Posts in housework


This is the view from my washing line.  I liked hanging out washing at the old house.  I actually think I might love it here. The only problem is that its quite a posh neighbourhood, so I feel like I need to be dressed to hang out my washing...flip flops and jammies doen't seem to cut it.



I swear I cleaned this room mere moments before this photo was taken. Kevin thinks I just make up the cleaning so it seems like I do something all day.  I think its lucky he's still alive after 10 years. 



Theo sleeps in a baby hammock. All day.  He loves it.  Except between the hours of 4pm and 3am, when he doesn't.




We eat a lot of eggs.  A lot.  Well, I don't really eat that many.  Its because when I lived in Calcutta there was a flood and I was stuck in my accomodation and all they served us was eggs for two weeks.  Deep fat fried, curried eggs was my breaking point.  Of course I get a child that loves to eat eggs above all else.




Georgia loves Theo. As in Hugo the Abominable Snowman "I will love him pat him and squeeze him and call him George" sort of way.  



Ellis loves him to, but I am less worried about Theo being literally smothered with love. 



My life is filled with Lego.  We've graduated to itty bitty lego.  Is it wrong to hate it? It'd suck it up with the vacuum, but then I'd have to listen to how all the pieces are missing. 



Someone Else's Groove

Step into my house at 10am, and you will see a picture of domestic bliss.  The house will be reasonably tidy.  My children will be laughing and playing.  I will be the world's best mother.  There might even be a baked good for your consumption.

Step into the same scene at 4 in the afternoon and the view would be vastly different.  Toys strewn everywhere. Dishes piled in the sink. Someone will be crying and its a one in three chance that someone could be me.

I am not good at being of service all day, every day.  Stumbling down the stairs in the morning to cries of "I'm hungry", then to be followed by endless cycles of nappy changes, feedings, meal and snack preparation, play, laundry, groceries, errands...I find it very tiring, very long and exceedingly dull.

In my family, rightly or wrongly, I am the one that provides the flexibility.  I slot into all of the jobs and situations that no one else wants to or can do. I am the fluid one, who helps fill the cracks of everyone else. Not to say, I don't get taken care of in other ways, but my job at the minute is to be of service in the variety of ways my family needs.


Kevin comes home and a baby is thrust in his arms.  I may not be good at the relentlessness of caring for small children, but I am GREAT at sulking.  I stomp upstairs, throw myself down on my bed and glower at no one in particular.  

And here is the thing...I can see it coming. It happens most days - be it at home, at work, with my family. I am an introvert.  I need time to be quiet and do as I wish.  As my friend, Rebecca, wrote so eloquently, "I'm just someone who needs time and space in my house and in my brain, quiet and freedom to move as I wish,...depending on the day." I can fit into someone else's groove for only so long, before I must bust out.


After my small toddler-like tantrum, I can hear giggles wafting up the stairs.  A cup of tea is thrust forward as a peace offering by a 3 year old messenger.  He is scooped up into bed with me and we laugh and talk and I am back in my role and happy.

Sometimes, its just a moment I need to recharge...sometimes its more.  Ideally, I wouldn't get hit those low levels in the first place and of course, some days I don't. One of the thoughts that I come back to time and again, is that women being left alone with small children all day is a recent phenomenon.  We used to have family or other women around to share the enormous responsibility. 


I wish I could make it all look effortless...No, I actually wish it could be effortless.  But its not.  We are a wildly happy, chaotic, crazy and sometimes ever so slightly destructive family with a wildly happy, chaotic, crazy, sometimes ever so slightly destructive mother. 

So probably perfectly normal then.  


I wrote this post and then say that Day 5's prompt for Creativity Boot Camp is Fluid.  How very very apt.

Living in Debt

Since the boys have been sick, the house has been running up a certain kind of debt - a time debt.  There is so much to do, the everyday jobs of dishes and laundry never seem to finish and then they are added to the extraordinary jobs of shelves needing built, phone calls needing made and a room needing painted, among other things. 

