I have, what I describe as, a tolerant nature. I can put up with things and situations that others would find intolerable, even abhorrent. But there you are. If you buy a French farmhouse, complete with barn, outhouse and cellar, you need to let things be or just turn a blind eye sometimes. Cobwebs adorning the landing window (so delicate and symmetrical you have to admire it)? So high up that to reach them involves a plank and ladders? Well, they’re not hurting anyone and it’s not like we can look out of that window…
Ladybirds in the downstairs cloakroom? One or two wouldn’t worry anybody but 20 or 30 clustered together in the corner of the window frame? I can see them from the loo, they don’t mind me, I don’t mind them. It’s a job for a rainy day, sealing the window frames, but today the sun is shining…
Garden table and chairs speckled with flecks of grain, bird lime, straw? Brush it off and move the table and chairs to avoid the culprit, an old nest in the rafters that might well be a new nest for a new family.
Weeds on the patio? A few 20-minute sessions while waiting for the charcoal to come to the optimum BBQing temperature clears an amazing amount of unwanted greenery and builds an appetite for that BBQ, and what’s a few days’ wait for a clear patio?
The floor of the barn is soil, earth, the actual ground with cobbled patches here and there, creating an unsteady dirty surface. No problem if you follow a well-trodden path through, though I do draw the line at walking there in slippers. No-one wants to follow someone on to the bath mat after they’ve brought in dregs of old barn on their soles. I do have some standards.
However, after 12 years of regular visits and closing my eyes to unsavoury dust traps, something changed. Two days of inclement May weather meant choosing the easier option on offer, so I wielded my duster and damp cloth in the direction of the glass-topped coffee table with iron-work shelf on which stood an untreated wooden bowl of red silk rose petals, a dust trap of mega proportions. However, in the words of Alfred Wainwright ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing’ – so say I with regard to cleaning. Just as I could never change a wheel if I was wearing my favourite jeans, neither can I tackle dust of these proportions unless wearing my oldest clothes, and gloves. And so, using all the weapons at my disposal – vacuum cleaner, selection of brushes, wet and dry cloths and a toothbrush – the table eventually sparkled like a pirate’s treasure chest. The silk petals were dunked in hot soapy water, wrung out (v-e-r-y-carefully) in a tea towel then placed in a net potato bag (available in all good supermarkets) and hung on the washing line to dry. Best to remove potatoes first.
Caught by the cleaning bug we fell upon a vase of once-beautiful netting roses, artistically arranged among more silk petals in a glass vase. The Wash and Swish adaptation of the Wash and Squash method dealt with the roses and, threaded through the rattan garden table to dry, conjured up a table dressed and ready for a wedding breakfast for two.
Twelve years of dust, gone. The table, flowers, the petals, the vase and the bowl are a pleasure to look at and – the most dramatic change of all – the squeaky-clean glass-topped table demands to be kept clear of the usual debris that comes with a visit to the house.
To say I enjoyed that stint of maintenance (or just standard cleaning, DH snorts) isn’t exactly how I’d describe it but it’s true that once you do start decluttering, whether clothes, papers, ornaments or just set about a project with an intent to start and finish on the same day, the energy in the room picks up and is almost tangible. But I’m leaving those cobwebs well alone.