Monthly Archives: May 2012

Selling (and cleaning) your home with small children

Selling (and cleaning) your home with small children

house for sale

We’re selling our home with small children. By which I don’t mean I’m selling my kids too, obviously. Get a 10 percent discount if you take one kid, twenty percent off if you take two. Hmm….?!

For those who have already been through all this, you will know what a killer it is simply firefighting the usual kiddie grub every day, let alone trying to bring the house up to a respectable 8 out of 10 before someone comes round to view it. I’ve kind of fumbled my way around and tried out loads of stuff. This is what I’ve found works for me.

We all have our own routines, but my daily firefight consists of “bare minimum” housework, plus whatever I’m not too shattered to tackle that day (depending on whether I’ve slept the night before)

Clean down breakfast carnage off the dining table

Empty/fill dishwasher at least once a day

Empty/fill washing machine at least once a day

Vacuum floors when you can’t bear it anymore

Then tackle whatever is glaringly bad and you can’t hide it from your husband.

I did try to learn from the best; one website called Flylady comes highly recommended. But when she stated that you should throw away 27 things a day, I was confused. Why 27? Is this some ritual, perhaps to the god of OCD? Who knows.

You just have to find what works for you. Look around, see where clutter gathers, and work with it, not against it. What’s the point of busting a gut clearing it up if it’ll be there again tomorrow? For instance, I have one child who is such a clutterbug (cutting up pieces of paper to play confetti, leaving plasticine and blu tac where it gets ground into the carpet; I could go on) so I bought a load of pretty gift boxes and we make it a game to sort things out, like a post office or a shop.

We have rustic-looking toy boxes dotted around in places where toys just seem to gather. And when we finally get round to sorting them out, it’s Christmas all over again! Never underestimate the novelty of finding a toy they haven’t seen for a few months.

Motivate your kids into tidying up after themselves. You may think it’s quicker to do it yourself but it’s worth it in the long run. You have to choose your battles too, because constant nagging DOES NOT WORK and only exhausts you both. Then when you do finally explode, your child will think ‘uh oh, this time it’s serious.’

You have to step up your game another level when you’re selling your house.

A couple of things I learned:

Everything will get shoved into cupboards. Open with care to avoid avalanches. And you’ll forget where you’ve put stuff. Major drag. Happens to me every time I clear my office/spare room when the in-laws come to stay.

Dulux Matchpots will become your best friend as you find yourself dabbing more magnolia over mysterious stains, than a drag queen uses concealer to hide her five o clock shadow.

After seeing so many properties online, thinking ‘that place is immaculate, but where’s all their STUFF?’ I was given the answer when the estate agent came round to photograph our house. I had spent two days beyond ‘bare minimum,’ cleaning, scrubbing, and shoving into cupboards. Our estate agent practically emptied each room as she went along, moving all our ‘stuff’ into the previous room before moving on. Taking away things like loo rolls (people obviously don’t use loo rolls in that world) and taking pictures from ridiculous angles that made the house look, well…beautiful.

The only problem now is when people come round, I’m scared they’ll be hugely disappointed, like seeing a massively airbrushed glamour photo of someone, before going out on a date with them.

We had our dream viewers the other day; a family with a toddler who want to move to a larger property. They know what it’s like with a little one, and might as well put up with the grub for a few more years before changing the kitchen, or putting down new carpets. It’ll only get covered in crayons, plasticine or mysterious stains. They’ve booked a second viewing when they come back from holiday. I’m keeping my fingers, eyes and legs crossed till then.





Just a selection of freebies from a member of

Did that get your attention? Ever since i was little girl I got a real kick out of getting stuff by post. Even better, when it was free! My mum gave me a book called Free Stuff by Post (or something like that; can’t remember, it was a long, LONG time ago!)

Now, thanks to the marvellous tinterweb you can get all sorts, and I like sharing in the excitement with my children when they get a free toy from Lego, or an info pack and stickers from RSPB.

If you fancy a bit of pampering, Large cosmetic houses like L’Oreal or Rimmel often hand out thousands of samples, and I’ve had loads of foundations and shampoo/conditioner samples; very useful when going swimming with the kids. For the expensive lotions and potions, try your favourite websites, or failing that, bite the bullet, take the pushchair and go into town to chat up the ladies on the cosmetic counters. Some of them will take pity on us haggard sleep-deprived mums, surely? See it as a challenge, perhaps? There are days when I still look like my “Before” photo…?!

