Spring Clean Traditions

-By Joanna Roughton

I love this time of year. And, if it could speak, I think my home would say the same thing. Because, after the dark months of mud, wind and rain, our house is opening up again – as assuredly as the daffodils.

It has been a long winter. Our home has not flooded, as so many in the West Country have. The worst injury it sustained was the surgical removal of a couple of roof tiles by a particularly nasty south-westerly. But the volume of water has made keeping a tidy house difficult, if not impossible. Dogs and children prove to be excellent vessels for the transference of water from without to within!

Historically, this was the time for the Spring Clean. Often it would take place over a weekend and, crucially, involved an entire family; not just Mum. These were the days before vacuum cleaners and central heating. Then a home, after months of short days and cold nights, would be coated in a thick film of dust, produced by open fires and candles.

Windows and doors would be thrown open, curtains or drapes taken down and washed, soot and grime helped out of the house by a March zephyr.

There was a linkage made with some spiritual housekeeping too. Indeed, within the Orthodox church calendar there is still to be found ‘Clean Monday’, a day at the start of Lent which seems to make a link between a spotless conscience and a spruced-up home.

171379170But in recent years the Spring Clean seems to have fallen from fashion, supplanted by ugly, timeless phrases like ‘deep clean’; an emergency service offered to failing hospitals that have succumbed to infectious spread, or restaurant kitchens condemned by health and safety officials. A friend, who commercially lets a second property, recently parted with a lot of cash to a domestic agency for a ‘deep clean’ after her tenants did a moonlight flit, leaving an awful mess behind.

In short, it has become transactional, not social. The idea that the act of coming together, over a weekend or the whole of a day – as a family – to do nothing more dramatic than clean house, would strike many people now as a burdensome waste of time.

This strikes me as a shame. We all live in a house, so we all ought to have a stake in its wellbeing. And sometimes an orderly home requires a root and branch shake-up. With quotidian family commitments, it is not often we get the chance to get behind the fridge with a mop, or think collectively about whether it’s time to replace those frayed curtains.

More than that, there is something to be said for a Spring Clean as one of those chronological punctuation marks that we need to help us recognise the passage of time. Because magazines, newspapers and TV programmes constantly talk-up the virtues of ‘de-cluttering’. As such, it has become an ever-present, year-round pre-occupation.

Apart from anything else, this induces a sense of guilt. “I really must  go through that garage today and head to the dump.” Well, yes, you probably should. But isn’t it easier on the heart if we know that there is a day or two in March when the house will be blitzed – for no better reason than tradition?


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