Sunday, 22 August 2010


I am cleaning the house, trying to hoover and scrub away the panic. Again. Maybe I can tidy the panic away into the basement with the 24 kitchen rolls and 4 giant boxes of dishwasher tablets and endless bottles of bleach from my trip to Colruyt? It's huge, there'd be room for all manner of irrational and rational terrors, which is handy since I have plenty of both. I'm still riddled with anxiety; the end of summer, impending professional doom, the absence of concrete achievements of any kind this year, the need for a plumber, the weakness of my book, the Belgian tax authorities, Electrabel calling the bailiffs for a bill I've already paid. That kind of thing.

With two smallish children, getting to the end of the weekend with everyone present, more or less healthy and fed and broadly contented seems like an achievement in itself. Take them away, and I'm left with a nagging sense of inadequacy that won't let me relax, sit in the garden with a book, have a nap. There should be more words written, more papers tidied, more washing done, nags my uptight bastard brain. It's not enough. It's never enough. So I'm cleaning. It's hard, boring, mindless, punitive and horribly necessary. Perfect. I'm trying not to let myself just do the gratifying bits, like rearranging the kitchen cupboards, and concentrating on the really dull, backbreaking bits, like scrubbing at obscure stains on the horrible textured kitchen walls.

So far I have found:

A spider the size of a family estate car hiding under my suitcase. It's spider season, isn't it? You could put a saddle on this one and ride it around the park. Good thing I am completely indifferent to them.

An extended family of spiders living in a box of cornflakes. Well, I am guessing from the pretty web decorations on the box, and the tiny spiderlets frolicking around the cereal cupboard. I did not open the cornflake box; it was oddly, sinisterly heavy. I wonder if there was a dead mouse in there too.

A leak under the kitchen sink that has spread black spotted mildew through three cupboards.

Seven rolls of yellow recycling bags. If the apocalypse comes and is characterised by a lack of paper recycling amenities, I will be ok. There's some comfort in that, I suppose.

A dragonfly which came in as I was trying fruitlessly to disperse the smell of mildew. I thought it was a bird, it was so large. It lurched around, crashing into things, completely graceless and jerky out of its normal environment and finally, after bashing into the window repeatedly, found its way out.

The house, never pristine, looks filthy to me. Coming from a gleamingly new and perfect holiday let has skewed my perception. Cruelly, unfairly, my kitchen is not filled with the soft sheen of brushed steel and forgiving, warm flooring. It is filled with cheap formica crap from the mid 1980s. The 'Competence Trophy' oven predates the discovery of fire by prehistoric man, the dishwasher does not wash dishes and the tiles manage to be both ugly AND impractical. They show every grubby mark with forensic clarity. I hate them. I think of myself as liking nice things, beautiful things, and yet this house is not a beautiful thing, not now, not in this state (not ever for as long as the orange paintwork remains, indeed). It's puzzling. And then, the house is too big, too ambitious. I found it in a hurry, needed to find somewhere quickly, and I liked it, loved the neighbourhood. I still do. But now what? It's HUGE. I feel out of my depth, not up to keeping everything functioning and clean. I can barely keep myself and the children functioning and clean most of the time, so what hope is there? I remember first moving in here and how intoxicatingly empty it was, how free of the sometimes oppressive, sometimes comforting clutter of daily life. Now I am writing this at a table on which, without even moving my head, I can see the following:

5 bills (I have just opened them in a fit of conscience. Electrabel are still trying to take me to court, obtuse bastards).

Half a pint of milk

Bulging make up bag

Empty coffee cup

2 novels, 4 magazines

A melon

A dirty paring knife

2 pairs of headphones

An empty CD case

An ice cube tray

A plush dolphin

A piece of obscure yellow plastic toy

A box of matches

A 'Plumping lip glaze' still in its packaging (I am scared of it. M has told me frightening things about it)

A cooling rack

A plastic dog from Burger King

Three varieties of plug and adaptor

A Playdoh dentist's drill

An empty Compeed packet

A Dexter Series Three DVD out of its packaging

An empty yoghurt pot

3 shark's teeth in a small plastic bag

A large screw, use and origins unknown

Tom Ford lipstick

2 sets of keys

A packet of green paper napkins


Various other things I can't identify without angling my head to the left.

It's impressive how fast the layers of domestic detritus are laid down. In the right frame of mind that could seem comforting, a sign that this house has become more homely. I can't quite see it like that at the moment. I feel overwhelmed; the Augean stables have nothing on the kitchen table. I want to go and live in a pristine white box like the miserable modernists where I don't have to be confronted with the evidence of my own incompetence every time I sit down. A virtual snail shell. Wrapped in this.

