The History of Spring Cleaning

Spring is right around the corner. Ahhh… The smell of fresh flowers, the joy of leaving your home without a winter jacket, and of course… spring cleaning. For a lot of you, this might make you want to go back into hibernation, but the reality is it’s a perfect time to get your home in order. There may be a few explanations as to why we as Americans feel the sudden urge to collectively purge, rearrange and restore our homes from top to bottom come springtime. Ben Franklin made us spring ahead, so who’s idea was it to spring clean?


Well, it’s no myth; winter causes us to be inherently less active and motivated. That’s right; your brain creates melatonin when there is less sunlight on cold dreary days, making you sleepy! Come spring, Mother Nature provides us a natural energy boost by giving us warmer weather and extra sunlight. The dreary days of snow are (hopefully) over and our natural instinct is to explore and interact with others. Although it may seem like a western tradition, cultures from all over the world have been spring cleaning for thousands of years.


The Jewish tradition came from their regular house cleaning just before Passover; the holiday marking the exodus of the Jews from Egypt. Since matzah, or unleavened bread, was fed to the Jewish slaves in Egypt, it is tradition for Jews to rid their house of any leavened bread during Passover. This is to honor and remember those that had to overcome slavery and oppression by eating foods the Jews consider humble. To ensure all bread has been removed from the house, including crumbs, a full-fledged house cleaning is routinely done each year as to not offend God. They took this so seriously that even the tiniest crumbs were a no-no. The night before Passover was kind of a spring cleaning event. The Jews would scour their home with candles in what they called a hunt called Bedikat Chametz. 


The Iranian Norouz, or the Persian New Year, is also thought to be a traditional ancestor of spring cleaning. The Persian New Year, like in most cultures, signifies new beginnings. The ritual, “khooneh takouni” which means “shaking the house” has been a customary activity performed by Iranians looking to turn over a new leaf and refresh their homes. Undergoing a complete house cleaning allows for the New Year to start off on the right foot. Not only do they clean, but they also buy new clothes and replace anything that might have been damaged during winter. Because this is considered a holiday, there are even festivities that surround the cleaning and when they are finished the celebrators visit each other’s home. Even though this is almost a strictly Iranian tradition scholars have noted that this practice is observed in Scotland and Ireland.


Like Iranians, Chinese mark the coming of a new year with a thorough house cleaning. The Chinese have adopted the western calendar but they still celebrate the New Year at the same time they have since the 14th century B.C. The Chinese New Year marks not only a new year, but also a switch over from winter to spring. The New Year always begins with the second new moon after the winter solstice. They sweep, mop and rearrange to rid their homes of any negativity seen in the previous year. They do this to symbolically welcome rebirth in all aspects of their life, hoping to bring good luck in the New Year.


Whether you celebrate any of the above, or welcome spring in your own way, it’s likely you’ve participated in some version of “spring cleaning.” No matter your reason, you may become overwhelmed at the daunting task of cleaning an entire house inside and out. Many homeowners are able to tackle the tasks inside their home, but how many are able to get on a ladder and completely clean their own windows, siding and gutters? How many homeowners are comfortable doing that, and furthermore, have the tools and supplies to do so? Reaching out for help in some areas may be worth considering. Do yourself a favor and research quality local home service and landscape professionals this season. Reviews on sites like AngiesList, Google+, Home Advisor or Yelp will help steer you in the right direction. You could also ask a friend or neighbor who they use. Creating a game plan and sticking to it with a little help will make for a successful spring cleaning this year!

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