Spring Cleaning Tops the Chore List

A reader recalls the ritual of spring cleaning, using old-fashioned equipment like a washtub and clothesline.

| March/April 2014

  • An illustration of a woman cleaning the area carpet with a carpet beater as part of her spring cleaning chores.
    Illustration by Brian Orr

Spring cleaning just isn’t what it used to be. With all the modern conveniences and appliances available these days, a person can clean the house just about any time the notion strikes.

Back in the “good old days,” though, it was much more difficult to keep your house clean. But, after the dark, dreary days of winter, the spring sunshine would show up and reveal the dusty corners in the house — and that meant the time had come for a thorough house cleaning.

This involved a lot of hard work in those days. First the furniture had to be moved to one side of the room, and then the area carpets were rolled up and hauled outside. There they were hung up so the dust could be knocked out of them with a carpet beater. This was always Mom’s job. My sister and I were given the job of dusting the furniture and knickknacks inside, and Dad stayed as far out of the way as possible, although he did help move the heavy stuff.

After everything was dusted, the hardwood floors were swept, scrubbed and then waxed. Once the floors were dry, the carpets were carried back inside and the furniture was moved back into place. Everything was placed back exactly where it had been; my mom didn’t like any big changes.

Exhausted by the time we accomplished all of this, we called it a day. It was one of the few times when Mom didn’t cook, but instead served us sandwiches.

While the work for that day was done, the chore of spring cleaning was far from over. The next task involved emptying the kitchen cabinets so the shelves could be washed, only to do everything in reverse once the shelves were clean and dry.

Curtains were taken down, washed by hand in a washtub, hung on the clothesline to dry, and then ironed before being hung up again. Every window in the house was washed until it sparkled. Sheets were washed and hung outside to dry, and although the down comforters couldn’t be washed, they were hung on the clothesline to air out any dust they held.

I know there were other chores involved in the process that I’m forgetting, but, in short, the dirt, dust and cobwebs lingering in the nooks and crannies were tackled until everything was spotless.

We were all glad when the ordeal was over — especially my dad.

Coffeyville, Kansas

Read more stories about spring chores in Heart of the Home: Spring Activities.



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