Christmas holidays mean that my teenagers are around all day. Routine housework has, therefore, tripled because they never put anything away.
I went into the kitchen just now, put the grill pan back in the oven, the butter in the fridge and the strawberry jam in the cupboard - for the third time this morning. (Breakfast seems to happen any time between 10.30am and lunchtime.) I'm not so much irritated as mystified.
Why is the poor grill pan always left out in the cold? Why does the strawberry jam have to sit in splendid isolation among the crumbs on the kitchen table? Maybe there's some law that says anyone under 20 must leave clear evidence of recent activity. That would explain the damp towels on the landing, the shoes halfway down the hall, and the crumpled newspaper spread out on the sofa.
They do pull their weight round the house, my teenagers. They empty the dishwasher, change their beds and even do the odd bit of hoovering. But they never, ever put anything away. I have given up trying to impose any kind of order in their bedrooms. If my 17-year-old likes his coursework all over the floor, I guess that's up to him. But I would dearly like the rest of the house to look less like a ransacked jumble sale.
'Are these your ear rings?' I say to my daughter.
'Yes,' she says.
'What are they doing on top of the microwave?'
'Oh, is that where they were?' she says, with genuine interest. 'I've been looking for them everywhere.'
I seem to have failed miserably to teach them that it saves time, in the long run, if you return objects to their original home. Some people would also argue that a living room carpet free of bottles of nail varnish, socks, magazines and half-eaten packets of biscuits is, well, something worth aiming for.
'But I don't like things too tidy,' says my daughter. 'I like things to look lived-in.'
Lived-in? With three teenagers, this house looks like it's been turned upside-down and hurled off a cliff.
If this is ringing bells for you, catch up on our weekly teen column here.
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