As the calendar pages turned to April and May, inevitably my mother would start the spring cleaning of sweeping and dusting and she would tell the tale of her short lived step mother sweeping their rambling Wisconsin farmhouse and murmuring “let the bad air out, let the good air in”. Mom, in her house cleaning uniform, dark curls tied up in a cotton scarf and wearing an old print house dress, would tackle the winter dust and grime. Our childhood home had a gravity coal furnace so following the long cold snowy winter in northern Indiana, a coating of dust and grey ash was found on many surfaces. The wear and tear of an energetic family of seven created never ending daily tasks to maintain some order but spring time brought the seasonal ritual whereas things got a more robust cleaning, scrubbing and polishing up.
Historians may not completely agree as to the origin of Spring Cleaning, but they do agree its roots run deep. Some believe it originates with the old Jewish custom of cleaning the house before Passover to avoid inadvertently insulting God, or the Chinese custom of cleaning their homes to clear it of any misfortune or evil in anticipation of the New Year. The origin most commonly held goes back to the Persian New Year, the ancient Festival of Nowruz. They would scrub every inch of their home and fill it with fresh flowers. This was called Khooneh Tekouni which translates to “shaking the house.” I picture in my mind someone turning the house over and shaking out all the dust and dirt.
While I assisted my mother and sisters with some spring cleaning projects when I was very young, my most vivid memories of spring cleaning come at about middle school age and involves washing windows. My mother had a “thing” about clean windows. We were now living in a mid-century house with a wall of floor to ceiling windows and in spring I would be tasked with washing them. I never seemed to succeed the first time, always having to repeat the chore until she approved the results. As an adult, I do appreciate a clean window and always think of my mother when I am evaluating my results, wondering if she would require a do-over.
If the tease of warmer weather has inspired you to deep-clean your abode, there are a plethora of Spring Cleaning checklists on the internet. Everyone from Martha Stewart to Pottery Barn has an opinion on what you should be scrubbing, polishing, and purging. Sorry Martha, while I will be waging a war against cobwebs, I won’t be washing down all my walls and ceilings. And I certainly won’t be resealing my grout! Yet, I am old school enough to get a feeling of contentment from a well-cleaned house. And much like transitioning my wardrobe from winter to spring, I’m also transitioning my home. While I enjoy the coziness of our reading chairs pulled up in front of the fireplace in the winter, warmer weather makes me want to rearrange and refresh. Opening up our living space and paring back a bit on decorating while using more fresh flowers and greenery. I am eagerly awaiting the day I find the first peonies of the season at the flower shop!
I think Spring Cleaning is partially a result of longer days, plants and bulbs popping up in the garden, and a resurgence of our energy levels. Who doesn’t love opening the house to that wonderful smell of spring that you can’t get from a candle? Thankfully, Spring Cleaning these days doesn’t have to be dragging rugs outside to be beaten with a carpet beater. It can be as simple as cleaning your inbox, your junk drawer or tackling the pile of papers that has accumulated over the winter. And if you need some help with windows, give me a call. I have lots of experience.
C’est la vie.