The Winter of our Discontent

Christmas, some say, is on the top of a steep hill.  The nearer you get, the steeper it becomes.  As we reach the end of our third lockdown, one starts to feel the same way.   I still haven’t had my vaccination, so I’m very stuck, until that happens.  Like many other self-employed people I’ve had to turn down work and thus been prevented from earning a living.  It’s a very frustrating time.

Generally, winter months can be a problem when you find it hard to stay organised.  Dismal weather isn’t conducive to doing things and there is a tendency to hunker down and hibernate, so now is the time to call up some creativity, if you find things getting on top of you.

Lockdowns aside, if the weather is so bad that you have to stay indoors anyway, why not use that as a reason to spruce-up your space?  Try a bit of feng shui – move the sofa so it faces another way, put your fave snuggle chair near a window so you get more light.  Experiment with arrangement – have fun with your furniture!

As 1980s pop-art-nouveau oddballs the B52s said: “Dance this mess around”.  Put on some music and move your stuff – it’s a great way to refresh.  It invigorates your physical space and your brainspace.  Serious ‘spring cleaners’ love moving furniture for these reasons.  For the rest of us, this way, we don’t have to push it all back again.

A Lovely Space.
Pic: A mess that I “danced around” recently, or where my sofa used to be, is now (after some cleaning) an interesting space. I haven’t worked out what to do with it yet, but I enjoy looking at it. Sofa is now out of pic, on the left, so it looks out of the window.

Take down your ornaments and give them a good wash – glass and china shines up a treat.  If you can’t wash them, dust them carefully.  Clean the mantels and ledges.  Put the ornaments back in a different place, or maybe swap them for others in a different room.  Is it time to declutter?  Remove the ones you no longer like!

The covid plague has taught us that it makes sense to do some general surface cleaning.  Any ordinary soap-based detergents destroy viruses by breaking down the oil-based skin that surrounds them. You can use anti-bacterial cleaners, or keep it simple with very dilute white vinegar – but this is less effective against viruses.  If germs spread through contact, the best thing you can do is to keep your living space clean, especially on hard surfaces, doors, railings etc.

Don’t overdo it – if you’ve been ill or you’re finding it hard to get motivated, it takes time to get your energy back.  The physical exercise of cleaning will be good for you, but doing too much will slow down your recovery.  So pace yourself, do a good job, and enjoy doing it.  Reward yourself with a rest and a hot drink afterwards.  No matter how small, admire what you have achieved.  It’s one less thing you have ‘to do’, one more thing ‘DONE’.

As the song says “Now, don’t that make you feel a whole lot better?

Hard Times

A friend of mine was once relating her time as a teenager, living in a convent boarding school.  Students took full part in the day-to-day upkeep of the convent, and for her, this meant being assigned various ‘domestic’ duties which kept everything shipshape.  Cleaning was a big part of this.

We’re talking about the 1950s, when cleaning materials for most were pretty basic – rough scrubbing brushes, blocks of hard soap if you were lucky.  The convent sisters were used to strict discipline, and this meant a regular routine of cleaning and dusting. 

We have an array of chemicals for cleaning today.  Back then, my friend was given one rough cloth and a bucket of water, not even any soap.  The sisters believed that regular cleaning required nothing more, and to a large extent, that’s true, if you have a lot of energetic people to do the work!

Nevertheless, it was a routine that she stuck to, all her life, and to my knowledge, she still cleans her home in this way.  ‘If you clean regularly,’ she says, ‘a damp cloth is all you need, to keep down the dust.’

It’s a good discipline, if you are able to cling to it, and I can honestly say it works, but it does take a lot of discipline. The plus side is, not buying cleaning products means you save money!

Spiders – an introduction

If you can dedicate some time to cleaning, the final result of a decluttering session will be ten times more satisfying.  Decluttering uncovers a lot of stuff you probably weren’t expecting: papers and old pens that have fallen behind cabinets, glitter from childrens craft projects, and cobwebs – lots of cobwebs.

Spiders, like any bugs, love those cosy heaps of stuff we make.  They make a happy, peaceful living in those little nooks and crannies.  Don’t be too hard on spiders; they’re very good at keeping your house free of other bugs that no-one wants.

But it’s still your space, not theirs, so they have to accept a little bit of upheaval now and again.  Don’t feel bad about ‘evicting’ your spiders; they’re very resourceful, and soon find somewhere else to go.

Make molehills out of the mountain

You might find the expression ‘cleaning the house’ overwhelming – with good reason!  Houses are big (even the small ones), and contain a lot of stuff.  The thought of cleaning your entire house, flat or apartment, in one go, might prevent anyone from ever getting started.

If that’s the case, break the job into small bits.  Ask yourself ‘how long can I keep going on a physical task before I get tired?’

Let’s say you can do fifteen minutes, before you need to stop.  Now ask yourself ‘what little cleaning job can I do in that time?’  Can you… clean the kitchen sink? vacuum the lounge carpet? wash a few windows inside?  Just do one task and see how long it takes you.  If you then feel you can do another, great, but stop if you need to.  You’ve still achieved your target task within a target timeframe. You have achieved your objective. Well done; reward yourself for that.

Clean Start

We haven’t really talked about it, so at the risk of sounding reckless, I’m introducing a new ‘category’ to my blog posts.  Cleaning is the friendly relative of organising and decluttering.  You don’t have to do it, but while you’re in the process of moving your stuff around into a solution that suits you better, it is worth doing a bit of cleaning.

It really is ‘just a bit’, too.   We’re talking about stuff that’s been sitting around for a while, it’s going to pick up some dust – but usually it isn’t half as bad as you thought it would be, and pretty easy to get back to where you want it, i.e. nice and clean again.

Clutter tends to build up over time, so it gathers dust like anything else.  But a quick wipe over with a damp cloth could be all it takes to fix the problem.  We’ll be looking at a few examples of light cleaning tasks and useful ideas over the next few days, so stay tuned for updates.