Unfortunately I have very expensive taste and a lot of the lotions and potions I crave aren’t available everywhere. Dermalogica moisturisers and Giorgio Armani foundations….hmmm!

My birthday’s coming up soon; maybe I need a trip to Selfridges on my own.

It’s well worth signing up to these websites and getting their e-newsletters:

Magic Freebies – updated daily. Check out the Kids and Babies category for children’s freebies.

Moneysaving – excellent advice on everything. Almost makes saving money fun!

Change4Life  from time to time give out sticker packs and free, fun activities to promote healthy eating and exercise.

and don’t forget the comps and offers pages on each of the baby websites, like Prima Baby Expert

…or just Google ‘Freebies UK’ and see what comes up. Have fun!


Comper turned gatekeeper

Comper turned gatekeeper
Birth of Veg-us by JelliBotti

Birth of Veg-us by JelliBotti

Birth of Venus by Botticelli

Birth of Venus by Botticelli

I’ve never really hidden the fact that I’m a comper, but I’m not some mad keen fanatic who will fill in every entry form of every company trying to collate your details. Nor am I the gambling type, addicted to scratchcards and the like.

Comping for me has become a means to an end, a hobby with major rewards, that can be great fun! If you’re a photographer, writer, or a bit of a wit with slogans, it can be quite lucrative…and tax-free, yay!

My favourite websites are if you’re looking for a particular prize (a holiday, or an XBox, for instance) or is good if you have a particular talent; it has a section on creative comps that can get you and your family all inspired. I also subscribe to Compers News, which has paid for itself many times over and there’s something comforting about having a hard copy mag to read (I’m old school.)

I’ve roped my husband and kids into all sorts of adventures, dressed the kids up as aliens and pirates for photo comps, we’ve all gone looking for geocaching treasure to win a £50 voucher for an outdoor adventure shop, and my husband and I even recreated the famous “Here’s Johnny!” scene in The Shining, to win…ahem…a ton of Max Factor makeup.

Make-up aside, the whole family reap the rewards of my comping, and we’ve enjoyed prizes large and small, from exciting little packets that come through the post for the kids, to a family membership to RHS and a holiday in Florida.

People who moan “I never win anything, me” probably don’t make much of an effort, or if they have, they need to comp smarter, not harder! I had a lot of success during my baby years, submitting photos and stories to the likes of Prima Baby Expert, because they are targeting a smaller group within the population – parents. And a percentage of those parents won’t have the energy to take part, which increases your chances of winning even more! (That’s what I like to tell myself, although I reckon most of us parents are in the same boat; when the kids go to bed, we all need something to make those long evenings fly by!)

I restrict my comping by asking myself (1) are we having fun? and (2) is it taking up too much time that I should be spending on the kids? Most of the time, I involve the kids as well, like in the making of The Fruitgitive, a spoof of the famous dam scene in The Fugitive, recreated with fruit and veg…

That one was to win £50K for Barclays. I didn’t win the comp that time, because let’s face it, I’m no Sofia Coppola! We had great fun making it though, on the windiest day of the year, with a paddling pool and slide with a hose running water , slowly turning the garden into a quagmire.

We did win another comp though, making a film where my kids spent a lovely day on the farm. We went to London to watch it at a VIP film festival and won a Leapster games console as a runner-up. In fact, to date, we’ve never had to buy any games consoles, because we tend to win them! My daughter won a Nintendo DS in a rapping competition (a three year old talking street is a disturbing thing, and I found it very odd that she memorised a rap wot I wrote. )

And now, I’m poacher turned gatekeeper. I’m experiencing competitions from the other side of the fence. I’m running a Crime Writing Competition in association with the British Thyroid Foundation and Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Festival in Harrogate. The winner will receive two tickets to the VIP launch party for the Crime Novel of the Year on Thursday 19 July, plus dinner, bed and breakfast at the sumptuous Cairn Hotel.

All you have to do is write a short story (max 2,000 words) on the theme “Go for the Throat!” and send it with a donation for £3. All proceeds to the British Thyroid Foundation. Please refer to the website for full terms and conditions on how to set out your story.