I regularly do stuff that to other people might look like complete lunacy. Tomorrow morning, for instance, as every Thursday morning, I will start my day, post nursery-run, with a frantic tidying of the house, otherwise known as ‘cleaning for the cleaner’.
DH thinks this is loopy, but I patiently explain, every week, that there is method in my apparent madness. My crack team of Brazilian cleaners (three people, only in house for 1 hour, great as I work at home) can’t get to the floors, surfaces etc to clean them if they are covered in the daily detritus of life with a young family. If I don’t put away the toys, clear away the breakfast dishes and laundry, pick up the dirty socks DH deposits by the sofa every single night, and generally tidy round, I’m paying the cleaners to tidy, not clean, and it’s the cleaning bit I don’t have the time or, frankly, inclination to do.
Plus, I have A System. I have friends who think I’ve got mild OCD tendencies, but I like things how I like them. I like order. I think it’s perfectly reasonable – nay, desirable – to have piles of things stacked up around the house and office, as the first stage before dealing with them. I like dishes that won’t go in the dishwasher to be scraped and stacked neatly on the side, because I don’t always want to wash them up straightaway. I like orderly piles of paperwork. I like my towels to be rolled spa-style in the airing cupboard. I have even been known to stack absent mindedly at friend’s houses, and once received a text from a dad asking if I had been tidying while I was meant to be looking after his daughter for a couple of hours.
I know exactly which cupboard and storage box every single toy car, Waybuloo magazine, pink hairclip, crayon or wooden carrot goes in. Last time I organised the kids’ play corner of our dining room, delineated by a rug and a dresser full of small storage boxes, I actually took photos of how it all fitted together, it was such a thing of order and beauty. I must admit I get a bit itchy when friends chuck toys in any receptacle to help ‘clear up’ after a playdate, because I’ll have to do it all again later.
Writing this down, I can see how mad this sounds, especially as I barely have time to wash some days, but again, I think there is sound thinking behind it. If the kids know that that basket has all the play food, that one has all the play crocks and cutlery, and the pans are inside the cooker door, they play for hours: Cooking, Parties, Making Tea, Baking Cakes etc – without getting frustrated and asking me to help them find some crucial item from within a black hole of a ‘tidy tub’.
Mind you, perhaps the very gazelle-like leaps of a child’s mind are better reflected in less rigid ‘storage solutions’. DD does do wonderfully imaginative things with small, apparently random collections of plastic items. I think my borderline obsessive need for order might be rubbing off on her, though. Being a three year old, she is still obviously a bit crap at tidying on any level, but the other day I heard her say to DH: ‘Daddy, that doesn’t belong there, it goes in this box’. I was only three-quarters thrilled…