Men are risk takers, women are risk averse.

It’s generally quite accepted, even among the most ardent egalitarians, that men are risk takers and women are risk averse. It plays out everywhere, from women not asking for promotions right down to teenage boys dying more regularly from stunts gone wrong. There are all sorts of explanations as to how this comes about: hormone profiles, socialization, neural pathways and rewards. But there is an obvious reason why these behaviours are selected for, and knowing it benefits men women alike.

Make take the risks in society. They do this to surpass other men. Whether they’re starting their own business or doing a backflip off a tree into a pool, men want to become better than other men and be seen doing it. This is generally positioned by women as men wanting to show off and get social points. But the reality runs deeper.

The reason why men “peacock” like this, rather than by dressing in bright clothes or singing as they walk down the street, is because humans are brainy, social animals. And taking risks advances society. Why does the guy who starts his own business get rewarded with wealth and status? Because he provides a necessary service, a tribal environment, a product, employment, etc. He is actively creating wealth. Why does the guy who backflips off the tree get attention and praise? Because he is illustrating his physical prowess and confidence in his body, two valuable genetic traits. Both men are adding something of value to the world they live in, actively or passively.

The major disadvantage to this behaviour is quite obvious: death, resource depletion, ostracization, general failure. When a man takes a risk and it backfires, at best he is humiliated, at worst he is dead. A society of inefficient risk takers is a dead society. Therefore, as men mature and see the downsides of risks, their own risks become more calculated, preserving the older, more skilled men of the tribe to pass their wisdom down and ensure greater survival of the next generation.

On the other hand, women are naturally incredibly risk averse. We do this to survive. Women are the weaker sex, a necessity for the raising of children and socially dependent. We are unlikely to take any risks, even in our reckless teen years. Generally, men assume this is due to frailty or cowardice.

The reasons women avoid risks are also due to our brainy, social nature. Our babies need a very long time being protected and fed to grow their big brains and learn how to be adults. They need our care and attention. Possibly as a luxury given to us by men, possibly to encourage men to treat us kindly, we have got weaker from our primitive days and our bodies are gradually better and better adapted for nurturing, feeding and caring in general. This is not a flaw: by raising smart, healthy children in a safe environment we also add value to the world we live in.

The major disadvantage to this is less obvious, but is there: women’s low risk taking is a net loss. Look at how many great male inventors, leaders and artists there have been through history. Or, if you doubt the veracity of history, look at the great male explorers, inventors and investors, the risk takers of our generation. Imagine if the number of great women equalled that. Society would speed along over twice as fast from the sheer levels of innovation.

So men take risks, which is good because it pushes society forwards and bad because it endagers their lives and tribes. And women do not take risks, which is good because it provides care and safety and bad because it limits the progress of human society.

And therein lies a key compatibility.

Men’s strength lies in their ability to make calculated risks.

Women’s strength lies in our ability to accept calculated risks.

Any internal restriction on a man’s risk taking is a negative. If men always stopped at the safe line then society’s progress would be slow and staggered. But if men never knew when to stop or give in, or never paused for thought, then most men would be dead. Enter women: from his mother’s overbearing eyes during his childhood, to his scaredy cat girlfriends in his teens and twenties, to his wary wife in his thirties onwards, men have benefitted from the slightly paranoid voice of risk aversion. They will brush it off and often take the risk anyway, but always with a steadier foot, a more careful eye or an extra protective measure.

Any amount of spontaneous risk taking in women is also a negative. If women always toed the line of danger then society would be many mothers and babies short, drawing our growth to a halt. But if women never permitted a risk to be taken, then men would either become too weak to bring progress or exit society as a whole (reminds me of something, that…). Enter men: by making calculated risks and undertaking dangerous work on her behalf, the men in a woman’s life show her that risks can be taken in a relatively safe manner. Women will brush it off and still hide from danger, but always with a greater sense of security, that we can rely on men and trust their reason.

In a relationship, any relationship, be it parent-child, teacher-student, romantic, brother-sister or even work, we can make these facts play to our and everyone’s advantages.

Men:

  1. Take whatever risks you need to.
  2. Listen to women’s paranoias.
  3. Pause and assess which fears stem from a natural perspective.
  4. Ease her fears whenever possible.
  5. Take the risks she ought to take when her fear holds her back…
  6. …or at least make her feel safe and supported as she takes the risk herself.

Women:

  1. Make sure your life is safely guarded against unnecessary risks.
  2. Observe men’s risk taking.
  3. Urge caution and try and phrase advice so they will understand.
  4. Accept when he is going to do it anyway.
  5. Do not be afraid to demand comfort or exclusion from an activity if the risk bothers you.
  6. Reward successful risks, and do not blame or nag when the reward falls short.

After all, we want neither a society where women throw themselves blindly screaming into activities that terrify them, or feel pressured to take big risks to “look mature”, nor a society where men pussyfoot around their troubles and choke back the risks they want to take for fear of female retribution. We want a society where women calculate risks and men take them, with both considering the other’s perspective.

We are not broken, unequivalent or stupid. We do not need to be fixed. We are two perfectly compatible sexes and our roles serve a distinct purpose.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

 

For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.
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5 Things Women Get Easy (that men would love).

In every society there are things that come easier to some people than to others and gender is one of those divides. Even in a primitive society, women often miss out on adventure and meat for being at home, whilst men miss out on safety and fruit for being away. In today’s society we’re told time and time again about the cultural and legal privileges that men have over women and we’re only just starting to acknowledge the many advantages that women have legally and in education. However we don’t really touch on the cultural advantages women have that men have to work incredibly hard to get.

So here are five privileges our culture bestows on women that men rarely receive, but absolutely love receiving.

1: Physical touch and sex.

Women benefit from all sorts of physical interactions. I’ll focus on two extremes: basic touch and sex.

Basic touch is when a friend hugs you, or a coworker rests a hand on your shoulder to reassure you. Women are more likely to be offered this touch and, with new concerns about harassment, less likely to receive it when we don’t want it.

Sex has always been easier for women to get than for men, as humans are social animals and for society to thrive, all women must be offered a chance to reproduce. However men are becoming increasingly stigmatized for their sexual urges and natural desires on top of this, which means men have a much harder time getting sex.

