Monday, 4 March 2019

The Spring Clean

                          Spring cleaning: time to embrace older ways

DOES anyone spring clean anymore? How many of us use the changing of seasons as an excuse to give their house a thorough scrub? Or is it such an out-dated idea that we simply don’t consider it?

Have we all embraced the ideas of Feng Shui and Hygge, making our lives and homes streamlined, minimalist, clutter-free , always clean? As Japanese author and queen of clearing out, Mari Condo, urges us to ditch anything that doesn’t spark joy, the notion of the spring clean might seem laughably quaint.

It also might seem very late, but last time I blinked it was still January. February upped and ran away with itself, which is why I'm currently looking down the barrel of March and wondering if I could get away with doing nothing. I won't.

My own house is neither streamlined nor minimalist. I have read the Feng Shui bible and researched the Danish concept of Hygge, down to the last scented candle suggestion. I have dismissed Mari Condo’s advice, on the basis that I don’t believe in gently waking my books before I discard them. I’m not a masochist. And were I to get rid of clothes that don’t spark joy, I’d quickly find I’d nothing to wear and no money to replace them. Quite simply, I am useless at throwing out stuff. Which brings me back to the spring clean.

My mother always did a great spring clean. A keen gardener with a large garden, she hated the thought of spending fine days indoors, when she could be outside, digging and planting. No sooner had we taken down the Christmas tree on the 7th of January, than the cleaning products and special cloths would appear.
First, she would empty every press in the kitchen and the good sideboard in the dining room. She would wipe the inside surfaces with soapy water before putting everything neatly back.

When I asked her recently if she threw anything away, she looked astonished. It was difficult enough to get everything in the first place, she said. Why would she throw stuff away? The outside surfaces came next. Not for her the hasty cleaning with baby wipes. For at least a week, our house would smell of washing up liquid, special polish for brasses, another for silver, and Mr Sheen for the G-plan furniture.

Then came the floors: the lino washed, although in fairness it was washed frequently. Ditto the carpets and then hoovered until they were almost threadbare. Finally, she would wash all the windows, inside and out, with balled up newspaper and vinegar water before shining with an old linen cloth. No matter how cold it was, every window would be left open as carpets dried and the house aired.

My mother’s mother used to assign different cleaning tasks to different days of the week. Monday was wash day. My grandmother raised five children but never even owned a twin tub. Yet every Monday, she had a full line of clean clothes, that ran the whole length of her small, terraced garden. As someone who can barely wring out a t-towel, I wonder now at her sheer physical strength.  

But whilst the house was clean and tidy, she never de-cluttered. She was, like her daughter after her, part of the ‘keep it just in case’ generation. And if something wasn’t useful, it always seemed to have sentimental value.

When her own children left home, my grandmother would often take the bus to our house to help out. Her favourite job seemed to be scrubbing down all the painted white doors with Jif*, to rub away our small, grubby fingerprints. For weeks after, we’d find a residue of the stuff on our hands and clothes.

I have to admit that I never felt the need to clean a house from top to bottom, to usher in the new year or the better weather. Generations of women – it was always women – before me, wouldn’t understand. If I’m looking for excuses, I might say that I’m too busy, or I don’t have brasses or silver or furniture I need to see my face in.

Clearly, though, I have inherited my mother and grandmother’s tendency to hold onto things.

Maybe someday I’ll de-clutter. Until then, I won’t be too hard on myself. In the meantime, I need to do something. And this is the year. Sparkling windows and fresh carpets: a proper spring clean. It sounds quaint. I’m quite looking forward to it.

*Brand of cream cleaner.


ear reader,

March is here and we're already getting some gorgeous days in Ireland: blue skies and warm weather. Long may it continue! 

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Finally, March 3rd - 9th is READ AN E-BOOK WEEK. To celebrate, Tirgearr Publishing is having a half-price SALE on #Smashwords.

For just $2 you can download my Irish romantic comedy, Going Against Type, the story of rival columnists who write under pen names, and unknowingly fall for their bitter enemy: each other.

Find the Smashwords link for all e-readers 
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Until next time, happy reading, take care and have a great March.           
Sharon. xx