Spring Cleaning: Where Does It Come From?

I recently confessed in my blog that part of me wants to flee in the night with a backpack full of my favorite things, abandoning life as I know it for a small concrete room without furnishings. No, it’s not my family that’s driving me away, and surprisingly, it is not even the cats.

Pollen is the home wrecker in question.

My annual obsession with cleanliness might be a natural consequence of my body’s adverse reaction to everything that blooms, leaving me to wonder if the ominous yellow top coat of death might be the foundation of that tradition we call spring cleaning.

As it turns out, it wasn’t the pollen. Walk with me, Wild One, while I tell you a story… Okay, so that’s a little dramatic but seriously, my (admittedly casual) exploration of the history of spring cleaning returned some fascinating trivia, which I’ve included here for those who are so inclined.

From TLC, I learned that to avoid accidentally offending God, “Jews scoured their homes before Passover to ensure they didn’t miss any (leavened) bread. Since passover comes around (in) April, many people consider this custom as the origin of spring cleaning.”

Meanwhile, in Iran, “Rouz, is called khaneh takani (‘shaking the house’), and the custom lives up to its name. Iranians traditionally buy new clothes to wear during khaneh takani. Every bit of a home is scoured and cleaned; nothing is spared… Once the house is shaken, the new year — and spring — can arrive.”

“The Chinese sweep their floors and clean their homes to (get) rid of bad luck and misfortune that may have accumulated during the previous year. Once the house is a clean slate, the Chinese welcome good fortune by observing a prohibition against sweeping for the few days following the new year in order to prevent sweeping away any good fortune that came with the turn of the year.”
And, of course, some credit a more biological explanation (that still isn’t about the pollen). “Ultimately, spring cleaning may have more to do with simple biology. During winter, we’re exposed to less sunlight due to shorter, often dreary days. With a lack of exposure to light, the pineal gland produces melatonin — a hormone that produces sleepiness in humans… It’s possible that we spring clean simply because we wake up from a winter-long, melatonin-induced stupor and find more energy as the days grow longer when spring arrives.”

Some even said we clean our homes so thoroughly in the spring because back in the day, people were trapped inside all winter with coal- and wood-burning stoves. The first sign of warmth signaled them to let in the fresh air and scrub off the layers of yuck!

Now, maybe it’s just me — and I’m certainly open to it being just me — but aren’t humans mysterious creatures? I’m amused that we could do anything predictably enough to call it a tradition, and still have so many of us too paralyzed to actually do the spring cleaning tradition.

Confession time: I had the impulse, the desire, the want for my space to be spring cleaned, but I did not have the whatever-it-takes to get up and do it. And because I’m the ringmaster of the Sick of Being Stuck circus, I felt personally challenged to work through my resistance.

So far, I’ve remembered that I need to make it fun, and I need to keep it simple. In just a few days, I was able to make a good bit of progress investing only an hour here and there, including cleaning behind and beneath the washer and dryer. (Can you say fire hazard?) It is my intention to be done with everything by the end of next weekend.

To clean, or not to clean? It’s really up to you, but I can tell you that it’s been a while since I felt this sweaty and sticky… and accomplished and strong. In many ways, including a little on the scale, I feel lighter. And even though I’ve been talking about the connection between our inner world and our outer world for some time, I was strangely excited to realize that, if so inclined, I could eat off of my laundry room floor!

So, let’s get this conversation started. Are you a spring cleaner? How do you go about it? What’s your strategy? How do you make it not suck? Do you have help, professional or otherwise, and what tasks do you feel the most resistance around? Go!
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45 comments

Dana B.
Dana B.2 years ago

Please do not reference TLC's article. They have incorrect information, and I find it offensive that they did not take the time to proofread and research correctly.

janet T.
janet t.4 years ago

Today most women do spring cleaning alone and in a much larger house than in previous generations. My mother had the help of two daughters. We were trained early in the work of spring cleaning. And as we had a supremely uncluttered house, it was a lot easier than what women are doing today if they spring clean a house. We moved around a lot. We were a military family so we did not collect the decorations and knickknacks that people have today.

Michele Wilkinson

Interesting.
Thank you

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson4 years ago

interesting...

Beverley Phillips

I like the idea of Spring cleaning - the reality is I started to deep clean the kitchen yesterday, and have achieved 3 cupboards and half of the top of the cupboards. Taking everything out is fine - putting everything back not so much fun!

Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran4 years ago

Thanks.

Mary B.
Mary B.4 years ago

I actually love the ritual of in depth cleaning. It focuses attention and gets my happy juice flowing.It also gives me the chance to rearange things, put somethings away and set out different items, and I get to re-think what I need to have easy access to, and what I really only use once in awhile.I usually just start cleaning where it seems the most needed and go from one hot spot to another so I can get a feel for what I'm trying to pull together.I don't usually get it done before the outside projects start calling so I end up serial multi-tasking all season long, but I'm amazed at how some part of me knows just when to fit in an unrelated task, that turns out just the thing I need to have ready in a few weeks.Like sometimes I'll just start pulling a bunch of dusty old stuff out of a shed, and that night a good drenching rain comes and rinses it off. I just find cleaning to be very soul satisfying work because you see the results right away.

Suzy D.
Reverend Suzy D.4 years ago

Despite living mile from the sea my house has a tidal memory. I clean the kitchen worktops every day, but every time the tide comes in it leaves a pile of junk on the worktops again !!

Patricia H.
Patricia H.4 years ago

thanks for this article

Cindy Wade
Cindy W.4 years ago

The only room that I spring clean is my sunporch which is closed up all winter. The rest of the house, I clean when it's dirty!!