However men enjoy all sorts of physical contact and are just as de-stressed by a hug as a woman is.

2: Help.

Women are more likely to be offered a helping hand with something difficult and less likely to be stigmatized for asking for help. This means that in every case where a woman finds herself in trouble she is more likely to be helped on her way by a friend or stranger than a man is.

This is even reflected by our social aid projects. Although by far more men are homeless than women, more women receive homelessness support. Although men suffer domestic violence and especially physical abuse as much as women, almost all DV shelters assume that the woman was the victim and most are women-only.

We are a society unwilling to help men even when they need it.

3: Common courtesy.

When you’re exiting a supermarket and someone lets you out before they enter, when a parking spot is given to you, when a door is held open for you or helps you pick up something you dropped, that is actually a form of common courtesy, a way of being gentle and polite to everyone around you.

But, again, women are on the receiving end more often than men. Try watching a doorway from a waiting room or a cafe for a few hours. Most of the people having a door held for them will be women, even if it’s also a woman holding the door. Yet sometimes even when their arms are full, men don’t get that same bit of help. But it’s beyond assistance. If someone is stood by a door, struggling with a pile of boxes and nobody opens it or held it open for them, they are practically invisible. Nobody sees them, so nobody extends that politeness to them.

But apparently most men are invisible in that regard.

4: Assumption of parental instinct.

When a woman moves to collect a child at the park, nobody questions it. When a female teacher sees a young boy after school, nobody questions it. When a mother is involved in a case of domestic violence against her child, nobody believes for a second that she was a willing and sane participant. This is the assumption of parental instinct: the assumption that a mother is a parent first and a human later. And it definitely has its downsides, as all the aforementioned scenarios have played out before and the ending has been child abuse.

But men face the opposite. The assumption they have no parental instinct. If a father takes a picture of his own child at the park he is attacked. When a male teacher sees a young girl after school she is questioned as to what he did to her. When a father is involved in a case of domestic violence against his child he is assumed to be the instigator. Whilst nobody should carry the assumption of parental instinct the way mothers do, nobody should be assumed to entirely lack parental instinct the way fathers are. The choice between a good father and a drug addicted mother should be obvious and his relationship status shouldn’t be the pivot point for the entire custody case.

In these cases, ultimately the children are the ones who suffer.

5: A break or a free pass.

Women get this and we sometimes don’t even realize it. It ranges from women (in general) receiving shorter sentences for the exact same crimes as men (in general), to girls being more likely to get a hall pass or extra mock time in school, to women being able to smile their way out of a parking ticket. In short, because women look more childlike and frail than men and because women are attractive to men, men and women alike are more likely to give a woman a free pass if she acts out, commits a crime or lies.

Men don’t get this pass unless they are under serious duress or look particularly infantile and sweet. Even when they are literally children, boys are more likely to be tried as adults in serious criminal cases than girls. And men of certain socioeconomic, cultural or racial backgrounds in certain countries may be treated more harshly than the law requires. The assumption seems to be that men “can take it”. A man “can take” being forced to the ground and having a rib broken during arrest. A boy “can take” waiting for half an hour for the toilet. A man “can take” paying his parking ticket. A boy “can take” being tried as an adult for arson. Girls are sweet and innocent, women are childlike and nice, but males need to own their actions and then some.

But men aren’t machines. Yes, men are more designed for hardship than women. This much is evidenced by the hundreds of thousands of years men have spent hunting and warring as women stayed home and faced relatively little danger. But what is natural isn’t necessarily fair and in a world where everyone abides by the law as best they can and everyone pays for their actions, it is genuine injustice to make men pay more unnecessarily.

And those are five things that come very easily to women that men would love to have. Use this information as you will. Maybe you will give your husband or brother some more hugs, or your son a free pass when your daughter would get one in the same situation. Maybe you’ll think more about parenting and the assumption of parenthood before siding with mothers against fathers. Maybe you’ll even consider men’s human rights a cause you are willing to support and actively fight for them. Whatever you do to give men a little taste of female privileges, however small, remember this: it doesn’t hurt women, it doesn’t hurt society and it makes the world a better and fairer place.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

Tomorrow the papers will be signed…

…it’s odd to think of marriage this way. Well, to me it isn’t. I was never really the little girl who dreamed of a white wedding. I was the little girl who idolized Xena and wanted to be Peter Pan. I was the little girl hunting sheep round the back of our farmhouse. I had no time for dressup, boys or parties, although party food was more than welcome.

And I don’t think I ever grew out of that. If anything, I matured into it. I can say with almost complete confidence that I hadn’t once imagined a wedding until Jon said he’d want to get married. I was actually not all that into the idea of marriage until I met Jon. It just seemed like pointless expense that apparently most men didn’t want anyway, so whether I found someone whose company I actually enjoyed or became a spinster, marriage just wasn’t a concern.

So it’s odd to be looking at it now and realizing how unusual this is.

Everyone else seems to want a dress and a gathering, to be the centre of attention for a day or fifty. You’re expected to have a white dress, matching shoes and a giant cake, all your friends and family gathered for a fancy speech and a meal and a dance. Flowers that match the dress or the venue. Or if they’re less traditional they might want a themed wedding, something different, maybe a steampunk wedding or a candy themed wedding with an elaborate cake and jars of sweeties everywhere, I don’t know. So many people want to make it important, make it “the big day”, make it special. And if they want that for themselves, then that’s fine.

But I still don’t see the point of a wedding beyond making banking, child custody and joint ventures easier. Oh, and the tax break. The ceremony just looks like the best part of a deposit on a house that was wasted on fancy perishables, to be honest.

We’ve been together for almost four and a half years now and remaining together to raise children and grandchildren and look after each other into old age was always really the goal. Neither of us got into the relationship accidentally or just for the fun of it. Within three months we’d already ventured into the size of family we were looking forward to having. Sure, we wouldn’t be together if we didn’t find each other fun, but there was always a goal, it was never just fun. I’m not even sure I could build a human relationship purely based on fun. Fun is transient. My goal is to build and craft a life where I can have the most fun, enjoy myself the most. Not to just leap on it as and when it comes and live with consequences later. This was my first relationship beyond teenage social obligations to have “a boyfriend” for school conversation.

