Saturday, 29 January 2011

'A tidy house is a tidy mind'

Who’s ever heard that saying before? Come on, hands up. Probably everyone, it’s one of life’s fabulous cliché’s that grandma’s, mum’s, aunties and school teachers alike all love to spout out whenever they feel the need to point out how shamelessly messy we are. It is one of the most annoying of all cliché’s too as it really does imply that unless you’re bedroom/house is spotless then you have no chance at keeping your brain in order either. However, what is a cliché if not a universal truth that’s stated over and over again? I’m afraid to say that I agree with the line, you do find yourself more on form overall if you’ve had a good clear out of your clutter. De cluttering your worktops etc. does to some degree de clutter your mind. That’s not to say that I put this universal truth into action very regularly, in fact, in this house usually the sides get so piled up with papers, jewellery, empty envelopes, leaflets etc. that eventually my partner grabs a black bin bag and goes on a rampage! “What’s this? Do you want it?” He’ll demand enthusiastically and before I’ve even had a chance to look at what’s in his hand he’ll say “No, it’s been here too long, I’m throwing it.” Whilst his completely gun hoe approach to tidying sends panic running through me every time, when he’s finished, I do always feel a sense of relief that the mess is gone. Every now and then though, his tidying backfires when he realises that he accidentally through away one of his own carelessly placed, important documents!
If you’re a hoarder like me, the chances are that you too have a stash of bits and pieces piled somewhere that you have put down quickly whilst racing away to deal with something else. The trouble is that more often than not, you forget that you’ve put it down and before you know it more odds and sods have been strewn on top. What’s more is, that after a while, and it doesn’t really take that long to happen, the pile of stuff turns into its own sort of entity; one being, not many bits and pieces but one pile of nothing. So much does it have its own identity that you start just passing it, never going through it, never actually dealing with anything that’s in it and you may even get to the point that you are reluctant to even touch it. Just think about this though, if it’s true that there is a direct link between the physical papers and the intentions within our heads than you might as well right off those parts of your brain functions all together. Have you ever forgot to pay a bill because it was under a pile of other bills, newspapers and children’s drawings? It’s not that you in your head forgot that your lights worked by electric, electric that needed paying for, but you forgot that you had a bill to pay because there was no physical reminder there. What’s the answer? If I had a concrete one I’d be the most organised woman on earth! Believe me, I’m not! However, it is worth getting a couple of trays, a filing cabinet, message board etc so that you can file all your documents in an appropriate place and then every now and then you can sit down in front of it and go through things in a more defined way. Never again will your electric be turned off during your favourite TV show!

Saturday, 15 January 2011

“Do you like my flower beds? They’re over there, behind the weeds!”

If like me, you struggle keeping anything alive that doesn't move then may I suggest you stay away from gardening! An unkempt garden does nothing but say to visitors that you're not really a domestic goddess. This year I spent ages weeding, cultivating and planting flower beds, flower pots, hanging baskets and a significantly sized vegetable patch. However, once I'd satisfied my need to get my hands dirty, it wasn't long before I lost all interest in my garden and before I knew it, my veg patch was overgrown with weeds. In my absence my partner ploughed through my not yet established flower beds with the lawn mower! The clematises I'd so enthusiastically bought to climb my house stopped getting trained and therefore became no more! Even my hanging baskets, one filled with strawberry plants failed to get my attention and all the strawberries I'd grown unfortunately never made it to the table!

I've therefore decided that this year I'll strip it all back to lawn and be done with it. Yes, it won't be the prettiest garden in the world and I won't be winning any awards for the most beautifully kept cottage garden (which I was definitely working for when I first started!) but at least I won't have an overgrown, rotting, mushy mess of a garden to just stare at all day. A neatly kept lawn says a lot more positive things about you to any visitor than weed invaded flower beds ever will. This extends to inside the house too, if you're not green fingered, don't buy house plants. You may think that you can't really go too wrong with plants in pots but actually, if you fail to keep them watered, even missing just one or two days, it can be very hard to save that plant from looking very sorry for itself indeed. Don't do it, just go fake! And if you don't like fake flowers (I'm not particularly keen on most to be honest) but you still want the atmosphere of a green, flowery home, put pictures of flowers up or use flowery print fabrics about the place.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Baby wipes…not just for a baby’s bum!!

They should definitely give whoever invented baby wipes an award. And if they already did, they should give them another one, there's no accolade high enough for that level of genius! Not only does it clean your child's bottom after one of the most unattractive bodily functions ever, but it also acts as a makeup remover, sticky finger cleanser, high chair wiper and now I've even discovered more beauty in its abilities!

