Regular readers will be well aware that I am a die hard housework dodger. I have a million and one things to do every day like, well, eat, wrangle my toddler, go out and do stuff, work, poke about in bushes with Rory, stay in and do other stuff, bake things, make things, dance about in my pants to music, watch Gilmore Girls, critique CBeebies, tit about on the internet - that sort of thing. Am I going to spend precious time doing housework instead of doing any of those things? Please be serious.
Sadly, the fact remains that until I can afford a cleaner I have to be in charge of the housekeeping. For those of you in equally disappointing circumstances, here are my TOP TIPS for doing very little and getting away with it:
1. Identify a key area in your house. This must be a) an area that is in view soon after entering the house, b) the area that guests see most when they sit down, and c) easy to keep clean and tidy.
My fireplace is my key area: (cue childish sniggering at mild innuendo).
Ignore Rory and I looking into a box for no specific purpose and focus on the fireplace. Also important for this key zone is that it looks particularly nice and - listen carefully here - is ever so slightly twee (exhibit a: the bunting). My fireplace polishes up nicely in about 30 seconds and the mantle piece can be cleared of clutter which can be dumped in another room. the reason for the addition of twee-ness is this: you want to give the impression to visitors that you are the sort of woman who cares about how her house looks. You are feminine. You are a little bit of a domestic goddess. Added twee-ness makes this suggestion beautifully. The idea here is that people see your clean, tidy and prettily decorated key zone and it leaves a lasting impression on their brain, so that they won't notice this:
or, um, this....
Yeah. I could go on. The point is that the first impression is one of loveliness, which slightly eclipses the rest of the crap heap that they're about to encounter.
2. Likewise, identify a key bedroom upstairs. Make sure it's a small one that's easy to keep clean and tidy. I use Rory's because all his toys are kept downstairs at the moment. When you have guests, leave all upstairs doors shut apart from the bathroom door (we'll come to that) and the door of your key room. Don't leave the door wide open as this screams "THE REST OF MY HOUSE IS A SHIT TIP, BUT LOOK AT THIS, WILL YOU". No. Be more subtle and leave the door just ajar enough to see in a bit. Why yes visiting friends and family, all the rooms in my house are like that one.
3. The bathroom: Brilliant tip which I have stolen from my lovely friend Alex who blogs over here. Alex is an OCD neat freak (but I still love her). Her top tip is to polish your bathroom sink after every use with an old towel or flannel. Now, I'm not going to ever be arsed to do that every time, but I'll happily do it after cleaning it or if I have visitors. It makes it nice and shiny and gets rid of all the water marks. Most importantly, it detracts from how crappy the rest of your bathroom is and gives the impression of excellent housekeeperly skills. Thank you Alex. Squirt a bit of bleach down the toilet while you're at it.
4. If you are expecting company, make use of every single hole in your house. I'm talking cupboards, drawers, the washing machine, the dishwasher - it doesn't matter what you fling in them, just chuck it in and shut the doors. A multitude of tat can be hidden in your kitchen sink simply by running water and squirting a bitchload of Fairy Liquid in so the bubbles disguise everything. You're welcome.
5. Just before anyone comes over, spend 15 minutes tidying like a maniac, hoover key rooms, dust the most visible surfaces, open windows, spray something that smells nice, and as they enter your house (remember to hide the duster and try not to pant too much), welcome them in and - crucial step ahead - apologise for the mess. Make them believe that you usually live in a much neater, tidier environment than the one you've just sweated blood to blitz. Add weight to this by having something baking in the oven in an "oh, I just got carried away with my own domesticity and didn't have time to tidy" sort of way. Bazinga: you are a domestic goddess.
Now my students, go forth and be a secret slob. Let me know how you get on.