We’ve been living together as a married couple for over a year and a half now. And, again, it doesn’t really need celebrating. This is just what humans, or at least we, as humans, do. We wanted to have children and grandchildren together and look after each other until death, so living together was a natural move. We had shared our living spaces even before that, over weekends and weeks and fortnights. There were no surprises. He knew I had the odd day when I had low energy or needed to cry a lot. I knew he had days when he just wanted to sit and game. He knew I painted and read and wrote when I wanted to calm down and I knew how to get his favourite meals put together. It was a pretty seamless transition.

We’re not religious, although neither of us are vehement atheists either and I have a bit more of a belief in things beyond what we can directly experience. So there was no religious urge to marry. We would live like this regardless of whether or not we were contractually obligated to and if there is a powerful being that judges our relationship quality, I’m not sure that being legally married or not makes any difference to it.

So it doesn’t really feel like we’re celebrating anything.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s amazing to be with Jon. He is the most perfect human I have ever met. He’s good looking, tall with nice hands and a great grin. He’s smart and widely read and eager to discuss any subject with me as long as neither of us is illiterate in it, which is a rare occurrence. He’s more scientifically minded which balances and overlaps with my creative mind and where he helps me with mathematics, I can help him with language and linguistics. He and I naturally lean towards similar if not exactly the same viewpoints and even when we disagree we find merit in the other’s perspective. He’s also the only person I can be with half a day or all day, every day, for months on end without a break and not get tired of. Scratch that: he’s the only person I can talk to for over an hour daily for four days and not get tired of. He’s the only person where I don’t have to resort to the digital barrier of emails and facebook so he doesn’t drain my energy. We’re headed in the same direction in life: to a nice smallholding where we can both be self employed with 4-10 biological children and some fostered children once our own are mostly grown up. He’s great and an excellent match for me.

But I really don’t feel like I need a piece of paper to tell me that. I know that.

And I don’t need a piece of paper to tell me we will constantly strive to be together until one of us passes. I know that too.

So here’s to a tax break, future children and a great night out. May there be many to come.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

5 Ways To Make Your Family Eat Healthy.

However you define it, healthy eating is important to pretty much everyone who seeks self-improvement. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, control disease, gain muscle mass or improve your running speed, you’ll look at your diet.

Inconveniently, in most relationships and most families there is usually someone who is far more invested in healthy eating than the other. Or at least slightly more invested.

Maybe it’s the competitive runner whose girlfriend is a carboholic pizza-junkie. Maybe it’s the mum dieting to lose a few lbs, but her also slightly tubby husband and children will only half-heartedly join in. Maybe it’s the person who does a load of research into processed foods and goes almost cold-turkey, whilst their best friend still eats processed food on a daily basis.

Whatever the situation, the person who is more invested desperately wants the other people to “wake up” and “eat healthier”. The runner knows his girlfriend would be happier to run with him if she was less sluggish. The mum knows her family would benefit from losing a few lbs with her. The person knows their friend is risking their health by eating processed foods every day. And they all think that what they are doing is the bare minimum for health. And they all want to know how to make their loved ones eat healthier.

So, if you find yourself in that camp, follow this simple step by step guide.

1. Accept You Can’t Make Them.

Oh come on, you didn’t really think you could make someone eat healthy, right? At least not in any ethical, humane way.

People will eat what they want to. You have more control over your kids and partner if you shop and cook for them, but if chocolate bars are handed out at school or someone brings cake into work, you can’t stop them having it. They are humans with free will, opportunity and incentive. They will eat chocolate. Let it go.

2. Accept That Everyone Is Different.

Just because you have celiac disease, need to avoid carbs to not get fat or get headaches from aspartame doesn’t mean everyone will.

Sometimes it can be frustrating to not be able to eat a piece of cake when your friend can eat the whole thing and not suffer at all, or even feel better for it.

Likewise, it can be frustrating to think the perfect recovery food is pineapple and find someone whose mouth is burned by it or who hates the taste.

But people are different and your idea of health food needs to account for that.

What is right for you may not be right for all your family.

3. Offer Them Literature.

If you are worried they don’t know enough about food and diet and are making an uninformed decision, then offer them some good sources. Other than yourself. You may be walking encyclopedia on health food, but they need to understand health food first.

Depending on their age, interests and attention span, choose a source they are likely to finish reading, find credible and enjoy. If after reading they have their own counterarguments, then listen and debate with them.

You won’t get anywhere with someone who doesn’t actually understand things like epigenetics or the effects of salt on the human body.

4. Sneak Them Healthy Foods.

Sometimes the issue is that the very idea of healthy food is countercultural. That is, it defies modern culture so much that some people will be averse to it just because it is the opposite of what they like.

If a salad is automatically rejectable because your culture loves burgers, or “real” fried chicken is deep fried in hydrogenated oils, how are you going to compete with tribalism?

The answer: with stealth. If someone doesn’t want a certain food because it’s unfamiliar or because the name, such as “salad” suggests one thing to them, then be more stealthy.

Serve a warm potato salad with steamed broccoli, aubergine, raw red pepper and tomato, grilled chicken cubes and a light dressing. Just don’t call it salad.

Serve a pasta sauce that’s ten different vegetables blended into the tomato base and lean mince or grass-fed lamb mince.

Chances are they’ll like it anyway.

5. Bond Over Food.

People who like eating healthy often also love food. Many people who aren’t into healthy eating haven’t developed a love for food great enough to break outside of their routine. They enjoy the small selection of foods they actually eat, but nothing more. Many others love food and can’t stand the idea of restricting or eliminating junk foods, however much they enjoy healthy food as well.

Whatever their issue is: get them in the kitchen. Take them out shopping or foraging. Find out the ingredients to their favourite dish. Ask them to help you bake. Have a proper sit-down meal without media involved.

By bonding over the preparation and consumption of food, you’re helping your family to focus on its enjoyability. And if you’re also relaxed about their diet, teaching them about health food and making meals out of healthy, whole ingredients, then the food they are enjoying will be good, healthy food.

What an insidious, horrible way of making people eat their greens.

Aren’t we terrible?

🙂

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

How do you think your diet fares? Are you the health nut in your family? How do you sneak vegetables into your family’s diet?