On top of that, of course, there are the things we want to do...the knitting that stares at me from the shelf. The camera that calls to both Kevin and I.  The games of football. The trips to the park.  The pile of sewing. It seems everything is answered with a call of "later" or"tomorrow".

And like every other type of debt, it builds up to such a mass it feels like it can never be paid off.  When tomorrow does come, it brings with it new tasks and challenges, many of which are urgent, and so the time for yesterday's work is moved once again to another tomorrow. At the end of the day, I look around the room and I think the situation is utterly hopeless.  

Now, friends, family and long-time readers will know, I am not known for my tidiness.  But the reality is that my home is where I spend the vast majority of time.  For the next 10 months, I do not have the respite of work.  My job is here and I can't help but feel a bit like a failure for having floors covered in debris and a sink full of dishes every time someone stops by for a cuppa.

And more than anything, its depressing to feel like I work and work all day long, but that nothing ever really gets done. We are no further ahead in the to do list than we were the day before. /in fact, we seem to fall further and further behind.

But of course, its all a matter of perspective.  Things do get done. Pictures get taken. Trips to the park are made.  Seeds are sown.  They are often small acts...never usually completed, but they do happen and are precious.  Maybe the solution is rather than a to do list, I need a "did do" list to count my wealth, with that ever-required side dish of forgiveness.

On yesterday's did do list:

I made cake.


Rinse and Repeat

Few tasks are more like the torture of Sisyphus than housework, with its endless repetition: the clean becomes soiled, the soiled is made clean, over and over, day after day.-Simone de Beauvoir

I suppose it is a characteristic that exists in most homes...the endless repetition...making thousands of cups of tea and coffee, the same way every time.  Porridge every morning for two of use (Kevin has a bizarre porridge phobia and won't touch the stuff...strange man). Making the beds.  Wiping noses, changing diapers, hanging washing.

Much of the time, I find the endless recycling of tasks so overwhelming.  I have been known to stand at the sink and cry over having to do the dishes again (I am melodramatic, I know). I have kicked many a magically refilling laundry basket.  I have stomped my way to make those cups of tea and coffee.

Sometimes though, my fingers welcome the opportunity to make and remake things.  To improve on a recipe or a pattern or a task with each repetition.  To become intimate with the activity in a comfortable and unthinking kind of way.

shoes and bump

This is pair 9 of these booties.  My favourite yet with Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk and vintage buttons.  Honestly, I want to dive into a vat of this yarn and sleep. Most free moments I have you will find me working on the next pair.

lined baby trousers

This is completed pair 3 of a set of lined baby trousers for new bub.  Whilst I love making tiny trousers for kids, I often worry they aren't warm enough for the damp cool weather we have 11.5 months of the year.  So lining them with old flannel receiving blankets seemed like the best way to go. Of course I couldn't just make one pair, but needed a set...each time making small changes, refining, perfecting. At least 3 or 4 more pairs are lined up, ready to go.  (Fabric info is on flickr)


  And while I have only made one of these, my fingers are itching to do more and more. Honestly, I want to set up a child's cooking school or throw Ellis a ridiculously large art/cooking themed birthday party just so I can make them over and over again. (Made with this pattern found via the lovely Aussie Mum).

But then, I am willing to accept that most things, even in repetition, will be more welcome than doing the dishes...again.

Some Days

Some days, I don't want to do the dishes for the 17th time before lunch

What does it say about me?

Some days I wonder how much I could get paid to film segments on the imaginary sports channel "Extreme Multi Tasking" multi tasking
Some days, I wonder what if getting "caught up" with the laundry would make me a better person.

Some days I wonder if the cows get tired of Kevin taking pictures of them091005_0020

Some days I wonder why my whole life seems to be a permanent opposite day.

I think I have to console myself that its a good thing some day isn't everyday, or even most days, it just happens to be today.

In This House

Our house.  In the middle of our street. It is a very very very fine house.  But it is small.  It is full to bursting. 

Ican't tell you how many friends tell us we have to move.  "You NEED something bigger" they say.  2 rooms upstairs and 2 rooms downstairs "is not enough" for our 3 big selves and our cars and books and movies and fabric and yarn and paints and crayons and cats and fish and slugs and trains and plants and clothes and dishes and canned goods and tents and bicycles and cutlery and stuff.  Not to mention that we "aren't exactly tidy people".

