How to Sort Out Your 2021 Mess

How to Sort Out Your 2021 Mess

How to Sort Out Your 2021 Mess

Is January the messiest month of the year or what? Most homes are slightly the worse for wear in the new year (some of the owners are also!). We’ve enjoyed ourselves and let the housework slide, and that’s okay. We just don’t want it to slide too far.

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Tackle that mess like a boss. The first step is to remove any non-recyclable rubbish – don’t just move it to a corner: get it into a bag and out of the house. Next deal with the recyclables. It’s not a bad idea to flatten all the cardboard and load it straight into the car for a trip to the recycling centre.  If you still have your Christmas decorations up, carefully pack those away. Now you’re half-way there!

 

There may be more clutter than usual in your kitchen and living areas. When we’re given new stuff for Christmas, it can take a while for that stuff to find a home. You might even find you need to discard some of your old stuff to make way for the new. Once your new things are stored in the correct place, you’re likely to appreciate them a lot more (unless you don’t really like them, in which case you can discreetly list them on eBay).

With the tidying and discarding out of the way, you can begin the cleaning. Or not. At this point you might decide to call in a professional cleaner. You get the best value from your cleaners when the area is relatively free of rubbish and clutter. Cleaners will empty bins but may not remove rubbish elsewhere because they don’t want to accidentally discard something the client wanted. They will pick up clothes and other belongings and arrange them neatly but, unless they are very familiar with a house, they won’t be able to put these things away. If you don’t have the energy to put random things away before the cleaners come, just hide these in a cupboard or in the spare room. That way the cleaners can concentrate on what they do best – cleaning!

There are various books on the market to help people clean and organise their homes. There really isn’t one right way to do it. The approach you take will depend on your personality, your capabilities and the time available to you.

 

For those of you with a strong sense of order, I’d recommend The Life Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo. Some of you may cringe at the idea of clutching each of your belongings to ascertain whether they “spark joy”, or maybe you’ll collapse in a fit of giggles. Nevertheless, Marie’s ideas can help people let go of stuff they don’t want. You can thank that hideous floral shirt and lovingly fold it up for a charity shop collection bag. That way you honour your Great Aunt Mabel by allowing her gift to spark joy for others.

People who are really into shining surfaces and sweet smells in the house might gel with Hinch Yourself Happy by Mrs Hinch (Sophie Hinchliffe). Mrs Hinch is always busy on social media, and so are her followers. You might just find a dose of hinchiness provides the cleaning motivation you lack. Join the Facebook group called Hinch Army Cleaning Tips and you’ll always have a whole gang of hinchers to buoy you up when some cleaning task has got the better of you. You could even post before and after pictures of your cleaning projects! There’s nothing like a few dozen likes and loves to keep you motivated.

Just as we were despairing there is no cleaning guide available for real people, Rachel Hoffman wrote Unf*k your Habitat. This is a fab book for those struggling with cleaning and domestic order in general. I love the non-judgmental tone of this author. Not everyone can afford a regular cleaning service, and not everyone is capable of a huge cleaning marathon, yet everyone deserves to live in a decent environment. Mental health issues and physical disabilities can get in the way of housekeeping and this book acknowledges that. It also acknowledges it’s okay to ask for help. I highly recommend it.

 

After I finished this blog post a new national lockdown to prevent the escalation of the pandemic was announced. It may mean you’re more reluctant to have someone in to clean the house, even if it is technically allowed, in England at least. I know many cleaners are nervous about entering homes, not so much for their own sake but out of concern for clients and vulnerable members of family bubbles. If you happen to be stuck with your own housework for now, take Rachel Hoffman’s advice and make sure that every day you do one thing – anything at all – to improve your habitat.

Many people are worki ng at home due to the pandemic.