The Chains We Tie About Our Necks.

Chains1

I’ve seen this quote a thousand times and often thought upon it. You see, the idea is inspirational. We, like birds, have a million places or more we could be if we wanted to, if we really wanted to, yet we don’t go there. We dream of having the money, the freedom, the means to travel to distant places, or live somewhere better. Yet we’re apparently already free to go there. However, when I thought about it some more, I realized the modern Western human does not have the freedom of movement that Harun Yahya implied we do. In fact, we are firmly anchored, chained to one spot. And really, we have nothing and nobody to blame but ourselves.

Of course, we start out free enough. And, in the beginning, we are locked down by others, innocent in our own imprisonment. As infants, children  and often as teens we need our parents for sustenance, safety, education and comfort. Where they go, we go, and unless they fail to provision us one of our four main needs, we will be tied to them for many years. Even if we were to be separated from our parents, a new set would take us on, or we’d be cared for by an institution or another relative. Many of us, myself included, have been taken to new countries, quite against our own desires, thanks to our bond with our parents. Finally, being yet unformed, unwise and uneducated, children need guidance. A child that is free and wild is usually a child that is dead, so even if we were to secure freedom at a young age we would promptly die, implying that said freedom truly is unattainable to a child.

Fortunately, whilst we are bound to our parents, they at least normally act in our personal, individual best interests. Where they will guide us to becoming a more adjusted individual that fits well into society, they would never actually cause us harm so as to bring good to society as a whole. Having children is a selfish act and thus, so is raising them. Most parents want their children fighting fit, educated and free to fly the nest whenever they need to.  The same can’t be said for what is often our primary caregiver in terms of time invested: the educational system. Don’t believe me? A child can spend 8 hours at school (8 til 4, as it was in one of my past schools), one hour traveling to school and one back, plus at least one hour, if not two or three of homework every school day. That’s around 55 hours a week, not counting any weekend work, that a child dedicates to education over term-time. Meanwhile, a primary caregiver parent may spend two hours helping them get up in the morning, then two hours at the end of the day before it’s the child’s bed-time or TV or computer time. If we include after-school activities, a parent’s time with their children on some days could merely consist of getting them up in the morning, a few hours of driving them around followed by dinner. At the weekends the parents take control, but if a child lies in until 10am, spends 6 hours playing with friends or having fun on their own, one hour on homework and then goes to bed or back to their gadgets at 7 or 8pm, that gives the parent an opportunity to get in a whopping eight hours per weekend with their kids. So the time a child invests into parent-child time could be as low as 28 hours for primary caregivers, or even just 7 hours a week for working parents, a far cry from the 55 hours that education seizes.

Yet our new primary caregiver doesn’t particularly care. Children are kept sat still at a desk, in a small room, for between five and ten hours a day, either paying attention in class, doing extra work, having lunch indoors, doing their homework, etc. This is far from a healthy start and promotes inactivity and restlessness, contrary to the Victorian beliefs that came up with these schooling systems. Children are given large amounts of homework they are expected to complete to reach their target grades and not given any idea how much or how little this homework will help them. [Confession: as a teacher you sometimes have to hand out homework but don’t have the time to make some, or don’t see any way it would help. So you give the kids sheets that don’t help at all and will take half an hour to complete.]

And, of course, children are encouraged to be uniform in appearance, sometimes even having to wear little, expensive suits and ties to class; are educated and directed in matters of their social life, morality and individual purpose. They are tailor-made to slot into any available job or university degree around, to seamlessly fit in and start turning their little gear of society. They learn to fear nonconformism, adventure, alien beliefs and moralities. They learn that their purpose, their life, is designed for them, so they don’t need to work. Just fill in the multiple-choice test, get on the conveyor-belt and start turning your gear.

And when they reach higher education they stumble on another stone in the path, one that peddles the complete opposite message: “You can do whatever you want! Follow your dreams!”

Coincidentally, Aaron Clarey went into this a short while ago, which means I don’t have to. But the short form is: if you dream is to be a rainbow unicorn, then good luck there.

But this idea has become so prevalent that a lot of modern youth then proceed to get a degree, any degree, without considering employment prospects, time and money invested or even whether they actually want it. I’ll go into this in a little more detail in another post, so just take home that many Western graduates come out of university in debt, having lost anywhere upwards of three years of their lives, with no employment prospects in anything other than menial work. Which leads us on to the next stage: work.

The modern work system is a thing of genius. You have already skimmed the cream off the milk by filtering it through higher quality universities. Sure, a few drops remain, but all you have left is the more watery portion. They have spent almost the entirety of their formative years in a system, sometimes in daycare from age 1 until graduating at around 25, the age when your brain ceases to drastically change. You have created an adult in the system. They have little to no knowledge that would burden them with an awareness of their own state. They know nothing else but uniformity, sedentary life, conformism and slaving away. They have only just been severed from their parents and they already have debt, which means they need to work and work hard. Of course, this system is now failing due to the burden of caring for so many uneducated, weak-willed, dependent creatures. But for companies they’re still a goldmine. They can turn out a problematic worker at the drop of a hat and swap a more compliant one into their place. They have an infinite supply of a workforce.

And the workforce plays along. After all, they need the money to pay off their debt. And, even though their degree didn’t give them the rainbow unicorn job they’d dreamed of, any money is good money when you’re broke and in debt. This is often a little easier for British graduates, as we get a break when it comes to tuition fee loans. However many UK students also end up with private debt and the free access to education encourages us to fritter away three or four years of our lives even moreso. The end problem is the same, just with differing levels of hardship.

And all the while the graduate is convinced they’ll finally get their rainbow unicorn job, if only. If only they save up and specialize more in their dead-end. If only they get the work experience they need to get the job where they will get work experience. If only they pay of the debt, then they’ll be able to move somewhere there’s a demand for rainbow unicorns. They cling onto these hopes, knuckle down and continue to dedicate their lives to coffee, mops and chips. And they spend a lot of time on this coffee, mops and chips. Sometimes 40-60 hours a week. Which leaves them drained and with little time for self-improvement. Most have a day that looks like this:

6.00: Get up, dressed.

6.10: Eat something. Get ready for work. Mess around on your phone or computer.

6.30: Go to work.

7.30: Sign in.

