So apparently the doyen of all things homely, Kirstie Allsop, thinks that women secretly love doing the ironing because it keeps them sane. She says that doing repetitive tasks that keep the home tidy and organised is also very therapeutic. Clearly these statements have received a lot of flack, and to my mind, rightly so. Surely, most people lead such busy lives nowadays that cleaning and ironing aren’t seen as relaxing hobbies, but rather as aggravating necessities.
As I’ve mentioned several times in this column, I am verging on (if not firmly embodying) the realms of OCD when it comes to tidiness in my home. I can’t help it, there is a place for everything and everything is in its place. I like things clean, tidy and organised and therefore some might think that I would in some way agree with Kirstie’s comments.
However, although I like the after affect of cleaning, there is no way I would describe the actual acts of dusting, ironing or any of those other activities, soothing. And I certainly don’t love them! Kirstie, I think you’ve really got it wrong this time. Because of my OCD tendencies, I am forever clearing things away and plumping cushions. And the speed at which I wash and clear up after a meal would give Usain Bolt a run for his money. But I do it because I like to have things just so and the resulting order makes me happy. The actual act of doing it however, does not. I get neither joy nor relaxation from making the beds, sorting the laundry or emptying the dishwasher. And I would love to be able to click my fingers, or wiggle my nose in a Samantha-from-Bewitched kind of way, and have everything done. But seemingly that’s not possible in real life.
I can’t help but think that comments like these are really damning to the millions of women out there who find household chores literally that, a chore. I’m not saying that there aren’t some (weird) women who do enjoy such things, and good luck to them and their marigolds. But surely the majority of us find these tasks a necessary evil and probably spend just as much time doing them as we do in trying to get our partners, flatmates or children to do their fair share of them too.
And there’s the other problem. There are still far too many people out there who believe that housework is a woman’s work and comments like these will only fuel the misogynists’ fire. I have always really liked Kirstie, and appeared with her on Radio 2 last Christmas discussing the pros and cons of making your own Christmas presents, decorations et al. (Her for, me against.)
But I do think more and more that she is living in a world which is inhabited by very few people indeed. She hates the fact that people use the word ‘housewife’ in a pejorative way, and yet she makes statements like these which will surely only make things worse.
So come on Kirstie, do a survey of normal working women and I guarantee you that the majority will be on my side in this argument. It’s called housework not househobby, and I don’t think you’ll find many people who find it as relaxing as sitting on the sofa with a good book and a glass of wine.
NOTE TO SELF: Keep finding better ways to relax than cleaning the oven.