Have you ever spent ages trying to get those stubborn stains off you skirting boards or door frames where someone's come in and put their filthy fingerprints all over them? (I do realise that sounds like the opening line to a commercial by the way!) Well, I have and I've got to say I first used a baby wipe on my door frame cause my child had sneezed all over it and I mopped it up with the nearest thing. Well, not only did it mop up all the sneeze spray but it also wiped clean all those built up smudges that I'd been putting off tackling cause I hate spending hours going round my house with a dishcloth and cleaning spray! It wiped clean so easily that I tried it on most of my household surfaces and to be honest with you, there's not many things that a baby wipe won't clean!

There's more to this than just how easily it wipes the dirt away. I mean, think about it, how many packets of baby wipes do you have dotted about your home? If you have children, probably too many to count. If you don't have any, probably none but seriously, go invest in some! There always somewhere close in hand, perfect for when you're doing a quick tidy and you notice a smudge on your gloss work that you want to get rid of before you get distracted by another job. Or you're sitting watching tele and you realise that the mole on Brad Pitt's face that you were sure you'd never noticed before is actually a mystery mark on the screen! God forbid your enjoyment of Brads oh so heartbreakingly gorgeous face is compromised! You'll definitely want to wipe it off fast… and oh look, there's a pack of baby wipes sitting on top of the TV table, perfect!! And, if you've read lots of articles about the pitfalls of using lots of chemicals to clean your home, well, if it's good enough for my baby's bum….that's good enough for me!

“Aaaargh, who left that there?”

I have two young boys. It's a frigging nightmare trying to walk anywhere in my house without the threat of standing on a toy tractor or wooden block! And, my children have a playroom right at the end of the house so that you don't have to walk through it to get anywhere else. You'd think they'd play in their playroom and therefore I'd have a toy and mess free house wouldn't you? You'd be completely wrong! For some reason, they hate actually playing in their playroom, I might as well rename it the toy store…cause that's all it is, a place to store toys when they're not making a mess in my lounge. I don't really mind this too much though because it means I can watch them playing whilst I cook or come and play with them whilst sneaking a peak at my favourite tv show that's on in the background.

I hate the fact that there's constantly toys strewn about the place and it's a constant irritation to me that as soon as I tidy up, the place is messy again (I think they actually walk behind me throwing more toys down as I go, just for fun!) But, having said that, they are 3 and 16months, they're not really at that age where they play with one or two things in an isolated area yet. They move from one thing to the next in minutes and love to move from one spot to another each time they play with something new, leaving the last thing where it lay, especially my youngest. So, what do you do? Well, I've just learnt to look where I go when I walk! I tidy up to a degree during the day but tend to just leave them to their mess until early evening/bedtime and then as a family we spend a few minutes picking everything up and transporting it all back to the toy shed (that's what I'm calling it now I've decided!) The thing is, whilst this may mean that if I was to get an unexpected caller my place may look a little bedraggled, and it would probably leave the real domestic goddesses in fits to think of it, what else can you do? If you were to tidy up every single thing that the children left on the floor during the day, you'd probably not get a lot else done. And, it's no fun for children of this sort of age to constantly have someone on their back about cleaning. Also, let's face it, you can guarantee that as soon as you put something away, it'll be just the thing they want to play with next.

I know that this isn't really a tip about achieving a wonderfully tidy home but unfortunately, sometimes there's just nothing else to do but make your piece with the mess!

Monday, 10 January 2011

Come in, have some cake!

Now, have you ever had people come to stay and when they leave you think to yourself, "My god, I bet they thought this house is a pigsty?" Trust me, I have. The thing is it can be hard to keep your house tidy while you have guests. Extra people equal extra mess. You've got their belongings in the way most of the time, especially if you're not lucky enough to have a designated spare room; there's the extra cooking and therefore extra dishes and let's face it, no matter how clean a human is, there's always little bits of dust and fluff left in our wake. There's no way round this, but by having a couple of things in place you can minimise the damage done to your house when you have people come to stay.

First things first, if you want people to think you have a lovely home, it all starts with the first impressions. I start spring cleaning days in advance when I know I have people coming to stay. I clean places that normally would get overlooked, right down to the pipes behind the toilet. This is because when someone new comes to your home, they're bound to see the dirt that you yourself have grown accustomed to seeing. It's not that you're dirty or anything, but it's very true that we all start to miss things when we live in and around it all the time. On the day of their arrival, make sure you've given the place one more quick tidy and clean, having a few things out and being used isn't a problem, let's face it you can't expect your children, if you have any to sit quietly waiting for people to arrive before they can play with their toys, but try to ensure the usual clutter is cleared from the side.

I also like to bake a cake before I have people coming to stay. That way you can have a slice or two before they arrive and it looks like you haven't done it especially for them but that you just like to bake! If you're planning on having a meal ready for them then I think it's wise to use a recipe that you can prepare hours in advance and therefore have the kitchen surfaces clean before they turn up. Stews are good because they cook slowly in the oven and will keep if your guests are late. There's the added bonus that it's good, homely cooking, once again giving the impression that you know your way around the kitchen! But, if stews aren't your thing, lasagne is a good alternative and let's face it there's not many people these days who don't like it.

