Wendyl Nissen

Wendyl Nissen on being 'The Supportive Wife'

Wendyl Nissen: The house may be going but those stains have to stay

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Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

I didn't notice the looks passing between my husband and daughter until I had finished cleaning the ceiling, the walls, the window frames, the door frames and the skirting boards of my bedroom.

I was having a spring clean.

"You're not about to give birth are you?" he said as he edged around the ladder to get to bed that night.

The last time I spring-cleaned was more than 15 years ago when I was about to have a baby.

"What is happening to the house?" said my confused daughter who came home to find all the furniture in the lounge sitting in the middle of the room - all the better for getting at those nasty dust balls hiding behind the couch.

In the old days women did a spring clean every year - in spring. My old books tell of days spent planning for a spring clean, cooking ham and pies in advance, dressing in bloomers and making a lotion for chapped hands which would certainly result from all that cleaning.

I'm staring at just such a pair of chapped hands as I type.

I would like to say that my supportive wife challenge has simply allowed me to morph into an old-fashioned kind of woman and thus, the spring clean.

But it is something far more sinister. We're thinking of selling the house.

My lovely old villa, home to our mad family for 13 years, the house where I've been the happiest.

But before I can let anyone in to look at it, namely real estate agents, I need it to be seemly.

I'm not one of those people who have spent a lot of their lives cleaning my house from top to toe. It gets dusted and vacuumed but there are corners and crannies that really haven't seen a lot of attention for all of the 13 years we've been here.

My friends and family have never minded this. And so it has remained. Even the children's bathroom which I hadn't entered for 13 years, choosing to designate it as an experimental room. The idea being that the children would be responsible for cleaning it themselves, and if it got filthy they would live with it.

It did work - all our adult children got very clean bathrooms once they left home - but for years it was not very nice. And occasionally my drunk friends would stumble into the wrong bathroom and emerge pale and gasping for breath.

It took me a day to clean that bathroom from top to toe. A day I'd rather forget, but a necessary part of my spring clean.

Because I cannot have strangers coming into my house and commenting.

"Calls herself a Green Goddess but she's filthy. Dust everywhere," is the imaginary voice in my head as I scrub and scrape. "It's like she's a mad old hippy who's been squatting in her own house," is another.

This one is real and belongs to a friend's mother. He had just bought his new house off hippies and she had arrived with her cleaner to get rid of the spiders and filth.

I have pet spiders in every room of my house. Their webs are now gone, but they are still all alive where I gently placed them under eaves outside.

I am also possibly reacting to the time we sold another old villa in Grey Lynn. The real estate agent sold it, took her commission and then bad-mouthed me around town. I heard that I was "filthy, dust everywhere".

At the time my husband and I were both editing weekly magazines and had four teenagers and a 6-month-old baby. We had a cleaner but I didn't have a lot of time to check that all the bedrooms were ship-shape. I remember not really giving too much of a damn, I was a busy woman.

But somewhere deep down, that horrible woman planted a seed of shame which in the past few weeks has found purchase in the mind of a supportive wife.

It's been three weeks and I still won't let the agents in. Everywhere I look is a stain that needs to stay: the one I made when I invented my first cleaning product and failed, the one made by strips of paint pulled off the front door where my family has taped messages to each other over the years, and the one left on the grubby skirting board where our old, now deceased dog lay most days for 13 years.

- NZ Herald

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