I've always been terrible at housework. As a student in Wellington in the 80s I seldom lifted a finger to reduce the bacteria count in the household. If my flatmates were going to be shiftless then I saw no incentive to clean. I can embrace filthiness if I have to. And, even recently, I could always find more engaging, more productive ways of spending my time than doing mind-numbing chores.
• Read more: Why you shouldn't wash your dishes by hand
But I am now a reformed character and 2015 is shaping up to be my year of housework. It's a novelty, an experiment - a chance for me to embrace my domestic side and absorb myself in activities that, by their very nature, are undone almost as soon as they are completed.
Let me share with you the highlights and lowlights of household chores.
Most gross chore: Removing gunk from the plughole
Firstly: is gunk a word? Secondly: gunk is gross. Occasionally I try to remove the unidentified muck that clings beneath the bathroom plughole. You start pulling up a few stray long hairs then clumps of thick black goo emerge. No wonder this is consistently voted one of the ickiest cleaning moments. It might make you dry retch but there's something strangely compelling about it too as you wonder exactly how much more slime can be down there. Then, of course, there is the ongoing dilemma as to which implement is the most effective for this task: tweezers, a crochet hook?
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Most shunned chore: Changing the sheets
As a student in Weir House, Wellington, in 1983 we were supposed to line up and swap our dirty linen for clean sheets every Thursday. I was lucky if I did it once a term. What can I say except: "Ewww"? Now I change the sheets every week without fail. And because I don't have a linen cupboard (or any spare sheets) there's a bit of pressure to get the sheets and pillowcases washed, dried and replaced before bedtime.
Most satisfying chore: Dusting
This won't sound right but when I discovered Pledge Grab It Electrostatic Dusting Cloths, I told my other half that they changed my life. Until then I'd been uncertain about dusting. Regular cloths were either too wet or too dry. These packaged things with their fresh citrus scent and "new & improved 40% thicker cloth" that "picks up more dirt, dust & hair" were just right. I know. It sounds like a paid promotion. I wish.
Most sparkling chore: Cleaning the taps
I employ pre-moistened, ready-to-use bathroom wipes for this. Don't tell the Green Party but it's so much faster and easier than marrying cleaning fluids with cloths. (I used vinegar on the tapware once but found its smell off-putting.) I've also discovered how to make taps sparkle like new: simply apply baby oil with a cotton pad. You are welcome.
Most loathed chore: Vacuuming
I capitalised on my C-section. I was shameless in this respect. My husband took charge of the vacuuming for twelve years but his heart was never in it. Now, as the self-appointed CEO of vacuum services in our household, I embrace the task with vigour. I shift heavy furniture, get the nozzle into crevices and generally spend way longer on this chore than I should. I like seeing the dust twirl weightlessly around inside the transparent canister but I really detest the noise. When will someone invent a silent vacuum cleaner?
Most over-rated experience: Hiring help
I had a house-cleaner 15 years ago but eventually worked out that although we paid (well) for five hours of her time each week, she turned up for only about three hours. I've also used those franchised cleaning services with little success. They were too rigid in their approach. The ones we had would leave a fancy strip of paper across they toilet proving it had been cleaned but then refuse to empty the dishwasher. Additionally, other people can be really hard on your house. One friend reckons her cleaner scrubbed off the markings that indicated which knob was for which element on her cooktop. Another had a cleaner whose careless vacuuming action dented all the skirting-boards.
Best role model: Fake dusting woman
One woman revealed to me the secret of how to get in a nana nap while giving the impression of working hard. So as not to be caught having an afternoon lie-down if her husband returned from work early, this SAHM would snooze with a feather duster in her hands. "Then if he came home unexpectedly I would just leap up and pretend to be dusting," she explained. What can I say? She is a legend.