11.00: Snack break.

11.15: Back to work.

13.00: Lunch break. Eat food and mess around on your phone or computer.

14.00: Back to work.

17.30: Finish work. Tidy up, get changed.

17.45: Head home.

18.45: Get home and sorted. Get food.

19.30: Eat food.

20.00: Mess around on your phone or computer, watch TV.

20.30: Tidy up a little, maybe do the dishes or laundry.

21.00: Get ready for the next day.

21.15: Mess around on your phone or computer, play games, read gossip or watch TV.

22.00-1.00: Go to bed and go to sleep.

Sometimes going out drinking or for dinner is inserted, or an exception is made and something worthwhile is done, like reading, properly socializing, going to the gym, studying or practising a skill. And, of course, some people made wise decisions and are in far better places than that well before they’re 25. But generally, that is a day in the life of a graduate.

But what happens if you swap out the phone, computer, games, gossip and TV? Swap in some valuable habits? Well, then we see people getting run down. A minimum-wage, full-time job is designed in the assumption that self-improvement is not your goal. Many full-time workers in jobs they don’t like find themselves becoming tired, frustrated and depressed when they curb their idle pleasures. You need these things to keep you sane. You live in a small, unnatural environment, your spare time is restricted, you are easily replaceable, eveyone around you is tense, angry or depressed, your hopes are being shattered, debt looms over you and everything is generally rubbish. Without escapism many graduates wouldn’t be here today. Financially, many end up losing out or breaking even. They may pay back their loans and finally make enough money so they feel their time was well-dedicated. But they may also end up forever burdened by the loan and their job, never quite paying everything off, going from university debt, to personal debt, to a mortgage, to the grave in debt. And any financial support that would help keep them out of the red is often more debt or charity. Basically, unless you’re truly destitute, you can’t even buy yourself time without borrowing money to buy it with.And, finally, there are the continual, gnawing, low-level expenses. I will challenge you here and now to keep a diary for 6-12 months. Every time you spend over £100 on something that isn’t groceries or rent, every time you pay more than usual on your groceries or bills, every time you have an accident and need more money, note it down. Then divide it by the month. Most people will spot anywhere from £100-300 of entirely unaccounted money leaving their accounts every month. It may be new tyres for the car. Or a more expensive phone-bill. Or new clothes. Or an upgraded games console. Or a leak in the kitchen. Or a night out. Or an ill pet. It won’t be a consistent thing. Every time you’ll just tell yourself how its “a one off”, how it “won’t happen again for a while”. But the money going out is consistent.  And oftentimes when you add the low-level expenses to your rent, debt, bills, groceries, transport expenses, hobbies and the likes, you’re breaking even or in the red. So even saving has become difficult.

Yet we can’t entirely avoid these expenses. Some happen due to pure chance. And those that don’t are almost a responsibility. Why? Well, being social animals, humans respond to other people. Whether it’s someone pressuring you into going to their cousin’s birthday party, the desire to own a new bag to fit in with your friends or being guilted into helping someone out with an expense, we all end up spending on our social lives, often more than we’d like to or are able to. Because we just can’t break those ties. And the more ties your form, or the longer you hold them, or the more you give in, the more you’re expected to spend.

But other people add more than financial ties to your life. Above we addressed our first chain: a dependence on our parents. Well, now we are choosing our social chains and I’ll suggest that parents are also tied by their children. Children depend on you. They need sustenance, shelter, protection and affection. They must be educated, raised in a stable environment. And in order to provide for a child, get them educated and keep them safe and happy, we must stay put, at least most of the time. Same goes for any dependent. When we take on the role of a carer, we sacrifice a certain amount of freedom.

However people who aren’t dependent on you will also act as a chain. If you have a partner, not only do you have your work, debt, dependence or dependents, but you take on theirs as well. As long as you are a unit with someone, you embrace their restrictions and problems and welcome them into your life. The same often goes for close friends.

Finally, on the matter of social life, we have influence. As most people lead unhealthy, unfulfilling, consumerist lives, then chances are that most of our family, friends and acquaintances will also lead such lives. And if most people around you live a certain way, then you are more likely to be drawn towards it also. If your friends want to go out and get drunk, you either go with them or miss out. If your partner doesn’t want to go to the gym, you either stay home or go on your own. The fewer people that surround you when you step outside your comfort zone, the more likely you are to return to that comfort zone. And most people’s comfort zones are the same. We seek light, easy, unfulfilling entertainment. Stuff that numbs the pain and boredom of everyday life, even if we need a continual supply of it. Humans being neophiles, we become almost instantly addicted to these new streams of bland entertainment. And even if you don’t succumb, the majority do, which means the majority of your social circle does, which means you also may eventually slip.

And what are the consequences of the way we live our lives? Well, besides the limitations I have already mentioned, we see plain, run-of-the-mill ill health. As I have already said, the average person has little time to exercise or little time they are willing or able to dedicate to exercise. Most people you know will either drink, smoke or take drugs, if not all three. Most people you know won’t work out regularly. Most people you know watch 2-4 hours of TV a day. Most people you know eat a rubbish diet at least half the time.
Our workplaces keep us out of sunlight and away from nature. The modern recommended diet, with it’s high-carb, junk-friendly bias is similar to those diets imposed by cult leaders to promote passive, weak, sheep-like followers. We are surrounded by pollution of all varieties. And our doctors are so used to just being asked for a pill that many prefer to recommend medication over lifestyle changes, even where medication is the least effective option. Our environment and our social circles conspire together to keep us overweight, undermuscled, lethargic, passive, ill, drugged-up. And when you are weak in body and mind, your will to escape comes only second to your will to survive.We are bound by debt, work, children, friends, obesity, peer pressure and ignorance.

