Tidy Ooop

When I was young and my life was an open book, I knew what tidying up was.

You found the nearest voluminous cupboard, you picked everything up and you prized it in, shutting the door convincingly behind you. Sometimes it took a few stout shoves but even the largest contingent of Cindy dolls can be tamed with enough brute force.

The room looked quite impressive after that.

Later, as adulthood dawned, I progressed to another tactic and one which I occasionally use even today.

I would simply take everything off every shelf and put it into a huge pile in the middle of the floor. And then I would sort everything in the huge pile into little piles corresponding to destinations: the toys to the toyroom, the gift soap to the bathroom, etcetera.

It was systematic, and it tidied to the core. But it is not a conventional system, and those who saw it in its transitional stages were prone to panic.

I empathise with a character in the 2005 version of The Producers: a receptionist who can speak very little English. Ulla is Swedish: and while her 1968 counterpart, the Ulla in the original Producers, was employed to dance and light cigars, the modern Ulla is entreated to ‘tidy up’.

Which, in a Swedish accent inspired by director Susan Stroman, sounds more like ‘Tidy Ooop”.

She does. With a vengeance. The gentlemen’s oak and mahogany of the Producer’s office is banished forever: they arrive shortly after her stay begins to find everything – and I mean everything – painted pristine white.

No half measures there, then. I do like her style.

These days a family life means the house experiences one tidy part of the day: we have an evening clear-up. But it has been slipping.

Today, I can take no more. The clutter is beginning to rule us all: it is setting my teeth on edge.

And so, it begins. Felix, who is allergic to tidying, is spared just this once after his rain-bound friend invites him over to play. It is no exaggeration to say he flees the house.

Maddie has a pragmatic approach to tidying. She potters round checking my bidding and I ask her to do this and that, and she works hard and after half an hour I say: you’ve done enough now, Maddie. Time to go and play.

Phil is very keen to help, in the way that Phil generally is. With gusto and enthusiasm, and an agenda all his own.

I arrive back from a shopping session to find he has heroically cleared the kitchen and stacked the dishwasher and is preparing to vacuum.

Me: I clear the floor when I’m vacuuming. I take chairs and stack them, lift large toy planes and stuffed owls and such, and blanket vacuum the lot.

Phil does precision vacuuming. He leaves the stuff right where it is and delicately laces his way round each object like a ship skirting the coast.

Him being a professional communicator I get regular progress reports. “I just spent some time clearing the fridge,” he informs me, much as one of Wellington’s officers might deliver an account of a particularly thorny clash with the dashed enemy. “There were mould cultures present on several items which I removed and destroyed professionally.”

I resist the temptation to tell him “At ease, Shrewsday. As you were.”

I ransack the ground floor in my customary fashion. I stop short of painting it white, but I am definitely Tidying Ooop, splashing polish here and bleach there and returning jars, which have sat lonely as a cloud on the working surface for weeks, back to the fold, the cupboard of their origin.

I switch the big old vacuum cleanerΒ off to hear a noise which sounds like an overblown hornet somewhere on the middle floor, a furious buzzing sound which takes a moment to place.

Ascending the stairs three at a time, I arrive at the bedroom and appraise the scene.

My husband is holding the most ancient hand-held vacuum, which must have been made by Hoover almost 40 years ago. He is applying this geriatric device to our bedroom sofa. I think he is getting non-specific dust out.

He has had it ever since his father bequeathed it to him. It is possibly an antique: certainly a collector’s item. It is eccentric, like my husband. It has a sturdy metal nozzle and a cloth bag with Hoover’s logo emblazoned on it.

He has already used the tiny wheezing device to hoover the entire bedroom floor. His love for handheld vacuums knows no bounds. It wails companionably, a modern version of Man’s Best Friend, and I turn and leave the two of them, content in each other’s company.

The house is put bang to rights. We have Tidied Ooop.

Time for tea.


46 thoughts on “Tidy Ooop

  1. Bwhahahaha – all sounds very familiar – my hubby informs me of every piece of work undertaken in the day (waiting for sounds of approval from moi and the occasional pat on the back) and judiciously avoids listening to any similar listings from me ;). It’s a bit like when I’m sick – I ask him ‘why don’t you ever ask me how I am’ and he replies ‘because you might tell me’!

  2. oh my worst task – being decendent of long line of pack rats – impossible mountains of ‘stuff’ – not enough room -cupboards? yup done that one – piles in middle of room – yup done that? when I can face it these days it is more like just moving from one top to another! – always wondering how others manage:( but white – no, can’t stand the colour:) coffee good this morning thanks

  3. Re housework: do my Deathbed Test: if you think you’re going to lie on your deathbed regretting that you didn’t do more housework, then do more housework; if you don’t think that, don’t worry about it. Simple πŸ™‚

  4. Tilly Bud has the right idea, however, it is a good feeling when all is done and dusted. My MIL had a hoover like the one Phil was using, but it had a patched hole in the bag. The dust would go in one end and out of the patch, she didn’t seem to realise, and I didn’t have the heart to tell her.