5 Tips On Ecofriendly Cleaning

5 Tips On Ecofriendly Cleaning

5 Tips On Ecofriendly Cleaning

Clean rhymes with green. In the environmental context certainly, what is greener is also cleaner. In our homes though, there are some challenges when it comes to cleaning in a way that is kind to the environment. Many of us automatically reach for the bleach to deal with anything smelly or germy, but perhaps we should think again. With a little bit of extra effort, we can keep our homes clean and smelling fresh without resorting to the kinds of chemicals that may damage our health or the environment.

shower head

Tip #1

Keep it dry! As a young adult, I actually thought showers didn’t need to be cleaned because they got washed with water every time we used them. I was wrong! Water left lying around in showers etc. is a breeding ground for microorganisms, such as mould. By drying the shower and drying up any water spilled in the bathroom or kitchen, we prevent mould from growing. The action of wiping also removes dirt before it has a chance to build up.

Tip #2

Clean up messes in the kitchen immediately, and clean everything else on a regular basis. Why? Because if we clean things when they’re only a bit dirty, or at least when the dirt is fresh, we often only need a cloth soaked in hot, soapy water. The arsenal of tough cleaning chemicals hiding in your cupboard is usually only necessary for built up grease and grime.

Tip #3

Invest in some good cloths, as they will minimise the amount of cleaning product you need to use. You need large microfibre cloths containing at least 12% polyamide (for absorbency). Exel brand “magic” microfibre cloths apparently have an “antibacterial cleaning action formulated into the cloth”, which means you don’t need antibacterial surface spray because the cloth will do it all! A 10 pack of these cloths can be bought for about £7 on Amazon.

 

 

microfibre cloths

Tip #4

Your pantry probably contains some excellent natural cleaning products. White vinegar, for example, is great for removing limescale. There’s no need to use expensive wine vinegar – the cheapest distilled vinegar will be fine. Some people even clean toilets with it. A multipurpose bathroom cleaner can be made with 50% distilled vinegar, 50% hot water, and a squirt of dishwashing liquid.

If you’re like me, and don’t like the smell of vinegar, substitute it for citric acid, which is actually more effective on limescale anyway. A 1kg bag of food grade citric acid costs about £5.50 on Amazon and will last you for ages.

Baking soda is another one of my favourites. Baking soda is the stink-meister. Use it for cleaning by sprinkling it on a damp cloth: it will remove odours and its mild abrasiveness will clean without scratching. You can also dissolve it in water and dip your cloth in it. For spills and smells on carpet, soft furnishings and mattresses, sprinkle with baking soda then vacuum up. The baking soda will soak up smells and often removes stains if applied promptly. The good thing about baking soda is that it’s unlikely to harm fabrics or surfaces. Dry baking soda is therefore a good first move; if it doesn’t work, then no harm done – vacuum it up and try something else.

Sodium bicarbonate

Baking soda and vinegar together are a dynamic duo. A sink drain can be unblocked (or a washing machine cleaned) with about 3 tablespoons of baking soda and a cup of distilled vinegar. For the sink, just leave those ingredients to sit and bubble for ten minutes then pour a litre of boiling water on top. For the washing machine, put the vinegar in the drum and the baking soda in the detergent compartment and run a hot wash.

Essential oils

Tip #5

The perfumes in supermarket cleaning products don’t really do anything – they don’t make the product work better, and these synthetic fragrances can cause sensitivities for some people. If you like nice smells in your house, and in your cleaning products, you can use essential oils. I buy mine from Mother Nature’s Goodies on eBay (100 ml of lemon oil costs less than £6). Certain oils, such as lemon and tea tree, have antibacterial properties too. Make up a 5-10% (w/v) citric acid solution in a 750 ml spray bottle, add a squirt of dishwashing liquid and 10 drops of lemon oil, and you’ll have yourself an awesome citrus scented bathroom and kitchen cleaner. Be careful with essential oils though – they can burn skin in the undiluted form.

