Monday, 19 June 2017

Scruffy but cosy

I was reading about a woman who slowly ditched the idea that her house had to be pristine when she had visitors. Once she would have spent days deep-cleaning the house in preparation, but nowadays she doesn't care how scruffy the place is, because she knows it's the company and conversation that's important and not the state of her house.

If her visitors are put off by the scruffiness, then they're not the sort of friends she wants anyway, and they're welcome to stay away.

She refers to it as "scruffy hospitality" and says such untidiness is quite normal in other countries and other cultures. It's quite normal of course in households full of children, where keeping the house clean and tidy is virtually impossible.

I think domestic scruffiness is becoming much more routine, for several reasons. Because people are leading busier lives. Because thorough cleaning is exhausting. Because the idea of a pristine house seems increasingly artificial. And because scruffiness simply seems cosier and less inhibiting.

When Jenny and I first moved in together, we devised elaborate cleaning rotas for the flat. As the years went by, the rotas got looser and looser, and nowadays we clean on a very ad-hoc basis, either the bare minimum for visitors (a quick sweep and hoover) or a more concerted effort when the dust bunnies are multiplying.

The pristine-house habit is still common among the generation above me. I remember an aunt whose house was always immaculate, with a place for everything and everything in its place. She must have been secretly horrified when she set foot in our rather ill-kempt residence.

People used to apologise profusely for the state of their house, muttering all sorts of inventive excuses for the slightest hint of disorder. They don't bother any more. That's what their house is like, and if you object to it, that's your problem.

Do come round and look at my dust bunnies some time.

29 comments:

Joanne Noragon said...

My daughter was very young when she told me, in a hushed whisper, grandma dusts the top of the china cabinet every day.

John Gray said...

Order and tidiness makes me feel good
I dont often achieve it but when i do , i am happy

Dave Martin said...

I like my house clean and tidy. Not like a show home, just with everything in its place because that's the way I like it.
It's not spotless, and if I look around I can find a multitude of jobs that could be done, but increasingly I find I just can't be bothered.
I'm not a fan of dust bunnies, but I'm no clean freak either.
People can take us as we find us - we live here.

Nick said...

Joanne: I bet there are many many people in grandma's generation who do something very similar!

John: I like order and tidiness too, but I'm not going to dust every last ornament and clean every last window just because we're expecting visitors.

Nick said...

Dave: I like to have everything in its place, mainly because it makes it easier to find things when I want them. I fight a losing battle with dust bunnies - however recently I've swept and hoovered, the dust bunnies pop up relentlessly.

Anonymous said...

With two small children you can imagine what my home looks like. The only rooms which are really clean are the bathroom/toilets and the kitchen. Cleaning freaks seem to have nothing else to do. Friends come to see us and not as inspectors to verify if everything is in its place.
Mia More

helen devries said...

Here it is like going back to the fifties...the smell of bleach pervades, air fresheners sell like hotcakes, dust is unnown.

Not in my house of course. My cleaning woman enthralls her friends with her tales of the state in which we live - which is untidy with dust in places not frequently visited and all surfaces covered with books and papers.

In rural France that qualified you as an intellectual. In rural Costa Rica as a dirty cow!

Nick said...

Mia: Cleaning freaks are an interesting bunch. Some of them only feel comfortable when everything's spotless. Some are poor sleepers who need something to do at 4 am. Some are obsessed with how others see them. And some simply enjoy the cleaning process (there's no accounting for taste!)

Nick said...

Helen: In France you're an intellectual, in Costa Rica you're a dirty cow. I love it! Yes, the fifties were the cleaning hay day, weren't they? Hordes of resentful women busy with the bleach and the toilet cleaner. A good thing we're more relaxed about cleaning now.

Secret Agent Woman said...

That photo isn't scruffy - it's bordering on disgusting.

My house gets messy if we're having a busy week, and I don't deep clean a whole lot. BUT I like order in a household. I find clutter irritating and am happiest when everything is in its place and reasonably clean. You can tell people live in the house but I don't leave piles of things lying around for long.

Nick said...

Agent: It is disgusting. I don't think I'd stay in a house like that longer than five minutes!

