For me, the moment that summed up my approach to housework was at a regular weekly meet-up at our house. One of our friends came in, noticed the stairs and said: “Oh wow, new carpet?”
“No,” I said. “I hoovered.”
I had some vague hopes of instilling more of a work ethic and perhaps even some house-proud-ness in our kids, but when I saw our Boy (then about 20 months) spill some milk on the floor, stop to contemplate the drops, rub them out with his foot and continue walking, I realised that they were just going to follow in the family tradition. At not quite 2 years of age, the Boy was already well versed in The Kingston Way.
In case you are looking for a housework avoidance system, I will sketch out the basic rules and principles:
1. Keep things out in case you need them again.
No point tucking them away in boxes and bookcases, most things you use or bring into the house will be needed again within ooh at least a month. Put them in plain view, like say on the dining table, so you can find them again easily – that is, until the next person comes home and puts their important papers and bags of stuff on top. Same with toys. You are never quite finished playing with toys. Just leave them out, ready for next time.
2. At all cost, avoid bending over.
It’s not good for your health. If something falls on the floor, just take a moment to say goodbye and leave it. The kids or the cats will get it eventually.
3. Quick fixes are better than long term solutions.
When you tidy, it’s probably because someone is coming to visit. No time to find permanent homes for all those objects in random places – just find different random places – preferably somewhere the guest is unlikely to come.
4. Designate a Bluebeard room.
Just in case you haven’t come across this folk tale: Bluebeard had a room in his house that was always locked and warned his young wife never to open it. But curiosity got the better of her and she looked anyway – tumbling out came the corpses of Bluebeard’s previous wives. If you determine to adopt The Kingston Way, it is essential to give one room in your house up completely to mess. This is where you shove all the junk from the other rooms of the house when tidying in a hurry. Make sure it has a door that shuts. Preferably, a door that locks. It is also acceptable to hide away unpresentable family members in this same room (with snacks to bribe them to stay quiet).
5. Appearance is everything.
Nobody (except perhaps my Dad) is going to check under the microwave or behind the toaster. Just clean the surfaces/bits of floor people can see at a cursory glance. Leave the rest for when you move out of your house and the absent furniture reveals entire civilisations of spiders and other mini beasts who have made a vast metropolis out of missing toys and mouldy bits of bread.
6. If you leave something for long enough, it becomes interior design.
After a while, you just don’t notice the stains on the kitchen wall or the batteries in the decorative bowl anymore. The wires in the corner are mess for a while, but then they become Modern Art.
Congratulations! You have now been fully inducted into The Kingston Way. Following these simple rules should ensure a minimum amount of housework-related stress in your life, allowing you to spend the time on things that really matter, like the Internet.