There isn’t one me, and that’s OK.

A post at Hearthrose’s blog got me thinking about something recently.

Although I take pride in being pretty independent and happy to be alone, like all people I try and craft myself a story which minimizes conflict, which allows me to appear more congruent, to fit into the group.

But the thing is, although I am functional, stable and happy, I am not a sane, balanced, “one story” sort of a person. I’ve done a lot of stuff, a lot of stuff has happened to me, and my refusal to adhere to one group means my outlook on life isn’t from the same vantage point as any given person I am talking to. I have been on welfare and among the elite at the Oxford and Cambridge club. I have spent time in churches and posing nude for painting and photography groups. I have been paid to write liberal essays, but I have also intentionally associated with Marxists and feminists. I have lived across countries, incomes, social boundaries… And between that and the randomly flicking light switch which is my hormonal balance, I am not sane or balanced, there is no “one story”.

I find that with the way my head works, it’s hard to reconcile many different aspects of myself. I learned from a young age that people as disjointed and random as me aren’t “real” people, that I needed to simplify myself in order to be “genuine”. Although no one person has mattered to me beyond Jon, I’ve still tried to minimize conflict by wedging myself into one story and hiding anything which didn’t quite fit.

Pregnancy has given me some time to think about this though, especially about disorders like bipolar and disorders of shallow affect. I know they’re highly heritable. But I don’t want my son to end up like my father: a bipolar alcoholic unable to reconcile all the facets of his identity into something pleasant and superficially genuine, which people might find easier to swallow. I want my son to be able to be weird and disjointed, to not commit to something unless he needs to or wants to or believes it makes sense, to not force himself into an indentity or a group without reason. I don’t want to make him think he has to find a community he can perfectly blend into and fade into the background. Because that is what happened to my father and it doesn’t work.

I don’t care any more if I’m a bit too sweary or immodest at times for the traditional spheres. Or if I’m not racy or flaunty enough for social media. Or if I’m not religious enough for small communities. Or if I’m not abrasive enough for my age group. I don’t care that I read anything from the KJ Bible to Deadman Wonderland, that I’m an anime nerd, that I can’t hate the sex industry, that I prefer to be alone most of the time, that I’m self-absorbed, that I like to do traditional tasks, that I hoard money instead of using it.

I’d rather get on with being me, doing what I must do in order to succeed at what I want, accepting the different sides of myself and not hiding them in order to fit in better or appease someone. If something needs fixing, I’ll fix it, not pretend it isn’t there to give a better impression. And if I lose a few people along the way, then they’re not part of my story, are they?

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What Do You Owe The World?

We are all born with some sense of duty, of what is right by us and our kind, of what we need to do.

Even true to type psychopathic people, even extremely disconnected autistic people, even selfish small toddlers have some sense of “I had better do this for so-and-so” where there is no direct, tangible or logical benefit to doing it.

And we all feel it on a scale, on a spectrum. Some people only feel it for their nearest and dearest, for their pet, or even for a fictional character. Some people feel it for every single living thing, or extend it even to inanimate objects.

We feel this urge because it did us good. When you feed your dogs, they love you. When you lend to your neighbour, they lend back. When you massage your husband, he does the dishes. It’s a little exchange, a little social flow, that keeps everyone happy and provided for. Humans live through ties and we want as many strong, healthy ties as possible. That is why the concept of karma is so appealing: in many ways it’s true. Because when we gave a friendly tribe some sheep, we had a greater chance of surviving.

We feel like we have so much to give, we feel like we should give it. But, when push comes to shove, we really don’t owe the world anything. Satisfying this sense of duty, day in day out, will not yield any more than the pleasant feelings of doing it.

Not every person you feed, lend to, massage or give sheep to will give you anything in return. Not everyone is worthy of your kindness and generosity. Not all good or bad karma will come back to visit you.

If you wanted to give every person you know £1, you would have no money left. If you wanted to massage everyone you met, you would not have enough time. If you wanted to give a friendly tribe all your sheep, you would starve. We have a limited amount of time, resources, mental, physical and emotional energy to give. We don’t owe any single person, or this world, any of it.

Instead, focus it where it should be directed, focus it on the job it’s supposed to do. Give time, resources and energy freely to those within your social circles and watch it come back to you. Give less to people more distant to you. Give more to people who are closer, or who you want to be closer to. Give less to people who give less to you and the circle. Give more to those who give more to you or the circle.

Karma isn’t some magical force that will punish you with cancer if you don’t donate £5 to AIDS babies in Africa. Karma is your best friend not wanting to carpool because you didn’t make them a cup of tea the last three times they visited you. Karma isn’t magic. Karma is other people. Karma is tribe. Karma is family.

TTFN and Happy Hunting.

Men Lead, Women Support.

There are some aspects of human nature that we are reluctant to address. Usually the ones that aren’t set in stone, that have just enough exceptions, that are a pull you can resist rather than a reflex you can’t help. And the pull that men and women feel towards certain roles is one of the most taboo subjects. But we do feel that pull and not only is there good reason for it, but understanding it can still be useful in today’s society, whoever you are.

One fact about humans is that, as social animals, the ways in which we contribute to society, from our tribe to our partners, are skewed by gender.

