Have you ever let things slide to such a point that you can no longer do anything properly? You wake up in a guilty sweat at three in the morning, writing a mental list of who you’re going to let down first.
It started, as so many things do, in the kitchen. My normally slapdash approach to household chores had deteriorated so badly I was about to call the council myself and ask them to forklift me and the fridge on to a landfill barge before the neighbours got up a petition.
The place was a Rubik’s cube of domestic neglect. Every time I tried to get one thing straight I came up against another undone job that stopped me dead in my tracks. I tried to make a cup of tea but couldn’t get the kettle under the tap because the sink was so full of unwashed dishes. I couldn’t load them into the dishwasher because that was full of yesterday’s washing up. I daren’t switch that on because we were out of dishwasher powder. And I’m not filling it with washing up liquid again – last time the kitchen looked like a Magaluf foam party!
By the time I’d emptied the sink, I’d run out of surfaces and couldn’t make any more space because the bin was full. I tried to heave the black bag out of the giant pedal bin in one clean jerk. The bag resisted in that air-locked way that makes you think someone very small and mighty is deliberately pulling it back into the bin. Eventually, the gremlin released its grip and out it came, ripping cleanly across the bottom and strewing the floor in eggshells, tea bags and empty polystyrene mince trays.
I considered a blindfold and a can of fabric freshener. Instead, I reached into the cupboard under the sink for a new bin bag. Three bottles of Mr Muscle (unopened) and a rusty tin of shoe polish fell out to join the cocktail on the floor.
I’d have burst into tears but we’d run out of paper towels.
At this point I turned to my friends. Vix, my workaholic techie friend, advocates the salami technique. “Just go round the house clearing a ten centimetre square at a time,” she said. Heather advocated delegation. “Take the dog out and join me for a coffee and leave the kids to it,” she said. A nice idea, but I don’t want to come home to a letter from social services.
Carrie, a former workmate, used to advocate self-imposed panic. “Pretend the Queen’s coming round for tea in half an hour,” she would say. But she was possibly the most efficient woman on the planet. She would routinely put in a ten-hour day followed by an hour’s commute, then go home and redecorate the hall. In the morning she would regale us with tales of her frankly fabulous love life. So I think her idea of domestic chaos was slightly out of kilter with mine.
So the salami technique it was. I started with the kettle and worked my way round to the fridge, inch by painful inch, like a Marine under basic training. Three days in, I have a kitchen back. Now it’s time to work on my overflowing inbox before it bursts into flames and creates another mess on the floor.
How do you keep domestic chaos under control? Do you favour the Quentin Crisp approach (after four years the dirt doesn’t get any worse) or the Monica Geller approach (you can’t sleep if you leave your shoes in the sitting room and use a Dustbuster to clean your vacuum cleaner)?
Let me know!