathroom wipes, shower wipes, and now even flushable toilet wipes. I trialled them in our camper van, where space is at a premium and their compact packaging was a distinct advantage. Within ten minutes, I had the whole interior shiny new.

I’m ignoring my inkling that this could all be a manufacturing scam. Are all of the wipes actually exactly the same, just with a slightly different perfume added to put you off the scent (ho ho) and a different plastic wrapper? I’m not prepared to test drive the flushable toilet wipes on my leather sofas to check this out.

Having just enjoyed cleaning my bathroom with, yes, the bathroom wipes, I plan to get the polishy ones out in a minute for my desktop, once I’ve finished this piece. Then perhaps I’ll head for the Welsh dresser in the kitchen. I’m on a roll here.

Give me the right wetwipe and I could clean up the world. Global warming wetwipe, anyone? Pollution polishing cloth? Anti-terrorist tissues? Go on, Cillit Bang, I’m sure you could do it if you put your minds to it.

Posted in Personal life

How To Get Things Done

On Sunday afternoon, after months of feeble excuses, I decide to tackle what appears to be an enormous task. I undertake to tidy my dressing table. It is inches deep in the detritus of dressing and undressing: discarded jewellery, price labels and hanging tags from new clothes, odd coins and pens and business cards that have been turned out of jacket or trouser pockets. The Victorian honey-coloured pine surface is completely hidden from view.

Tidying my dressing table is not my favourite task, which is why I have ignored it for so long. In the half light of early mornings and the dimmed lamps of late nights, I never really scrutinise it, so the muddle bothers me far less than if it were on the kitchen table. The only reason I am bothering to tackle it now is that otherwise I will have no moral high ground from which to make my daughter clear up her dressing table, now competing with mine in the untidiness stakes.

I grit my teeth, put on my Ipod (that invaluable mental anaesthetic) and wonder how many podcasts it will take before I’ve completed my task. I click on my favourite, The News Quiz , and swiftly fall into the meditative, methodical rhythm of tidying.

I locate lost necklaces, reunite long parted pairs of earrings, and accumulate quite a stash of beribboned clothing tags for my cardboard recycling box. (Can I really have bought so many new clothes lately? Erm, no – it’s just an awfully long time since I last culled the discarded labels.)

I restore to centre stage a favourite antique lace mat and a colourful binca mat that my daughter cross-stitched for me last Mother’s Day under her Grandma’s artistic direction by Grandma. I rearrange the chipped but beautiful mulberry Bavarian glass dishes that once belonged to my own Grandma. With a neatness bordering on OCD, I align the numerous necklaces draped over the corners of the hinged mirror. My dressing table is starting to resemble an exotic shrine – and all before The News Quiz is half way through. Stepping back to admire the new order, I feel a sense of calm creeping osmotically from this harmonious little scene into the depths of my soul.

This tidying business really is therapeutic. I continue to feel a little glow of satisfaction every time I walk past the dressing table, even now, two days on. So why did I wait so long to do it? I really must not procrastinate like this again. Now that I can see the mirror again, perhaps I ought to write across it a note in lipstick to remind myself: The best way to get something done is to do it.

Posted in Personal life, Travel

Let the Sunshine In

What a difference a week of sunshine makes!  On returning home yesterday after our walking holiday in Wales, the first thing I notice is that my front garden seems to have exploded.

In a good way, I mean.  Having suddenly appeared from nowhere is a  deep pink curtain of flowering currant blossom, theatrically suspended  above the front wall from a bush that seemed so much smaller when its branches were bare.  Behind the wall,  what had before my departure been bare soil is now festooned with a tangle of deliciously bright lime-green leaves.  This blanket of ground cover is dotted with the violet starbursts of periwinkle flowers.

In the back garden what first catches my eye is a triffid-like mass of rhubarb that I swear wasn’t there last week.  A mini forest of thick deep stems, marbled green and pink, underpin a volcanic eruption of sturdy curling leaves which look far more healthy and vibrant than should be allowed for something so notoriously poisonous.   Closer to hand, the grassy bank immediately behind the house is peppered with yellow and russet primroses, little joyous bursts of colour, random as sparks from fireworks.  Nearby, ancient plum, chestnut and apple trees that looked quite dead just a week ago now bear thick buds, their fruit apparently under starters’ orders.

Forget the holiday laundry, I think to myself, abandoning on the utility room floor the armfuls of clothes that I’ve just brought in from the camper van.  We’d better get straight out into that garden and take charge, before it gets the wrong idea of who’s in control here.  There’s clearly not a moment to lose.

I stride back through the house to call my husband who is busy detaching the bikes from the back of the van.  The sun is sending beams as strong as spotlights through the flowering currant and into the living room, and I suddenly realise that it’s not only the plants that have multiplied  at logarithmic rate while we’ve been away. I run my finger along the top of the piano.  Yes, the same has happened to the dust.
Oh well, at least I had a rest on holiday.
Posted in Personal life

How to Get Things Done

Tomorrow afternoon a new friend is coming to visit me at my home.  She hasn’t been to my house before.  I hope to get to know her better and to become good friends, and this will ensure that my house is cleaned and tidied before she arrives.

This is a striking example of my sister-in-law’s theory that “The best way to get something done is to do something else”.  Over the last few weeks the house has been getting progressively dustier, because we ended our contract with a domestic cleaning company when I gave up my salaried job to go  freelance.  Every day since then, there have been plenty of excuses for me to avoid doing any housework.  Apart from the daily dishwasher cycle and the regular loading and unloading of the washing machine, there has not been a lot of activity on the housework front.  But the promise of a visit from a new friend that I want to impress will guarantee action stations and a shiny, fragrant welcome.

On the same principle, I’ve always found that scheduling a garden party round about the end of June is the best way to ensure the flowerbeds are weeded, vegetable garden planted, and garden furniture sparkling clean by midsummer.

I’m always on the look-out for similar formulae to take the pain out of the more tiresome chores.  But I think I’ll draw the line at my sister-in-law’s favourite, which slipped out in an unguarded moment at a dinner party.

“The best way to clean your nails,” she prescribed brightly, “is to make pastry.”

Suddenly the apple pie she’d made for our pudding lost its appeal.