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Kerry McLean: How I'm on a mission to transform our house from grotty to grotto in time for Christmas



Kerry and Ralph McLean getting festive with their children

Kerry and Ralph McLean getting festive with their children

Kerry and Ralph McLean getting festive with their children

How can it possibly be December 1 on Sunday? It seems like only a matter of weeks since last New Year's Eve, when I was fighting our almost 20-year-old, battered Christmas tree back into its storage box and hoovering up the final straggly bits of tinsel and glitter that seemed to migrate all over the house.

At that time, as I put away our mountain of Christmassy bits and bobs, everything from baubles to a life-sized Santa and singing reindeers, I remember making some promises to myself.

I vowed that I would make the next festive season less expensive, less stressful and much easier to manage.

I told my poor husband, also known as Santa's unwilling little helper during the month of December, that I would put up fewer decorations and definitely not buy any new ones.

He nodded but, knowing me as he does, didn't look overly convinced and how right he was. I failed on the second part of that promise within days, as I snapped up some gorgeous seasonal decorations in the January sales.

And, given the amount of boxes sitting in my hall, stuffed to the gills with baubles, stars, candy canes and nativity scenes, all ready to be distributed around our home tonight, I'm about to crash and burn with the first promise, too.

But decorations were the least of my festive, financial worries over the last week. I don't know if it's just me but as the Christmas holidays approach and I cast an eye around my home, I become a lot more critical of the state of place.

I think it comes from the knowledge that I'll have more visitors pouring through my front door over the next month than I have during the rest of the year combined.

When it's just immediate family and good friends popping in, you don't really mind those grubby toddler-sized handprints on the wall and you don't even notice how dusty your light fittings are.

But as December 1 rolls around, and you consider installing a revolving door instead of a wooden one, these imperfections start to play on your mind.

There's a great big part of me, the sensible part that knows I really shouldn't care, that people are calling in to say hello and spread some festive cheer, but there's always a little, persistent voice in my head that says I've failed if my house and my housekeeping isn't up to breathtaking standards.

It's that same voice that tuts when I stick clothes into the tumble dryer for a minute then fold them and pop them into drawers without so much as a glimpse at an iron.

I recognise that little voice - it's my granny's. It's not that she'd be critical at all in real life.

It's the knowledge that she somehow always had a perfect home and beautifully turned out children when she was my age, despite working two jobs and being without the time super-savers of electric washing machines and Hoovers.

Yet here's my house, looking like it's just survived an all-night student party. In an attempt to smarten it up, I ordered new carpet for the hall and living room. My family seem to be extremely hard on what ever is underfoot and had left the previous carpet, barely five years old, threadbare.

To be honest, they've done the same to their bedroom floors but I figured I'd just fork out to fancy up the rooms visitors will see.

I've also splurged on new curtains for the living room and, to try and cut down on mounting costs, instead of bringing in a painter to remove all the scuff marks and crayoned doodles on the walls (the youngest decided to draw a rainbow on our wall as a birthday present to me in March - she's a Ballymoney Banksy in the making - I bought my lovely hubby several tins of paint and spoiled him with a brand new roller).

So, at least that's his Christmas present sorted good and early.

The result may have been pricey and it may throw my bank balance into a particularly festive shade of red but it's truly turned our house from grotty into grotto.

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