After those 5 tips there’s still another point I want to make: cleaning makes your stuff last longer. The environmental impact of having to replace a bathroom every five or ten years would far outweigh the impact of cleaning your bathroom with toxic products from the supermarket. Remember, cleaning is maintaining. You might have a busy life. You might not have time to dry your shower or put baking soda and vinegar in the plugholes. You might buy “daily shower cleaner”, Cillit Bang and Mr Muscle Drain Unblocker from the supermarket. Don’t feel bad about it. Actually, feel good about it, knowing that by making your home fixtures last longer you’re helping the environment.

How to Clean Your Flat Like a Boss

How to Clean Your Flat Like a Boss

How to Clean Your Flat Like a Boss

Everyone knows how to clean, right? No! Wrong! These days many of you fabulous young adults leave home without basic housekeeping skills. You might have 5000 followers on YouTube, but that doesn’t mean you know how to clean a toilet.

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Keep calm, we’re here to help as you set off for your adventures in the world. The easiest thing to do would be to hire us to clean your flat, but maybe you’re moving outside of Yorkshire, or maybe your living allowance won’t stretch to weekly cleaning services. That’s why you need this handy guide to clean living quarters.

Tip 1. Keep it tidy guys!

Put rubbish in the bin (and recyclables in the recycling bin) straightaway. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t like to get up from your desk when you’re in the middle of something, put a bin right by the desk. Also, use bin liners, because there’s nothing worse than having to scrape mouldy food from the bottom of your rubbish container.

As tempting as it is to throw clothes on the floor, avoid this at all costs. Dirty clothes go straight into the laundry hamper (make sure you have one!), clean clothes go in the drawers or wardrobe, and clothes that have been worn but might be clean enough to wear again should be hung up or folded neatly on a chair. I would advise using a small coat stand to hang up things you might wear again. A chair can quickly turn into a rag heap, but if the clothes are hanging on hooks you can see what’s there.

Bits of paper on surfaces prevent those surfaces from being cleaned, and they look messy. A filing system that consists of a single cardboard box is better than no filing system at all.

Please return all dirty dishes to the kitchen [this is your mother speaking]. Refer to Tip 4.

The smaller your living space, the tidier you’ll need to keep it. Small apartments are not always quicker to clean than larger homes, in fact they often take longer because they tend to be more cluttered. So try not to accumulate too much stuff, and be tidy with the stuff that you have, then you can get the cleaning done in no time at all.

 

Tip 2. Suck it up!

You may be surprised to learn that most of the dust in our homes actually comes off us and our pets. We shed a lot of skin and hair, especially in the bathroom.

The other kind of dirt in our houses is soil from outside. Wearing only slippers or socks in the house drastically cuts down this outside dirt.

A decent hoover is your top weapon against dust. It doesn’t need to be large or expensive, it just needs to suck properly. Don’t throw the attachments in a cupboard and forget about them – they are invaluable in small homes. Use those attachments to clean along the skirting boards and right into the corners, use them to clean under the sofa cushions and in all the nooks and crannies, including the space behind the toilet. The wee brush attachment is great for dusting shelves and cleaning extractor fans (you can wash the brush if it gets dirty) and the skinny plastic attachment is good for getting cobwebs on the ceiling.

Hetty and her tools

What’s the best value small vacuum cleaner? I can recommend the Hoover Enigma Pets Bagged Cylinder Vacuum Cleaner TE70EN21, which is currently £96.83 on Amazon (it was on sale for about £60 when I bought mine a year ago). This hoover was voted the best vacuum  under £100 on Mumsnet.

 

Tip 3. Keep the bathroom and toilet in top condition

A shower that has been allowed to accumulate a heavy coating of soap scum (that waxy deposit consisting of soap residue and body fats) and limescale will take many hours of professional cleaning to bring up to scratch. In the long run it saves time to clean it as regularly as you can. Those of you living in hard water areas need a bathroom cleaner that will remove limescale, such as Cif Power and Shine Bathroom, or Powerforce Bathroom Cleaner from Aldi.

