It’s that time of the year again. Hyde Park is blooming. Birds are singing in the trees. The sun is smiling at the thin veil of clouds inconspicuously looming over the London horizon. Spring is finally here. And with it comes the age-old practice of spring cleaning.
The beginning of spring is a great time to deep clean our homes, reduce the clutter, and take care of our wellbeing. But it can also be a can of worms. Here’s everything you need to know about spring cleaning.
In this article:
Let’s begin, shall we?
Spring cleaning is the practice of deep cleaning your home during springtime. Sounds simple but this practice has deep cultural, religious, and possibly even biological roots. While the exact origin of spring cleaning remains a mystery, scholars have come up with different hypotheses over the years. Many cultures have their own customs but the practice, itself, seems to be quite prevalent.
In Judaism, Passover is a holiday celebrating the Hebrew people’s liberation from Egypt during the events of Exodus. Along with the duration of the holiday, which falls between late March and mid-April, all leaven (or “chametz“) is forbidden. This includes bread and bread crumbs.
In order to remove all traces of leaven (yes, even bread crumbs), thorough cleaning of the home is required. Since this cleaning takes place in early spring, some scholars believe this is one possible explanation for the origin of spring cleaning.
In Thailand, the New Year is celebrated from April 13 to 15. The holiday is called Songkran and is a festival of purification. People pour water over each other on the streets, believing it will wash away all bad luck and sins accumulated throughout the year.
In a sacred rite, they pour water over statues of the Buddha and ask for blessings and good luck during the New Year. This is also the time many clean their houses from top to bottom for a fresh start of the year.
Nowruz is celebrated during the spring equinox as the beginning of spring, but also as the Persian New Year. It’s difficult to date exactly when this celebration began, but many historians consider it to be over 3,000 years old.
Aside from eating traditional foods and dressing in bright colors for the celebration, the festival also involves the practice of “khāne-takānī“. This means “shaking the house”- cleaning from top to bottom. The practice originates from the Zoroastrian idea of purification through cleanliness as a way of keeping Evil at bay.
The practice of cleaning before the beginning of the New Year exists in Chinese tradition, as well. The first day of the new year is also considered the first day of spring.
People thoroughly clean their homes before the celebrations begin. The idea is to sweep away the bad luck from the past year and good luck during the New Year.
Our own history of spring cleaning isn’t as ancient, but it’s well documented. In the 19 century, Londoners partook in the annual spring cleaning tradition out of sheer pragmatism.
Cold winters caused the ever-growing number of London citizens to remain indoors. They used coal and wood for heating, as well as whale oil and kerosene for lighting. This lead to the accumulation of soot and grime all over the place.
But since the weather was too cold to open windows, cleaning had to wait until spring. When days finally warmed up, people would take everything outside for a thorough clean of the house. This included rugs, bedding, windows, furniture, and everything you can think of. Not unlike today.
The main difference is it usually took them about a week to do what we can now do in a few hours. Many of the technologies we use today weren’t invented until the 20th century. Before that, spring cleaning was mostly powered by elbow grease and working one’s fingers to the bone.
Even though these days most Londoners use gas heating or electricity, the practice of spring cleaning is strong as ever. Considering the fact that it seems to be prevalent across different time periods and cultures, this should come as no surprise.
There seems to be something deeply embedded into our very psyche that causes us to be in tune with nature. As nature wakes up from its winter slumber, so do we. And we feel motivated to get our homes in order before we enter into the more active months of the year.
With the advent of technology, this is now easier than ever. However, it can still take more than a day if it’s not planned correctly (more on that later).
But aside from the weather, is there another reason this deep cleaning takes part during the spring?
Most climates do not allow effective cleaning during the winter. However, even if they did, we still wouldn’t clean as actively during the colder months as we do in warmer ones. We wouldn’t have the energy for it.
Winter months are characterized by short days and almost no sunlight. The lack of sunlight has a profound effect on us.
Aside from giving us a great tan in the summer, sunlight also helps regulate our hormones. More specifically, it helps regulate the release of serotonin and melatonin.
Serotonin is one of the reasons we’re in a good mood on a sunny day. When we’re exposed to sunlight, our brains release serotonin which makes us calmer, happier, and more focused.
Low serotonin levels are associated with depression. This is one cause of seasonal depression. It’s also the reason we feel less motivated during the winter.
But serotonin is not the only player in this neurochemical game. Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone responsible for regulating your sleep cycle. Darkness triggers the release of melatonin in the brain, making us sleepy. The effect is not as severe in overcast weather as it is during the night, but it’s still there.
