superstitions, compulsions and unfinished business

While I was cleaning the bathroom the other day, I came across at least three spiders, and instead of just spraying them with water and letting them swirl away down the drain like any normal person, I left them and cleaned around them, all because of that superstition that says it’s bad luck to kill a spider inside your house. They’re meant to be like house guardians. I don’t even know the actual wording of the superstition!!! And yet, I still allowed it to control me.

Then two nights ago, I was about to go to bed, when I saw a thick spider on the wall. Normally the spiders I come across are just Daddy Long-legs, and I leave them to roam about the house as they wish, but this juicy, squat specimen had to go. What if it crawled in my ear during the night and laid eggs? What if pushed it’s way into my mouth and I swallowed it and added to this statistic? No, it had to go. I squashed it with a slipper. A painless death, but a death all the same. Will I now be haunted by seven years of bad luck? Will horrible things keep happening to me, until I can atone for the sin of killing a spider inside my own house?

The weird thing is, it was harder to kill that spider, than it was to decide to leave the other three Daddy Long-legs while I was cleaning. The compulsion to obey this vague superstition, this curse, was too strong, so when I killed the thick spider, it felt like I was breaking out of chains. I felt a vague and ridiculous thrill at not doing what I was told, which just added to the danger and the sense of validity surrounding the superstition itself. This is a pretty personal post I guess, because it’s not something I talk about usually, but there are so many things that have this compulsive hold over me, and while I do manage to keep it all under control most of the time, when I do slip up, it’s like the house decides to enslave me.

Do you ever have really weird and morbid thoughts? Maybe something makes you think of funerals and you imagine a friend or family member dying, and then imagine the funeral in unwanted detail and obviously the thought of that is horrible and maybe makes you really anxious, but you can’t stop? Or you’re walking along outside and you see a rusty nail on the pavement and you imagine stepping on it and having it carve it’s way through your entire foot? And you don’t want to be imagining these things, but there is nothing you can do to make your brain just chill out and stop producing anxiety when there really is no rational reason for it. Well, I have lots of morbid thoughts at really random times and I hate them. Now that I’m older, I can more easily decide to think about something else, but while I can consciously think other, more diverting thoughts, I am still aware of the morbid ones lurking just below the top layer of my mind. It feels like I am merely sitting on them and squashing them underneath a heavy wooden board, but then I feel them squirming beneath and know with terrible certainty that they will eventually be able to toss me aside and take over again.

Sometimes, the only thing that makes it better is touching a piece of wood (another superstition), or if I’m at home, and the morbid thoughts happen to involve someone breaking in perhaps, or something burning on the stove and setting the entire house on fire, then the only thing that helps get rid of the anxiety these stupid thoughts cause is giving in to the compulsion that wants me to regulate the parts of the house that are involved in them. So, it wants me to check and re-check and re-re-check that the front door is locked, and that all the burners on the stove are off, to turn the lights in a room on and off, on and off, so that I am sure that there is nothing that’s creating a fire hazard, or a choking hazard for our dog, even though I can see after the first check that there is nothing. Nooooottthiiiingggggg.

Now that I’m out of adolescence, I am able to disobey these compulsions much more easily, some of the time without any anxiety at all, but when I was younger, it wasn’t so easy. It still elicits a peculiar set of emotions though. It feels deeply ridiculous to be walking up and down the hallway while checking that the door is locked, because you know that it’s fucking locked, and it feels comforting to know that you are doing something to prevent catastrophe, and shameful that you’re giving in to this irrational demon on your shoulder, and also hopeful that the scribble of anxiety in your gut might lessen a bit, if you just stay obedient and do what your brain is telling you to do, while all the while knowing that you need to stop, and that you’re going to stop right now or you’ll never be able to keep on top of this. It makes you feel like you’re both in control, and very deeply out of control, all at the same time.

There is a kind of ritualistic aspect to it too. You find yourself feeling like a ghost, repeating the same movements over and over again, touching the same objects over and over again, interacting with the same parts of your house over and over again. It’s no wonder that ghosts or hauntings in stories get fixated on certain rooms or certain areas of their house. Those ghosts that always walk down the same staircase, the ones that always open and close the same cupboard doors, the ones that only make their stomping footsteps heard in certain hallways, they’re all feeling the compulsion of unfinished business, and they’re giving into it. It’s actually deeply sad. They’re trying so hard to do this one thing, because they think something good will happen if they finally do it right, that they’ll finally be able to leave, without realising that they could just let go, disobey, and float away in freedom to whatever place of peace awaits them. :[

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tv home makeover unhappiness

I have always wondered if anyone has ever been unhappy about the makeover their house had received on a TV home makeover show, so this is a short list of just that.