Wash with shower gel (not hard soap) and dry the shower with a squeegee after use. If you dry the shower religiously, you’ll probably only have to clean it with bathroom cleaner every three weeks or so. However, you should remove hair from the drain every time you wash your hair. This task is only gross if that hair has been in the drain for weeks or months, then it is ewww…

Hetty and her tools

Always rinse the handbasin after use, especially after brushing teeth. Clean the taps, handbasin and counter at least once a week.  Limescale-removing bathroom cleaners should be rinsed off otherwise they can cause marks on the taps. For a quick wipe down of the handbasin etc., just use an antibacterial surface spray and a microfibre cloth.

 

Toilets need cleaning at least once a week. Guys, flush them after every pee. It might seem like a waste of water, but they get really bad limescale stains if not flushed each time. Keep a packet of antibacterial surface wipes near the toilet; use these to wipe down the cistern, flusher, lid, seat, around the top of the toilet and the toilet base. In the bowl you can use thick bleach or toilet gel (e.g. Toilet Duck Action Gel Citrus), though the gel is better if you’re seeing limescale stains. Leave the chemical in the bowl for at least 5 minutes, then brush and flush 😊.

Towels should be changed regularly, especially if you can’t dry them between uses. Damp towels make for a bad smell in the bathroom, and they’re not very nice to use. For those of you who don’t have clothes washing facilities in your quarters, think about using microfibre gym towels instead of big fluffy cotton ones.

Don’t forget the bathroom floor. Clean it at least once a week. For tiny bathrooms, it can be just as easy to use floor wipes instead of mopping.

 

Tip 4: Clean the kitchen as you cook

Food prepared in a dirty kitchen might not be safe to eat. It’s best to clean as you go. This is really important if others are using the kitchen too. Your flatmate might not know you spilled raw chicken juice on the counter, and he might just make himself a sandwich there (and if all the dishes are dirty he might not even use a plate).

Make a habit of returning all dishes to the kitchen and washing them, if not immediately after use then at least once a day. With any luck you’ll have a dishwasher. Dishwashers were a truly inspired human invention [did you know, the first dishwasher was invented by a woman, Josephine Cochrane, in 1886]. If washing dishes by hand is the only option, don’t allow food to dry onto the plates, otherwise they’ll need soaking.

In many homes, mail and stray pieces of paper will end up on the kitchen bench or the coffee table. Trust me, the kitchen is a really bad place for paper. You don’t want to spill red wine over an important document. Also, kitchen surfaces need to be wiped down regularly, and that will be hard if they’re covered with stuff. As tidiness guru Marie Kondo advises, a good kitchen is one that’s easy to clean.

Kitchen hygiene is a fairly large topic, therefore I’ll cover it more fully in another blog post. Watch this space!

spray and wipe

 

Tip 5: Ventilation!

You have better things to do than cleaning mould off ceilings. So make your space inhospitable to mould: keep it dry and ventilated. Open the windows when it’s warm enough. Air out your bedroom because we produce quite a lot of moisture just by breathing. See https://thecountrycleaners.co.uk/lets-outsmart-mould-and-mildew/ for more info on keeping your flat fungus free.

 

The team at Yorkshire Country Cleaners send warm wishes to all of you leaving home for the first time.

Go carefully now…

Disinfectant Fogging

Disinfectant Fogging

Disinfectant Fogging

Last decade, when the world was normal, we didn’t go in for large scale disinfection. Humans can live in harmony with microbes, and it’s normally sufficient to simply remove most of the dirt. The Covid-19 pandemic has changed everything. Now many people feel safer if surfaces that strangers have touched are disinfected.

It has become common practice for “touch points”, such as light switches, door handles, arm rests and supermarket trolley handles to be wiped down with disinfectant. But what if you want to disinfect more than touch points? What if the item you want to disinfect is fabric and can’t easily be wiped? What if you want to disinfect a whole room or a whole holiday cottage? The easiest way to do this is to use a fogger.

Unfortunately fogging cannot replace cleaning. It’s always recommended to remove dirt before disinfecting, whether with fogging or wiping down, otherwise you’re just disinfecting the top layer of dirt. Yet imagine trying to wipe every surface in a school hall or a gym. Obviously, you can’t do that, so you just clean away any visible dirt before the fogging takes place.