  5. Our approach to cleaning is to do as little as possible and then only what’s really necessary. After all, we don’t want to wear the finish off the furniture and floors, do we?!?

  6. I wish that my husband had such a good relationship with our hoover. That I wouldn’t mind. And some more communication skills. Oh and I bet Mac was sitting on his bed, the last bastion of sanity, and giving you all very dirty looks. πŸ˜‰

  7. Our Jennifer is absolutely the best at making a mess. Happily, she is also the best at “tidying oop”. She’s fast and efficient and cheerful to boot. Our Kate, on-the-other, isn’t one to make messes, or cleaning up. Since she was a wee lass, she has always found ways to get friends to clean up for her. Masterful she is. Now, I really must go do my own tidy oop.

  8. Since I’d rather be reading blogs and researching the tidbits I find in them, I’ve gotten quite lax in the tidying ooop department. The days of weekly “cleaning” have long ago fallen by the wayside, and in recent years I have become more like Phil, employing only “precision” vacuuming (a practice I viewed with abhorrence when I was younger and oh so much more ambitious); however, there comes a point . . .

    That’s when I switch to Kate mode…everything off the shelves and away from the walls…unearth all possible motes of dust and errant cat hair…put everything back in its proper place (or maybe a new one). Then . . . Ahhh, free to go read again, laughing all the way as I have this morning. πŸ™‚

      1. Twice you have said so, and I truly appreciate that thought, Kate. However, I doubt that day will come along. It’s much more fun for me to share an occasional tidbit of knowledge or brief flash of wit in some comment to another. I am too much a procrastinator, too willing to drop everything to do something/anything (did you say let’s go to the auction? to shop? out for lunch?), and certainly not disciplined enough to attempt such a venture. I’ll never say never though….sometimes our circumstances change. πŸ™‚

  9. I hate the noise of a vacuum cleaner, especially when someone else is using the thing! I have an old fashioned carpet sweeper for inbetween times. Much quieter πŸ™‚

    Threats have been issued this end that i boys rooms are not tidied I shall be going in… on Thursday. Wach out.

  10. Good morning! Just want you to know I’ve nominated you for a Kreativ Blogger award. The details are on my blog β€” you are under no obligation to accept or follow through with the details β€” I just want you to know what a fantastic blogger you are and how much I enjoy reading and sharing your words!

  11. Oooh, I did a massive Tidy Ooop last night, and this morning was a pleasure to wake to. And what is it about men and vacuums? My husband, who only vacuums under extreme duress, purchased “for me” a fancy Dyson and a Black & Decker mini vac a few years back, and both look as though they come from a Jetson’s episode and could Hoover the clouds from the sky. I love them both, but I might not have chosen either if left to my own simpler devices.

    1. πŸ˜€ Ah, Cameron, such a familiar scenario. I love the gift ‘for you’ πŸ˜€ Perhaps with a slightly more Jetson-like handheld Phil might experience a greater degree of effectiveness…

  12. My husband’s favorite thing about vacuums: special attachments. He loves using specialized equipment to do precision cleaning. (p.s. I never use them. precision cleaning is not exactly something I do)

  13. I love your idea of pulling everything off the shelf at once for the sorting through . . . much more efficient than a piecemeal approach.

    I do the same when sorting papers that accumulate at rapid rate . . . all of them, at once, onto the bed for sorting. One massive pile becomes more manageable mini piles, easily filed away.

  14. I tidied up very methodically once, Kate. I had about a hundred boxes, and labelled them all with a letter of the alphabet. I put items in a box, and on an index card (where I had also listed the same letters of the alphabet) I wrote what was in each box. When the box was full, it was stacked, and I moved on to another one. It was great fun (it was!) and I cleared lots of things away. The only problem – I don’t know what I did with the index card, and now have no idea what is in each box. It’s a daunting thought, thinking about going through each box to see what’s in it…

  15. You just described much of my weekend, Kate, and I am also notorious for making a bigger mess by dumping everything in the middle and then putting it back. I wish I were more naturally orderly, but it stacks up and then I can’t take it any more! It does feel good whe. It is tidied up– oops! Tidied ooop! Debra

  16. Good for you all! LOVE this post, Kate, especially your mention of β€œ…At ease, Shrewsday. As you were.” A brilliant LOL moment πŸ˜€ Hope tea was utterly perfect!

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