However, ultimately, we only stay in these bonds because we want to. Not because we want the bonds. No. We hang these chains around our necks because we dislike the alternatives. Sometimes we’re afraid. We go through education because we’re scared of not having a degree, of not getting work. We go to work because we’re scared of not having money. We tie ourselves to people because we’re scared of being alone. However sometimes we’re not even afraid, sometimes we’re just too comfortable, it’s just too easy. We do what everyone else does, we refuse to change, because this takes effort. We’re led into these chains and willingly, out of pure ignorance hang them around our own necks. Eventually we reach a point where we can only stay chained through our own faults, yet our faults are the only reason we needed the chains to begin with. We’ve created characters out of ourselves. Characters that are idle, ignorant, weak, debt-ridden, consumerist, hopeless, peer-pressured, obese, neophiles, hen-pecked, infinitely replaceable people. Characters that have debt gnawing on their skulls, people depending on them, a contract. Characters who have already dug themselves in so deep, they may as well keep digging. There’s no way out for them either way. We depend on the chains to excuse and support us, because, like an arm in a cast, we have become dependent on our limitations to support us.  And keeping these comfortable chains is easier than the pain of ripping them off and standing on your own.

My 8 Surprises of Housekeeping.

First of all, let’s say I had two introductions to running my own home. The first one was when I flew the nest at the age of 16 and bit off a bit more than I could chew. Got through three houses and managed to survive all of them without burning anything down, getting burgled or spending all my money on bills. Out of bed on the right foot, so to speak. The next one was when I moved in with Jon and, for the first time, had someone else who I wanted to please with my housekeeping. And both gave me a different, entirely novel perspective on it.

1: It’s hard work.

I wasn’t expecting it to be easy. I already had some experience doing my own chores and keeping on top of things, so I expected it would be like that. It wasn’t. When you know someone will clean up after you, provided you leave it long enough, you get lazier. You quickly learn that children and teenagers have lower standards than housekeepers. So you let it slide until it’s so bad someone else is forced to do it. The first thing I learned was that that wasn’t going to happen. So, after I tidied my first absolute mess, I decided never to let it get QUITE so bad. Of course, it was a continual cycle of degradation and obsessively cleaning, but the thought was there.

Then you have the fact you’re doing EVERYTHING. As in, want clean clothes? Wash them. Want dry clothes? Dry them. Want a plate? Wash it. Want the shower fixed? Fix it. Want the bills paid? Pay them. It’s impossible to envisage the work that goes into merely maintaining a house until you try it for the first time. In fact, I think you also forget how hard it used to be. So before I was on my own, I had no clue; once I was on my own, it dawned on me, and now I’m used to it I have no clue again. Work is relative and, relative to “f— all”, “everything” is a lot. Of course, it gets easier as you get used to it, learn tricks and generally get into the swing of how to manage your house.

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Note: not an excuse to skip a workout unless you’re legitimately exhausted.

And then you move in with someone. Someone you care about. And it starts over. You want to do well, make them happy, make them pleased and impressed. And that’s when you realize that, up until now, you’ve been living in a pig-sty. So, again, you up the ante. But everything becomes surprisingly easier. Yes, you have to adapt a little. And maybe it’s more down to keeping on top of things, rather than letting it get into an awful state before you even contemplate doing anything. Perhaps it’s simply that you get over it, get it done and, by not procrastinating, save time. But, once you’re into the routine, it’s not quite as bad any more. Also, you have a second pair of hands, for when you really don’t have the time or ability to do a job.

2: More chores exist than you can put a name to.

So, we’re all familiar with the big five: dishes, laundry, dusting, hoovering, tidying. What you don’t realize until you’re doing them, is that that’s a brief summary of all the work a housekeeper needs to do. Dishes? Make that wash, dry and sort; greasy and wipe-clean; breakfast bowls and big meal; this morning and a whole weekend. Different chores, all divided into different categories. Because you’d better not pretend that washing-up, drying and sorting the dishes after a large, greasy roast dinner for five is the same as rinsing your cereal bowl. In for a biiiiiiiig surprise if you do.

She knows EXACTLY what I mean.

And this applies to so many things. Laundry? Well, we have sorting, washing, drying/hanging up, folding, sorting, ironing, putting away. But what about bleach washes? And pet hair? And sports washes? And need I speak about finding all the dirty laundry? I can only imagine what that last stage would be like with children. You can only get away with throwing your laundry in the machine, drying it and putting it back in the wardrobe/drawer for so long.

And, of course, chores you hadn’t thought of. Have a fireplace? Want to use said fireplace? Then you’d better put time aside to sweep ash, dry coal and kindling, hoover the area around the hearth and, perhaps, sweep the chimney. Maybe you want to save money on kindling, which I do by gathering small branches and snapping or sawing them.

Fire is a lot more work than it looks.

Fire is a lot more work than it looks.

Same goes for tidying-up after painting, owning collectables or silverware that needs to be cleaned, or having a pet to care for. Pretty much anything extra you do can take time from your day.

3: It requires a lot of budgeting.

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Again, something you may not have considered. Sure, you have to pay for food, rent and the bills. But next come the expenses you had taken for granted. For example, the best way to save money on soap and washing-up liquid is to buy the cheapest one, right? Well, speaking from experience, the cheapest ones require about 4tbsp of liquid per wash and cost half as much, whereas a certain well-known brand requires about 1/2-1tbsp of liquid per wash and costs twice as much. Which means the brand is actually cheaper. It takes some trial and error to work these things out, but it’s best to buy food as £/100g, or £/100kcal and washing items based on how many uses you get out of them.

Then, you need to work out what is and isn’t superfluous. For example, those scouring-brushes with soap throughout them seem unnecessary, but can save you an hour of soaking and scrubbing a pot with a normal brush. On the other hand, you don’t really need window-cleaner if you have access to vinegar or weak coffee.

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That sponge is not going to last if she uses it for every single item.

And, of course, you discover the reasons behind your parents’ pet peeves. Many of these habits will cost you time and/or money, and now’s the time you begin to unlearn them. Leaving lights on? Check. Running water? Check. Dirty shoes? Check. You also start doing things that used to be your pet peeves because, well, they save money.  You are thinking of the house as an investment. And throwing money at problems you can avoid is a poor way to treat an investment.

On the flip side, all this budgeting really frees up money. Jon and I couldn’t have a house as nice as this if it weren’t because I keep on top of the cleaning, mend anything that breaks, shop at convenient times to get reduced-price food, cook from scratch, keep everything in a practical location, do the laundry over the economy hours, etc. The money we save allows us to have a bigger house, which means I get a tutoring room, which means more money, etc. Were we both working full-time, running vehicles, leaving work when shops and banks are closing and getting prepared food and hiring someone to clean for us, we would be far poorer than we are with me working only 5-10h weeks from home. Get your head around expenses and life is suddenly awesome. And, as a housekeeper, it’s in your hands, and not the breadwinner’s, to put in the elbow-grease and save what they earn. Dislike it though I may,  more money means more freedom, so making budgeting a top priority is advised.

