God, I’m depressed. I’m in one of those vortexes created by sudden child-related anxiety, work doubts, lack of Vitamin D, being over 40, lack of exercise, the rain, the end of Christmas and therefore the loss of True Purpose.
I’ve also had no domestic help since the start of December. I need to be careful what I say about this because I know domestic help is a hot-button subject. Many of you have never had any domestic help and clean your houses, on your own, to a high standard while also working many hours a week as a nurse or a lawyer. Or, you have 25 hours of help a week so that you can spend most of your time in bed reading Hello! Or something in between. There’s a huge, complicated hinterland of morality attached to domestic help. Caitlin Moran is very good on this, saying something about if there’s a Mess the Woman must clean the Mess, written during first lockdown when we couldn’t have our cleaners and we were all losing our minds… anyway it was a great piece.
I’ve got nothing to add to all that, it’s just that being a full-time housekeeper has been a slight change in my circumstance even though when I did have a cleaner, it’s not like I didn’t do a shitload of housework on top of her hours. Doing everything, as I must do now, isn’t bad or good, it’s just discombobulating. And I want to say now that that I don’t think that cleaning my house and doing all the laundry is making me especially depressed. In fact, there’s a great deal to be said for cleaning your own house.
For example: I know exactly where everything is; there isn’t someone else pottering around in my house, which can be annoying; being a boss is crap, I’m relieved not to have to be in charge of someone else; I don’t have to deal with the low-level irritation-followed-by-guilt when a cleaner consistently isn’t doing something right, or doing it at all.
In fact, more gets done because rather than sit about thinking “Why isn’t she wiping down those shelves?” but not actually asking her to do it because it seems mad and petty, I wipe down the shelves myself. And then they’re done.
It’s got to the point where I’ve started to experience something like cleaning amnesia, where I clean the kitchen or clear the laundry room or clean the bathroom and I leave the place and then come back half an hour later and briefly think “Wow, who’s cleaned the..? Oh… it was me.” It’s possible to zone out completely while cleaning, meaning you can lose touch with that forward-facing part of yourself, in the way that you can while driving, relying only on muscle memory and lizard brain. I think it’s a state of zen consciousness that you are supposed to achieve during meditation, but rather than downloading any paying for Headspace all you need to do is sweep the kitchen floor.
I can see how it would be such a simple life, so pure somehow, to never write another word and just housekeep for the rest of my life. And cleaning can easily take over your entire life. It’s never finished, in the way that writing a piece for the paper is. But that has led to a slight existential crisis for me. Who am I? Would I just happier if I did nothing except clean and tidy and fold? I haven’t even looked that hard for a new cleaner, I’m not sure I want to let it all go. Sometimes I think that doing all the cleaning in the house is demolishing a side of my personality dismantling me brick by brick. At others I think it is the only thing staving off a full-on can’t-get-out-of-bed funk.
By the way, has everyone got an e-Cloth mop? Life-changing. It’s a steel mop that comes with a flat head with velcro on one side and you stick a flat microfibre mop-head on it and clean the floor and then when you’re finished you rip off the mop-head and stick it in the washing machine with all your other e-Cloths at the end of the week! No more sloshing water about the place, or lugging a mop bucket around.
In non-cleaning, non-depression news, I am very pleased to be able to recommend to you these cargo pants by Dr Denim, which are back in stock. This is a Scandinavian brand, which is only available in this country via Asos. These cargo pants are practical (great for cleaning in) and flattering, made from a really beautiful twill fabric. They are high-waisted and come in a variety of lengths. If you do get a pair, don’t despair if at first they seem a bit of a funny shape as you have to wear them in for about for a week or so. They are not too wide and if you pay attention to the measurements, you can make sure yours fall short of the bottom of your shoe so that they don’t drag in puddles.
In more, other news, the list of technical problems with WordPress, (which hosts this site), has led me to think it might be best to move over to Substack. I’ve been with WordPress for 5 years and I think it’s time to modernise and move on, as well as the fact that I simply don’t need all the formatting tools that you get with WordPress (and moreover don’t understand how to use them). This won’t mean much to you but it just seems to be a more efficient way of doing things. The only hassle to you will be signing up for a Substack account, but once you’ve done that I think things will run immeasurably more smoothly.
Lou B says
Cargo pants look great – it’s just disappointing they only go up to a W32 isn’t it !! I find at lot of Scandi company’s aren’t very size inclusive still and it a bit sad really as they look ace. I shall email the company I think – worst they can do is ignore the mad English woman who eats too many carbs.
Also I have had a cleaner three times 2 left and one I had to let go as she wasn’t great… I got to the point where I felt like the universe is telling me that I can’t have a cleaner 🙁
tuna breakfast burrito says
I love having a cleaner. Agree about not rehearsing the arguments – people have different stances. If you can, best to pay well and add an hour or so to what the cleaner estimates the house will take to ‘do’ in order to be fair and allow for breaks/other stuff. Accept that they can’t completely pour every energy into manically cleaning your house – they shouldn’t be exhausted by the end of the job and good to remember people tend to notice what hasn’t been done as opposed to what has. Definitely happy to subscribe to a different service…do it if makes it less frustrating for you!
