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Suzanne Power: Dig the dirt elsewhere - I'm too busy living

I know recently I was talking about being a barbecue dunce. It doesn't stop me from going to other people's though. We spent Sunday being fed beautifully with a group of people I hadn't met socially before. The women among us are all writers and discovered we are not known for being domestic deities.

"There's a point in life when you get one too many fridge magnets from friends and family saying things like 'dull women have immaculate houses'," one said. "You realise that you're considered an oink oink. I know it's supposed to liberate you, but when you get more than one of these, you realise a lot of people think the same thing."

I have been given about 10 of these in the past five years. No one round the table could match that. It takes a lot of training to sit in a mess when you have other priorities. No one wants to be a slob. But if you want to get ahead in life, a clean house does nothing to help you.

My husband revived me with smelling salts after having gone into the boys' rooms. I didn't see them for a week or two and a lot can happen in that time.

I sat on the sofa and cried in frustration. I work round the clock and it's not enough to have order in my house. My husband got me to see sense: "You work at several things and you get them all done. You are not going to have time to vacuum."

"Other people seem to," I sniffed. "Why do all my friends give me magnets about living in filth?"

"Because they're not doing part-time qualifications. You've studied for the past six years as well as worked. You're doing the bloody impossible. People who have clean houses have time to clean them."

The only way to achieve the impossible is to not try to be good at everything. My example of this is Roger Bannister. In 1954, he ran the first sub-four-minute mile. Then, it was considered beyond the realm of human possibility. But being a medical student, he recognised it as a psychological barrier. Within three years of breaking the record, 16 others had done it. He then dedicated his life to medicine, but a car accident in 1975 gave him perspective: "If there's something you want to do, you might as well do it, because after the next car accident, you might be dead."

I took that story into my life. It made me decide to go back to college after 20 years out of education. I realised the impossible was not achievable if I saw the whole picture. Day by day, it got done.



strain

It used to annoy me when people made comments on my home. I realise I can still apply their standards to my life and they just don't work. I am less busy than I was, so my house has more order than it had three years ago when I was completing a Masters and moving at the same time. But it's never going to be a palace. It's a place where busy people live and the build up of clutter reflects that.

I will get to it in my own time, not because I am putting myself under huge strain to be just like the people who gave me my fridge magnets and frosty comments. If my house is a kip, it's a sign I have a life, not that I need to get one.


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