  1. Trading-Spaces-Straw-on-walls-3A designer on Trading Spaces called Hildi covers a room in straw lol. Even if she had used a bit more it would be better, rather than this half-assed balding thing. You have to commit to stuff like this Hildi you’re in America go big or go home!!! The homeowners were not pleased and I read it took them 17 hours to scrape it all off haha.
  2. An innocent woman gets the nickname Crying Pam because she hates the denim makeover of her living room so much, she runs off camera during the reveal and sobs while everyone listens lol.
  3. A grieving husband loses his shit after his brother puts the man’s house up for a 60 Minute Makeover, in which the designer ends up removing all of his late wife’s belongings. :[
  4. Another Trading Spaces disaster, in which a woman called Ruth Nelson lies through her teeth during the reveal and then has to spend three months undoing the makeover.
  5. A homeowner tries to sabotage the designer’s work because she hates what is being done to her room so much.
  6. A Style Network’s Clean House makeover stop when the cameras do, leaving much of the work undone, and piles of rubbish for the unsuspecting homeowner to clear away.
  7. An unhappy family sues FOX’s Renovate after a shoddy makeover and a pool that nearly drowned their paralysed son.

Most of these are from Trading Spaces. What kind of hell house designers were employed by this TV show??

have been cleaning today

– Baking soda sprinkled on the carpet and then vacuumed works just as well as any expensive (and easily used up) carpet powder.

– My Mum once made a really great air freshener/deodoriser out of the following – white vinegar, water, baking soda and lemon juice (or another kind of scented thing you like). and then put it in a spray bottle. It is usable on upholstered furniture too. It sanitises everything and leaves a lovely smell in the air.

– I learned this from Curb Your Enthusiasm. It somehow seemed too good to be true, but it actually works.

A lot of stains caused by spilled drinks can be attacked at once with some salt poured liberally over the still wet/damp stain, once it has been diluted with sparkling water. Once it’s dry, the salt can be vacuumed. A WARNING: This method does not work on coffee stains, as our household has learned the hard way. Luckily though, Martha Stewart has some good stain removal tips and a handy printable chart here.

– If you have any old nylon stockings/tights lying around, they make really good dusters. Just wear them on your hands like creepy gloves and rub your now stockinged hands over whatever surface needs dusting. The stockings pick everything up, and can be rinsed and re-used. This is much quicker and more satisfying (and less dusty) then using a fluffy duster thing.

– Plain white vinegar (diluted with water) is really good for cleaning basically everything – from floors, to walls, to ceilings, to mould and mildew in the tiniest places. I think you can even use it as a fabric softener in a washing machine cycle. Just never mix it with bleach like I’ve seen floating around Pinterest. Unless you want to POISON YOURSELF. Vinegar and bleach produce chlorine gas when combined.

– I haven’t tried this one yet, but if you also have pets, it might blow your mind like it did mine. You can use a rubber squeegee to get pet hair out of your carpets/furniture. Just drag it along the carpet (start from the back and move towards the exit of the room methodically, so that you don’t lose the sense of where on the carpet you’ve squeegeed and where you haven’t) and then throw away the giant clump of fluff and hair that will have amassed. So satisfying. Look at this monstrosity:

slackerism, idleness and the consumption of domesticity

I do not want to be a slacker. It feels me with so much fear. I am an ~artist~ – I make my own work and am also involved in the running of an artist run space here. I have a job to pay the bills. I do a lot of housework. I am looking for a new job because I hate customer service and each time the door to the shop opens, my heart shrivels up a tiny fraction more. But still I feel like this is somehow not enough and that I should be busy with more things and that things should have been different by now. The only problem is that I don’t know what form this difference is supposed to take. Obviously I am going through some insufferable quarter-life crisis and I know I’m not alone. But the reason I’ve decided to start this blog is to add something more to “do” into my life. I want to write again to clarify ideas and start thinking more critically about the things I consume mentally. I do not want to be a slacker. And hopefully this blog will make me feel less like one, since writing is work in my opinion. I’ve heard people refer to a ‘Protestant work ethic’. Although until 5min ago I actually had no idea what this means, I feel like I must have a stunted case of it.

(P.S. I’m not actually a Protestant).