Your domestic philosophy sounds similar to mine. I don't like clutter or toppling piles of whatever. And you don't have to clear the chairs of assorted paraphernalia before you can sit down!

Bijoux said...

I love how people will try to excuse their own laziness. Is it really that much harder to hang something up or throw something away as it is to step over it every time you enter a room?

Nick said...

Bijoux: My thoughts too, especially when I visit my mother and I have to wend my way through piles of clothes, old newspapers, old bills, travel brochures and all sorts. So annoying, but she can't see what the problem is.

Rummuser said...

I am like that. I live in my home and am very comfortable in it. If someone comes and does not like the way it looks, it is his / her problem, not mine.

Having said that, I am not slovenly nor is my home in a mess.

Nick said...

Ramana: I see most of my visitors insist they have clean, tidy and well-ordered homes. Nobody will admit to being an idle slob! Though I daresay as I get older, falling energy levels will mean the house gets a bit scruffier. But as you say, if anyone objects to the scruffiness, they know the way out....

kylie said...

I am not idle but I am untidy. I am terrible at putting things away and we have too many people with too many things so there is clutter. I constantly feel a failure because of the mess but I suppose I don't feel badly enough to try changing it anymore.
My mother keeps an incredibly clean and tidy house and I respect her for it but I also remember a childhood dominated by housework. If we ever went out for a day we had to be home by three so she could do the days ironing and I hated it so I think I have subconsciously rebelled and gone too far the other way.
I barely have guests these days, I find it exhausting and stressful so I socialise outside of our house

Wisewebwoman said...

Well my hospitality biz controls my inherent slob factor, Emma shovels me out every 2 weeks and I'm always open for friends take me as u find me kinda woman.
I abhor clutter so surfaces are free and clear. But far from perfect.

XO
WWE

Nick said...

Kylie: My mother was moderately clean and tidy, certainly not obsessive about it. My father would tick her off if the house was in too much of a mess (of course he never did any housework himself, unless you include a bit of painting).

Jenny and I also tend to socialise more outside the house. I agree, having guests can be an exhausting business and it's a lot easier if a restaurant or coffee shop is taking the strain.

Nick said...

www: Yes, if you're in the hospitality business, you've just got to do the necessary and squash that urge to slob around doing nothing. I think most of us here abhor clutter. Finally how the clutter builds up though, despite our best intentions....

joared said...

I remember when something had to give time-wise for my own health's sake -- so many responsibilities, including need for sleep time -- what gave was my regular housekeeping schedule. So, I did alter my approach as the years wore on. I've sometimes had organized disorganization with accumulations. Instead of house pristine at all hours of the day or night should someone drop in, best if I get a bit of notice you're coming now if that matters most, 'cause not as important to me.

Nick said...

Joared: "Organized disorganization with accumulations" - what a wonderful description! Housework done too diligently does take an awful lot of time. Why be so diligent? There are more enjoyable things to fill one's life with. My motto is, do the bare minimum of housework to keep the place presentable. Beyond that - forget it.

CheerfulMonk said...

My apartment is my playpen. Why would I worry how it looks?

Nick said...

Jean: Nicely put. I assume if you have visitors, they're just happy to share your playpen!

Blogoratti said...

Orderliness is a state of mind, but I do like to keep things tidy and proper after each use, that way there's not much cleaning to do when visitors come over. Also, I try not to have too many things, minimalism is the word. Less clutter for the soul and mind.

Great post, and greetings!

Nick said...

Blogoratti: I also tend to tidy up as I go along. As you say, that makes it easier when you have to do some pre-visitor cleaning. Very little clutter in our house, apart from the thousand or so books!

Liz Hinds said...

I'm like John: tidiness makes me feel good but I don't often achieve it.

Nick said...

Liz: That's not surprising when you're spending so much time with all your relatives. And what's more important, seeing your relatives or tarting up the house?

Hattie said...

Having a clean and orderly house is a way of being nice to yourself. Now a woman comes in weekly and performs this magic for us, and I wish I'd had the sense to hire a cleaning woman sooner.

Nick said...

Hattie: Jenny and I had a cleaner once, when we both had full-time jobs. But I felt so awkward about employing someone to do the housework, we've never had a cleaner since.