The Spring Scheme

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Spring Cleaning

It’s that time of the year! Spring has arrived, and right on her heels is the centuries-old tradition of spring cleaning. Every year I try to convince my children that Spring Cleaning is an actual national holiday, and by organizing sock drawers and toy baskets, they are essentially paying tribute to our Founding Fathers, but so far they’re not buying.

This year, I am attempting new strategies in an effort to get my family on board with the spring cleaning concept. The first strategy I refer to as: the historical approach. I am hoping that in providing my kids with the reasoning behind the practice, they will feel more connected with the art of rug beating.

After doing some research on the origin of the term itself, I have found several interesting theories:

The first theory suggests that the idea dates back to the ordaining of the Jewish Passover. Passover, celebrated in the spring, was instituted as a reminder of the Jews’ escape from Egyptian captivity. For the duration of the eight days, Jews were to eat unleavened bread, and prior to the holiday, their homes were thoroughly cleaned in order to remove all traces of leaven.

Another theory attributes spring cleaning to the Iranian practice of “khooneh tekouni,” which literally means “shaking the house.” This was done in anticipation of the Iranian Norouz, or the Persian New Year, which falls on the first day of spring. “Shaking the house” involved a complete cleaning of the home, from crown molding to baseboards, and is still practiced in some areas today.

Another explanation for spring cleaning comes from Colonial America. Throughout the winter, homes in the colonies were tightly closed up and heated inside using wood-burning fireplaces or potbelly stoves. Candles or oil lamps were used to chase shadows from darkened cabin corners. When the first signs of spring arrived, the colonists took the opportunity to open windows and doors, air out their homes, and remove the soot and smoke from their clothes, furniture, rugs and curtains.

I am ready to present each one of these historical evidences when I approach the family with our spring cleaning to-do list. However, if the history lesson proves ineffective, I plan on implementing my second strategy: the game approach.

I find that I can usually get things done around the house when I preface a request with, “This is going to be so much fun!” So, I have developed a spring cleaning game called “The Ups.” It involves pulling clothes out of closets, storage containers out from under beds, junk out of junk drawers and subjecting all items to The Ups challenge: “Keep Up, Clean Up or Give Up.”

“Keep Up” items are those things that can be categorized as keepers, the items we want to save. “Clean Up” items are those things that can be thrown away, thus clearing out areas of disarray. “Give Up” items are those things that can be donated to charity or given to others in need. I envision our family dancing around the house, listening to music, laughing and playing The Ups game. In my mind, it results in a delightful spring cleaning experience.

I am not so naive to recognize that the game approach may not yield spring cleaning fruits either. That is why I am prepared to implement a third strategy: the payola approach. It is just as it sounds – good old-fashioned bribery. If spring cleaning history doesn’t spur my children into action through a deep sense of meaning and purpose, and The Ups game fails to create a feeling of joy while in the process of de-cluttering; then surely the promise of a trip to our local ice cream shop and an extra five bucks will get the job done.

I am confident that spring cleaning will come off without a hitch in the Boyd household. There is just something refreshing in the spring air that encourages renewal and motivates us to purge and polish. My children will catch the fever. The history lesson, the game and the chocolate chip ice cream are just icing on the spring cleaning cake.

About the Author

Lori Boyd is a freelance writer and works part time as a registered nurse. She lives in Murfreesboro with her husband and their three children. They all enjoy doing activities together as a family – even spring cleaning!

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