05/11/2014 10:38 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Flotsam And Jetsam: Losing The Battle For A Tidy Home

Flotsam and jetsam: Losing the battle for a tidy home

If a tidy house equals a tidy mind, then not only does my abode need a bloody good spring clean, my cerebellum could do with a good sluice out, my hypothalamus needs a firm dusting and my temporal lobe requires a vigorous scrub with a wire brush.

My house is never tidy. Actually, that is not entirely accurate. My house is tidy for approximately 30 seconds after an exhausting, ultimately pointless attempt to tidy up.

At 31 seconds, my four-year-old kicks his socks off and they skid under the kitchen table, or my one-year-old empties the entire bucket of stickle bricks onto the lounge floor (because there is seemingly nothing so funny as mummy hopping around on one foot having just stepped on a spiky rectangle of plastic) or my husband dumps his jacket onto a chair, five foot from the coat rack. Obviously, I never make mess. Much.

We are a family of four, making the mess of a family of at least eight. Everywhere I look, there is stuff. Stuff that does not live where it has been left. Stuff that belongs in another place, but has been transported by mostly small hands to somewhere else entirely inappropriate.

A Lego space man in my shoe. A silver bauble in the middle of the bathroom floor (which surely is beyond bad luck, given that twelfth night was ages ago), a truck loaded with bricks slowly making its way along the kitchen window sill.


I want to weep, but I can't find the tissues (last seen employed as an impromptu get-away raft to save three Play Mobil robbers from the clutches of a pair of officious looking policemen).


I dream of a tidy house. Then I wake up, roll over and find I am lying on a stripy bunny, swing my legs over the side of the bed and step on a tractor and stumble into the bathroom to find a plastic motorcycle perched on the toilet roll.

Every time I see one of these interlopers, I sigh inwardly. But curiously, I don't actually do anything about it. I think, perhaps I know, that tidying is simply a futile exercise, a vain attempt to stick two fingers up at the tsunami of crap that ebbs and flows around my house.

And it appears that someone has just hung a pair of Superman pants on one of my up-stretched fingers, so I shall just have to make do with ranting:

10 things that make me want to chew the edge of table in frustration - but not until I have given it a wipe (what is that purple stain, anyway?):

1. Play dates.

These are a tricky trade-off in the tidy house stakes. Yes, you get a couple of hours of your offspring not pestering you. But those two hours have been largely spent emptying every shelf, cupboard and drawer of toys, which are then diligently broken down into their constituent parts. Net result: messiness that only an industrial flame thrower or dumper truck can resolve.

2. The Red Thing.

Every house has one like it - a little object that was once part of a bigger toy - in this case, a construction set - that has ventured out into the world on its own and is making the most of its new-found freedom. Our Red Thing turns up everywhere - the bath, my son's bed, down the back of the sofa. I swear I have thrown it away at least five times, but it just keeps coming back. I have no doubt it will be rattling around my coffin, when the time comes.

3. Stairs.

Shall we remind everyone in the house what stairs are for? That's right. Climbing. As a way of facilitating egress from the ground floor. They are not, repeat not, shelves. So stop
putting stuff on them.

4. Forensic tidying.

I find myself doing more of this as the weeks go by as the toys get more complicated. I pick up a very small component of a toy from the floor. I know it is from a toy. But which one? I study it carefully. Hmmm.


A strip of blue plastic on the end... a very similar blue to his lorry. No wait, this little junction here... that's definitely Play Mobil. But is it rocket or police car? No, there's a flat bit here that must be from the helicopter... I tell you, Miss Marple has nothing on me.


5. Hand wipes.

Does every four-year-old have an aversion to wiping their hands on something entirely appropriate like a wet wipe? 'Do your hands need wiping?' I enquire. 'No,' replies my son. I then watch him walk off and wipe his hands on the sofa. Or the back of the kitchen chair. Or the edge of the door. Most of the objects in my house are only held together by a lattice-word of sticky finger-smears.

6. Crap magnets.

There are a couple of places in my house that I consider 'crap magnets'. Places or objects that attract piles of crap disproportionate to the rest of the house. Our front door is one such crap magnet. Shoes are scattered within a three foot radius of it, odd gloves nestle next to pizza flyers on the floor nearby, toy cars lie upturned and abandoned on the door mat, a scooter lies across the hall. I console myself with the fact that this is probably the best burglar deterrent a house can have.

7. U.F.Os (Unidentified Found Objects).


Our house always has at least one U.F.O at any given time. That thing that looks important, and probably has an important name, like a flange, or a grommet, but that you have absolutely no idea what it is and where it belongs.


But I can never, ever throw away a U.F.O, for fear of finding out that it is the crucial part required to reattach the rotor blades to my son's helicopter. Or it belongs on the cooker hob. Or more likely, that it fell out my brain.

8. Untidy trespassing.

It is not just my house that is untidy. Nowadays, all my pockets are untidy too. Scrunched up tissues, half a box of raisins, sometimes the Red Thing, extricated from my knicker drawer and en route to the kitchen bin, emergency chocolate buttons and a torn receipt. Pulling my keys from my jacket pocket prompts an explosion of detritus that can take three people and a Dyson several hours to clear up. And not just my pockets. Untidiness has trespassed into my handbag, too: it's full of crap. And my car. Don't get me started on my car...

9. Table dump.

Our kitchen table is basically the hub of all family traffic. Wherever you want to go in the house, you pass the table. But not, it seems, without depositing some level of rubbish on there first. Newspapers, lap tops, keys, drawings, stickers, footballs, empty juice cartons, half-chewed flap jacks... trying to lay the table to eat involves a half hour tidy up. Actually, that's a total lie. It involves a three minute 'push everything as far to one end as it will go without tipping the table up'. One day, I shall replace the table with a skip, It will be a whole lot quicker.

10. Irritation.

The thing that irritates me most about untidiness? The fact that I get irritated about it. Given that I live in a perpetual state of untidiness, the best thing for me to do would be to not worry about it. But I can't help it. Grinding my teeth at the state of the lounge is second nature. I am forever getting annoyed with my house.

I would bang my head against the wall in frustration, but there's a crappy painting covered in glitter and dinosaur stickers stuck in the way...

Does this sound horribly familiar?

More on Parentdish: Why our homes should be loved and lived-in, not immaculately arranged.