The Great British Spring Clean 2020 was one of the many events postponed in the face of the coronavirus pandemic in March.
But don’t let out a sigh of relief just yet!
This month, Keep Britain Tidy is encouraging us all to break out the dust pan and brush for the Great September Clean.
Here, we share frequent “Friend” contributor Malcolm Welshman’s thoughts on the merits of spring cleaning.
This article was first published in the magazine in March, 2019.
With the great weather earlier in the year, it seemed that spring really had sprung.
Unfortunately, that was a signal for my wife, Maxeen, to spring into action.
It was time to clean.
So, it was on with the yellow gloves – she’s bought several pairs in my size.
The rarely used vacuum cleaner attachments have been pulled from the back of the cupboard for me to suck up normally out-of-reach films of dust, cobwebs and bits of detritus.
The step-ladder has been lugged out of the garage, ready for me to ascend to unhook curtains, wash pelmets, detach lampshades.
A bit outmoded?
But these days, isn’t spring cleaning a bit outmoded?
A survey by ao.com suggests that it seems to be dying out.
It revealed that only 36 per cent of adults now do an annual spruce-up, while 41 per cent clean each week or at least monthly to keep on top of such chores. And no wonder. The list of chores seems endless.
Take empty paint cans to rubbish tip.
A more romantically inclined husband might argue that such a programme of cleaning – the refeathering of the nest – is a sign of the ever-lasting bond that he has with his wife.
But the list of chores, neatly written in my wife’s hand and appearing beside my table setting at breakfast each day, is hardly the stuff of romance.
In the UK, the practice of spring cleaning largely came about through the need to refresh rooms after a long, stuffy winter.
It was particularly needed when homes were heated by fireplaces, and kept sealed up to prevent heat from escaping.
Spring was a breath of fresh air, when windows and doors could be opened and the house cleaned of soot and grime.
I’m getting a lot of prodding at the moment
It seems women are more into these spring-cleaning rituals than us menfolk. We men are more apt to let things go unnoticed, allow jobs to slide and get round to doing them one by one only when prodded.
And I’m getting a lot of prodding at the moment. Literally, as it turns out, when later that morning I find myself with an arm up a blocked drainpipe.
Turning the mattress reminds me of other beds. Flower-beds. I need to cut back all the dead stalks from last year – another item to add to the list to be tackled.
I have nothing against having a list of jobs.
In fact, putting one together could even be quite romantic, sitting huddled together at the kitchen table. I suspect, however, it can lead to tensions within a relationship. Bickering; accusations of being lazy, or of having no interest in getting things done.
A regular cleaning schedule
So perhaps a traditional spring clean is not always such a good idea.
The way we carry out our spring cleaning has dramatically changed in comparison to how it was done back in the 1940s.
Thanks to advances in technology, most housework is now carried out with the help of a sophisticated cleaning gadget. Gone is the soap-scrubbing-brush-bucket approach of the past.
In those days it was usual to adopt a regular cleaning schedule, dedicating a specific day to different chores.
Mondays to wash clothes. A day for ironing. One for baking.
Yossi Erdman is Head of Brand at ao.com.
“We are leading busier lives than ever, and many find it easier to fit in their chores in small snippets rather than devote entire days to the task.”
I’m reminded of what he says as I perch precariously on the top of the step-ladder for the sixth time, detaching yet another glass lampshade for washing.
I do tend to procrastinate
I guess the secret is to make sure the tasks to be tackled aren’t too many at any one time.
The number depends on what you think you are capable of accomplishing. I start to fret if there’s more than ten jobs on my spring-cleaning list.
At least Maxeen doesn’t set a time limit on the jobs that need doing. Windows cleaned today. Front door sill revarnished by Friday. Deadlines can create undue pressure on an already busy husband to get everything completed.
I confess I do tend to procrastinate.
Maybe that’s because I’m afraid of having nothing left to do when the tasks have been completed. Leaving jobs undone means I still have something left to attend to, which makes me feel useful and needed.
Possibly this is a male thing, harking back to prehistoric man who, having hung up his cudgel, still had to make himself useful round the cave.
“The Diplodocus has had an accident on the patio again, dear. Do clear it up.”
Studies show a clean home makes people happier, and that cleaning can give a sense of satisfaction that can put you in a good mood.
In that case, it’s time to de-grime.
“Where are the Marigolds, dear?”
For more fantastic features from the pages of “The People’s Friend”, click here.
For more information on the Great September Clean, click here.