Thanks to today’s heating systems and other modern-day conveniences, spring cleaning is not the ritual it once was. As Cheryl Mendelson explains in her book “Home Comforts: The Art & Science of Keeping House,” that custom of a semiannual “massive, whole-house deep cleaning” evolved in the days when people heated and lighted their homes with wood, oil, gas, kerosene and candles – all of which left interior surfaces coated with grease and grime.
People still throw open the windows and spring-clean their homes in varying degrees, of course, with many finding great satisfaction in the results – if not the actual process.
But in addition to cleaning and clearing out, making a few changes in decor can also feel like a breath of fresh air. All it takes is one sunny afternoon and a few hours around the house to spot such winter-weary items as trashed doormats and sad-looking candles – and decide to do something about them.
Just as we can’t wait to slip into our spring clothes, making certain changes in our home decor simply makes us feel good.
Years ago a New York designer told me she likes to replace heavy bedding and colored sheets with white sheets and cotton blankets during the warm months. She also suggested switching to white bath towels and covering dark wood tables with white linen cloths to lighten things up this time of year.
Through the years, other people have told me they roll up Oriental rugs for the summer months. Take down heavy draperies, leaving up only the sheers. Treat themselves to healthy houseplants and fresh flowers. And pack away rustic-looking pottery, dark candles, thick blanket throws, excessive knickknacks – and those outdated holiday catalogs!
Washing windows – and those awful post-winter window sills – and putting up screens top the to-do list for many people. Is there anyone who is yet to throw open their windows for some fresh air?
At our house, some of our spring rituals are really quite simple. Packing away the snowman mug. Rolling up the carpet runner in the kitchen. Bringing out the tall glass vase that will hold fresh gladioli from the farmers’ market from time to time.
The skewers have already come out for summer grilling, the awning will go up any day now, and I have my eye out for some new summer place mats. Maybe something in a bright color, bold stripe or floral.
And while I hardly have the time or even the need to launch a massive top-to-bottom spring cleaning – washing, waxing, polishing, scouring, emptying and putting back everything in sight over the course of a couple of days – I do think about Mendelson’s written words: “Try it once before your rule it out.”
Maybe packing away the snowman mug could be a good place to start?