TV's queen of clean Aggie MacKenzie: 'When you have small children be clean enough to be healthy and dirty enough to be happy'
When we heard the news that a quarter of kids do no housework, and those who do are generally bribed with cash, we thought we'd get the queen of clean Aggie MacKenzie on the phone for a chat about keeping our homes – and our kids – in order!
Were you surprised by the revelations so few children help out around the house?
Not surprised at all! And I am as guilty as the next parent quite honestly – probably born out of being a working mum and feeling guilty about that – makes you think "I can't get them to do the housework as well!"
Ah, so even the queen of clean lets her kids get away with not pulling their weight?!
It's not a good position to be in though! They should help. I got my son to clean the house yesterday – after a fashion – but I had to pay him for it!
This is what David Beckham apparently does – but do you think we should be bribing our kids to help?
Well, there's another way of looking at it – if you are going to give your kids pocket money they need to do something for it. But yes, it is all about bribery in the end.
Oh dear! So there's really no other way of getting them to take pride in their bedrooms or the family home?
I don't think there is any easy way.
If mum or dad are there to do it, why would they want to!
So who are the worse for being dirt demons around the house? Girls or boys?
There is no difference between boys and girls in my experience. Girls are more ordered and organised, generally speaking, and can manage many more activities than boys, but that's not to say they will be tidier. Both my children are boys, but in my experience with adults there is no difference between sexes!
Do you think mums can be a bit sexist and let their sons get away with more?
Definitely! And I count myself among the guilty parties! My youngest son is training to be a chef and needs clean whites on a daily basis. I wash them and make sure they are dry then say to him "Go on, you iron them," but he is all sweet and makes me laugh and ends up charming me into doing them. He is just such a tease and I'll be all, "Oh OK, just this time then!".
You could always refuse, no?!
Well, my oldest son would rather go out in a crumpled T-shirt than iron it! But I think there is always a bit of a reflection on the parents, and mums do like their boys to look nice!
So when you were doing How Clean is Your House, what was the worse example of poor housekeeping you found?
Used sanitary products scattered around a bedroom floor. That was pretty gross. I found that bizarre – it wasn't like the people were mad or anything. It wasn't televised!
Oh yuck! Anything else?
One house I remember, this guy was very sweet, a surfer dude – but his washing up cloth was a sock he had worn and worn and when it was too disgusting to wear anymore he stuck his hand in it and used it as a washing up cloth!
Was there anything you lived in fear of finding?
I have a mortal fear of rodents and I was always scared of finding mice. In one house there was a massive amount of shredded paper behind a sofa and I thought, there's mice under this lot! This is bedding for mice – I'm not going near this! Spiders – not a problem!
What is your top housekeeping tip?
Keep your kitchen cloths clean! Once they start smelling vaguely bad you are just moving bacteria from surface to surface, making it more dirty. Soak them at night in the sink in some washing up liquid and a little bit of bleach.
And how about for busy working mums? How can they keep on top of the housework?
It's really, really tough but if you are organised it is easier for you. If you are chaotic you are always going to have a problem. It's down to personalities!
It's boring, but you have to be on top of it, and you can't relax too much which is a horrible message, but true.
If you can batch cook, that's a time saver. And make sure all the chores are shared out with your partner or any other adults in the house – the worst thing is when it all falls to one person, who then gets tired and resentful.
What about for mums who are at home with babies or pre-schoolers?
Ah, then you have to be a bit relaxed else you will drive yourself round the bend!
Be clean enough to be healthy, but dirty enough to be happy!
You have to let go a bit - you can't have the very high standards you had as a single person when you've got little ones on the go. It is much more important to be communicating and connecting and spending time with your child than fretting about crumbs on the floor. Having said that, it can be depressing living in an environment with dried up cereal everywhere!
Should we try and get our toddlers involved in household chores? Or is it a recipe for disaster?
Depends on the chore and how messy it is! Washing up is the classic – whole bottle of liquid in for the dishes! The best thing to do is get your kids to bed on time, let them have a good night's sleep, then quickly get cleared up and relax yourself!
Aggie will cycling from London to Paris for Mind this September, to help raise awareness and funds for people who experience mental health problems.
Join Aggie, or take on another challenge for Mind, at mind.org.uk/pedal2paris