It’s right up there with doing laundry in terms of smug satisfaction– while there is no smug satisfaction that competes with bringing in a load of freshly washed, sun dried cloth nappies (diapers, whatever); the cat–in–a–bird–cage–glow that accompanies freshly mopped floors come a very close second place.
Being pregnant was awesome for cleaning. Forget nesting in the last few weeks of pregnancy– I had the cleaning bug from about 12 weeks in, and it took a good four months after I gave birth for it to wear off. I remember my husband once telling me that I was going to “mop the damn enamel of the tiles if I attacked them again”, and that was probably not an entirely unfair thing to say. I think, at that point, thirty weeks pregnant and with way too much spare time, I was mopping the kitchen floor of the Purple House on a twice–daily basis.
There was no way I could keep that up. Hello, post natal depression and a massive case of useless anxiety. Pregnant the second time around, I actually relished that fervent, all consuming nesting instinct. ‘Sparkle sparkle’, said the glass doors and the floors and the car and the bathroom and the dog and whatever else would sit still for long enough to be drenched in white vinegar and scrubbed to within an inch of it’s existence.
About this time last year, we moved here, to the TinyTrainTown, from another small town that goes by the name of Paradise. Living in Paradise for six months made the spring clean and un–clutter almost disappointingly easy– anything that I hadn’t used, looked at or thought about in six months was more than likely not useless and could be scrapped, recycled or redistributed. (For those of you who have hoarder tendencies without the ruthlessness minimalism requires, pay careful attention to this next sentence– of everything I got rid of when I moved, I can honestly say I cannot think of one material thing I have genuinely missed or wished I still owned. Really.)
And the year before that… well. Life, into boxes, same as last year. But without nearly as much direction or purpose.
This year, with the weather beginning to warm and the heaven scent garden slowly blooming, it feels as though it’s time to clean. To open windows wide and let warm dry air blow through the house, taking dust and mold and mildew and winter and worries and stress away with it. To shuffle through and pick at boxes of toys and books, to delve into bathroom cupboards and builtin wardrobes and rid the house of the accumulated junk of twelve months worth of day to day in’s and out’s, fifty two weeks worth of life piling up on top of itself.
And it’s just mundane life piling up that leaves the most junk behind. There’s a filing cabinet full of papers to be culled, a storage cupboard stocked with Christmas presents, hoarded over winter like chestnuts, that need of be sorted and eventually wrapped. There’s a hot water main valve that requires relieving, a cat that needs to vaccinated, insurances to be renewed, spiders and other creepy crawlies to be poisoned, a sadly neglected vegetable garden that is just itching to be turned and planted, to stretch tiny seedlings towards the spring sunshine.
I only have myself to blame for so much of that boring doldrum falling right now, all at the same time of year. But, in truth, I don’t mind it at all. It feels like a life reboot, a clearing of the slate. Getting things in order before our birthdays and Christmas– the party season for our small family, all the festivities falling at once– begin and the New Year rolls out again with the best of intentions, before the days trip all over one another and life piles up again.
A thorough clean is a spiritual necessity in order to vacuum up the existential cobwebs and complement the Spring life–refresh.
Force me to choose the task I prefer from all the possible cleaning activities available (laundering of cloth nappies not included), there’d be very little hesitation before I answered ’vacuuming’. There’s something morbidly and perversely fascinating about sucking up particles of dust, dirt and the ever–present Cheerios through an appliance that has more horsepower than my first car. (What is it with small children and Cheerios in every conceivable nook and cranny of the house? Like carrots in vomit; they are omni–present, independent of last consumption).
So I vacuum during a Spring Clean. A lot. I vacuum lounge chairs and picture frames, bookcases and the books within them. I vacuum shelves and drawers and smoke detectors. I even move things, big heavy things like lounges and tables, and vacuum underneath them. I strip sheets and flip mattresses– and vacuum them as well, of course– wash linens and pillows and hang them out in the warm sunshine to dry. If you are of the uninitiated and have never vacuumed a mattress and stared in horrified wonder at the pile of white–grey skin cells formed into the finest powder that results… You should. Likewise if you’ve never machine–washed and line–dried your pillows back to their original fluffy whiteness. The only real drawback being that other people’s inevitably unwashed bedding is going to really start grossing you out.
Being the big suburban hippy I am, I swore off bleaches and chemicals that smelt almost–but–not–quite–like–apples–or fields–of–flowers when I was pregnant for the first time, struck with a sudden awareness that bordered on paranoia at the way bathroom cleaners seemed to literally burn and singe the tiny fine hairs at the back of my nostrils. These days I stick to bi carb soda and
white vinegar, eucalypt and lavender and tea tree for cleansing, deodorizing and most other household purification purposes.
I mop psuedo–wood floors with boiling water and essential oils to make them shine. I scrub my bathroom, removing a ring made up of hundreds of days of the washed off dirt and play of two small children. I wash windows and wipe down a dozen or so random surfaces from sink to shelf to dollhouse.
And I wash. And wash, and wash, and wash. A week’s worth of washing to two days of hard cleaning… I’m guessing that’s why spring cleaning is done in spring.
After all that’s finally been done, after the hidden places of the house are tended to and tided, vacuumed and scrubbed; the actual satisfying part begins. You return things to their respective places, tweaking and reconsidering their arrangement as you go. You stock cupboards with clean linen, fresh from sunshine that feels to be blooming along with the garden’s flowers, a heat too big for itself that spills it’s excess into the deepest layers of your skin.
Light incense. Burn sage. Run an ionizer– ironically, plugged straight into the power source itself– to smooth out the constant electric buzz of your life.
And relax… relish. Feel your soul–self come into some essence of alignment, as if it’s had it own spring clean, subconsciously shuffling away junk no longer needed in sync with the cleaning out of a house.
It’s wholly satisfying and self–congratulatory and feels like dark secrets and baggage that was just beginning to rot… cleared. Everyone needs a fresh start, occasionally. Spring blows in a new one every year.
It’s like life’s Get Out Of Jail Free Card. The Universe’s way of saying all bets are off, table clear… get yourself set and prepared to start all over again.
*And before anyone mentions the FlyLady… we’ve covered her before.