It started with a comment in my lovely Salon.
Somewhere in the interwebs was a lady who had told the world that she loved Zoflora – a (rather scrumptious) household disinfectant – so much, that she bathed in it. Myself and my members were agog. You would have to be all shades of lunatic to bathe in disinfectant even if the scent of synthetic hyacinth really did float your domestic boat, right? Well apparently not, because this started a case of Zoflora one upmanship, with another lady confessing she got through TEN bottles a week because she used it EVERYWHERE and far too many women than can possibly be normal confessing that they too used it to the same extreme.
I was baffled, Housekeepers, utterly baffled. And then thoroughly astonished by reading in the paper that a lady had ended up gassing herself by mixing up a lethal combo of bleach, Zoflora and another cleaning fluid with hot water in her mop bucket and found herself swooning in hospital and quickly being diagnosed with an absence of common sense.
Then I read in another forum, that another lady had got up at three o’clock in the morning to tidy her fridge because it was the only time she had sufficient peace in which to really go to town on a fridge top-to-bottoming and before I knew it I had fallen down a rabbit hole full of crazy ladies doing crazy housekeeping things, worrying themselves silly about clean floors, waxing lyrical about fifty things to do with a frozen bag of peas, and sharing tips for folding towels that would have put an origami master to shame.
I hopped around from housekeeping forum to Facebook page, trying to contain my horror, and worrying whether I was contributing to the madness that is women competing with each other to lose their minds in an effort to be cleaner, tidier, more vintage and more organised than the next lady and truthfully I felt a bit ashamed for all of us.
When did this happen? When did we go from sharing the odd tip for making life lovelier, to throwing our heads in to the washing machine along with the 36th load we cannot wait to show off about doing today? When did stain removal start mattering more than the pursuit of the real pleasures? When did we start wasting entire days coming to blows about whether we allow our guests to leave their shoes in when we deign to allow them in to our palaces? When on earth did we start spending more time waffling about window cleaning than we have ever managed, actually doing it? And when, oh when, oh when, oh blooming well when, did we start obsessing about keeping house as if it were an Olympic sport and we were in the running to represent our countries?
Heckity pie, can I be the voice of reason please? Because we are going to lose our minds if we carry on in this rather bizarre vein – talking about housework, rather than doing it or doing it to such a degree we must seem almost certifiable to those who love us. We risk looking trivial. Or a teeny bit demented. We risk missing out on the real joy of creating a home when we are trying to maintain surgically clean floors and we are deceiving ourselves if we believe that taking part in ludicrous, occasionally even vicious arguments about how often we change our tea-towels, makes us superior in any shape or form.
I love homemaking. I love it so much I have made a career out of writing about it. But I have long believed that making a home is very different to keeping a house. That we do not make a home by creating a museum in which those we live with are scared to breathe, nor do we become whole people if all we can think about is the benefits of one dish soap in comparison with another.
It has long been my belief that we create homes as springboards for our souls: places of authentic loveliness that encourage growth, provide sanctity and nourish our children. That home should be as surgically clean as a hospital ward simply doesn’t enter my head but oh, how very often I find myself sitting listening to grown, otherwise sensible women worrying about the flotsam and jetsam on their floors when it is clear that it is their mental marbles spilling all over them.
This then is what I want you to know: BrocanteHome is about sanctuary and female creativity. While you will often find me writing about housekeeping, I write it not because I want you to obsess about clean teacups, but because I want to FREE you from the need to keep house all day long, because I believe that once we have the right routines and rituals in place we liberate our minds and find ourselves able to dwell on things other than tonight’s dinner and clean linens.
Here at BrocanteHome I want to teach you to enjoy your home, to carve out space for personal growth, intimacy and creativity and to encourage you to develop a personal aesthetic that delights your very soul. I want you to be more than a housewife and a mother. I want you to be more yourself each and every day, to create a life less ordinary, abundant with much more than mops and feather dusters and to understand that when extreme-housekeeping is the only common language between women, we are egging each other on in a game with no reward.
So stop it. Stop gassing yourselves and wrinkling yourself up in disinfectant baths. Stop believing lickably clean toilets matter more than spiritual growth and stop believing that you can define your own worth by asserting your domestic muscle in the most extreme of Facebook housekeeping forums.
Remember, each and every day, that you are worth more than your ability to keep house and that as women, we can support each other in the pursuit of more extraordinary things than fathoming how to shift a stain on anything other than your character.