I've realised there's no point trying to have a nice house if you have pets and kids

·4 min read
Gavin Newsham with Nelly and an ill-fated cream rug - Christopher Pledger
Gavin Newsham with Nelly and an ill-fated cream rug - Christopher Pledger

When you’ve got three children and just as many pets, you never really know what you’re going to encounter from one day to the next.

Last week, for example, I was working at the kitchen table when I heard a violent retching sound emanating from the living room.

When I got up to investigate it transpired it was our older dog, Nell, doubled over and spewing what seemed like gallons of yellow bile, full of the grass she had been eating on her walk that morning, all over our cream, woollen rug. And I thought red wine was hard to get out.

There’s always something being ruined in our house; rugs, carpets, cushions, sofas – it’s the inevitable result of having three kids, two dogs and a cat all living under the same roof.

It’s why I’ve long thought there’s little or no reason in trying to improve your home when there’s always another messy accident just waiting to happen.

It seems I’m not the only one that thinks this way. A survey of 2,000 UK parents by Furniture Village has revealed that almost half of adults (45 per cent) have decided against buying new items for their home for fear that it will only be ruined by kids or animals, by a rip, a stain or a spillage.

In fact, I’ve all but given up. Everywhere you look, something or other has sustained some kind of damage. The new sofa, bought 18 months ago, has an ugly mark on one of the cushions from when candle wax dripped on it (so we turned the cushion over) and I’ve lost count of the number of rugs we’ve had in our living room.

Soon, we will doubtless get another one because as well as the radioactive bile that our older dog deposited on it there are also little yellow patches caused by our five-month old puppy who still hasn’t quite mastered the toilet training yet. Mind you, my son is nearly 18 and he still wees on the toilet seat so there’s plenty of time yet.

When we got our first dog, nearly 10 years ago, our two cats at the time took exception to this new interloper, registering their disgust by disappearing upstairs and spraying over anything that seemed expensive.

We had to discard two mattresses and their duvets and three rugs, not to mention a bundle of clothes that the kids had left on their bedroom floors (presumably because the wardrobe was just out of reach).

The Furniture Village survey found that the average household suffers £117.93 of damage to furniture and furnishings each year purely because of their pets – that’s more than £2.3 billion across the United Kingdom. I think we probably spent that on cleaning products each time our cats staged one of their dirty protests (£117 that is, not £2.3 billion).

Apparently, the most common stains were caused by food, with 28 per cent of respondents saying they have marks on their sofa. We have had a takeaway curry stain on one of living room chairs that has been there since time began. Nothing can shift it. Indeed, when nuclear war ends life as we know it, all that will be left on earth are cockroaches and that stain. You can only imagine what that curry does to your insides.

Pen marks (21 per cent) were the next most common. We have a few of those too, most notably the red permanent marker that seeped through the page and on to our new duvet cover during lockdown. Greasy hands (14 per cent), wine (13 per cent) and animal dribble (11 per cent) also scored highly but, strangely, placing a red-hot saucepan and singeing a newly-sanded wooden kitchen worktop didn’t feature, presumably because they didn’t ask me about my eldest daughter’s culinary skills.

The study also found that the average time it took for damage to occur to a new item after its delivery was just 56 days. I’d take that. When my youngest daughter was three she had been watching Bob The Builder on our brand new television and, while I was doing some DIY, had taken a piece of sandpaper to the screen, within hours of it arriving. Can we scratch it? Yes, we can.

Interestingly, around 64 per cent of parents said they would wait until their kids had grown up before investing in any expensive items for their house, the idea being that with age comes not just maturity but also a new-found respect for the things around you. I’m not so sure. I can’t really see us making any major changes to how our house looks until our three kids finally go off to college or leave home. Maybe they’ll take the pets with them too.

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