Housekeeping - Acceptable Mess and Unacceptable Mess

Reality vs Perfection

I have to confess I always find those photos in the glossy magazines about housekeeping to be horribly out of touch with reality, especially the reality of having children and pets. One particular case in point was one article where various designers had to comment on a house that was decorated in pure white for everything – sofa, carpet, walls, cushions, the lot. Did the designers say that it looked horribly sterile and lifeless, and that it was totally impractical and would be completely ruined the first time someone spilt the tiniest drop of coffee or red wine. Get real!

The other thing about these glossy-mag homes is that they always look like museum exhibits.  Everything is “just so”, even children’s bedrooms (I suspect that the children in question were sent to Grandma’s for the week while the photo shoot was done). If anything dares to sit on a flat surface, it’s a bowl of fruit (which never has brown bits) or a pile of magazines and books that are always titles about decoration and art, if you look closely at the spines. 

Peg Bracken, in her delightful I Hate To Housekeep book also sneered at “designer mess” -the feather boa across the back of the chair, the opera gloves draping a first edition Shakespeare in an attempt to make a house look lived in.

But a house does need to look lived in. To be friendly and welcoming, a home needs a certain level of untidiness – but not too much. It needs acceptable mess, but not unacceptable mess.

What Is an Acceptable Mess?

Examples of acceptable mess include laundry hanging on a drying rack in a corner, a book (or three) with a bookmark in on the sofa or coffee table, or a couple of plates and cups sitting by the kitchen sink ready for the next washing load.  Unacceptable mess, however, are things like dirty socks lying around the floor (hear that, other members of my family???), the sofa and/or coffee table so piled with books, magazines and old newspapers that you can’t sit down without considerable space-clearing and a teetering mountain of dishes.

Here are another handful of examples:

Acceptable: spider webs with live spiders in them in a discreet corner. Unacceptable: dusty old spiderwebs filled with fluffy bits of old insect long abandoned by a now-dead spider.

Acceptable: wooden blocks or Lego on the floor in an elaborate castle, city or other layout. Unacceptable: Lego, wooden blocks, three dolls and a teaspoon scattered chaotically all over the living room where you have to watch your step or risk impaling your foot on shattered plastic.

Acceptable: the pullover or jersey you took off earlier today (and are going to put on once the sun goes down) on a chair in the bedroom. Unacceptable: that jersey, plus three pairs of dirty socks and a dubious pair of underpants on the chair (and the owner of the socks going “where are all my clean socks?”).

Acceptable: work in progress on an office desk, involving a pen, a diary, a calculator and a couple of manila folders. Unacceptable: office desk completely covered in old letters, bits of paper, printouts, newspapers, pens (dead and alive), CD-ROMs without boxes and nameless items (this is not an exaggeration – I’ve seen desks like this, but not mine.)

The Solution - an Experienced Housekeeper

Now, here is a bit of help. Regardless what your situation is, at one point or another you will need a housekeeper to take care of the cleaning duties at your home and looking after your children. If you try to do all the house work yourself, you may find it tiring and time consuming especially if you have business or family commitments. A good housekeeper is what you need, but the question is how to find her.

The first thing you need to consider is how many hours you would like her to do each week. It will depend mainly on your budget. If you have a full time job and you would like someone on a full time basis to clean and look after your children, it will cost you more than having a housekeeper for few hours each week to do just the domestic cleaning. The perfect housekeeper should be able to meet your needs and come for as many hours as you need her. The best way to find such a lady is to speak to friends and ask them to recommend someone whose services they have used and are pleased with. This way you will be able to speak to the lady directly and arrange an interview. On the interview you can discuss with her your requirements and talk to her about her previous experience. The ideal housekeeper will have many years experience and will like what she is doing. Helping families manage their homes clean when they have a busy lifestyle should be her priority.

Another way to find a housekeeper is through a cleaning agency. They should be able to supply staff whatever your requirements are as you are the client and you will be paying for the service. You will have the right to interview few housekeepers and chose the one which you like most.

In order to trust the housekeeper and leave her a key, you need to make sure she is fully insured. You can either request a copy of her insurance policy or if you hired her through an agency, they should be able to send you a proof of her insurance.

To ensure that the chosen candidate will be a good fit for your family, you need to try her out. You should make clear to her that she will have a testing period after which if her standard of cleaning is approved, she will be hired on a permanent basis. It is also essential your children like her and feel comfortable with her while you are not at home. She should definitely be a person who loves children and is able to make them enjoy the games and the time spent with her.

Although it is risky to hire someone who you don't know and whose details you have found online or in the local newspaper, it is still an option if you need someone to help you out. You should definitely request references and insurance policy to such housekeepers for your own assurance.

Now here is a thing that Anyclean can help with. If you do not feel like you are comfortable letting strangers in your home you can always give Anyclean a call on 020 7099 6964 and book a fully guaranteed and insured cleaning service.