In essence, during the winter we have a lower supply of serotonin and a higher supply of melatonin. Add to that the “wonderful” London weather, and we have a perfectly good excuse for why we’re less motivated, more tired, and certainly not in a cleaning mood.
We’ve already established the deep historic, cultural, and religious roots of spring cleaning. But surely something so ubiquitous has real, tangible benefits, right? Of course it does.
The link between cleanliness and mental health has been well documented. Clutter and untidiness can be contributing factors to depression, stress, confusion, tension, and absentmindedness.
Therefore, cleanliness helps decrease stress and improve your mood, focus, and overall sense of well-being. This is especially important now that many of our homes double as offices.
After you spring clean your home, everything is tidy, fresh, and sparkly. There’s no clutter, no dust, dirt, or grime. You feel great just walking around. This automatically boosts your mood, reduces tension and stress, and increases your productivity. Not bad for something so simple.
Getting a ghastly case of the blues at the beginning of spring is not uncommon. While the longer days and more sunshine certainly help boost your mood, there are other factors at play that may throw a spanner in the works.
Nearly 25% of UK residents suffer from hay fever. And London has some of the highest pollen counts in the country come springtime. This makes seasonal allergies that much worse and often being associated with the spring blues.
If you’re bombarded with allergens all day the moment you step outside, the last thing you need is to get even more exposure at home. Thoroughly cleaning your home helps you reduce the number of allergens so you can breathe more easily.
Aside from kicking allergens to the curb, spring cleaning allows you to create a healthier home environment. Once you’re done with the annual deep cleaning procedure, it’s a lot easier to fall into the habit of maintaining cleanliness at home.
When you clean regularly, you keep the number of germs and allergens under control. This allows you to live a healthier, happier life. After all, no one likes to be sick but few people take the necessary steps to create a healthy environment.
Of course, time can be an issue, but you can always hire a regular domestic cleaner to keep your home clean.
Living in a clean environment promotes a healthier lifestyle. People who live in tidy, decluttered homes tend to pick healthier foods and move around more. These choices translate to a healthier lifestyle, on top of the other health benefits associated with a clean home.
The contrast between your home before and after spring cleaning can also be a strong motivator to try out a lifestyle change. While many people prefer to change their lives with the coming of the New Year in the form of “New Years’ resolutions”, the beginning of spring is also a great time to do it. And as we already know, the first day of spring and the New Year coincide in many cultures. This is not a coincidence.
Your windows have been closed all winter. The atmosphere inside is stale and heavy. You’ve longed for some fresh air (as much as you can get fresh air in London). Now, you can finally crack open a window or two and let some freshness inside.
As a large city, we can’t expect London’s air to be as clean as the countryside. While we’ve made some good strides in recent years, we still have a long way to go in terms of improving air quality.
However, after an entire winter with closed windows and low air circulation, the air indoors is still worse than the air outdoors. Especially during spring cleaning, when we use lots of cleaning products.
Opening the windows and cleaning your home at the same time dramatically improves indoor air quality, both by removing harmful toxins and by ways of ventilation. This is important for everybody, but especially asthma sufferers.
Environmental hazards are among the top reasons why people trip and fall. Clutter can be especially dangerous to the elderly. This is another problem spring cleaning helps you solve.
The new season is a great time to make adjustments on the organization front. Once you’ve better organized your bags, shoes, purses, sports equipment, etc., you reduce the risk of tripping over it and plunging all the way to the ER.
Of course, this is a hazard that doesn’t only affect the elderly. Young children often trip and fall over in their excitement (we’ve all seen the videos on YouTube). The difference is, in most cases, children do not sustain lasting damage. However, this is still a risk, especially when falling down the stairs is concerned. If you live in a house, this should be one of your main priorities.
Spring is the season of renewal. It fills us with energy and a great sense of change (if we can avoid the spring blues, that is). Spring cleaning facilitates this process.
Once we’re done with everything and have a look at the result, we’re filled with a great sense of control over our lives. It’s a great feeling, on top of all other benefits.
Spring cleaning has been around for a long time and it’s here to stay. It has deep cultural, religious, and pragmatic roots spanning hundreds, even thousands of years.
While it’s a relatively straightforward process, it brings a ton of benefits you should not be taking lightly. Are you going to spring clean this year?
Hi, I’m Atanas - brand consultant and writer. I’m helping Samyx Cleaning create the best cleaning company blog on the Internet. Join us on our journey and learn how to live a cleaner, healthier, happier life in the process.