If you’d come to my house a year ago, it would have been immaculate. I’m talking polished surfaces, dishes all washed and put away, ironed sheets on the beds, clothes neatly folded and placed in drawers. Most importantly, my (then) two-year-old son’s toys would have been hidden from view, in matching storage boxes.
Pay me a visit today, however, and it’s a different story. Well, depending on which day of the week you come - because I decided, recently, to only tidy, clear and clean once a week. To stop ironing sheets. To do the bare minimum, and only on a Saturday (and as quickly as possible, so that it doesn’t eat into family time).
That means if you pop round on a Thursday evening, the house might look utterly chaotic. Toys will be strewn about the place, washing will be hanging on the line - dry, but stubbornly hanging there. The dining table chairs won’t be pushed under the table. The sofa cushions won’t be fluffed.
Why have I stopped tidying (except on Saturdays)? Because it was taking up far too much of my thinking and doing time. I’m a mum of one, pregnant with my second, I work four days a week in a high-pressured senior marketing role in London’s Camden and in November I launched an app (called Clementine, for women who need a confidence boost).
Running a startup is time-consuming. Especially when you also have a job, a husband and a child. My to-do list was never-ending. So I had this idea to scrap it and replace it with a NOT to-do list. This meant listing all the things I was doing that weren’t enhancing my life or absolutely crucial.
Here’s what I put on my list:
- No more TV during the evenings
- No more ironing things that didn’t need to be ironed… sheets, pillowcases.
- Less time fussing over my nails (I used to do a weekly manicure in front of the TV)
- Less time bringing my day job home
- No more aimless pottering around the house, tidying up every day – clean and tidy once a week only
At first, the idea of ignoring the mess and working while it surrounded me didn’t sit comfortably. So I’d get up and do a quick sweep of the kitchen - put a few cups in the dishwasher, put a cork in last night’s wine. But I had to tell myself to STOP. To sit down, re-focus and ignore it.
After some practise, I became pretty good at it. I realised that the only reason a messy house annoys me and makes me feel like I can’t concentrate on work is because I let it. We have the power to decide what’s going to annoy us and what isn’t - and to make changes. So I changed my mindset. And now I work from home, on Fridays - and in the evenings - amidst the chaos. I really don’t care at all.
My husband, interestingly, has taken to doing a bit more of the tidying himself. He finds it hard to live amongst clutter, having become accustomed to the ordered house that I’d maintained for so long. This means he does more of the housework and I get to work