Historically speaking, spring cleaning was a necessity. Before the convenience of the furnace and the thermostat, winter months were spent with the houses closed up and parents constantly yelling at their children to keep the doors closed tight. The wood burning stove, oil lamps, and candles were all they had to keep them from being peoplesicles and so even the neatest of neatnicks had to turn their backs on the soot and wax buildup on every surface of the house.
When the sun finally broke out and the weather was warm enough to warrant opening the windows and doors, they did just that. Furniture was dragged outside and scrubbed down, removing the layers of winter’s wrath that had built up on every surface.
Nowadays we don’t quite have that same problem to deal with because our lives have evolved into cleaner heating and lighting systems. Also, our furniture has gotten considerably larger and heavier and I think that if I pulled my couch and kitchen table into the front yard to hose down, my neighbors might think I had gone completely lost it.
But even so, I think we are wired to clean in the spring.
I hate cleaning. I think it comes from the fact that my grandmother loves to clean, even at the spry age of 92. “Grandma can’t talk now, Karrie, she’s scrubbing the floor.” My mom got some of those genes. “I’m soooo busy. I have to straighten up the closet. The shirts aren’t even stacked in piles.” (I recently sent my mother a photo of my closet, clothes strewn on the floor, nothing folded, and four thousand items hung on one hook. I’m pretty sure I took years off her life.) The cleaning gene was wore out by the time it got to me.
As much as I dislike spending time doing these chores, something hits me in the spring. Call it tradition, call it instinct, call it desperation, even I suddenly burst into cleaning mode as soon as it gets legitimately warm enough to open windows and air out the winter gasses. I’m ready for a fresh start, a new season of sunshine, and fresh air.
And so, like a bird who flies north when the sunlight gets longer, I start washing bedding and cleaning doors and walls and doing things I didn’t even think about doing but somehow cannot stop myself.
Statistics on some random website show that Americans spend around $650 on cleaning products every year. I would bet that the majority of those dollars are spent in April here in Ohio, when we all open windows and breathe in the damp and have just enough sunlight to illuminate how dirty our houses are.
Then we all go to the store and stock up on what we need.
And we don’t wear a coat.
And we smile.
Because we can’t help it.
Originally written/published 4.12.15