4: You end up “having” specific rooms.

Something I hadn’t counted on. Of course, for my first few years on my own and the first year at uni I had “my” room and shared rooms, as well as certain rooms that didn’t belong to me, I shouldn’t go into or at least shouldn’t disturb.

And it’s normal to assume that when you have a nice big house your territory will expand into it and you and your partner will live symbiotically in shared space, like hermit crabs and anemones. You will agree on everything, share all responsibility and the house will be everybody’s.

That is a myth.

Yes, there are shared rooms. But you definitely end up with “your” rooms too. Either because you’re in charge of keeping them tidy, or you spend a lot of time in them, or you keep your things in them. And you will have rooms you spend more time in and rooms you don’t spend time in and rooms you look after on your own and rooms you leave for the breadwinner to tidy.

For example:

Jon’s rooms are the living-room and the gym. He keeps the gym in order, as well as the living-room. I only tidy either if he hasn’t had the time or left things out overnight, which is often the case with the living-room, but not really with the gym. He lights the fires in the living-room, he spends a lot of his time reading, going online, watching films and gaming there, that’s where he sits down when he comes in from work and wants to have a tea. The gym is where he trains his body. He spends a number of hours a week in there. Everything must be sorted exactly as he wants it or needs it. I do my weight-training there too, but he is my PT and the overseer of the gym.

My rooms are the kitchen and the office. I keep them both in order. The kitchen is my domain, where I cook, where I read, where I conduct all the housework and plan the gardening from. It’s kept warm in the Winter thanks to the running of the oven. If I have some spare time, I will go into the kitchen to look for something to do. Jon often helps out there at weekends and enjoys cooking from time to time, but the room is generally mine. The office is my classroom. Jon rarely goes into it. I teach from there, I keep my paperwork, my teaching-books and my studying-books in there. When I need to plan a lesson, revise a language or arrange my week, I check-into the office first, to see what I have planned.

We share the bedroom, as we both use it only at night and in the morning, when we’re together.

I have taken control of the garden, but largely by virtue of the fact Jon is away most of the time when the gardening needs doing. He acknowledges that focusing on gardening is highly beneficial for me and lets me run wild out there. However, he has his say in what the garden should look like and what he’d like me to do regarding the vegetables I want to grow and the chickens I want to keep, that are both as much his as they are mine.

How the garden's starting to look. <3

How the garden’s starting to look. ♥

And this wasn’t some pre-planned arrangement. Yes, we initially suspected that the kitchen would end up being mine and the gym would end up being his, but that’s just because we know each other very well. Everything else naturally fell into place and we wound up with distinct “territories” where the other is allowed, but which they have less control over than we do. The gym and office are hard territories, where we rarely enter the other’s unless we’re with them or we need something, even though there’s not exactly a booby-trap waiting for us behind the door. The kitchen and living-room are soft territories, where we both spend a lot of time, but have each taken control of one.

And it works. Everything stays done, we both keep an eye out for problems and neither resents the other for “taking-over” a room.

Of course, it’s entirely possible to share control of a house if you carefully structure it so, or if both of you spend all day outdoors, but when you leave it to nature, you’ll see certain areas becoming more one’s territory than the other’s. It’s not something that needs “fixing” and if resentment builds over it, then you have deeper problems. It’s just the way things work.

5: Nest-making.

Another surprising aspect of housekeeping that emerges when you move in with someone you care about is the starting of “nesting” behaviours. Where you may have only kept flowers you were given, now you start wanting to have them around all the time. Where you used to pile your laundry in the corner, now you use a tidy hamper, basket or box. Where you used to eat on a chair or in your bed, now you always eat at a table and strive to eat away from the TV and any computers. The more traditional a home you came from or the more you observed and longed for traditional homes, the more you’ll start turning the house into a home. You’ll make it cozy, and welcoming, and pleasant to all the senses. You’ll enjoy meals more when love and time has been put into them and when everyone at the table appreciates them. You’ll decorate the house to make it both practical and attractive. These are similar to nesting behaviours seen in other species. They indicate dedication, permanence, ease, happiness and a potential desire for children.

Even if you don’t find yourself naturally engaging in these behaviours early on, you will after a while start feeling the urge to engage in them, or to see them emerge regardless of who does the job. Eventually, you start thinking of the house as a place to raise a family in, and you start making a nest.

This really makes housework busier, but it’s by far the most rewarding element of housework. When I’m doing the dishes, the laundry or the hoovering it is out of necessity. When I’m doing the gardening, making floral arrangements or painting paintings to go on the walls it is out of love.

6: A home-base.

Of course, another way your home could evolve is the development of a home-base, as happens when both parties work similar hours. This is actually what we were more aiming for when we started out and, to a degree, we had it. It’s also the way I lived in Bristol and in Cardiff, when I was still on my own. The idea is that your house isn’t a true home until you’re settled, so you use it as a “base” from which you can plan, run and lead your life. Almost like you can’t become attached to a hotel room, it’s hard to become attached to a house like that. In previous homes, I would wake-up, get ready for school, eat breakfast, go out, get back around six or seven pm, have dinner, do the dishes and the laundry, do my homework and go to bed. The houses became a space to leave my things, a bed and a fridge, so the pressure to keep it tidy and pretty wasn’t as strong. People didn’t really come round: I would go and see them instead. Because they had homes and I had a home-base.

Of course, as implied above, we have settled in this house a lot more than we had planned. On the other hand, the house is nicer than we had planned, we have more time together than we’d expected and everything’s running more smoothly than we’d assumed. But, ultimately, this isn’t our true home. It’s a stand-in, until we can get somewhere bigger, where the children can run wild.

So, what is this place? It’s sort of a home. It’s sort of a base. But not quite a home-base. A home-base is far more cut-back and simple than this. A home-base is like a dorm-room from your second year of uni, where you finally give-up and just live out of it and spend as much time outside as possible. Yet, even as an adult, just as you may find yourself nesting, you may find your home becoming a home-base. This can indicate that you are practical people, or that you don’t think of the house or situation as permanent. To each their own, as long as it works and you acknowledge what it is.

