In the aftermath of a traumatic event, I found peace in the cleaning cupboard.
I have recently discovered that the true power of a steam mop lies not in its sanitising capabilities, but in its capacity to restore a sense of calm and order in a dreadful situation.
A month ago, around 4pm on a Wednesday, our house was broken into.
I arrived home from visiting my parents, pulled onto the drive with my eighteen month old son in the back of the car, and opened the front door. I saw broken glass everywhere; our spare keys scattered on the floor, and actually said out loud to my toddler in a cartoon voice;
“Ello’ ‘ello! What’s ‘appened here then?!”
before stark realisation struck.
When the police arrived an hour or so later, I heard the constable describe the scene over his radio as
“a very messy search”.
Searching for what?! Cash? £35 was all they got.
Apart from a couple of sentimental items (an antique ring that belonged to my husband’s grandmother, and the earrings I wore on my wedding day), the watches and jewellery that were taken are all replaceable. My jewellery box was largely full of cheap plastic hair grips. I wasn’t actually heartbroken to lose any of it.
What I was absolutely grief-stricken by was the mess.
The intruders had ransacked every room, leaving a trail of damage and destruction. It sounds a little over the top to describe the resulting chaos as “unimaginable”, but to me it was. I’d never seen anything like it. Every drawer of every chest was pulled out, and
everything we owned was strewn across the floor.
Mattresses were upturned; whole folders of carefully filed bank statements and invoices were emptied out onto the floor. Lamps were smashed; clothes, cushions and carpets were bleached by whatever mysterious chemical they had on their hands to prevent any fingerprints being recoverable.
Thankfully my son will not remember being carried from room to room, while Mummy clung to each doorframe, shaking and struggling to draw breath.
We were instructed not to touch anything, so it wasn’t until the following lunchtime, after CSI had left, that my husband and I set about tidying up; filling bin bags and writing down everything that was missing.
Together we swept up the glass on our hands and knees.
And then I hoovered, wiped, scrubbed, and mopped every inch of our home.
For me, cleaning is a therapeutic activity. It has a similarly cathartic effect to a brisk walk round the fields, a hot bath or a glass of red wine. It started when I was pregnant; nesting instinct, except that it never went away.
Since having my son, cleaning the house continues to feel both entirely necessary and endlessly rewarding. It provides me with a daily shot of endorphins, which I top up with extra cleaning and tidying in times of stress and melancholy.
Am I addicted to cleaning? Maybe I am, a bit,
but not in a scary OCD way. I just know that having a good clean will always make me feel better.
The PC who took my statement left a Victims Support leaflet, and warned that the emotional impact of a home invasion could stay with me for a while. With a history of depression and anxiety in my twenties, I thought there was a good chance I’d relapse. But I haven’t.
I thought I wouldn’t be able to continue living here, and we’d have to move. But we’re still here.
Doing a really deep clean has forged a deeper, more intimate connection between me and the house, and as each damaged item is replaced, repaired, or painted over, I heal a little more. I feel like I know the house better now, because we’ve been through this together. I am slowly rebuilding my nest, and rebuilding myself in the process.
It is quite likely that when I lose a parent, or my son leaves for university, or someone I love is diagnosed with cancer,
I will cry for a while, and then go and get the mop out.
People are funny, and have funny ways of dealing with the stuff life throws at them. I take genuine comfort in the knowledge that I’ve hoovered every last crumb out of the back of the toaster.
To the cruel and cowardly individuals who conspired to smash in my kitchen door that day: it was a good move dropping the burglar alarm in the water butt, I’ll give you that.
Did you have much luck selling 1,862 kirby grips?