In their traditional roles across the World, men assume positions of leadership. What positions are available depends on the society, be it CEO, village headman or doctor. And what each position means also depends on the society, as a doctor in some cultures could be less revered or respected than in others. And how much authority you can command will depend on yourself and how well you and your skills fit into society. After all, an introverted master fisherman in a society where introversion and fishing are unappreciated will be doing worse than an extroverted blacksmith. But men have always capitalized their talents and made effort to become respected leaders of the community. And with this respect also come the resources they need to survive, a greater possibility of a good retirement and a wider selection of reproductive choices. By which I mean, men in positions of authority get food, protection, community and sex. The basics for human survival.

However, women’s traditional roles across the World are positions of support. Again, the availability and respect given to these positions depend on the society and how much their support contributes. And how much respect you are given will depend on yourself, your own ability to be supportive and how well your skills match the necessary skills for a more respected support role. A delicate feminine bride may be adored in a culture where her main role of support is to support her husband. But she would be far less respected in a society where women supported the tribe through toiling in the fields. But women have always supported the men and the vulnerable and made effort to ensure that the vulnerable are cared for and the men can continue leading. And when they were good at this, they were more likely to access the resources they need to survive, captivate a man’s attention and the respect of the tribe and have many healthy children. By which I mean, women in support positions get food, protection, community and sex. Again, basic human survival.

These traditional roles aren’t enforced strategies that every culture forced on its people coincidentally. They developed because of our condition. Firstly before contraception females would bear and breastfeed infants, meaning they would spend more time at home, around the tired hunters and the vulnerable members of society. Secondly, if females were having infants and infants are beneficial to the survival of a group (they are) then female energy would be highly valuable, meaning most energy-expensive activities, such as hunting and wood cutting, would fall to males. Thirdly, when males were taking over most energy-expensive, away-from-home and risky work, then they would not exactly be going to be brimming with energy to clean, tidy, cook, tan skins, weave baskets, feed the vulnerable, etc when they got home. So someone had to do it. These traits probably developed before we became Homo Sapiens Sapiens. As in, when we were still very furry tribes of humanoid primates living on the plains of Africa, these traits were firmly ingrained. So if the pull for men to lead and for women to support is pretty fixed in most humans, but expresses itself culturally, where do we see it today?

Well, everywhere. Firstly, however much people want to pretend otherwise, most relationships still follow the lead-support dynamic. Like in dancing, when you have two people trying to lead you get arguments and injury (at least emotional damage), and when you have two people trying to support not a lot gets done or finished. Unless you are operating as individuals who have no relation to each other, someone ends up taking the lead and someone ends up supporting the leader and the usual pattern is the biological one. Secondly, women are more attracted to support-based jobs, such as teaching, care or secretarial/HR style positions. Men are more attracted to careers and pursue an end goal of climbing the ranks to leadership, be it in banking, religious offices or business ownership. In our personal and professional lives, most men choose to lead and most women choose to support a leader.

Of course, some people will prefer the opposite role, be drawn to it and feel fulfilled in it. And, just as with homosexuality, there is no denying that the pull can be flipped or altered. But what happens when someone can’t fulfill their role, either because of social constraints or inability to fit the position? Then we end up seeing some sort of breakdown in them as human beings.

Men who can’t lead, either because they aren’t skilled enough at their job or because they are being led by everyone against their will, wind up unwell. They become stressed, passive and try and blend into the background. When women can’t support, either because there is no leader or because too many people depend on them, we see the same thing. Women are more stressed by work than men, even doing fewer hours. Men are more stressed by inactivity than women, even when their needs are met. Leading men being led by leading women start to break and can even become suicidal. Supportive women coexisting with supportive men become flighty and insecure. That same thing that creates the pull to begin with reacts negatively to being forced into the wrong role. It realizes it has failed to guard you. You have probably lost social standing, not gained many resources, are not desired by potential partners. So you are weak. So your body gets stressed, encouraging you to either break out of that negative position or just make yourself small and unnoticeable so the tribe doesn’t hurt you.

This is why highly successful women pair up with even more successful men. This is why men are willing to completely reinvent themselves after a few rejections. This is why women suffer more workplace stress in less busy, less physically demanding roles. This is why men in dangerous jobs are often less stressed than men involuntarily on the dole. We can’t change our role any more than we can change our sexual attraction.

But even in today’s society we can make use of this knowledge and use it to our advantage. For example, most women, being supportive and not leading, will prefer to confer or defer decisions than make one on the spot. Most men are more motivated and satisfied by additional status and respect than additional wealth in a job. Most women want to feel like someone is steering the ship when their lives get a little rocky. Most men want to feel like there’s something to fall back on in the same situation.

If you’re one of those who fall into the most common role for your gender, then this knowledge can help you understand yourself and understand those  of the opposite gender. You can use it to see what would make you happiest and to properly look after your partner, children, friends and relatives. If you’re not one of those who fall into the common role for your gender,* then this gives you more insight into how others of your gender differ from you and some grounding from which to make your decisions and better integrate into society. All round, there are some truths you can deny. But this is one of those where denying it will cause more harm than good, to yourself and those around you.

*This doesn't mean being gay or masculine/feminine, by the way, plenty of feminine gay men could easily also be drawn to leadership and a tomboyish girl can be the support in her relationships. All these things may be fixed on an individual level, but are pretty independent of each other.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

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.

.

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!