During any visits, it's a good idea to try and tidy up as you go along, but don't worry about the big jobs like laundry, etc or your guests will think you care more about the housework than you do them and that's never a nice feeling when you're staying in someone's home. If your guests offer to help you wash up, say yes thank you, that way you're not busting your gut to look after everyone by yourself and it means you can clean and chat at the same time. If they don't want to help, they won't offer so don't worry about offending anyone.

There is a fine line though between having a nice, clean, welcoming home and being a nit-picking, cold host. You've got to make sure that your guests feel as welcome as possible and constantly being on their case about the mess there making is not the way to do it! I've stayed in people's house where there are actually rules to obey and it always puts a downer on your stay. If you want to have rules then there are ways of making them known without 'stating' what they are. For example, if you don't like people wearing shoes inside then have a shoe rack next to the front door with spare slippers available and point it out casually as they come in. If you don't like guests leaving bits and pieces everywhere, dedicate them a drawer/ storage area and again casually point it out as if you're just thinking of them. "If you need somewhere to unpack your clothes, then I've cleared this drawer for you" This is also a nice way of giving them the impression you're a thoughtful host.

Finally, try to enjoy your guests instead of dreading what they're thinking of you and the way you run your home. People know that when you have visitors, you can't keep to your usual routine so they're not going to judge you for not keeping to a schedule; they'll just assume your spending your time with them rather than cleaning up after them. And if they've had a nice time, they'll only come away with a good impression of you and your home.

Ironing out a few things!

One thing you can do to save yourself valuable time is by not ironing! Let’s face it….ironing is a pain in the bum and a really tedious job that all women could live without. However, you don’t want to look like you just crawled out of bed in the outfit you’re wearing do you? So, what do you do? Well, first off, make sure that all the clothes you buy are of a wrinkle resistant quality….whose ever bought that gorgeous pair of white linen trousers and after two minutes of putting them on regretted it?
Next, you save yourself a lot of creases way back at the washing stage. If you wash your clothes on a really low spin cycle, they come out a lot less creased. However, for them to stay that way, you’ve then got to dry them in the right way too. The easiest thing is using a tumble dryer, not only is it time saving in its own right but it also leaves (most) of your clothes smooth when they come out. Just be sure to pull the clothes out and fold or hang them straight away.  
Unfortunately , not all of us are lucky enough to be graced with hubbies who don’t mind forking the bill for the electric! If you hang dry your clothes either outside or inside over a radiator, in front of a fire etc. then just make sure that you get them hanging as soon as possible and as smoothly as you possibly can. Shaking them out vigorously or patting them down as you hang them saves you a lot of time and effort trying to smooth them out when you take them down.
Now all of the above tips are quite good but let’s face it, they’re no miracle cures. Yes, you are still going to have the odd crease here or there in your clothes, let’s face it, it’s inevitable. The only thing I can say about that is, make your peace with it!! Wear your clothes happily knowing that just because you have the odd crease here or there doesn’t mean you look like a slob. If you think about it, it’s only a matter of time after you put your clothes on that they’re going to get creased anyway. And if you’re going somewhere important like say, court, a hot date or meeting the Queen…well then you might want to iron! There’s just no sense in doing it for a daily basis, it takes too much time to keep up with it, time best used playing with your kids or god forbid ladies….relaxing!


At 19 I found out I was pregnant with my first child. He wasn’t planned but as soon as I’d taken the news on board I decided he was for keeps and me and my partner set up home and awaited his arrival. I had a huge responsibility to wake up to. It was hard being thrown right into being a full time homemaker and mother and it’s fair to say it didn’t come completely easy to me. I got postnatal depression after the birth and struggled to come to terms with the new person I was at such a young age. However, after getting help to deal with the postnatal depression I found my relationship grew in strength and so did my motherhood and attitude towards my role as a homemaker. I've since had another child meaning I have two small boys running about the place, my eldest is 3 now and my youngest is 16months. I still struggle to keep up with daily chores and sometimes I find I'm still a little overwhelmed with the trials of motherhood, but, I think for the most part I've got it down! My family and friends always say to me I seem like a natural and that whenever they come to my house its always neat, calm, and I've always got a freshly baked cake on the table. Therefore they assume I'm a natural domestic goddess....I on the other hand, know I'm not! I've just learnt to cheat! The reason that the house is always like that when they come is because I know they're coming and I prepare the house accordingly! So that's what this blog is all to help you seem like the cool calm and collected goddess whilst still finding time to relax and frankly, just enjoy your time at home and with your children without having to worry about achieving those impossible standards that if you try too hard to strive for and fail will ultimately make you feel like just that, a failure! It's ok not to be perfect, not to be a domestic goddess, so long as you're happy and if you want people to think you are one, the answers simple...CHEAT!!!