Instead of which I am going to go and fill another one of my many yellow plastic bags, grinding my teeth gently in a soothing rhythm until felled by Cif fumes. Make me feel better, tell me what's on your table that has absolutely no place being there.


irretrievablybroken said...

Is one of the sets of keys mine? So THAT'S where the bastards are. Good to know.

Oh, hell, now you've got me all worked up about needing to clean. Very well then, off I go.

Anonymous said...

-2dead mosquitos killed a few days ago, lying side by side. Should really put them in the bin.

-2 pairs of earrings, one red studs, the others wooden hoops and 3 kirby hair grips.

-A monkey nut thats shaped like a duck. With the duck face and feathers drawn on.

-A yoghurt pot too - bingo!

-Cellophane slither. No idea wheres its from

-the paper crackly insert from a box of dairy milk chocs that i finished weeks ago. No box just the crackly insert thing that protects the delicious chocolate.

-A hand-made wedding invitation. Dont worry i have RSVP-ed.

-Loads of random notes and reminders on scraps of paper.

-Random non specific mess.

that felt good to list it. It was like giving order to a complete pig sty. Still needs cleaning up though- sigh!


Kate said...

Ah, the kitchen table... I scuttle past mine knowing that at some point JUST NOT NOW, OK? I'll have to deal with the envelopes, the oversized allotment 'bounty' ( overgrown courgette anyone?), the cat and his worming tablets. I'm hiding in the living room instead.

frau antje said...

An entire cabinet of pots and pans, not replaced after the geologic era of time called Appliance replacement. Paper and plastic dishes, cups and 'cutlery' (due to not kicking it old school with the dish washing). Gummi red cadillacs that nobody cares enough to open. Dictionaries and audio books in a language I really can't bother with right this second. About the eight billionth instruction manual of the decade, and the crap they package it with. A steel hose, wood pipe, window hardware polish, and I don't even know what an extension lead is.
Pristine spaces are calming (though you have to waste time just staring at them), but cluttered small houses are worse. Would it make you feel better to hear what's on all the chairs too?

Bryony said...

Monopoly set. Packing tape. Guidebook for Bruges and Ghent. Manky pen. Illegible letter in OH's handwriting explaining why the laptop we are returning is misbehaving. All v irritating on a Sunday night...

Ellie said...

"Teach Yourself Romanian" with CD not in the CD player, book spine nearly broken from being on Unit 3 for 3 weeks. Have until Wednesday to learn Romanian. Oh well.

Fifty cords, don't know what they go to, they all have different plugs and bits and ends and things.

Plastic dinosaur. Bad movie from Netflix. Dust. Receipt from Target making me feel guilty about giving money to Michelle Bachman indirectly, not my fault, friend's wedding registry, aagh. Ruler. Ancient candle caked with dust that will reek when I burn it, which I never will. More dust. Notebook filled with things from 2004 that I will, by God, transcribe onto my computer some day (that day was supposed to be over a month ago). That's two notebooks actually.

And, thank God, a fresh and chilled Manhattan, the only thing on this desk that I want to look at.

Lisa-Marie said...

Before I even get started on my table - we have a bill, in husband ex's name(because the fuckers at virgin media wouldn't let us change it), for 4 monthds worth of internet and phone we HAVEN'T HAD. and a debt collector letter, saying that as long as we pay it Virgin Media would love to reconnect us! ARRRGGGG!

My coffee table(nearest table, I am too lazy to turn and look at the dining table) is currently sporting - an embroidery kit, 2 pirate egg cups, a Praktica camera flash, a Susie Watson jug and tea light holder (all birthday presents), a pile of V&A coasters, topped with a teapot(which I haven't used for at least a week, and therefore will contain 5 mouldy teabags) wearing a Kath Kidston rip-off tea cosy(which is wearing a sequinned brooch), a random assortment of candles, a pre-pay prescription card thing, a magazine(This month's Red, worth the money I reckon), a chunky plastic necklace of big red beads, my diary, a book, my Emma Bridgewater biscuit tin(containing stale malted milk biscuits).

The only things that should be on there are the coasters and the biscuit tin.

Oh! and a cup of tea in a spotty cup, which is what I'm focussing on!

Margaret said...

The kitchen table is clean and tidy-ish because we ate dinner at it last night and it's had only 20 hours to clutter up. (Yet there's still a pile of crap, including just-developed photos from our 2008 honeymoon and a bottle of Benadryl gel.) The coffee table, though...