You’ve probably seen fogging on the news recently. You might have seen people in hazmat suits carrying out what looks like crop spraying, only they’re spraying inside buildings or spraying outdoor public facilities. The process is similar to spraying pesticides on crops, though with disinfectant fogging, the machines are filled with an antimicrobial and antiviral agent and the droplet size is so tiny that the surfaces don’t actually become wet.

ULV disinfectant fogging has been used in hospital wards, operating theatres and other medical settings for some time. Increasingly, though, it’s being carried out in schools, airports, offices, factories, hotels and cruise ships. Before spraying most chemical disinfectants, the area must be cleared of people and animals. The fogging machine operators wear full PPE, including respirator masks.

Here are some examples of disinfectants used for fogging:

In all of these the active ingredients are quaternary ammonium compounds (quats). Some of them are safe for food contact surfaces and some aren’t. When spraying a kitchen, nursery, school or holiday cottage, a food-safe product should be chosen. The codes on the product indicate what it is effective against. The codes EN14675 and EN14476 mean the product has antiviral activity. The code EN14476:2013+A3*:2019 means the product has been tested and proven to kill the SARS-Cov2 virus.

Before people are allowed back into an area following fogging, test strips are used to check that the disinfectant no longer remains in the air. A dried residue of disinfectant remains on surfaces and will kill microbes and viruses landing on it for at least the next 24 hours. Some companies claim the residual effect lasts weeks, but 24 hours is probably more realistic. The residual effect of the disinfectant lasts longer on surfaces not touched frequently.

 

There is another type of fogging disinfectant that’s much more user-friendly than the quat type. It’s called hypochlorous acid and is sometimes referred to as electrolysed water. Hypochlorous acid has some great advantages:

  • It’s so non-toxic to humans you can put it on your skin (and in fact it has been used as a wound disinfectant)
  • There is no need for operators to wear PPE and no need to seal off the area
  • It has broad spectrum activity against bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses
  • It’s cost-effective
  • It’s fast-acting
  • It’s safe for food surfaces (even crockery and cutlery)
  • It’s pH-neutral
  • It doesn’t harm most surfaces
  • You don’t have to remove bedding before fogging with hypochlorous
  • People can re-enter an area directly after fogging
  • There is little or no residual left on surfaces

The fact that hypochlorous doesn’t have a residual effect is advantageous or disadvantageous depending on the circumstances. If you’re planning regular weekly or fortnightly fogging in premises where a lot of people come and go, a disinfectant with residual activity would be of benefit. However, if you need to quickly disinfect properties or areas between guests, and intend to do this as soon as each group departs, you don’t especially need or want residual activity. In this case it would be more important to use a really safe product with little wait-time.

Hypochlorous disinfection is used in some dental surgeries – they fog between patients. It’s quicker to fog the treatment room than it is to wipe everything down with disinfectant. And if there happened to be viruses or other pathogens in the air, they would likely be killed by the hypochlorous fog, whereas they wouldn’t be with disinfectant wiping. Norwegian cruise ships use hypochlorous fogging to disinfect cabins between guests. They have the equipment to make hypochlorous acid on board the ship, so there is no need for them to carry stores of it.

Which type of fogging would I choose for my holiday let? Hypochlorous, hands down. It’s true that hypochlorous acid probably does not have the same power to kill bacteria and viruses as many of the quat-containing disinfectants. Most of the specialist antiviral quat disinfectants are log kill 6, which means they kill 99.9999% of microbes or viruses when used as instructed. Hypochlorous acid probably kills 99.99-99.999% of microbes and viruses (log kill 4-5), depending on the concentration. However, it is a safer product for use in an area where people will be living for a week or more. Hypochlorous acid fogging is also a cheaper option (partly because PPE isn’t needed), therefore using this for fogging would not result in huge price increases for the guests.

