Spring Cleaning: First Steps

1940s print image of woman enthusiastically sweeping with a broom

Things have gotten a little cluttered around here. This is mostly my doing. And when it’s cluttery, it’s hard to actually clean things.

As happens from time to time, I was fine with the general state of things until I was suddenly not, and now I want to shout, “We are living in squalor!” and CLEAN. ALL. THE. THINGS.

This usually coincides with spring.

The problem with this is that I will burn myself out before it’s done. So instead of attacking things willy-nilly, I’m making a plan.

My guide in all things household, the 1941 edition of America’s Housekeeping Book by the New York Herald Tribune Home Institute, assures me I’m on the right track.

…Do you prefer to stretch housecleaning over the year, including certain seasonal work as it comes along, or does it give you intense inner satisfaction to attack the house once or twice a year and clean it inside out from top to bottom? And which of these two ways is better?

This is a delicate problem, and it needs a psychologist who is also a diplomat to solve it…

In any event, the crux of the matter is that a plan is necessary–a plan which includes your work as well as the work you turn over to someone else.

“Seasonal Housecleaning” America’s Housekeeping Book, 1941

The thing is, I love the idea of doing a little bit each day, but this is not how my brain works. I like a big project, a “tear everything out and go, go, go!” approach. This doesn’t work for my actual life, and moreover, the housekeeping book tells me I’m being a jerk.

There is just one plank on which we stand firm. It is not fair to your family to tear the whole house apart all at once and leave it that way form several days while you dash from attic to basement, like one of the seven furies.

Some very judgy editor of that book

I perused the annual cleaning list the good folks of the New York Herald Tribune Home Institute compiled, and it is, of course, extensive. We don’t, as a general rule, clean like that anymore. But I can’t say any of it doesn’t need to be done. While I’m not going to take my pillows to be refurbished (Can we even do that anymore? Yes, apparently!) I do need to pull everything out and get in the corners and freshen things up. I’m not sure when I last washed my curtains. Why is there yarn everywhere?

I’ll eventually put up the entire list, but for now, here’s the basic plan:

March–Use stuff up. A lot of my clutter problem isn’t even from having unnecessary stuff (although I’m not immune), it’s from storing stuff I’m planning to use, and never do. My pantry, freezer, craft supply, and bookshelf all attest to an incredible optimism that I’ve bailed on. Time to do the stuff, and use the supplies.

April–Use every Friday (my not-out-of-the-house day) to tackle one room at a time. I only have four of them, so this should be manageable.

May–Keep using Fridays to do the really onerous and annoying jobs like cleaning the oven for real, fixing the damn window screens, waxing the floors (? I don’t know, it could get intense) that kind of thing.

The rest of the summer: Be amazed at myself.

Two big questions: Anyone want to join me in cleaning like a 1940’s housewife? And who would like to place a bet that I’ll do all this cleaning, and we’ll have to move as soon as I finish?