- small spray bottle of eyeglass cleaner and microfiber cloth

- empty snack-size ziptop bag

- Swiffer duster with handle

- pocket pack of Kleenex

- September issue of Martha Stewart Living

- two individually-wrapped moist towelettes

- small digital camera in case

- 1 small throw pillow

- 2 medium throw pillows (one on which I am resting my feet)

- husband's iPhone

- placemat

- two of husband's watches

- soapstone coaster

- glass of Zinfandel (not on coaster)

- remote for AC

- remote for TV

- remote for cable box

- remote for audio receiver

- universal remote*

*Yes. I know.

I feel like I spend all my time tidying up and putting things away: I clear off the coffee table at LEAST once a day. I have a theory that while I'm out, hobos break in, add dirty clothes to the hamper, steal my teaspoons and move my stuff from shelves and cabinets to the coffee and kitchen tables.

lisahgolden said...

Our satellite service, in a fit of unpaid pique, has reduced us to the Bravo Channel, BBC America, the NASA Channel, 2 Christian channels and 28 shopping networks. This means I ended up watching How Clean Is Your House followed by You Are What You Eat yesterday morning. Which explains why I was still cleaning after 10p.m. last night and why tomorrow morning my new diet and exercise regime begins.

And my dining room table still needs a good clearing.

Margaret said...

Lisa, don't dismiss the NASA Channel: The interior shots of the space station always make me feel good about the tidiness and spaciousness of my apartment. Apparently space travel is not at all like "2001"; it's actually very cluttered and cramped and somewhat grungy looking.

blackbird said...

A coaster. An effing coaster. And, I mean, WHO CARES?

J. said...

Until about 6 pm tonight, our kitchen table was covered with: 3 textbooks on teaching advanced placement economics, the recharger thingy for the power drill, 6 blue vintage Ball canning jars (dirty and empty) plus two zinc screw top lids, 7 pieces of Ohio pottery rescued from my dad's basement, 4 soup plates from my grandmother's china set (with the stickers still on), a chipped trifle bowl full of peaches about to go moldy, a Japanese export plate from the 1950s, a bamboo cutting board covered in cantaloupe juice and waffle batter, and the compost scrap bucket. Now we're down to a blue poppyseed almond pound cake taken out of the oven about 10 minutes ago and the chipped trifle bowl of peaches. All the other stuff has been relocated to other flat surfaces instead of being put away properly, and the table is still surrounded by a liberal dusting of dried buttermilk powder (from the waffle batter incident this morning).

I like to procrastinate cleaning house by cooking. Hopefully people will be distracted by eating delicious food and tune out the fact that they're sitting in a crumb-encrusted dump (and if you get them drunk enough, they might not even notice the horrible state of the bathroom).

bellambinos said...

i'm not at the table but without moving my head can see a belt, a pom-pom, a keyboard that doesn't work, atleast 17 dust bunnies and 14 loads of clean, unfolded washing. i made a link to this post just then, hope you don't mind. love yr work

GingerB said...

I swept everything off, bills paid and unpaid, books, magazines, binkies, half stuck stickers (I have girls) undealt with mail, an wd all the bits of paper I need to balance my checkbook in order to have the table able to serve my stepson's friend,who joined us for dinner. Now, the buffet, that is a different kettle of not exactly fish, but different.

Ellie said...

lingerie. Lots of it. FOr some reason I seem to unload the clothes horse onto the dining table, instead of doing the intelligent thing (putting it away).

Alison Cross said...

My kitchen table is pristine. The dining room table has only the place mats on it.

This is not because I have become Good at Housekeeping, rather it's because my hubby is at home and he runs a tight, clean ship. ie anally rententive

He goes back to Mexico tonight - so by tomorrow, my tables will be as joyfully cluttered as everyone else's!

Anonymous said...

Augean stables actually, as in the stables of Augeus - I am always looking at my house and thinking how much I'd like Herakles to come along and clean it up.....

JB_Kiwi said...

- Several filthy coasters
- Water bottle.
- Bill for council tax with inexplicable billing arrangements that I will never work out.
- Several variety of band-aids
- dvd of America's next top model in bubble wrap (yes, bubble wrap.)
- gym timetable
- sunglasses (despite the fact that the sun stopped shining in the UK several weeks ago)
- a dirty formerly white cap
- ivory nail polish with accompanying nail care detritus
- head-band
- clean, yet to be folded laundry
- pile of recipes torn out of magazines
- a book entitled, 'How to Paint your Motorcycle' (not mine)
- A solitary pound coin

JB_Kiwi said...

Oh, and speaking of spider house has become infested with weird spindly spiders who do nothing but create fracking cob-webs which then catch vast quantities of dust - thus giving the house the air of a haunted manor. How do I make them go away so that my refusal to dust, ever, is not made quite so obvious to all?? When does spider season end?

