It’s May and I Haven’t Begun Spring Cleaning

Do you spring clean?

My mother would have had our sprawling ranch home spic and span in April. Those 1950s wives had a structure to their home management that I could use a dose of.

Our house is a 1980s split level with three bedrooms—two used as offices—and two and a half baths. Kitchen, dining and living room finish out the upstairs with that powder room and family room downstairs. As I’ve vacuumed, I’ve edged most of the carpet, does that count as making spring cleaning progress? Since this isn’t a big house, a total cleaning shouldn’t take that long, yet somehow the task seems daunting.

Spring arrived with the weirdness typical of the last few years—straight from running the furnace to turning on the air conditioner. When I was a child growing up in the woods of western Pennsylvania, spring came on slowly, moving us from a snowy winter to a rainy April, and a quietly, stealthily warming May. We had a pool—above ground—and we’d beg Dad to get the cover off and pool open as soon as we felt the last hint of winter take flight. Dad grumbled, reminding us again that the water wasn’t heated and it would take time for it to warm up. We kids didn’t care and in we’d pop on the first sunny day. Swimming around like mad, we tried to create whirlpools of heat. Out we’d jump with blue lips and fingernails, shivering on the grass and laughing like happy hyenas. This first swim meant that freedom was approaching—School’s Out for Summer!

Spring changes everything

Trapped inside throughout the winter, people who work from home can’t help but want to get OUTSIDE for reasons other than shoveling snow. It’s an imperative. Allergies be darned, I want the windows open and pollen blowing through (more to clean). I want to rid the house of every single cootie trapped inside during the cold months.

Green pops up everywhere, complimenting the earlier arrivals of crocus, hyacinths, daffodils and the one lone tulip the rabbits haven’t demolished. Who wouldn’t rather be outside weeding between the flowers? I am the Neighborhood’s Mad Weeder and should hire out. My sign reads,”Will Weed for Wine.” Planting zinnias we start from seed, filling pots with herbs and vegetables strewn across the pine dining room table—spring.

It’s time to sit on the deliciously comfortable furniture cozily arranged on the deck we rebuilt. I look forward to the chore of mulching because it’s one way a neurotic like me can tidy the unruliness of a yard. Hiking takes place in the parks scattered around Allegheny and the adjoining counties. We take a picnic with the requisite bright-colored tablecloth to stretch out on. While husband snoozes, I read the book I tucked in with the food. We take evening rides in the ’64 GTO and make people smile when they hear it coming—long and gleaming in a red shade ever so deep it almost touches on hues of burgundy.

Seriously, who wants to be stuck inside cleaning?

Yet, I want it done. 

Project completion feels good

I want the satisfaction of knowing the kitchen cupboards are wiped inside and out so the beautiful wood gleams. The family room—used for exercise and TV watching—doesn’t require much attention, but am I not happier when the wainscoting trim has its topper of dust eliminated? Doesn’t the entertainment center and two bookcases my father built look better after every book is removed and dusted? The pine shelves are sprayed and polished to a shine fresh and new, inviting visitors to peruse the books.

Closets and dressers get the spring and fall ritual of clothes packed and unpacked and didn’t I mean to paint the inside of my office closet last year? White is such a boring color to see when I open the doors.

The only location we have to stash things in the whole house is that throw-it-in-there place under the front steps. That space gets tidied in the dark of winter when I retrieve Christmas decorations each November.

Last week I washed the bed linens and blankets, pillow protectors and mattress pads. The windows will soon be cleaned (Alex oddly likes that job) … a chore that symbolizes that spring is really here.

My Mother

This closing down of winter and wholehearted welcoming favorite season brings my mother to mind. Mom had a religion about spring cleaning and autumn cleaning. The spring was to do the things I mentioned. Airing out the house, she knew everything was fresh. Mom would remark that clearing the cobwebs from a home was like cleansing our brains of them, too. Which is sometimes what it feels like to have hibernated for five or six months of winter. May sees us readying ourselves for the new.

Mom’s springtime cleaning was the only time of year each treasure was brought forth from the china cupboard and discussed at length. If only I remembered every story! In her absence, I cling to the cordial glass now in my possession. Mom giggled when she recanted how she stole it from a bar in their early married days. Shy Mary was proud of herself for doing something rebellious and out of character. A few years ago, with Mom in mind, I heisted two three-ounce wine glasses from a United flight during a rare treat in first class. 

But why autumn?

I never understood Mom’s passion for fall cleaning. Being a child I’d think, you just did that in April, didn’t you?

I grew up, became an aunt and spent time around my niece and nephew. Realizing what chaos kids cause running in and out all day, all summer was a good lesson. Like those two, we kids were hard pressed to wear shoes if we were playing in our acre of yard only donning treads when we headed to the woods. Can you visualize how dirty our feet were by day’s end? Even the soles of our shoes were covered with dirt from head to toe after romping in summer wheat fields, climbing trees in the woods, and dipping into that cold flowing creek that runs still through a deep, dark part of the forest.

Daily, we would have dashed through the clean house, trashing it with zero knowledge of what we were doing to Mom’s hard work. In retrospect, I can imagine the look on Mom’s face as she laughed at these enthusiastic out-door-loving kids of hers and wanted to ring our necks. That was a common phrase/threat/tirade said with much love at the extra work we caused her.

So the fall cleaning? With no little feet to desecrate my earlier hard work, I never adapted that tradition. While spring cleaning has long been one of my routines. It’s satisfying to start summer with that clean slate of tidiness. 

Ah, to summer

But golly, it’s going to be seventy-five today and the deck furniture beckons me to work out there. The cardinals sing like sirens and the blue jays scream like squeaky bicycle wheels. Bees and butterflies seek whatever succor they can from the periwinkle strewn across the back hillside.

I’ll take the Mac outside, a pen and paper, glass of water, and ponder more of what Mom’s life was like with little tykes constantly underfoot.

Clean? Maybe in September.

*Top photo? Mom cleaning their first home as a married couple.


Read: Pondering Life