Saturday, 5 November 2011


Hello dear ladies! I hope some of you are having a sunny weekend - it is pouring here in my part of Yorkshire.

My post today is a sort of 'teaching granny to suck eggs' - almost literally - as it is about that long derided and undervalued skill (and skill it is) that our female forebears did with gusto. It is called HOUSEKEEPING!

Before you all click away.....let me share my thoughts on housekeeping....

1. Housekeeping is about maintaining a well run and orderly home that works for you and your family;

2. Housekeeping is about value for money - making the best use of what you have and getting the most out of what you buy;

3. Housekeeping is about creating a calm and homely environment (or trying to!);

4. Housekeeping is so much more than cleaning (although that is part of it)!

When I think housework I think drudgery, having to do things around the house, begrudging time spent away from things I would rather be know the feeling.

When I think housekeeping I think about being in control.

Think of the fantastically efficient Miss Kenton in The Remains of the Day.....

Bike and beret optional but very fetching

It's best not to think of Mrs Danvers though...

The distinction between housework and housekeeping is important to me - all that stuff around the house needs to be done so seeing it as a specialist skill helps me to just get on with it and to take pride in what I do. If I have to do housework...mmm....where is that Country Living magazine? Whereas if I am going to do some housekeeping...yup I am a domestic goddess and my home is a haven!! (so I tell myself!). I find this is especially important as I work outside of the home (because, yes as we know, all you stay at home mums are working too!) and I have a continuous problem with low energy (thanks to menopause, anti-depression meds and dodgy thyroid) and I struggle to get motivated sometimes.

I remember my beloved great aunts would have a set day for doing things eg. Monday was laundry (yes and all the ironing done too)...and they had weekly and monthly and even yearly routines...washing curtains, cleaning windows, turning mattresses and cleaning down the paintwork...that sort of thing. And you know what?...they took pride in their housekeeping skills. So I am channeling the spirits of Auntie Mary and Auntie Sarah (although I am sure they must look down and comment that my windows are smudged!).

So housekeeping is not spending all your time cleaning - it is being organised so that you don't have to.

I became interested in green cleaning when my son was diagnosed with asthma and eczema around 7 years ago. I swept away all the chemical cleaners and replaced them with natural products. Some time later I began making my own.

I recently left a comment at Attic24 and the very lovely Lucy emailed me to ask about the cleaning products I make. So I thought it would be fun to share some recipes here.

So dear ladies - get out that apron...embrace your inner housekeeper...and prepare for some alchemy!

Wait a minute...before you rush out and start hunting down the rubber gloves we need to talk about kit!

The first thing to think about is the cleaning caddy or basket. This is a way of keeping your cleaning products together and in some sort of order. There is a balance to be found here between utility and aesthetics, but I really believe that having equipment that looks good is more likely to get used!!!

So here are some ideas for caddies....but be creative and find what works for you.

Practical and cheap, hard wearing and easy to keep clean....

 If you have a bigger budget....also hardwearing but prettier, this traditional housekeepers metal box....

 Be creative...if you like a vintage look then how about a hamper.......

 or this cute baby toiletries basket?

This is a craft caddy that I think could also be used for cleaning....

Whatever you choose, remember that the caddy has to be durable, have carrying handles and needs to be able to carry some weight.

So, you have your caddy...what else do you need?

1. A rag bag. Yes, you heard me. Dig out those festering cloths and filthy dusters from underneath the kitchen sink and replace them with a large bag of clean cloths...cotton floor cloths, dishcloths, sponges and (my favourite) microfibre cloths. Old T shirts make nice, soft dusters. Or make your own cleaning cloths....a quick Google search revealed lots of patterns for crochet cloths, such as this and this.

And look at these....don't they make you want to dash out and get those rubber gloves on?!

Free pattern from Lion Brand

I don't know who made these but they are gorgeous!

In fact, who knew that the humble dish cloth could inspire such loveliness? Search for dishcloths on Ravelry and you will see what I mean.

So you have a soft cloth bag full of cloths and after each clean you just chuck them in the washing machine and then return them to the bag when they are clean. No more damp, smelly cloths.

2. Spray bottles, tubs and bowls. It is best if your spray bottles have different colour tops for easy identification or else you can label them. They are used for natural air freshener and for general cleaning solutions. I use a small round plastic tub with a lid for keeping my surface/bathroom cleaner in. You can of course buy glass  bottles and use glass jars with screw lids for keeping cleansers in...depends how green and/or clumsy you are! And any smallish bowl for mixing potions in!

3. A small tin is good for keeping small bits in, such as cotton buds, a small scrubbing or nail brush, spoons for measuring and mixing etc.

