On Housework…

It is a fact universally acknowledged, by my husband at least, that I have never knowingly done spring cleaning. That is to say I might have done a little cleaning that happened to coincide with the time of year but I can’t say I’ve ever put the clocks forward and moved the sofa to dust behind it At The Same Time.

bamboo dustpan and brush from rockett st george
bamboo dustpan and brush from rockett st george

Having said that, there is something about the sun making its first watery appearance through the windows to make you realise that just as you’ve been comfort-eating your way through the winter and your summer trousers won’t fit, so there is a fine film of dust under several pieces of furniture that really ought to be removed before someone – usually your mother – comes round and slut-shames you into doing something about it.

Mind you, I just came across this quote from Erma Bombeck, an American columnist who was born in 1927 (died 1996) who said: “My second favourite household chore is ironing. My first is hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint.”

spring cleaning kit from labour and wait
spring cleaning kit from labour and wait

I’m with her. Except I can’t remember the last time I did any ironing. She also said (I love this woman, rather wishing she had been my Grandmother) “My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance.”

Sadly though, all these bon mots ain’t getting the job done. Now I know you can buy 47 dusters for a quid from Poundland and a neon nylon feather duster that practically starts a fire every time you wave it around for 99p but there’s no joy in that. If these jobs have got to be done and, at least once a year, they have, I am of the school of thought of let’s buy the good stuff. The stuff that will spark a little joy when you use it so that it doesn’t seem so bad.

goat hair dusting brush
goat hair dusting brush from housebybetty is perfect for glasses and highly polished surfaces

As the, it turns out, incredibly wise Erma also said: “Housework is a treadmill from futility to oblivion with stop-offs at tedium and counter productivity.

Mind you, on the other hand, here’s  AA Milne: “One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries.”

And that, my dear friends, is definitely true.

Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.


  1. I love the dusting brushes. I guess I never think about buying the good stuff for cleaning, i tend to do the Poundland route.

  2. I find decorating is an ideal substitute for spring cleaning – you have to move everything anyway and in my case usually into another room which then looks an absolute mess until the stuff goes back where it came from and you have to clean that room and so on and so on… my best buy? A cobweb brush for those high ceilings where the spiddies hang out 🙂
    Good post Kate, made me smile.

  3. Much prefer reading about cleaning, and the best ways to go about it for optimal results….but somehow never have the time or energy for it afterwards….

  4. I cleaned half my bathroom window a day or two ago – the sun wanted to come in, and couldn’t. Was still in my PJ’s, and vowed to do the rest…….


  5. I hate dusting but vacuuming is good. Watching the carpet come alive again and the neat patterns you can make with it. Sad?

  6. I laughed. Quite a bit. Erma sounds ace too. I’m with her on ironing, the rest I don’t mind doing occasionally. Except loos and sinks, which I quite like cleaning and I do every day…

    I call those houses where there are loads of bits and bobs, porcelain figurines, crystal animals, doilies etc. “Betty-fied, and the process as Betty-fication. Now there’s House of Betty. Is this a plot??

    I’d also like to come up with a 21st century equivalent for those people who put modern, stylish bits and bobs together and call them ” vignettes”. And no, the process wasn’t bloody “curating”. It was selection. Or putting a few bits and bobs together in a suitable way to look good.

    Any suggestions, Kate and community?

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