herald

Sunday 25 September 2016

Mum's the Word: Are three children and a clean home ever within my grasp?

What are the chances of minimising the junk build-up in our cluttered home?

playtime
playtime

I can't figure out if nostalgia or laziness is most responsible for my procrastination, but something has to be done. With very passing week, another item moves into my home, filling an already packed building well beyond capacity.

The wardrobes are groaning, the drawers stuffed full, the cupboards crammed and the shelves groaning under the weight of more 'stuff'.

There are the toys that get played with twice a year, primarily because the kids can't get at them. In order to do so, they'd need to wade through a wall of 30 other items, namely other toys and games and balls, not forgetting stray bits of games that have long been separated from their boxes.

In the beginning, I strove hard to keep everything in order, tidied into boxes. As the volume of toys increased, so too did my efforts, alongside the wear and tear on the boxes.

Suddenly, seams popped, corners gave way, and impatient toddlers realised that the quickest way to open a game was by tugging hard at a flap or lid until the box ripped.

After months of enduring this abuse, the boxes simply gave in, their once robust cardboard worn down by toddlers' strength and bloody-mindedness. Broken, battered and flattened. What is with kids, they see a game on the floor and think it's been put there so they can step on it, which means these boxes can't even be stuck back together again

Every other week, I find myself with the sticky tape, reconstructing puzzle and game boxes that should have seen the recycler months ago.

It's the only way to stop those rogue jigsaw pieces, counters and Lego blocks working their way out of their boxes and down the back of the couch, loose in the bottom of a drawer, or into the mouths of visiting babies.

And so I have a fantasy. It's hardly wild or titillating, but I dream about a crazed cull whereby I remove 85pc of the rubbish from my house.

I already do this at Christmas, to make way for Santa's next delivery, but that type of annual clean-up is way more low-key than my grand plan.

While the pre-Christmas clear-out has to be done surreptitiously, and in a way that the kids won't register, there's no need for discretion in my dramatic dream.

Instead of freeing up a little space in the toy box or playroom the cull I dream of is a no-holds-barred domestic detox. Everyone will know about it because it will transform my home from its current jumbled mess into the neat and seemingly spacious house I once enjoyed living in.

The pre-children neat freak in me wants to systematically dump the majority of neglected toys, games, books, stuffed animals, scooters and sports equipment and pass them on to a loving home. Failing that. I'll simply have to switch off my nostalgia gene and consign them all to the dump.

True, as it is, that my kids' paraphernalia causes the most clutter in my home, I'm hardly faultless where my own belongings are concerned. Despite clearing out bags of clothes for the charity shops, every few months it's startlingly clear that I could go a lot further.

horder

If I weren't such a hoarder, I could free up a wardrobe or two. I could probably free up a kitchen cupboard too, if I made time to look through all the random cookery utensils, duplicates and darn-right-useless accoutrements I've inherited over the years.

Being a magazine editor has seen me accumulate such PR 'gifts' as six branded aprons, four bath robes - none of which I wear - and a selection of hideously logo-ed mugs.

So, while it's clear I'm as much to blame as my kids (maybe more so, as I allow their belongings in to our home) I wish I had the time, guts and sense to snap myself out of it and dive in to deep-clean mode.

It's time to admit that my 100+ cookbooks are insanity. It's time to stop the procrastinating.

It's time to acknowledge that, while my fantasy cull would terrify my family, a stealth operation, week by week, seems the best plan of action.

I'm telling you this because I believe a public declaration of intent may just shame me into following through.

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