So long as the coronavirus pandemic continues, social distancing, hand sanitising and mask-wearing will be part of life. Fogging machines won’t change that. Nevertheless, ULV (ultra-low volume) disinfectant fogging may be a tool that allows leisure activities, such as going on holiday, to go ahead with less risk to the public. It may also give peace of mind to the clients and employees of your business.

The War Against Germs

The War Against Germs

The War Against Germs

While the business has been closed for the pandemic, I’ve been brushing up on health and safety. Cleaning has an important role in protecting against all kinds of biohazards, including SARS-Cov2, the virus that causes Covid19.

Does cleaning kill bacteria, fungi and viruses? No, but it removes the dirt that harbours the germs. Bacteria and fungi don’t just grow in dirt, they feed on it. What we call “dirt” includes all kinds of things: soil, food remnants, human skin, animal hair, human and animal body secretions… Obviously, dirt is a party palace for microbes. Some microbes create bad smells and some cause diseases. The first step in getting rid of them is to clean!

Sanitising is a step up from cleaning. Sanitising reduces the number of microbes on a surface, i.e. it kills a lot of them, but some will remain. We often clean and sanitise at the same time, by cleaning with products that contain antibacterial agents. Toilet gel and antibacterial surface spray are example of products we use to clean and sanitise. If you choose a perfumed product, the bottle label will probably also say it “deodorises”.

Disinfecting is more extreme than sanitising: disinfecting kills all or most of the microbes on a surface. Disinfectants are not cleaning agents, they are killing agents. It is recommended that we always clean before disinfecting. This is because dirt prevents disinfectants from working properly. Spraying disinfectant onto a dirty surface simply disinfectants the top layer of the dirt, and there will be plenty of germs hiding underneath. Another problem is that disinfectant reacts with organic material in the dirt, effectively using up its “killing power” on the dirt instead of on the microbes.

 

The only way to be sure everything on a surface is dead is to sterilize it. In laboratories autoclaves are used to sterilize equipment, but at home you can sterilize in a pressure cooker.

Disinfection is the next best thing to sterilizing. When used properly, some disinfectants will kill up to 99.9999% of microbes (which for practical purposes means all of them). A disinfectant that kills 99.9999% is a Log Kill 6 product – a powerful beast that probably won’t be available in your local supermarket. You might be able to buy one that claims to kill 99.99% of bacteria, a Log Kill 4 product, which is still very strong. Most sanitisers are only Log Kill 3, capable of killing 99.9% of bacteria.

Dettol Laundry Cleanser is a sanitiser you can add to your load of washing. If you know something in there is germ-ridden, put some of this in the fabric softener dispenser, and you’ll feel much better!

On the back label of the bottle, it says this product will kill coronavirus (it doesn’t specify which coronavirus). The instructions for anti-virus action are different: pre-soaking with a stronger concentration of the sanitiser.

 

Although bacteria, fungi, protozoans and viruses are all tiny, at the microscopic level they’re very different. A virus is technically not a living organism at all because it can’t grow or replicate outside of a living cell. Bacteria and fungi can grow in dirt on surfaces, whereas viruses just survive on surfaces until they die. The survival time for a virus outside a host (for SARS-Cov2 the host is a human being or possibly a bat) can vary – it depends on the type of surface, the temperature, the humidity.

When we use a sanitiser or disinfectant, we can’t assume it will be effective against every kind of germ. An antibacterial product will kill bacteria, though not necessarily all bacteria. These products are usually tested against some common types of disease-causing bacteria. You have to check the bottle to see if the product kills viruses and fungi as well as bacteria. “Broad spectrum” products are effective against many things. Bleach (hypochlorite) is broad spectrum: it is an oxidising agent and will indiscriminately attack any type of organic matter, including bacteria, fungi and viruses.

The virus everyone is worried about is SARS-Cov2, a coronavirus. These days when people talk about Coronavirus they invariably mean SARS-Cov2, although it isn’t the only coronavirus (the virus that causes the common cold is also a coronavirus). If you want to be absolutely sure of killing SARS-Cov2 of your surfaces, you need to buy a disinfecting product that has been tested against this virus. It will have this code on the container: EN14476:2013+A2:2019 Annex A*.

