Why I find leaving unfinished business around my home liberating


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Recently, a handyman repaired my broken fridge door. I’d been wedging my fingers down the side of the fridge to open it, which was bad for my nails and added painful nanoseconds to the time it took to transfer food from the shelf to my mouth.

The handyman fixed it within minutes, and I celebrated with the marvellously swift procurement of a Kit Kat from the second shelf. It was exciting to have a working fridge door after all this time. And when I say “time”, I don’t mean a few days, or even a couple of months. It had been broken for well over three years.

It is absurd that I lived with a defective door for so long. After all, it’s not as though my fridge was rarely in use. Between the kids and I, the door was opened at least 100 times a day. (Usually just to gaze inside, but occasionally to retrieve another Kit Kat.) 

And it wasn’t expensive to fix, nor was it tricky to arrange. I work from home, so I’m always here, and it took a single call to get the job done.

I guess I just got used to the door being off its hinge. We all did. After a week or two, we didn’t even notice.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. 

My standards are clearly very low. You’re visualising my kitchen: appliances rusted over from neglect, bare bulbs dangling from cracked sockets, bins overflowing with pizza boxes and tissues.

But you’re wrong. Admittedly, it looks messy after breakfast, but I actually take great pride in my home. I dust and I vacuum, I keep up with the laundry, and my writing chair matches the rug. 

What’s more, when problems are pressing enough, I deal with them. When my vacuum cleaner died last year, I replaced it within 48 hours. (I tried cleaning the carpets with a lint roller, but the results were very unsatisfactory.) When my iPhone broke, I headed to the Apple store the minute I stopped crying and became composed enough to drive. But other things are easy to put off . 

My milk frother, for example, when its stainless-steel lid went missing. I needed a new lid urgently – my coff ee was cooling, for god’s sake! – but I popped a plate on top and it worked a treat. 

I’ll replace the lid one day, but there’s really no hurry. It’s only been a year.

I think we all have these bits of unfinished business. The painting in the hallway, waiting for months to be hung. The pile of “delicates” in the laundry sink that will rot before they are hand washed. The burnt-out light bulbs that are only replaced when a visitor comments on the darkness.

And it occurred to me, as I was frothing my milk one morning, that these imperfections in our homes reflect something quite beautiful about our lives. As Leonard Cohen mournfully crooned, “There is a crack in everything.That’s how the light gets in.” The broken fridge doors, the missing lids and the burnt-out bulbs are the cracks that let in the light, allowing the beauty of our surroundings to radiate in counterpoint.

Or perhaps these little defects are our reminders to ourselves to stop striving so hard. It is okay to have that woollen top festering for months in the sink. We are human beings living imperfect lives, and our homes can be imperfect, too.

“That’s a bit far-fetched,” said my mum, as we sat in her living room drinking tea. “You’re just lazy, that’s all.”

I could hear the dryer spinning in my parents’ laundry. Th e start button is broken, but my mum has stuck it down with gaff er tape. She says she’ll get the repairman out soon.

I sipped my tea and thought of my fridge door, and the three long years it took to get it fixed. I considered my milk frother and its long-lost lid, and how nice it would be to replace it. And then I realised my mum was right, of course. There was no deeper meaning. I’ve just been lazy.

“Well, I’m going to turn over a new leaf,” I told her. “I’m going out to buy a new lid tomorrow.”

I didn’t, of course. It’s been two weeks since that conversation. But I’m absolutely, defi nitely going to buy it soon. 

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