Petty domestic disputes no.8: Tidying

You want me to tidy what? (source: cartoon

You want me to tidy what? (source: cartoon

“Everytime a child says ‘I don’t believe in fairies,’ there’s a a little fairy somewhere that falls down dead.”
Peter Pan

My family believe in fairies. My wife and my two sons believe that not only do fairies exist but they live in our house. How do I know this? Every morning, after breakfast, they take their bowls and cups from the dining table and place them on a work surface in the kitchen, next to sink, ready to be cleaned. What is the problem with that, you may ask? Well, nothing, except that we own a dishwasher.

The dishwasher is in our utility room. It is only a few feet from this particular area of work surface to the dishwasher, but every day the cups and bowls are placed by the sink safe in the knowledge that the tidy fairy will put them into the dishwasher. It must be the tidy fairy, because they never put the bowls and cups into the dishwasher and yet the bowls and cups get cleaned. Sometimes they feel charitable and place the cups and bowls on the work surface directly above the dishwasher. The thought may occur to them to place the items into the dishwasher, but for some reason they ignore it. Perhaps they are worried the tidy fairy will be made redundant, yet another casualty of austerity Britain. In their heads they see a little queue of fairies filing into the job centre looking for opportunities under M for magic. Perhaps my boys think the tidy fairy will have words with the tooth fairy so that they only get half the usual amount per tooth, or even worse, talk to Santa and tell him exactly how badly behaved they can sometimes be. Whatever the reason, the tidy fairy has gainful employment in our house.

Now that's how to load a dishwasher (source:

Now that’s how to load a dishwasher (source:

Of course, it’s not really the tidy fairy that cleans up after the family (sorry kids), it’s me. And it does my head in. The problem is, when we agreed that I would look after the boys, we also agreed that I would do the lion’s share of the domestic chores. I don’t mind that. What I do have a problem with is doing unnecessary chores. It would only take another 5 seconds for the family to put their things in the dishwasher, yet it all seems too much bother. Not that they would do a very good job of maximising the load. You can tell whenever my wife loads the dishwasher because everything is jumbled up inside. I can get twice the crockery into the dishwasher than her, just by arranging things in a logical order. I even showed her how to do this once. Did she thank me? Did she hell.

Ah, I hear you say, you’re being too sensitive. It’s only just the dishwasher, it’s not like it takes you a long time to sort it out. If only. There’s all the post that gets dumped into my office to file, or the things to shred that not only get left in my office, but often on top of the shredder, as if flicking a switch and pushing a receipt into the ‘hole of lacerations’* was far too much work. Then there are the kitchen peelings that we save in a little container to go to the compost bin. I’m sure my wife believes this container grows legs and empties itself during the night like Twoflower’s Luggage. If only it had all the attributes of that magic box.

empty toilet rollWell I couldn’t let this go on. As is typical in our household I didn’t say anything directly (we tend to hold these things in until we explode irrationally at something inconsequential like a coffee stain or the wrong flavoured crisps). Instead I started a guerrilla action.

There is one thing my wife hates more than anything, and that is empty toilet roll tubes being left in a bathroom. I’m not talking about leaving the toilet roll holder empty (I may be vindictive sometimes but I’m not that mean) but leaving the empty tube on a window sill or a shelf, preferably in a prominent position, will have the desired effect.

I’ve even got my boys in on the act. I was asked by my oldest what to do with the empty tube once. “Just leave it on the side” I said, maniacally laughing inside like Machiavelli‘s slightly less cunning cousin**, and like good children they are happy to oblige. Now I get a small amount of pleasure watching my wife, face like thunder, taking yet another empty toilet tube into the utility room. I stand there, broom or duster in hand, chuckling to myself as I watch her walk through the kitchen to the utility room. And then my laughter stops. Because every time she walks past the dishwasher to and places the empty toilet roll onto an area of the work surface where we place the recyclables.

Ready for the recycle fairy to place them in the recycle bin outside.

* A friend of mine is a product manager responsible for shredders (plus laminators and other stuff) and I’ve been assured that this is the correct technical term.

**His name was Trevor, apparently.

Previous petty domestic dispute blogs in this series:

  1. Bed space
  2. The 6 a.m. watershed
  3. Food
  4. Houseplants
  5. Who changes the nappy
  6. Bed Linen
  7. Toys in the lounge

11 thoughts on “Petty domestic disputes no.8: Tidying

  1. Dylan, did you know that those very same fairies live in the money tree that grows at the bottom of your garden? Just saying….
    PS Great post, thanks for making me laugh out loud 😉 )

  2. We have a tidy fairy in our house and she’s called Jennifer. She is amazed that, like in your household, the men – who profess to be intelligent, practical beings, are unable to operate the dishwasher/microwave/washing machine; they step right over their items left on the bottom of the stairs for them to put in their rooms and they are masterful at dropping their dirty laundry just inches from the substantial laundry basket (albeit lidded, which requires a modicum of effort).

    • I can’t believe I was as bad when our roles were reversed, though I’m sure my wife will disagree. What’s interesting is that up until relatively recently, your situation was the norm and men were just seen as ignorant slobs. Perhaps that isn’t the case. Perhaps it is just down to the roles people play in a relationship.
      OK. Most men are ignorant slobs.

      • I just think it’s human nature – if there’s a fairy there to do it, then let her/him – doesn’t have to be gender specific. I have a lovely niece who is a total slob around the house.

  3. I’m the tidy fairy in my house. Like you, I have my little tricks to show my disapproval. Mine doesn’t invlove toilet paper, but sandwiches. I make my sailor’s lunch every morning. When I’m annoyed, I don’t cut his sandwich in half. That’s right! How awful is that? Of course if he happens to notice it when he’s packing his work bag in the morning, he’ll unwrap it and cut it himself. He leaves the knife on the counter . . . right above the dishwasher. UGH!

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