For a while now, I’ve perhaps been a little bit compulsive in the way I do housework. We’ve just had a really stressful couple of months. Many, many money problems and the lack of any results in my job search have conspired to grow this beast of anxiety that just keeps gnawing at my troubled young heart every hour of the day. The only time I feel better is when I’m doing housework and putting things in their proper place! There is nothing like the satisfying thk thk thk sound the vacuum cleaner makes while sucking up crumbs. My Mum has told me on a couple of occasions that perhaps the way I’ve started to approach housework is not the healthiest in the world. We joke about me being a potty housewife………… and obviously this needs to stop before it stops being a joke. It’s all started to become quite compulsive and I’ve realised that it’s the only thing that makes me feel like I have some control over my life. Our lives might be in a horrible flux, but if I can make things spic and span… well that’s something at least.

This anxiety has also meant that I’ve been pretty slack about making my own art work – instead I just seem to clean. I know that I just need to get up and do things, because I don’t really believe in the concept of inspiration. I think working at something everyday, is what makes a difference in the end. To add to this, there is also the fact that so much of my work revolves around the very general idea of Home anyway, so I keep thinking about the differences between art and house work and how to navigate this line haha. Last year I made a giant chunk of soap from scratch. It was an object in a show here, but now I want to cut off a small piece of it and clean something and document this action. Basically, I need to take back control over my life.

This has made me think about domesticity and what I can only describe as the cult of domesticity amongst young people today (especially young people like me who have a double life on the Internet). A person much cleverer than I, referred to it as the “consumption of domesticity” and that phrase rings so true. Pinterest and Tumblr and other social areas of the Internet are full of interior design porn, full of crafty DIY projects, full of household tips and tricks, full of hipster knitting patterns etc etc. And while, yes older people are also a big part of these areas of the internet, especially Pinterest, I don’t know what it is about this generation that has made young people flock to domesticity like this. And it’s more than just domesticity. It’s like some kind of yearning for a simpler, more fulfilling life, where you don’t have to worry about shitty customers, and whether you’ll be able to afford your rent payments, all you need to worry about is which colour to paint your walls and what vintage seller on Etsy to buy some wooden bowls from. Which I guess is the answer to the previous question, but it also betrays a certain rose-tinted innocence. It’s escapism let us be honest. The world has always sucked. Going back to some ideal of floral domestic life will not change anything. I am certainly guilty of this too. When I was a teenager (not that long ago), it wasn’t cool to be interested in homey things like this. It was a mark of dowdiness. And, in what seems like a really short space of time, this has completely changed. The only thing I can compare it to is opp-shopping/thrift shopping and how it used to be really embarrassing, even as recently as 10 years ago, and then a switch flipped and for ages now it has been a mark of style and coolness to go second-hand shopping and find “is-this-fun-or-is-it-ugly” items to mix into your ~capsule wardrobe~.

a screenshot of the pinterest home page taken like 2 min ago

I love 19th century novels and there is a particular word in a lot of them that fills me with an inexplicable shame. IDLENESS. What would these 19th century people think of us???? And then obviously… Why the fuck would I care what this backwards society would think of us? Obviously poor people and people who depended on their work to survive worked so hard and for so long, much like today, but even rich and middle class people needed ‘useful employments’. When your clothes are hand-made, you can’t really justify spending 3 hours on the Internet on a Saturday devouring interior design tumblrs and idealising some vague homey life where you would make your own vintage pattern clothes from silk made by your own backyard silk worms. You have to sew. You have to work. You can’t be a slacker, because you would not survive the next winter. Unless you were really rich, in which case I don’t really care about ur struggles anywaaaaay.

Today, for people here in the developed world, you are not a slacker if you don’t sew your own clothes. A woman is not a useless creature if she doesn’t do housework or cook. Today there is no need for such oppressive and necessary domesticity and yet it is what my generation seems to, in some ways, want. Why do I get such pleasure out of cleaning and vacuuming and playing some sort of domestic role? Why does it make me feel in control and like I am doing something worthy? Why are cooking shows so popular?

The idea of hearth and home is important to human beings. It’s what our lives revolve around. And it will always be important, but do I really want it to control me in this way? Why do I feel like my housework is more worthwhile than the job that pays my bills?

A house can be an exacting entity. It can be an oppressive place. This blog will be about houses, homes and the way people live and arrange their lives. I’ve been obsessed with these ideas for so long now that it will be good to get them out into the world, even if no one ends up reading them. I have about 17 posts already planned ahaha and new ideas just keep coming, so I finally feel a little bit optimistic. Maybe this blog will be a cure for my Protestant work ethic.