Strict domestic rules won’t wash with me

By Elizabeth Summers / October 11, 2016 / No comments
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Cleaning the house may be a chore but reading about how you’re doing it wrong is even worse

Housework is the great taboo of modern domestic life — we’re all in the broom closet. On the one hand you are meant to be too high-minded and/or busy to care about it. On the other hand we live with the glossy-magazine perfection of what other people’s houses allegedly look like on the inside. No wonder no one invites their neighbours round anymore. We spend many times what our parents forked out for both property and home decoration, but no one ever talks about how they clean all that pine flooring and chrome.

Then there is the question of who actually does the household cleaning. Au pairs are too posh to push a vaccuum cleaner around the place, and quite a lot of liberals don’t like the idea of employing someone to perform the menial tasks that go into making the place habitable.

It should be said that most of the people in possession of those liberal scruples are male. And it should also be said that most of the people who are willing to employ an eastern European woman on a cash-only basis, without paying a stamp or providing the most basic benefits, are female. Cleaning, like prostitution, is the rock on which female solidarity regularly crashes.

Then there are the equal opportunity houses, in which the cleaning, just like the child-minding and the full-time jobs, are ostensibly split down the middle of the frantically busy couple. In my, admittedly bitter, experience these couples usually cave in after a couple of years — or is that weeks? — and hire someone to do the cleaning for them because the future of their household has been jeopardised by the rows over whose turn it is to put the bins out.

Of course no one can be employed simply to put out the bins, and this job is frequently assigned to the male partner in a heterosexual relationship. The job of reminding the male partner to put out the bins is assigned to the female partner in the heterosexual relationship, because the male partner cannot come to terms with the fact that the bins have to be put out every Monday, just as they have been for the past five years.

But enough about me. That excellent magazine Good Housekeeping has come up with a handy clip-and-save guide listing exactly which items in your house should be cleaned and when. Good Housekeeping does not waste any of its time on the question of who should clean them. Good Housekeeping did not come down in the last shower.

The list is addressed to its female readers— it doesn’t have any male readers. At a time when the print media has been denuded to the extent that it looks like a very clean desert, Good Housekeeping is celebrating its 95th birthday. The 95th anniversary issue is out now and one of the slogans on its cover is: “95 Years Of Brilliant Advice”.

We get it, Good Housekeeping, you are ninety-five — it’s the advice we’re worried about. Let’s look at the list of chores which must be done every day: Make bed; agreed. Clean coffeemaker; what coffeemaker? Sweep kitchen floor; fair enough. Wipe down kitchen counters and table; the counters, really, every day? Do laundry as needed; thank God you told me that. Wipe down bathroom surfaces; every day, are you mad? Squeegee shower wall; feck off, you’re joking. Sanitise kitchen and bathroom sinks; does that just mean pour disinfectant down them? Isn’t that bad for the environment?

It seems extraordinary that the one thing Good Housekeeping does not require you to clean every day is the lavatory of a busy house. But so be it, no more toilet cleaning for me.

Strangely, one is only required to vacuum once a week, when any household slut will tell you that vacuuming, like doing the brasses on the front door, will win you brownie points no matter how filthy the house really is. In fact vacuuming is the domestic equivalent of plastic surgery; if you have it done it distracts from all other failings.

As far as the every week list is concerned I refuse to clean the inside of the microwave, as I do not have a microwave, and I can’t sanitise the sponges because I don’t really have any sponges. Does shaking the woodlice out of the floor mop during the summer months count?

Similarly I am not going to wash the shower curtain liner, which Good Housekeeping tells us must be done every three to six months. What the hell is a shower curtain liner, anyway? Isn’t that just the bloody shower curtain?

Then we’re meant to “clean under and behind furniture” as well as vacuuming the mattress. We are urged to “wash pillows and comforters” . Is a comforter a bedspread? We don’t have any of them.

I am going to defy Good Housekeeping — call me crazy — and stick to vacuuming twice a week, the second time the stairs only, and cleaning the toilet every day. What can I say, it works for me. And now I am out of the broom closet, as a cleaner. Yay!