The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space


Photo: Bookshelves in need of a tidy

Photo: Bookshelves in need of a tidy

I’m not one of those people who were born to clean and tidy. When I was asked to clear up my bedroom as a child I would pretend that I was the maid of the spoilt princess who lived there. By turning things around this way, the task became much more fun and I would ohh and ahh over her slovenly ways.

Today it is raining and I have decided that Princess Fiona needs to employ her maid once again. The kitchen is in an uproar and the larder needs a good spring clean. In fact if anyone dropped by I’d be too embarrassed to let them in. Wellington boots jostle with bags of dried rose petals, books, letters, crates of diabetic dog food, freshly laundered towels and bowls of drying pomanders.

Both Danny and I excel at the art of creating a pile. These can be huge rather dangerous affairs that make eating supper on a tiny square of the kitchen table quite exciting. In fact Danny remarked yesterday that we could declare the cottage was an installation celebrating untidiness and then even the tidiest of visitors would be impressed with our skills.

The only time that I enjoy sorting out mess is when I’m feeling really down. Once I lost my job and returned to the cottage in despair. The first thing that I did was to reach for the vacuum cleaner, which after a few satisfying swishes promptly blew up. Even I had to laugh through my tears.

Another time Danny and I briefly split up. I instantly searched for my rubber gloves (still in an unopened packet under the sink) and cleaned and tidied for two whole days. A friend dropped by and goggled at the glistening surfaces.
“So Danny was the messy one!” He said as he gingerly sat down on the freshly plumped cushions.
“Well not quite. To be fair.”

I do know where most things are in the mess and like a blind dog I am fine until something is moved. But eventually the rare day dawns when I can’t cope with living in a jungle anymore and I tackle the swathes of clothes and books and discover things that have been lost for weeks. At the moment I’m desperate to find our carving knife – even I was surprised that we could manage to lose that.

The Min Pins do not like me in cleaning mode. They are frightened of the vacuum cleaner and hate their beds being washed. But once I’ve caught the cleaning bug I fire on all cylinders and for a while we bask in an uncluttered world.
“We must try and keep this up. Just do a little everyday.” Danny beams.
But we never do.

I do like things to be clean (I’m a Virgo after all) but the tidy fairy didn’t attend my christening and by all accounts avoided Danny’s too. Perhaps in the 1950’s these fairies noted that Virgos were just too squeaky clean and decided to release a few untidy ones into the world to mess things up a bit.

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  1. Jo@LittleFfarm Dairy

    Wahay, I feel so much better! You’d look for the hole in the roof where the bomb came in, in our house. Mind you the fact that there’s usually at least a goat kid or two mingling with messy cats & an even messier husband, is a reasonable excuse…I hope. ;0)

  2. Tamar@StarvingofftheLand

    My slovenly housekeeping is such that my guests can gauge the closeness of our relationship by the state of my house. If I barely know you, I work pretty hard to make the house presentable. For good friends, I pick up, vacuum, and give the kitchen the once-over. If you’re family, I don’t even clean the toilet.

  3. Oh, I understand exactly what you mean! Piles just appear around me, sometimes within hours of me tidying. I spent 2 hours yesterday looking for something that I knew exactly where it was until I’d had a massive tidy up (several months ago)! I’d like a tidy fairy VERY much!

  4. I can think of hundreds of more interesting things to do than housework, but I too do like a clean and tidy house. Having visitors is the best incentive for me; now that we live “abroad” I have a real desire to show my new country and home at their best, so whenever someone is due to arrive – as is the case this coming w/end – the cleaning and tidying becomes compulsive. If only I could find the motivation to dilute the effort a little, and do some every day rather than almost kill myself every once in a while!

  5. I’m a Libran, so a little bit neat-freak, a little bit untidy. Some areas super-clean, some left to grow dust bunnies. Most things tidily arranged, some things left in piles.

    Seriously, I used to be house-proud, trying to keep the ‘ex’ happy. It did not get me anywhere, so am far more relaxed about things these days.

    We can only be ourselves.

  6. Michelle in NZ

    I think any tidy fairies were AWOL when this Aquarian came along in the mid 60’s. Luckily the cat can cope with my chaos, and watches me in smug amusement when I attempt a clean up.

    As long as he is fed, watered, has his liter changed, and gets plenty of hugs, brushes and cosy snoozing spots Zebbycat is content. Anything else is my problem!

    Send huggles from me and snores from Zebby, Michelle xxx

  7. moonroot

    I think we’re cut from the same cloth, Fiona. Although I’m a Cancerian, so no one even expects me to be tidy!

  8. I’m in the middle of having to do all my least favourite things. Aided and abetted by working from home so able to sneak a few minutes here and there but also feeling the pressure to just nip down and put the washing on or wash the breakfast dishes (or are they yesterday’s breakfast dishes?). I am about to go away for 2 1/2 weeks which requires packing and also emptying the fridge etc. A simple task except that the first half of this time away will be spent at my mother’s while I work at head office (aka my brother’s house)then I will be going to Geneva where I am reliably informed by my sister it is hot, hot, hot atm. Also traveling Easyjet and too tight to pay for hold luggage. In addition to this time away, when I return I will bring my mother and her oldest friend back with me for a week. This means that I have to make two beds up before I go and leave the house pristine. So all my teaching stuff which lives on the bed in the office has now been “tidied” into big piles on the other desk and the bed made. In the spare room I have to put away all the washing, which requires removing all the clothes which don’t fit me but live in the drawers in my bedroom and hiding them somewhere (as of course I am going to diet and will fit in them again soon, won’t I?)in order to make space for the clothes which do fit. So am I doing any of this? Well, some of it but mostly I’m just surfing the net reading all my favourite blogs. And anyway, there is no point dusting as it will only need doing again when I get back.

  9. Magic Cochin

    Just to put it on the record… I’m a child of the 60s


  10. I enjoyed reading that! So funny! I am a neat freak and right now I am chomping at the bit to come over, organize your house from top to bottom, and alphabetize your underwear! Fear not, I live on the continent – it’s not like I can just drop in on you! Ohhh, wait – is that your door bell?!

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