Home maintenance in old age


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In which I am torn between an old age of grubby indolence (tempting) with the officious whip-cracking of a body corporate. 

Have you noticed a tendency of older people to stop dusting and cleaning and fixing up their homes? My sisters and I suspect that late in life our mother did zero housework. A nice helper went over the place very lightly every week, and every other sign of dirt and disintegration was totally ignored — or else was invisible to aging eyes.

In the immortal words of Quentin Crisp, “There is no need to do any housework at all. After the first four years the dirt doesn’t get any worse.” This is most encouraging, and I’m not knocking it. Works for some!

One legendary mother of ten sat down on a sofa at the age of 40 and announced that she was never going to do any more housework—but the dirt never stuck, because daughters took over the chores.

Some old people achieve domestic dirt and dilapidation

And some have domestic dirt and dilapidation thrust upon them, often through poor eyesight and mobility, lack of help or lack of money.

However, surveying older people who have followed the Quentin Crisp home maintenance model, I’ve decided that I would prefer my apartment to stay shipshape if possible on the stitch-in-time principle.

Unfortunately, I am unlikely to be exempt from poor eyesight and tiredness in my old age. And already I’m capable of deferring essential maintenance for 17 years! How can I improve the odds? How can I maintain my not-too-awful record into old age?

Bright idea: draft a long-term maintenance plan (LTMP)

An LTMP is mandatory for any body corporate in New Zealand; the Unit Titles Act requires an LTMP to ensure that shared property is maintained in good condition. Under the Act, an LTMP must be regularly maintained, so I’ll try to review this every 2-3 years as recommended. No. I won’t just try to. This is a boot camp! I will, I will, I will. I’ll add this duty  to the LTMP.

Right, sorted. I will be my own Body Corporate, in charge of the upkeep of my own apartment. I’ve started a spreadsheet for an LTMP that includes even mini-items such as replacing lightbulbs.  No need to rush in and do everything at once. I can set a schedule and relax.

Meantime when I run out of money or steam, my trusty cleaners will be one of the last luxuries I forego—after coffee.

P.S. I have now lost the spreadsheet.

Image from “American homes and gardens” (1905)

24 thoughts on “Home maintenance in old age

  1. Wonderful stuff!

  2. M. L. Kappa says:

    Will make a note of all this!

  3. Val says:

    Or you could do what I do and consult your inner teenager who will (if she’s like mine) look round the house and say “Urgh! It looks like an old person’s home” and she will suggest ways to make it look like hers again. Then, the only things to avoid are the pin-ups that take the place of dust-bunnies. 😉

    1. I’m like that’s like awesome!

  4. Reminds me of my former mother-in-law. Lovely lady but her kitchen was dim and so was her eyesight. I finally asked her son why she allowed her kitchen counter and cabinets to get so dirty (considering she cooked there). He said she couldn’t see it. I suggested better lighting but that never happened. Now as I’m aging I keep looking for those signs. Also old people smell. I think I smelled it in my house the other day or maybe it was decaying tomatoes. Oh well….keep the cleaners.

    1. It’s a slippery slope and we are teetering at the top. Should we just enjoy the slalom?

      1. We won’t have a choice!

      2. I know I’m kidding myself to imagine otherwise. The state of my home will be in the hands of the cleaners — or as Robyn says, those useful grandchildren.

      3. my grandkids are across the country. My house will be overrun with those people from the Christmas Carol who stripped the house after Scrooge died.

  5. I like this – a lot 😃

  6. Robyn Haynes says:

    I find it’s a question of priorities. Or having hawk-eyed grandchildren.

  7. Far be it from me to offer any advice on this front. To each our own!
    P.S. I trust my children too!

  8. Yes, it is absolutely a case of deteriorating eyesight and loss of energy. So far, these conditions haven’t hit me, but I’d MUCH RATHER be doing something else, so add boredom with housework to your list!

  9. “When it comes to housework the one thing no book of household management can ever tell you is how to begin. Or maybe I mean why.” Katharine Whitehorn

  10. roshendalal says:

    I like to ignore housework and maintenance! Its lucky that here we have helpers…

  11. Roshen, what is your “here”? You refer to living in a colony and I am curious. Ignore my question and forgive my curiosity if you like to stay private, of course.

  12. roshendalal says:

    I live in Dehradun, India. We have daily maids–all middle-class households do. She isn’t that efficient, but at least basics are done. Then I have a daily gardener–a driver, because I don’t know how to drive; and driver’s friend who does more cleaning once in two months–dusts all my books. Despite all this the house is not as it should be!There is still a lot I need to do and don’t get around to.

    1. Thank you, I think I can visualise your situation now. You have a different kind of house-work to do!

      1. roshendalal says:

        I still have a lot to do, as I said! Feed the dog, feed the cats, clear their litter, cook, dust, wash clothes—and papers and books are everywhere.

      2. And supervise your helpers. I feel privileged being just one person in an apartment.

      3. roshendalal says:

        you are right–but they are not around all day–each for half to one hour in the morning.

  13. I deliver meals to the elderly in my area and it is very fascinating to me how some of their homes are spotless and perfectly kept up, and others require a deep breath before entering. Thanks for helping me think ahead to how to maintain my home (most likely through a lot of help!) as I age. I wonder how some of those people’s heirs are able to sell their homes after they are no longer able to live there – I hope to be able to follow your rule of thumb – stitch in time saves nine.

    1. I hope I can follow it too, Heather! You have seen both extremes.