The lists just keep coming! Here are my Top 10 things I never seem to get properly done in my home…. sinful but true…
However much I try, these things just keep coming. I live in a period house with 12ft ceilings, so those little weaving people have a lot of space. Sometimes I can go weeks without noticing, and then the sun comes out and.. LO! Once there were so many on one ceiling that I performed an impressive ‘candyfloss’ manoeuvre and swirled a stick that pulled them all in one go. It was very satisfying. The downside of the cobwebs is that you then have to hunt for the critter that perpetrated them, and I am not a fan of spiders…
I have many piles all over the house.. some to do, some done, some not even opened. Even when I have a monthly purge I discover really old and important things that I have managed to miss. That can include bills, permission for school trips, and the worst one was a Safeguarding document which could have resulted in a school having an emergency Ofsted inspection (luckily I found it 24 hours before the time was up, I was not popular that week). I do try the in/out box thing that everyone recommends, but it is just not really me…. (note to self: sort it out or hire a secretary).
3. Christmas Decoration management
Keep all Christmas Decorations/Lights/Stockings and so on together when they are stored away. Last year I managed to lose all of the fairy lights. I then had to go out and buy all new ones, (and we use a LOT). On packing the new ones away after Christmas, I found all the lost ones (in the linen cupboard under some sheets of all places). It was a pure irritation moment, and one that I need to address.
Our Christmas decoration boxes have themes from the last two decades; cute gingerbread, smart navy, homespun stuff. They document my children’s ages more than anything, so I am loathe to get rid of them, but they do take up an awful lot of space for things that actually do not get used anymore. If you change themes a lot, be ruthless and get rid of old ones that make you wince when you remember how stylish you thought they were at the time, oh and keep the lights with the decorations if you can…
4. Window & MIrror Cleaning
This sits along nicely with the cobwebs moments. Everything looks great in the house until the sun comes out and shines through the windows. Except it isn’t shining, but turgidly trying to break through the grime accumulated on the glass.
We have a lot of open fires, so the insides of the windows get as bad as the outside. Although it is a dull task, the difference is amazing when they are cleaned. I swear I thought my garden was generally blurred recently until the windows were cleaned, and I realised I was not short-sighted but just peering through filthy glass.
Mirrors are a different matter. They look lovely when sparkling clean, but I also think they are incredibly flattering with a fine mist of dust as they take years off my appearance. A sort of de-liner of lines if you will.
5. discovering what actually lurks under the stairs, or not.
Even for a neat-freak like myself, there is one place where things end up when I cannot sort/stack/catagorise or deal with them – the under stairs cupboard. Harry Potter could not possibly live in my house as he would be competing with paint cans, a freezer, skateboards, odd shoes, the broken hoover that I swear I will fix one day and a general collection of chaos. Poor Harry would find it very cramped, and probably have to sleep standing up like a horse.
And how do people ever get to the very back, just one step high? And if they do, what can they store in it? This is the place into which I never delve, as I am sure the cobweb makers live in there too. Look at these pictures, where do these home-owners put their not-quite-ready-for-the-tip things if not under the stairs?
I am sure that this is how most people live, and never get around to sorting it out:
6. checking food for best-by dates.
My mother is known for war-time thrift stemming from her childhood. Her parents had to make do in WWII, and made a lot of their own food via pickling/canning and drying. Their pantry was a marvellous place of bottles, fresh produce and very rustic. But as they got older, the hygiene sort of went out of the window. Once my brother-in-law noted that the unsealed muesli jar was actually full of mouse droppings, but my grandpa swore they were raisins and carried on eating it. My mum follows this family tradition. She has foods that go back decades in her pantry, in fact a trio of Rick Stein pickles I bought her in 1998 still sit unopened in one corner, and we all politely refuse a lot of her food in case of the contents basically killing us.
I try not to follow the family ways, and think that I am on top of the larder contents in terms of freshness. However, there is always some horror lurking at the back which my children gleefully point out. On a recent pantry sort-out, we found some food cans from 2006, interesting petrified dark chocolate, and many jars of what I think once were home-made jams and marmalades, which had all gone black and liquified.
So, like me, a lot of people have horrors at the back of their food cupboards. They are also usually not discovered until 10pm when a child needs ingredients for a cooking class the next morning at school, and all you can offer is some 2 year out of date condensed milk.
7. fixing the broken door handle/bathroom lock
Families get used to broken bits in the home, and you sort of go blind to them. That is until a guest either gets trapped in a bathroom or you inadvertently burst in on them on the loo. This is normally the point that you finally get around to fixing the offending lock/handle. However, whenever the guest comes again you see them wriggling as they try not to go to the bathroom in case of a repeat incident. However, if people are at a party and a bit drunk then it can all go the other way….
8. cleaning the cats & dogs favourite places
I love my cats, they are in fact elongated humans with fur, unquestioned adoration and no notion of complaint. They have little places inside the house that they take over, and then move on after a couple of weeks to a new nesting area. As a result, there is usually a pile of cat hair resting under beds, in linen cupboards, on wardrobes, on coats in fact anywhere with a dark textile where their hair can really stick and get matted in. Homeowners tend to not see this hair until it is 5 minutes before guests arrive which results in a frantic vacuuming session and an out-of-breath welcome to the guests.
In very bad scenarios the cats have fleas which never touch you, but jump onto visitors ankles and bite them the minute they enter the house. Your guest points them out and scratches. At this point you deny that they are your fleas, and insist that they must have been on visitor before they came round. Then you hoover everywhere once they have gone, swear at the cats and rush to the vets to get the really strong flea-death stuff.
Moving into the garden, especially with cats, there is always one flower bed which they take over as their urinal. Although you know this, there is always a blind moment when you decide to plant some pretty plants there, even though you KNOW what is in that earth… and it always ends up with a slight gagging moment when the truth (and smell) is revealed. At least with dogs you can clean up their mess as it is visible, cats are either a) trying to be helpful or b) laughing at you from behind trees when you dig in their patch.
9. Fixing the one squeaky board / stair tread / door
Usually most houses have one squeaky item, and it becomes such a normal sound that you don’t compute it. This is fine, and can add atmosphere if you live in a very old house. But when it comes to selling your home, it is an issue that you realise you should have fixed and makes the house look uncared for if not a bit broken. Instead, when potential buyers come around you end up clattering around/jumping on the spot as they near the step / door/ floor board to try and mute out the eerie squeak.
Additionally, if you have house guests who become romantically inclined in the night, it can give their nocturnal visits dead away. I stayed at one very old English country house once where the hostess nonchalantly pointed out the two stair treads that squeaked, and then she told people to hop over them if they wanted to avoid being caught out.
10. Unpack all the things you bought from your last home (that belong to a male usually)
Shed, garage, loft, eaves…. these are the places that you put those boxes in when you move into a new home. And some of them will never be opened until you move house again. We have boxes in our garage that I don’t think have been opened since 1995, my husband swears they are full of REALLY IMPORTANT STUFF, which means old concert tickets/magazins/poster/old cassettes/toy figures from his youth. So, in a nutshell, they are not coming into the house if I have anything to do with it, and will be stored like time capsules for the forseeable future.
This has a bonus side, in that the owner of these boxes will be relegated to the said shed/garage/loft where he can sometimes open the boxes, pour over his past, and basically play with them until he has to box them back up. This also creates valuable space for the female of the house to work her design magic, and who let’s face it, is never going to let any of these items into visible areas.