Jan Ford says
I’d garden in these! Cheers.
Very much relate to this having had my first baby 10 weeks ago; feeling like a human dairy/laundrette and whatever the professional equivalent of nappy changer/husband resenter is. Housework is funny isn’t it because it can sometimes be immensely satisfying but also because it’s uniquely never ending, extremely demoralising too. Although at least you’re not in pyjamas, getting dressed does help so thanks for the rec!
I’m feeling a bit like that, January bleugh. Do you have a dog? Walking (around London streets on my own) resets me. Not all the time but enough to get through another day.
Get onto one of the agencies and find a cleaner now ! You write and work. It gives someone else a job. Hope that isn’t too strong…
I will sign up for any format you care to put your writing out on Esther. As for the cleaning, since the dawn of COVID (which, incidentally, saw off the job I had hoped to go back to with youngest child then in Reception – he’s now Yr 2) I have found myself kind of “madly” cleaning, I think maybe as a way to feel a sense of purpose that I have otherwise lost sight of. It very certainly can take you over, dissolve you a bit, in the way that you describe. I do wish I could just not care about it at all and let it all go to hell in a hand cart, house work wise. I’d certainly then at least have time to do some gardening (which has also gone the way of the hand cart), or finally properly read Middlemarch.
Oh Esther, yes to all of this. My cleaner is pregnant. Which has left me thinking that really I could clean my own home. I’m not a princess. I don’t even earn that much. I thought I hated cleaning but then the satisfaction of having the house spick and span makes me feel a little godly. But then I hate my children for dirtying the place. How dare they produce dust! Do you know what the issue is? That we work from home. You can’t clean your own home if you work from home because you will never get any work done, ever. Once you’ve removed the dust and mopped the floor, you see when it needs doing more. You can’t unsee it, and so, all you do is clean. And tidy. And sort. It’s a life sentence.
“It’s a life sentence” … definitely
I hear you. I have neither an e-cloth mop nor cargo pants. Clearly this must change.
I’ve actually moved on from an E-Cloth mop too the same concept but by Vileda. The most important difference is that, with Vileda, the flat mop head attaches to the mop paddle with poppers. This avoids the E-Cloth issue of declining Velcro stickiness, ending up with the mop cloth perpetually falling off
But yes. It is tempting to opt out of proper working life, with the competitiveness and potential to show up one’s professional short comings. I had a stint of homemaking and enjoyed it, but am glad to be back out in the big bad world.
I definitely found it hard to give up my own desire to have things just-so in the domestic zone, in order too free up time and headspace to succeed in the professional zone. I now have a new cleaner, she follows a really specific list, it costs a bomb but I think of it as a “work tax” so I can get on in my professional life
V glad re Substack. Good move
I don’t have a cleaner and never have had, but I do have a dodgy back which makes vacuuming, mopping, sweeping and bedmaking very painful with a high risk of me being out of action for a week or more. I’d really like a hand, but having supervised my father’s cleaner for a year recently I know I would HATE having my own; I’m just too anally retentive and also hopeless at managing people. And too too British to say, ‘Oi, look, I’m paying you to do a BETTER job than me, not an equally sketchy one.’ There’s a good reason I am self-employed and freelance. And don’t have anyone to stay in my grubby, dusty house.
However I am positive that the sense of achievement one feels after eg cleaning, or mending something, or gardening, decorating etc. is exceedingly good for one’s sense of self-worth, just because it’s physical, tangible stuff wot you have done yourself, for yourself. Along the same lines as ‘if you’re overwhelmed by the job in front of you just make a start – doing a bit of it is much better than doing none of it’.
Sorry for stupid question, why doesn’t the mop need a bucket? I don’t understand?
You put diluted floor cleaner into a spray bottle, spray the floor and give a good scrub with the mop I lieu of water
Thanks, sounds good!
Do we need to do anything now re:substack? Or will a link to the new blog platform appear?
By all means if you have a minute create a Substack account now but don’t worry if I do move over I will give huge notice and walk everyone through it xxx
This one newsletter made my day .. it’s like you have been watching me and narrating the backstory . Preaching to the choir my friend .. I’ll sign up to any attack or press because it’s the only newsletter I need
I find it helpful to feel as much guilt about having a cleaner as a man does.
I just some great cargo pants from m and s (black) and they are actually quite good! In the sale too.
Hannah W says
I can also recommend a Vileda One-Two spray mop. Similar to the e-cloth one and the other Vileda mentioned above. The difference is you pour your cleaning liquid INTO the top of the handle, and then there is a lever to spray it out of holes near the mop head. Life changing in that I resent the mopping far less now.