Keeping up appearances

Posted April 12th, 2006 by Penny Wise

Do you ever find that you seem to go through phases where you’re either totally in control and super organised, or the complete opposite – a walking disaster area who can’t seem to keep on track of even the most basic tasks? I know I do; and it’s only ever one or the other, never anything in between. I call my organised times my ‘Destitute Gourmet’ mode and I have to admit that it’s largely thanks to the Destitute Gourmet I’m more organised on the whole these days anyway. I would be completely lost without my weekly menu plans – before them, cooking dinner was just an inconvenience, a chore which always got put off until the end of the day until by 5.30pm I was thinking ‘Heck, what are we going to eat tonight?’ These days not a weekend goes by without me stealing a couple of minutes to work out my meals for the week ahead.

Of course, even with the best intentions there are still times when I feel my domestic world is collapsing around me. Mornings such as the one I experienced last week are still regular occurrences – where I get up in the morning, go to the bathroom, tread in puddles of cold water on the floor from the kids’ bath the night before and soak my clean socks, drop socks in the laundry hamper and find that Ali’s playmate from the afternoon before has stamped the Hogwarts symbol from Harry Potter in red ink along the wall at the top of the stairs. On going downstairs I spy several small muddy brown handmarks on the cream wallpaper as I descend and arrive at the bottom to a kitchen in total disarray; the benches covered in last night’s dishes, included two burnt ones possibly now rendered unuseable, cooking oil all over the stove and up the wall behind it and a trail of dirty cat footprints wending their way across the breakfast bar. In the lounge room Ali has struck, leaving a dangerous and intricate obstacle course of toys and general Ali ‘stuff’ for all who dare to pass through. As I step gingerly across to draw the curtains back, I am treated to the site of numerous Liam-sized handprints on the windows. Upon taking a load of washing through to the laundry, I almost step on a mouse’s tail that one of the cats has thoughtfully deposited (thankfully without the rest of the mouse) on the floor and another has thrown up at the back door (thankfully also without the rest of the mouse). The kids’ waterslide has been strewn across the back porch and Ella is sleeping on it, I realise too late that I seem to have run out of milk and bread (somewhat essential for making the boys’ sandwiches) and Ali has left his school shoes in the rain.

The annoying thing about the whole scenario is that, like many who do the same on a daily basis, my little haven had been spotless just two days before, after spending hours cleaning it from top to bottom. Housekeeping can be a totally soul destroying job at times – not that I would be without my wonderful, busy, noisy and messy family for one moment, but sometimes the repetition of it all just gets to me. So, I decided to take matters in hand, claw back control and use some Vault hints to make the job easier. I found a ‘heavy duty cleaner’ hint to clean the stove and surrounds and soak my pots in and they came up as good as new. I am the worst window cleaner ever, but I quickly washed over my windows inside and out using a window cleaning Vault tip using a little methylated spirits and they dried totally streak free! I couldn’t believe it. Then I tackled the marks on the walls using another product which had been recommended by Simple Savings members – Chux Magic Erasers. They might be tiny but they really do the job! Just a gentle wipe with these babies and my walls were free of all marks – even the red ink was removed without a trace (it’ll be a while before I let that kid come and play again though, believe me!)

So, I had my house back to rights and was back in control – what a relief – and it started me thinking about the rest of me. I am a self-confessed frump. Frump is a dreadful word isn’t it? It even sounds frumpy – but that’s what I am. I never used to be, but years spent farming meant a rapid decline in my appearance. The 200-odd cows I milked every day for eight years certainly didn’t notice whether I had my hair done and my make-up on. If I did decide to try and tidy myself up a bit, people would always ask me where the party was – or worse still, if I was going to a funeral! So after a while, I ceased to bother. Then we left the farm and I have been working from home for four years, which I love, but again I can go for days without really seeing anyone – so there never seemed much point in making much of an effort. Heck, I can even work in my pyjamas! I thought about all the gorgeous make-up I had sitting in boxes and drawers. All the perfume I had been given but never worn. Everything was sitting unused, waiting for a special occasion that never came. It’s a bit like people in the old days isn’t it – keeping their best china and silver cutlery for best and then never letting them see the light of day. Except crockery doesn’t have an expiry date – make-up and perfume does.

I started thinking about my friend Maxine (she’s going to kill me for saying this, but it’s true!) who never steps out without her make-up and hair done and always looks lovely. It struck me that me saving all this make-up and stuff for a rainy day was just throwing money down the drain – if I didn’t start using it, I was going to have to chuck it out before long, wasting a small fortune. So I dragged out my industrial sized cosmetic box that even Max Factor himself would be proud of and made a vow to make more of an effort each morning and ‘put my face on’, even if I’m going no further than taking the boys to school and back. And you know what? I feel so much better for it! The only downside is that at first my face wasn’t used to having all this gunk slapped on it and my skin rebelled – but luckily I was prepared thanks to the truckload of concealer I already had waiting to be used in my box! I also noticed that if I put it on when Maxine and I go for our brisk walks it does have a habit of sliding off, but at least I have made the effort! It costs me nothing but a few moments in the mornings and I feel a lot more organised and confident. I am sure there will be many more days to come when the kids and animals do their utmost to shatter my domestic haven, but I’m sure I will be able to cope with life’s little messes much better from now on knowing that at least I look presentable – even if nothing else around me does!

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