Exclusive Content

Spring Cleaning

By Cherie Binns

I grew up in the 50s on a dairy farm. We lived with my grandparents until our house was ready to move into. Grandma used to be a domestic worker for a wealthy family before she married and carried many of the cleaning and household rituals into her own household. To augment the family’s income, she took in summertime guests who wished to escape the city so in the springtime we “ritually” cleaned the entire house. It was an all-hands-on deck event. Even as a preschooler, I scrubbed baseboards with hot soapy water and got into tight corners that my elders could not reach.

Area- and room-sized rugs were rolled up, taken out back and hung on the clothes lines and beaten to get the dust out of them. (I don’t think we had a vacuum cleaner until the mid-1950s). Winter bedding was stripped from the beds, washed, wrung out, and hung on the line to dry. Windows were flung open and polished. Curtains were laundered, ironed, and either rehung or replaced with a lighter summer window covering. All wood surfaces were scrubbed down, dishes were taken from the cupboards and closets and cleaned. Dresser drawers were emptied, clothing removed that was no longer being used or was in need of repair, and all was put to right.

As the eldest of seven children, this was an exciting time for me because it was when the boxes of summer clothes were opened and sorted for each of us for the coming season and our heavier clothing was boxed for cooler weather that would follow. I almost always got some amazing hand-me-downs from friends that I would proudly wear to school or church. Clothing that no longer would fit even the smallest was donated to other families or to the church rummage sale.

Grandpa’s sister and her daughter came to help, and my dad’s sister and a couple of neighbors also spent the day working with all of us. There would be a large communal lunch on trestle tables on the lawn. The men in the family were doing similar work in the barns and sheds airing out from winter, hosing down and sweeping up while the cows and horses were outside enjoying the sunshine and new tender grasses of the pastures. In turn, all of us went the next free day to a family member or neighbor’s home or farm to help with the same chores there.

Life in a different era has given way to modern appliances and devices that make our lives easier and allows us to keep things cleaner throughout the year. This deep annual clean may no longer be necessary but there is something cathartic about being able to do a deep dive into a cleaning spree of the kitchen or the closets and I highly recommend it. Here are some tips I have found may enable even those of us with limited energy or mobility to do this successfully.

Have a cleaning party and invite family and friends to help out, then reciprocate at their home or office. Many hands make light work and there is bound to be someone there that can tackle the jobs you are not able to do. 

Encourage those helping to bring a dish to share as you take a break from your work and gather to relax and refuel. This takes the burden of meal prep and clean up solely off of you. That way if there are favorite foods or food allergies, this encourages all those coming to be sure there is something they can eat.

Make a list in advance of the areas or projects that need to be tackled. Those helping can target their favorite tasks and dive in or you might wish to designate some of the less taxing chores to you and name individuals who will be responsible for others.

Invite people who will participate to bring their favorite tools for the tasks they are performing. My grandsons have their favorite rakes for the lawn and don’t like what we have in the shed. Work goes faster and more smoothly when folks are comfortable doing that work.

Donate clothing and household items you no longer use to a local charity. If you itemize deductions on your taxes, get a donation slip itemizing what has been given away. Reducing the clutter and excess can really lift the spirit and add an extra sense of energy to the way you see things.

In this digital age, don’t forget to periodically visit your devices to do spring cleaning as well. Delete temporary files and cookies. Discard photos that were snapped in the moment but will never be used again. Change passwords to protect your data. Happy cleansing.