I agree.  The house is full, but not just of things.  Its full of memories.  Its full of neighbours who are constantly popping in for a cuppa.  Its full of handmade cabinets by the landlord's cousin who loves to phone or stop 'round to talk about America.  Its full of careful planning to get everything in and still being able to close the front door. Its full of cats who know exactly where is best to nap and which neighbour will brush and feed them.

It would be easy to pack up and move.  We don't own it.  We are not tied to the slumpy property market in the same way Owners are.  We are just tenants. In a system that values OWNERship, we should be working towards something being ours.  In many people's eyes it would be better and more respectable to own a house somewhere far away from our lives than to pay rent and be somewhere that is at the hub of everything we need.

I often find myself swayed by this thinking.  I see the mess.  The clutter.  I tidy up the toys 6,000 times a day in our 10'x12' living space and I get angry that there isn't anywhere to put anything.  I sit on the computer next to the TV blaring and I stomp away that I can't have my own space, my own wing to arrange flowers and paint and sing Elizabeth Mitchell's version of Woodie Guthrie's Car Car.

I stomp and think to myself, "How did it get like this?" But so often I am struck by something I read in India almost 10 years ago, Louise Bogan's words in Journey Around My Room

"The initial mystery that attends any journey is: how did the traveller reach his starting point in the first place? How did I reach the window, the walls, the fireplace, the room itself; How do I happen to be beneath this ceiling and above this floor?  Oh that is a matter for conjecture, for argument pro and con, for research for supposition, dialectic! I can hardly remember how. Unlike Livingstone on the verge of darkest Africa, I have no maps to hand, no globe of the terrestrial or celestial spheres, no chart of the mountains, lakes, sextant, no artificial horizon.  If I ever possessed a compass, it has long since disappeared.  There must be, however, some reasonable explanation for my presence here.  Some step started me towards this point, as opposed to all other points on the habitable globe.  I must consider, I must discover it*"

And I stay.  I consider the the windows that need cleaning, walls that need painting, the beautiful view of the abbey and the ochils, the neighbours, the memories, the mess, the cleaning and I decide that the path that led me here does not yet lead me away.  So I make a commitment to declutter, to grow a thicker skin and drink more tea and less coffee. 

Because in this house, there is always mess

but a happy (and usually filthy) little boy who plays and plays and plays. Who loves his neighbours and his park and his life here. 

In this house, closet space is used less for storage and more for fun.

In this house, there is a forsythia that is on fire this time of year.

And in this house, I chose to live.

*As if to prove the point, when looking for this quote in the shed in my journal an old table, a drill, a box of books and a bag of paint supplies fell on me and I have a nasty welt on the back of my arm.  Do the lessons have to be so hard to learn?


Quick.  quick.  Make something.  Anything.  You have 5 moments before you are needed. 
Yes, there is a pile of washing to fold and put away. 
Dinner to make.
Floors to sweep. 
Stairs to Vacuum.
A Bathroom to clean.
Cats that are dying of starvation.
Trains to collect from all over the floor, under the couch and in the washing basket.
Bills to pay.
Shelves to dust.
Garbage to take out.
Recycling to sort.
A shed to clean.
Potatoes needing planted.
Seeds needing watered.
A fishtank to clean.
A father to phone.
Emails to answer.
Pot holders to make.
A sock to finish.
Binding strips to cut.
Yarn to sort.
Diapers to stuff.
Endless other unfinished projects.

Butyou must make something now.  From start to finish.  You only have 2 moments left before you are discovered. And in the midst of a day that has lots of beginnings and middles repeating over and over and over, you need something to see on the full life cycle - birth to completion. Something to show that you did something today.

It doesn't have to be useful.  It doesn't have to be on your "list".  It doesn't even have to be pretty.  It just has to be done. 


