Let the Spring Cleaning Begin!
The origins of the Spring Clean are diverse, crossing both cultural boundaries and those of geography. In the Chinese tradition, spring cleaning is associated with preparation for the New Year and thought to bring good fortune. However, travel farther west, and you will find rituals from both the Levant and ancient Persia, respectively.
In the Jewish tradition, such rituals are associated with Passover, which marks the Exodus of the Hebrews from bondage in Egypt. Those of Persian descent pair intensive cleaning with the New Year’s holiday and believe it brings good fortune. Their ritual of khooneh tekouni translates as “shaking the house.” But how can a Spring Cleaning benefit everyone, irrespective of time, place, or cultural belief?
In the Modern Context
There are several reasons that intensive cleaning is beneficial in spring. While the United States encompasses many climates, ranging from sub-tropical to continental, once spring weather and warmth arrive, it’s time to clean and take stock of things. Although central heating and air conditioning are a fact of life for many today, only decades ago, most homes were heated via fuel-burning fires, steam radiators, and other means that left traces on the very rooms they warmed.
The first sustained warmth of the year offered everyone an opportunity to open windows and doors, exchanging the closed air of winter for the new, fresh open breezes of spring. This is still one of the primary benefits of spring cleaning today. But changing the air is only the beginning. This practice includes a more intensive examination of your home’s interior and exterior features and a more thorough cleaning.
It’s also a time to conduct major repairs to the fabric of the house itself. Cleaning out gutters, repairing roof damage, inspecting and cleaning storm windows for another year in storage, and other large tasks such as inspecting the AC unit and cleaning sidewalks or driveways are a part of this cyclical maintenance. Below is a more detailed list of tasks for both interior and exterior spaces and a list of materials you might find handy.
Useful Items for All
- Cleaning clothes (It’s a dirty job, so select an outfit in which you can move freely and won’t mind staining.)
- Bar Keepers Friend (a stainless steel cleaning tool)
- Steel Wool Pads
- Trash Can
- Step Ladder
- Carpet Cleaner
- Squeegee (for window cleaning)
- Plastic Bags
- Rubber Gloves
- Cleaning Cloth/Old Hand Towels
- 5-Gallon Bucket
- Liquid Soap
- Furniture or Wood Polish
- Glass Cleaner
- Baking Soda
- Distilled White Vinegar
- Oven Cleaner
- Spot Remover
Now that you’ve got your cleaning materials and an outfit selected, what should you do? Spring Cleaning is all about getting those corners that gather dust, clearing clutter, and freshening the household for the upcoming seasons. Remember to clean from the top down, starting with ceiling corners and ceiling fans and working your way to the floor.
Be sure to dust baseboards, crown molding, chair rails, doors, and doorframes. Over the winter, these accumulate dust, scuff marks, and start to show the wear and tear of life’s activities. You can cleanse these painted wood features of your interior space with a solution of one part vinegar and two parts clean water.
Clear out closets and remove clutter from corners. While this can benefit your state of mind by presenting a more organized and cohesive interior, there’s a more practical reason for it. Insects and spiders favor dark, undisturbed piles of shoes, books, clothes, or other items.
By removing them, you remove real estate for household pests. As you go, relocate any uninvited residents outside. Spiders are mostly harmless and are an essential part of the environment, so be kind. Don’t crush any insects you find because it typically draws more of them to the scene of the crime.
Washing the walls isn’t always practical or advisable, but if you can, give them a firm wipe with a clean cloth. Dust around mirrors, dust and wash or wipe blinds, wash curtains and be sure to wipe down the windows and window frames. Next, turn your attention to light fixtures.
Wash glass shades and replace any light bulbs that have burnt out. Vacuum or wash lampshades and wipe down all the lamp bases. As you go, dust your bookcases and side tables. You can clean items you have placed upon these, leaving a spotless and organized space in your wake.
Vacuum and spot clean upholstered furniture, paying close attention to spaces underneath and under cushions. The final touch is to deep clean the floors, which you’ll want to leave until last, since spot cleaning, shampooing, and applying a carpet cleaner can be a significant task. Be sure to mop tile and condition your hardwood flooring as well. If your décor includes area rugs, take them outside, beat the dust from them, or vacuum them carefully.
This category can vary, depending on where you live, and how extensive your property is. If you have a garden, now is the time to tidy the outdoors—pruning, cleaning up winter deadfalls, and in general, ensuring the yard is as you wish it to be. However, it also includes tasks such as investigating the roof for damage, cleaning gutters, servicing the HVAC unit, and looking for signs of mold or water damage in any basement areas.
As well, every homeowner should change the air filters in their ventilation units at this time. The circulation of winter air within the home accumulates an astonishing amount of allergens, which can irritate even those who don’t suffer from allergies. Once flowers bloom and leaves emerge, additional particulates will be added to the air supply, which can overwhelm even the most efficient filters if they aren’t changed regularly.
Many Hands Make Light Work
Spring Cleaning, by its very nature, is both deep and intensive. It’s a large, multi-stage process that won’t be done in a single afternoon and benefits from the involvement of all family members working together. Including children of all ages can also help instill values, such as pride in shared or personal space and cooperative behaviors. However, in order to accomplish this, it’s essential that cleaning tasks never be treated as a punishment.
Instead, treat spring cleaning tasks and daily tidying as reward-focused activities. For older children, such as teens, money or access to extended and more mature privileges are often most effective. Younger kids benefit from smaller rewards and are often more amenable to activity-focused benefits. Below, you’ll find a list of general ideas intended to make it both fun and inclusive.
- Make it a contest, with prizes for everyone
- Make a task chart with fun stickers
- Distribute cleaning coupons, with rewards for each task
- Let them pick out aprons and gloves
- Do one room at a time
- Ask them to “help” you do more difficult tasks
- Teach economics and play make-believe by letting them make up their own cleaning service
- Let them choose a treat for dinner after a day of cleaning
- Offer a choice of movie for evening entertainment
- Play music of their choice during work
- Offer the WiFi password as a reward for successful completion of tasks
Of course, you should tailor your approach to your own family. If you have small ones, who aren’t ready to participate, set up their play areas nearby so they can watch you perform deep cleaning tasks. Keep it light and included them by talking with them as you go. Even pre-verbal children learn by watching and listening to the world around them. If they see you cheerfully cleaning and enjoying music, they will form positive associations that will last a lifetime.
The Spring Clean is an important ritual that has practical roots. Whether you’re a young person with their first apartment or a parent with several children and an established homestead, intensive decluttering and tidying will only benefit you. It permits you time and space to assess the possessions you wish to keep in your life, donating or recycling unwanted items. It can also help you reconnect with desired belongings that are lost in the clutter of a year.
This yearly ritual improves both mental and physical health. Not only will your space feel more open and fresh, but it will also be less laden with allergens, and your home will have fewer uninvited residents with too many legs. Intensive cleaning helps reduce the need for medications or pest control, which can be somewhat costly. It also serves as a time when maintenance can be performed, so it doesn’t weigh on your mind for the rest of the year. Overall, whether you associate your annual ritual with a cultural practice or just want better health, there are no downsides to it.