Interview with the Queen of Clean Kim Woodburn




Kim Woodburn offers tips on how best to spring clean this coming spring – and when to say goodbye to things old and worn – as well as revealing her enthusiasm for getting behind the Stroke Association.


If there was ever an exemplar for the art of perseverance, Kim Woodburn would be it. The veteran cleaner rose to fame in 2003 as part of TV Duo Kim and Aggie in How Clean is Your House. Since finding fame at the age of 61, she’s become known for her customary updo and bubbly persona. Eight months ago, though, her life was turned upside down when husband, Peter, suffered a stroke. Did Kim see the warning signs?


“Nothing at all! Peter’s mother and father had low blood pressure, he inherited that. He never needed pills… You wouldn’t have thought him a target for a stroke.


“But the doctors asked: why wouldn’t you expect he’d have a stroke? Babies can have them – they occur at any age. They are all severe but some are much more severe than others. You have to be grateful, stay positive.”


In Peter’s case, his stroke was pre-empted by a series of smaller incidents.


“The Saturday evening (before his stroke on the Monday) we were sitting reading the papers and he couldn’t get his words outreporter’s name – but he couldn’t say it. He said to me after he read it that he had a shocking headache on the left side. So off he went to bed.    . Peter was reading something to me and he couldn’t get one word out: Bashir. He was trying to say Bashir – the reporter’s name – but he couldn’t say it. He said to me after he read it that he had a shocking headache on the left side. So off he went to bed.    


The next day he was in the garden pottering round wearing backless mule slippers. But he kept losing his slipper off his foot and he had his bare foot on the pebbles in the garden – you know they can hurt – and he couldn’t feel it. Then on the Sunday evening he said ‘I have a bit of a headache’ – I said ‘go to bed’ and that’s it. What I didn’t know, is that he was still suffering these symptoms…he just didn’t tell me. If he had I would have called an ambulance right away.


“On the Monday morning it was sunny so we sat in the garden. He brought me over a cup of tea and it was spilling everywhere. You couldn’t miss it. I said ‘what’s going on?’ He said ‘I just don’t feel good’. He told me about yesterday not feeling his feet on the pebbles. He said ‘I’m numb down my right side, and the right side of my face by my ear, my hand.’ And I knew he’d had a stroke. I rang for an ambulance.


So what happens now?


“He was discharged with medication, which he will be on the rest of his life. And he will continue to have frequent check-ups. He may not have another stroke, but obviously now has a higher chance than before. He had no paralysis, and you wouldn’t tell from looking that he’d had a stroke apart from him slurring his words. But he has no short-term memory at all.”


How far back does that go?


“He can remember up to about three or four years ago his entire life, but ask him to recall what he didn’t this morning, he doesn’t know. He’s stopped slurring his words now but he can’t get out the odd word out. He panics a lot, when he was always a laid back man.” But what does happen all the time is he’ll misplace words – he knows what he wants to say but just can’t remember specific words. He does that a great deal. He also has a slight limp.


But Kim isn’t one to wallow.


“I tell Pete: ‘Listen, you had this stroke, but you don’t have to work, no-one would know from looking, remember that there are people in terrible states.’”


Having suffered a hard upbringing, coupled with domestic violence ending her first marriage, Kim knows that the secret to positive thinking is acknowledging the blessings you do have and to realise there is always someone worse off than you.   


“I had a rotten childhood and it doesn’t leave you as an older woman. But honestly, people have had a worse childhood than me. It’s not that you forget there are people worse off than you – its gets you through. Pete will see people half his age in wheelchairs and thinks ‘thank goodness that isn’t me’”.


So what does Kim rely on to cleanse the mind?


“Cleaning! I know people laugh, but I’ve always loved cleaning, it’s therapeutic, it keeps you fit, the joy of a clean house. To me, it means a great deal. I love it! To know where everything is. A tidy mind! I walk around the house and it gives me a thrill. It doesn’t everybody – but it certainly does for me!”


So does Kim have any cleaning tips she just can’t live without?


“Clean as you go! And throw as you go! Don’t let a room mount up and up. Half an hour here leaves you less hard slog later.”


We’ve spring coming up – where to focus on first?


“There are always going to be certain things in the spring you do – closets. I’ll put winter clothes out of the wardrobes. Some people never clean them but they get dusty, and moths will just ruin your clothes.”


When it comes to spring cleaning her own wardrobe, is Kim as strict as with the rest of the house?


“Oh yes! You have choices – charity shops or commission shops where they’ll sell them for you for a little profit. If you have something that just sits there – give it away to someone who needs it – get rid of the junk!”


Kim is an ambassador for Stroke Association. Info can be found here.