Waffle said...

I will correct, anon, sorry. It's the influence of Carolinefo that means I have Aegean on the brain.

Also, we used to have a rabbit called Herakles. It was a bastard.

betterwithacleaner said...

damn huissiers de J! I get letters from a different company employed by Belgabastards every 4 months or so. Belgabastards never even connected the telephone. Actually they came 3 times and failed to connect a telephone. Then they don't send me bills. But they do employ the entire phonebook of bailiffs (once each) to come and find me for the unpaid nonexistant bills and telephone.

Every every time I spend a week in a funk of disbelief at my own incompetence, then I get it together to write a PFO and never hear from those particular bailiffs again.

As regards clutter and cleaning, titres services and the lovely lady who comes once a week have changed my life. The clutter isn't gone, but the dirt is. Once a week, the home is an oasis of cluttered calm.

Carpet cleaning London said...

wow that's what I call deep cleaning. I thought that I've found strange things in my home but you really bring me back the faith that in my apartment there is some order. How long you didn't clean?

chiclit said...

Thank you! Its not weird to have unpaid bills, make up, dirty paper plates, OTC cold meds, sunglasses, hairdryer, brush on my dining table-where I am meant to be working from home today?

My favorite obscure item-Pure Sea hydrating nasal rinse (too lazy to buy, clean, mix stuff for Neti pot) taken from Bay of Saint Malo in France (which is the closest thing for me to a European vacation).

But Jaywalker sorry to say: Black mold is VERY dangerous to you and the boys health. You need to get rid of that-after the plumber. They can spray something that will retard the growth-but best to replace drywall.

Grace said...

Nooo beware the black mould! I can see the headline now: 'Belgoblogger found dead with head stuck in undersink cupboard - unfinished work of genius found buried under life's collateral damage piled on kitchen table.' Does the health warning apply to the mould that refuses to shift from the shower? I'm more scared of snuffing it from the bleach fumes I inhale trying to remove it.

Z said...

Amateurs. You are all rank amateurs. We've got two whole rooms (one each) that haven't been tidied for five years.

Kirsten said...

Kitchen counter:
-empty cardboard box
-dog medicine
-blank paint canvases
-computer (perpetual)
-locust molted skin
-stacks of "important papers"
-baby doll
-silly bands
-two cameras, one old one new
-used cups waiting to go in the sink, then into the dish washer a few days after that

Anonymous said...

Perfectly understandable - who wouldn't be driven to thinking about the Aegean in the face of cleaning! Apologies for being anal-retentive about it, but it came at the end of a long and particularly bloody day. I don't see how your family could possibly have hoped for better from any animal named after Herakles - he was a complete shit!

Anonymous said...

As for cleaning, now thoroughly exhausted from watching so many Clean House/ Merge/ 60 Minute Makeover/ Debbie Travis TV programs and ankle deep in "dust bunnies", I offer this anonymous quote received recently from a like-minded friend in Texas:
"House work won't kill you -- but why take the chance."

Pat (in Belgium)

bellambinos said...

Anyone who is squeamish about black mould should not read my blog post from yesterday:

Especially if they happen to be employed the Dept. of Children's Services.

Jessica said...

-2 Paris Metro tickets
-1 set of DC voltage adaptor tips
-Sea salt
-Fleur de sel
-Black pepper
-Toothpicks in a tiny snifter
-Box of Tea-filter sachets I will never use since they make tea taste like paper. But I keep around because I feel one day I may be clever enough to find a use for them.
-Scallions, 1 Red onion, 4 potatoes.
-Post Card from Switzerland
-sugar bowl
-Belgian stamps
-1 printer test-page
-Several pages of last year's journal/dayplanner
-Brochures for things happening around here that we probably won't end up going to.
-Half a bulb of garlic
-One plastic container filled with meticulously cut-out pictures of ...what appears to be grocery items. ?

bonnie-ann black said...

i understand your misery completely. i hate, hate, hate housecleaning. i'm single, live alone except for the cat, but the place is always decorated in late modern american disaster. from my spot on my bed, in front of the television, i can see a camera bag, about 1000 art magazines, referene books, two teacups, several empty plates, a sleeping cat curled on top of a now hairy ironing board, my manuscript, my camera bag, an empty cookie box, eight pillows and a shopping bag full of erotica...

need i go on?

i have casually invited a casual friend (perhaps without thinking she'd actually accept) to spend a few nights here on her road trip. she did accept, with alacrity. and so now i have to -- absolutely HAVE TO -- clean.

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