Storm in an unwashed teacup: Kerri Sackville on why nobody cares about your mess | HerCanberra

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Storm in an unwashed teacup: Kerri Sackville on why nobody cares about your mess

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To celebrate the launch of Kerri Sackville’s latest book, The Life Changing Magic of a Little Bit of Mess, we’re sharing an excerpt with you.

The pressure to keep your home perfect is both real and pervasive. From the cleaning influencers to the decluttering gurus to the #homeinspo posts to the design shows on TV, there are myriad voices constantly hammering at us all to clean our windows, throw out our knick-knacks, plump our pillows, and build a three-storey house out of recycled shipping containers on a windy cliffside in Scotland.

What’s more, there are all sorts of cultural forces hounding us to constantly aim for perfection. We are told to rise to the challenge, to try as hard as we can, to give one hundred and ten per cent! Settling for ‘good enough’ can feel unsettling and strange, like seeing a UFO, or leaving your phone at home, or being out at the supermarket without a bra. (This last scenario is literally my worst nightmare. I am wincing just writing it down.)

So how can anyone resist these cultural expectations and stop striving for a perfectly clean house? What will happen if you relax your housework standards just a tad?

Well, the moment you stop obsessively cleaning, you will begin a downward spiral into chaos. If you fail, even once, to iron your sheets or dust your skirting boards, you will be shunned by your family and friends. If you stubbornly refuse to polish your floorboards until they gleam, your partner will leave you, within days, for someone neater. If you put off till tomorrow what you can do today, your kids may never recover from the trauma.

Oops! Oh gosh, I’m so sorry. My fingers slipped on the keyboard! That is not what will actually happen. Here is what will really happen if you let your standards slip:

Nothing will happen. Nothing at all.

Your world will not fall apart if there are toys on the floor and piles of dirty laundry in the hall. Your family and friends won’t notice if your floors haven’t been vacuumed, and if they do happen to notice, they won’t care. Your partner probably won’t worry about a little bit of mess, and if they do, they can clean it up themselves. And you will traumatise your kids in a hundred different ways, but leaving dishes in the sink will not be one of them.

Imagine, if you will, your housework as a tug of war. At one end there is you, with your broom and mop and vinegar; at the other end there is your household and the detritus it generates. You can keep tugging, day after day, and get nothing but sore arms and endless frustration, or you can drop your end of the rope and stop aiming for perfection. You can decide to do the bare minimum and learn to tolerate, and even embrace, a certain degree of mess.

I dropped my end of the rope long ago, and my life has turned out just fine. I have three delightful children and a moderately well-behaved cat. I have a network of wonderful friends who love me, who only occasionally ask me why all my cupboard doors are open. And I have an exciting new career as an aspirational home-management influencer, which would never have happened had I been obsessively tidy.

Editor’s note: To be clear, the author should never have been an aspirational home-management influencer at all, but it appears that horse has bolted.

Things no one has said, ever

If you find yourself panicking because your house is not perfectly clean, remember that in the entire history of the known world, no one has ever said any of the following:

  • ‘As a ninety-eight-year-old woman looking back on my life, my one regret is that I didn’t clean the light fittings more regularly.’
  • ‘John left me after thirty-two blissful years of marriage because I couldn’t get the streaks off my kitchen splashback.’
  • ‘I just wish I’d spent more quality time with my steam mop when the kids were still little.’
  • ‘I fell in love with Lois the moment I saw her sparkling shower screen.’
  • ‘Mum, I don’t want to play at Lily’s house anymore. She’s nice and we have fun but there is a finger mark on her wall.’
  • ‘Today we gather together to remember Roy Smith, a fine man who was killed by the limescale in his toilet.’
  • ‘The dinner party would have been delightful, but there was a small blue stain on the tablecloth so Richard and I couldn’t enjoy ourselves.’
  • ‘I didn’t sleep a wink last night. It was clear the sheets hadn’t been ironed.’
  • ‘My son failed his final exams because I couldn’t get the juice stains off the carpet.’
  • ‘My greatest accomplishment is having kept my microwave spotless for thirty-five years.’
  • ‘The thing I love most about my mum is the way she cleans our rangehood every day and rinses our washing machine regularly with vinegar.’
  • ‘Did you see Diane this morning? It’s so obvious from her outfit that she hasn’t decluttered her wardrobe.’
  • ‘Ms Jones was definitely the most qualified for the position, but I noticed a tiny crease on her shirt sleeve near her shoulder, so I gave the job to the other candidate.’
  • ‘I’ve thought about leaving Martha, but no one else knows how to get the stains off the bottom of a cassoulet pot like she does.’
  • ‘And this year’s Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to Jenny Smith, for her superlatively clean grouting.’
  • ‘I was personally offended when I visited Laura’s house and noticed that her bookshelves were not colour-coded.’
  • ‘The roast chicken was delicious – what products did you use to clean the oven?’
  • ‘The floor was so clean we ate off it.’




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