The specialist antiviral disinfectants are being used in hospitals and in some factories, schools and public areas. They leave a residue on surfaces that will continue killing viruses for at least 24 hours. As chemicals go, these products aren’t particularly toxic to humans – some of them can be sprayed onto food contact surfaces.

In our homes we have many items we don’t want to expose to disinfectant. You probably don’t want to put chemicals on your silk scarf or your antique furniture. Luckily direct sunlight is a fantastic disinfecting agent – so hanging things on the clothesline is a great option. In any case, viruses can’t replicate outside of a living thing, and will eventually die on surfaces. As a general rule of thumb, if you leave an object for 3 days before handling it, then it should be safe.

Lockdown in Yorkshire

Lockdown in Yorkshire

Lockdown in Yorkshire

Just over two months ago I wrote a blog post entitled “Staying Sane in the Age of Corona”. It was published on March 15, approximately a week before the UK went into lockdown. At that time it was only those people with symptoms, or whose family members had symptoms, who were required to stay home. The announcement on March 23, that all non-essential workers must stay home, took me by surprise. I’d been thinking of the possibility of one or two weeks relaxing at home reading and watching Netflix. Now that I’ve had a couple of months of it, I must admit the novelty is wearing off.

My “mental health plan” was a short-term one: I had the chocolate, the wine, the books and the Netflix subscription. All was well in the world. I’m not going to give more mental health advice. Social media is awash with mental health advice – the government is providing it, the Mental Health Foundation are too, as are many charities, especially since this week is Mental Health Awareness Week. This advice is timely, because many of us are finding it tough. My Facebook friends repeatedly request “copying and reposting” of mental health messages. I’m not going to do that; firstly, because I don’t “copy and repost”; and secondly, because I’ve experienced mental illness for more than half of my life and I can assure you copied and reposted messages don’t make me feel any better.

A work routine is a large part of what keeps me from descending to the depths of despair. But for me it can’t be some self-imposed work routine – it has to be one I’m required to fulfill in order to avoid letting other people down. There is satisfaction in being at work for the day. Work isn’t always fun – it’s often really hard – but still it provides the sense of deserving to relax afterwards. And it provides contrast, just as the weather and the seasons do.

I actually have a long list of things to do at home. Cleaning the oven was at the top. I have the chemicals and the time, just not the motivation. If every day is the same, why should this be the day when I clean the oven? I could pay myself to do it, but what would I spend the money on? I’d like to go to a café and have coffee and cake with a friend, but I can’t do that. I could buy new clothes online but I don’t see the point: my family don’t care what I wear, and I rarely see anyone else. I might be interested in doing stuff at home, or buying new clothes, if there was a time limit on the lockdown. It doesn’t feel to me like there is. I feel in limbo, uncertain of when or if we’ll ever get back to business as usual.

I had to have my familiar – my little black cat – put to sleep on Saturday. Emergency veterinary care is available, but you can’t go into the clinic with your pet. I couldn’t hold her paw as she left this mortal coil. Now there’s a Moxie-shaped hole in my life. I didn’t realise how much I’d miss being woken up at 6.30 am by a rough little tongue licking my eyelids.

I’m sorry if you were looking forward to a blog full of helpful advice and inspirational statements. You can go overboard on inspirational statements. Even time I see a wall plaque laden with “inspiration” I just want to smash it with an axe (am I the only person who feels that way?). As a precaution, I take Prozac before work and never carry an axe in the car (believe it or not, I come across as mild mannered to most people).

At work I wear a yellow badge with a black dog – it’s the badge of the Black Dog Institute, and it’s telling everyone “it’s okay to say”. One of the hardest aspects of living with a mood disorder was having to hide it. Hiding it didn’t help me or anyone else. If you tell the truth about how you are, then you give others permission to do the same. The world is a kinder place without the stiff upper lips.