In our house, you don't find mugs in the kitchen cupboards. Or plates, come to that. Or even glasses. Most days, the shelves are bare.
It's true that a lot of stuff gets broken. This is to be expected if you're living with teenagers who wander around with plates of half-eaten pizza while talking into their mobiles and tripping over piles of dirty socks. But I do go to IKEA once a year to buy replacements. (I always come back with bright green ferns and scissors, too. Which is a bonus.)
But none of this makes any difference. I could be the proud owner of a full dinner service from Buckingham Palace, and the cupboards would still be bare.
This is because my teenagers take stuff out of the kitchen but never, ever bring it back.
My eldest leaves a trail wherever he goes. Two coffee cups at least next to every chair he sits in throughout the house, with a good bank of used crockery – cereal bowls, cups and plates of half-eaten toast – round his bed.
My younger son likes collecting glasses of water. The cat knocks these over. So his room is usually sopping wet and full of empty glasses.
In my daughter's room, it's hard to see all the coffee cups full of mould and solidified hot chocolate because the surfaces are covered with swathes of fabric and half-worn clothes.
She also has the rather amazing facility of hiding mugs and bowls under her bed where they sit, quietly gathering dust, until a frantic search for black tights brings them spluttering into daylight.
Stuff I gather from her room can't be washed in the normal way. It has to be soaked, in water too hot to touch, in order to soften the crusted contents.
"Shall I take some of this away?" I ask timidly, looking at the car boot sale of odd crockery piled up on the table next to her bed.
"Oh, Mum," she says, as if my obsession with cleanliness has gone too far, as if I've suggested scouring every inch of her skirting board with a sterile toothbrush.
Maybe I should just go back to IKEA.
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