So that is the basic hardware.

Next time I will blog about the recipes and what you need for a clean, green home!

Enjoy your weekend xxx


  1. Great blog entry Andrea.. I have been following Lucy's work to get her home more 'loved' with interest and have even looked at the 'Fly Lady' pages she suggests.. I shall be waiting for your home made cleanser recipes :)x

  2. I love this post, and I throughly agree!!!! Often cleaning can feel lovely if I am in the right head space. Thank you for the cheery out look : )
    ~ Marica

  3. Love this post. I love natural cleaning products, and use bicarb for nearly everything!!!
    will be interested and looking forward to reading part two

  4. wow what a truly marvellous, inspiring, and practical post Andrea, am bowled over! You do truly make me wnat to dash for my rubber gloves!
    I am SO with you on having Pretty Kit, I love my Cath K duster and my Sarah Smith microfibre cloths. Need to address the caddy sitchy though, my old holey bucket just isn't doing it for me.

    Am honestly waiting with huge anticipation for your recipes now. Thank you SO MUCH for this!


    ps you just reminded me about a book I have that I need to go dig out now, do you have it? It's Cabbages and Roses "natural housekeeping", it was given to me a bday pressie. I recall it being really great but not had a look through it in a long time.xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  5. What on earth is happening to everyone! Why the willingness to be brainwashed into following this strange cleaning programme by the Fly Lady? It all seems very weird to me. If you want to clean, then just get on with it! Why let someone else control how it is done. Are people really such followers? Are we all just drones buzzing about doing what Queen Bee tells us to?

    There is nothing wrong with looking up stuff but to follow a whole programme seems to me to be giving away any individuality. The book Lucy mentioned looks better than running around your home with a mop and bucket because a woman on the Internet tells you its the designated time to get in the zone. Awful stuff!

    I can't stand all these cleaning post around at the moment. I understand you were asked about certain things, so that is fair enough but who says that the way someone else runs their life is the way we should be doing it in our own. It's control freakery at its very worst. Perhaps we should all keep our own council and keep a little of our own power instead of giving it away. Cult followings of any kind are rather unhealthy. Not to mention VERY boring. I won't be going near this Fly Lady website, it's a contagion that I'm not willing to catch.

  6. I love this post Andrea - let's face it we all have to do it so why not make it lovely. I must admit I'm not a big Fly Lady fan but I LOVE Brocantehome. She is very big on Au natural products and her writing is beautiful. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, it's nice to hear how other people get round the drudgery of keeping house xx

    P.S Ignore malicious comments. Keep doing what you're doing!

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  8. Danielle I have never heard of the Fly Lady! As I said, I began making my own chemical-free cleaning products years ago in response to my son's health conditions. This post isn,t in any way about following or asking others to follow a specific way of is about sharing and maybe learning something too. I appreciate some people may find the subject 'boring' but I would suggest they don't waste their time on this and find a blog that interests them more. Thanks for your comment.

  9. Did I really just read something about a "cleaning cult" in a comment?! Andrea I am looking forward to your cleaning recipes. I'm sensitive to many products and so this topic will be of interest to me. It is always a joy to visit your blog x

  10. Can't wait to read the next installment. Some of those cleaning caddies do it for me, I love the vintage one and also the baby toiletry caddy, I really should sort out the cupboard underneath the sink.

  11. Hi Andrea, sorry about my comment being deleted - I posted the comment, then got a strange message that I didn't understand, so deleted it! Cross fingers it's behaving now... So, what I wanted to say was, love the post and the pics, and can't wait to see your recipes!
    Jane x

  12. Lovely post Andrea. I am with you all the way. I never did get my house cleaning posts off the ground, for the very reasons that you mention in your post. I love the sound of your great aunts, oh to have those sort of personalities around these days to lick us into shape.

    I have chosen my cleaning basket, so off we go. Must get myself some of those gorgeous dish cloths. I NEED inspiration. Housework threatens to engulf me. xxx

  13. Great post Andrea. I'm afraid I'm at the stage of rushing in and out and not taking time to enjoy my home. You have provoked thought of past times when housekeeping was such a pleasure. Mmmmmm fod for thought.

  14. I cant wait for your recipes,what a wonderful post

  15. Andy's been on about natural cleaning products and bought me a bottle of white vinegar and a lemon. He then used the lemon in some sparkling water as a refreshing drink and then we used the vinegar to make poached eggs.

    In light of the above I am looking forward to reading your cleaning products recipe post. I already use an e-cloth rather than sprays in the kitchen the majority of the time and am keen to learn more :-)

    xxxx Heather


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