7: Entertaining guests.

As mentioned in point six, the one thing you don’t tend to do in a home-base is entertain. Nobody visits, at least not for more than a few hours. You don’t bother about keeping your house nice, you rarely cook full meals (and even then you have them at the TV or computer), the cleaning is enough to keep you happy, but no more.

And then, one day: guests. You have no idea when this happened. (Hint: it happened when point eight happened.) You have no idea how it happened. But people are visiting. For a chat. For tea. For dinner. Some are even staying for a night.

For the uninitiated, this is a horrifying concept. You don’t want them to eat the food you normally eat. Because, let’s admit it, even if you eat well, you don’t normally eat fancy~. But you want your guests to eat fancy, because… guests? Well, let’s admit it, a part of it is wanting to treat them well and a part of it is wanting to one-up them. Either way, the idea is to trick them into thinking you eat fancier than you normally do. So, your young brain sets itself to finding out what “fancy” is. No huge pots carrying a week’s worth of curry. Got to cook every meal! No leftovers. Have to “reinvent” them! No own-brand food. At least not without removing the labels first. Of course, after a while you loosen up and accept that whilst some things are not guest food (cold leftover chicken straight off the main plate), some things are perfectly acceptable to serve up (cold leftover chicken sliced over a salad with a store-brand bread roll).

"I have no clue what normal people eat..."

“I have no clue what normal people eat…”

And then you need to think about the other aspects of your house. Do you keep the coal-bag out by the fire? Unless you’re lighting a fire, best put it away. Are the pillows all over the floor? Time to arrange them beautifully. Dusting you’ve put off for a week? Done in an hour.

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Again, after a while you’ll work out what your guests will and won’t like or put up with, but let these first few occasions be a learning curve.

Things I learned:

-I underestimate how clean my house actually is.

-I overestimate how long it takes to do unusual/infrequent tasks (dusting, ironing, etc).

-People are usually there for you, not to bask in the glow of your porcelain and perfect cushion arrangement.

-Everyone of around your age/generation is likely overdoing it when you visit them too. Susan hasn’t changed that much since uni.

-There’s no point tidying beyond a certain point, especially when the guests bring pets, children or beer.

8: You WILL be house-proud.

I was telling myself that I didn’t care about my house from my first day of living away from my parents. By the second, I was putting a Prussian flag on the wall, some glass animals on the windowsill and bringing daffodils into the house. From there it just escalated. My first house wasn’t really “mine”. I was there for about 9 months, we weren’t allowed to alter the walls and I was very busy playing catch-up with the A-level education structure. My second house I had to paint myself, as it was rented through a shelter association and, whilst they’d nicely patched where someone took a hammer to the walls, they hadn’t the money to paint it (plus, purple is gloomy in a small flat). So I painted it and then decorated the walls with my own paintings, kept radishes on the windowsills and ornaments on the shelves and my desk. And of course the daffodils came in every Spring.

Daffodils are little splashes of Heavenly love.

Daffodils are little splashes of Heavenly love.

Then, for my uni experiment, I only had a room to myself, which I decorated as best I could, always bearing in mind I would be gone the next year.

But with this house I’m going all out. It’s hard not to. You start by saying “I live here, so it should be nice.” You get a few flowers and hang your paintings up and make sure the rooms look the way you want them to, within the limits of what’s practical. But, the longer you stay there and the longer you think you may live there, the more it starts to become homely. We started off with a home-base layout: wholly practical, with plans regarding even the temperatures we’d leave the different radiators on at and when and how often we’d do the washing-up. Now it’s still based around the home-base structure, but covered in niceties. Think of it as a high-quality item of clothing: structured enough to do the job, but with the little details that make it nice. With me it was largely the garden. I had to make the office nice, it was an obligation, as it’s where I see my students, and the rest of the house was largely just tidy, but the garden is where I began to get creative. I started just wanting the practical side: to grow veg and keep chickens. I dug new flowerbeds, but found myself moving rocks to make a border for them. I got a chicken-coop and found myself fussing over the colour of the paint. I decided to turn over some of the garden to flowers. It’s slowly become a hobby, a project. And I’m enjoying it a lot and it isn’t costing an arm and a leg, so no harm done. But it spread into the rest of the house. Suddenly I don’t just want paintings up, I’m thinking about what paintings I want where. I’m collecting dried plants and fabric flowers and other permanent decorations and arranging them.

Not necessary.

Not necessary.

I’m artistically hanging my pots and pans on the wall.

Also not necessary.

Also not necessary.

It’s becoming a home and I’m actually slightly attached to the place.

And, of course, as I’m putting so much work into it, I like it to show and I like to show it. I want people to see it, hence the sudden arrival of guests. If it looks good, I want to show people. If I’m showing someone around, I want it to look good. If I see something out of place, even if it is still in a practical location, I put it back “where it lives”. If I get something new, I fuss over the layout of the room. It seems to be inevitable that, as I put work in, my creative side comes out and, as I start viewing the house as my “art”, I get proud of it and how it’s “supposed” to be.

This, in turn, leads to a furthering of the “art”. In short, you make your house nice for guests, make it nice for yourself, invite more guests, make it even nicer, and slowly you start enjoying keeping your house. It’s yours. Your work of art. Your home. Your nest. You made it exactly the way it is and you’re proud of how beautiful and efficient it is. Aaaand you’re house-proud.

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And there we have the eight things I discovered about housekeeping, based on my experience in three different houses. Some seem obvious now, but, looking-back, I hadn’t considered any to be obvious then. Others I still consider a surprise, even now I’m more familiar with them. And, of course, I’m probably missing many things that I now take so easily for granted that I can’t even conceive having had a problem with them — even if I did. But these are the things that stick in my mind as things I would have liked to have known, or known more about. Not that you’ll pay them any attention or fully understand them until you’ve lived them, of course. It’s more of a heads-up.

What aspects of housekeeping surprised you when you discovered them? Is there anything that prepared you for certain situations? Feel free to share your own experiences in the comments!

TTFN and happy housekeeping!