OK.  Now you can go back to the unfinished and unfinishable.
101 Ways to Avoid the Housework

...that is what I actually should have called the new blog.  I haveit down to an art form.  Important projects rear their heads, visitors appear out of nowhere, a child needs taken to the park, it seems the world conspires to stop us living in a tidy space. Of course, sometimes I may actively conspire to get out of cleaning.  I can't reveal all of my secrets because a certain husband reads the blog, but Friday's example is the best so far.

For Christmas, I asked for and received a block printing kit from Kev.  Since then, it has sat on a shelf with my Printing by Hand book looking at me.  Begging me to make a stamp.  I have been very hesitant because I have no ability to draw anything and stamp making seemed so permanent - what has been scraped and dug out cannot be refilled.

However, Friday morning I realised I was in need of wrapping paper and after blogging and drinking copious amounts of coffee required by my 4am awakening (yes, I get up at that time every morning), I decided to seize the moment.

I hauled the kit down, searched the internet because I'd lost the instructions and began carving.  Half way through, the boys joined me for breakfast. 

"There are some crafts you shouldn't do," Kevin said the instant he saw what I was doing.

"What do you mean?  No.  It'll be fine"

"I'm not taking you to the Emergency room" He replied.

"You don't even drive, so it will be a taxi that takes me to the emergency room, if I need it.  Which I won't"

In a perfect "I told you so" manner, I proceeded to stab myself 4 times with the lino cutter.  Once was so deep on the pad of my left index finger I heard a crunch and felt a bit sick and light-headed.

Kev just shook his head, helped me with my bandages and gave me a number of sympathetic but knowing looks.

"Well, you bought it for me." I replied

"Because you asked for it"

"So, it doesn't matter, I can still sue"

"You can't and you won't.  Why don't you let me do it.  Many artists hire people to carry out the dangerous work for them"

"Stamping is not dangerous." I proceeded to insist that I do it.  While I can no longer remember the specific reasoning, the reality is that I am at least as stubborn as mules and 2 year olds, and could not bear to have someone else finish MY project. I managed to only graze myself once more.

My stamp even turned out OK.  I didn't like the block printing ink and am going to try and find some other inks this weekend. I also invested £1 in some erasers to do a bit more stamp carving in a softer material.

The upshot?  I can not do the dishes or any other cleaning or cooking activity that requires the use of my left hand where acids or pressure may be involved.  Interestingly, all the bits I use for crochet remain unscathed. I am hoping it takes all weekend to heal.


However, the saddest bit is that I don't even need elaborate ruses.  Kev actually told me the other day that he'd prefer it if I crafted than cleaned because I am in a better mood when I craft.  Isn't he grand?

Work in Progress

After coming to the realisation that I never finish anything, I am now viewing everything in my house with wariness.  It seems every time I walk into a room, there is some reminder of something I intended to do.  A room needing painting, a pile of papers needing filed, a raised bed needing building, a mountain of laundry needing put away, a course needing working on, a toddler needing his ears cleaned...ignorance was much better.  You would think that in a 4 room house there would be somewhere that was finished!

Of course, I can always say my excuse was that Ellis needed something more pressing...the Brio train needed to be moved from the floor to the table to the floor to the table.  We HAD to find out what the snail did when the whale got beached and whether or not Max got home in time for supper. We desperately needed to go and make sure the tractors were still at the farm next door. And we couldn't not chase the cats madly around the house...that would have been obscene and they would have felt neglected and move out.

The reality is that I use a lot of "my" time to do other things.  To read, to write, to sew, to see friends and neighbours...things that nourish and sustain me, but aren't going to get me into Good Housekeeping Magazine.

To be fair, I do have my moments. Yesterday, after a burst of "I've been awake since 2am" adrenaline, i transformed this:

February 20091


I got to sew without having to dig out the machine.  I got to get some books down without toppling the whole pile over.  I even found some lovely fabric scraps to make these fabric circles from here. E Man particularly enjoyed stacking paperclips and rubber bands on top of them...
February 2009

So, my question of the day is: How on earth does one do it all?  How do you get everything done and still have time for playing, friends, relaxing and being?  Is it a choice between sacrificing your own needs for those of the house and family? Do you hire staff? Do you just igore it?