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)

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The blessings of a big sister

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This week my dear big sister Jill turned 80, and this is the poem I wrote for her.

Poem for my big sister Jill

I wanted to give you a poem
eighty years back
when you were first-born
and armies were rising
and peace receding.
You learned about consultation
in the womb.

I wanted to give you a poem
to thank you
for protecting me
and holding my hand
and showing the way
and making peace
without any fights or feuds
or atom bombs.

The poem sat in my head for weeks
waiting for Mother’s attention.
On a short dark day
lop-sided day
turn-around day
a fence of shards and sand
and shrapnel sprang up
between the poem and me.

So I clambered over the fence
ripping my shorts
on splinters
lost a shoe
and clambered back to you
the almost perfect baby
to give you what you lacked
the one thing all big sisters need:

your very own big sister
just like Jill
to shelter and protect you
and hold your hand
and take the lead
on dark days
and on bright days too
the way big sisters do.

with love from Rachel 23 June 2016


(c) Rachel McAlpine.

Feel free to share or quote, but include my name as writer