It's the time of year when we feel a need to take a closer look at our surroundings and to beautify those surroundings by renewing-cleaning-organizing and repairing all around us in our homes and yards. Some approach this with eagerness, others with dread, and still others with--well, you can fill in the blank. But spring cleaning is really never a one time experience, it is really an ongoing day to day blessing as we take care of the simple daily tasks of life to the best of our abilities. And as we do so it brings to ourselves and others comfort and security.
Out in the world there is such a jumble of chaotic voices trying to confuse us on the topic of homekeeping and its worth. I find it fascinating that since the beginning of time it is a built-in instinct to provide shelter for ourselves. To create a home to come home to. A place of refuge, of rest, of replenishment. A place to feel loved and protected and cared for. After all, the only reason we go out into the world to work is so that we can provide for our nests.
Samuel Johnson said: "To be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition, the end to which every enterprise and labour tends. . . . " (The Rambler, Nov. 10, 1750)
It is a privilege to be the Keeper of the home, to be the one to provide comfort and love for those who live there. In Ancient Roman religion and mythology there is Janus the god of beginnings and transitions, also of gates, doors and doorways, endings and time. Most often he is depicted as having two heads, facing opposite directions. Symbolically they look simultaneously into the future and the past, back at the last year and forward at the new.
We are like gatekeepers-this says much more than just guarding a doorway--it involves guarding with a steady watch care over our families comings and goings and helping them to adulthood and beyond.
When I think of Spring cleaning what comes to mind is, "The Classics." Books like; Eight Cousins, Jane Eyre, Mrs. Careys Chickens, Swiss Family Robinson, The Three Little Pigs, Little House in the Big Woods, Anne of Green Gables and many more. They are wonderful stories and wound into the fabric of their lives is their family beginnings their homekeeping and home beautifying and the every day joys and cares of building a home life. The sweeping, the dusting the polishing the washing and mending, the cooking, the sewing and other refined skills they have learned.
Once we understand its grand importance in our lives of caring for our homes and providing the best life we can in between its walls, we will be inspired to do the little dailies that maintain a happy balanced home. This is true for whatever and wherever we call home.
When I was about 11 years old I received the book Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott as a gift from a good friend of our family. She knew how much I loved to read and it was one of my first books that was just all mine. I devoured it quickly and went on to read it over 50 times in the next few years. I loved its cozy homeyness and the little lessons taught on work , health and sacrifice.
Here is one of those little lessons.
Rose is speaking to her Uncle Alec who is now her guardian since her father's passing:
"I've been trying to decide what trade I would learn, and I want you to advise me. I haven't any talent or any especial taste that I can see, and that is why I can't decide, Uncle. So I think it would be a good plan to pick up some very useful business and learn it..."
Uncle Alec replies: "Well, now, there is one very excellent, necessary, and womanly accomplishment that no girl should be without, for it is a help to rich and poor, and the comfort of families depends upon it. This fine talent is neglected nowadays and considered old-fashioned, which is a sad mistake and one that I don't mean to make in bringing up my girl. It should be a part of every girl's education,..."
"Oh, what is it? cried Rose eagerly..."
"Is that an accomplishment? asked Rose, while her face fell..."
"Yes, it is one of the most beautiful as well as useful of all the arts a woman can learn. ...one that makes many people happy and comfortable, and home the sweetest place in the world. ...it is a fact that I had rather see you a good housekeeper than the greatest belle in the city. It need not interfere with any talent you may possess, but it is a necessary part of your training, and I hope that you will set about it at once, now that you are well and strong."
This advice from Uncle Alec stirs something in Rose and she sets in right away to begin to learn to keep a home with Aunt Plenty as personal mentor, whom all admire. So, I think the first part of Spring cleaning or any cleaning begins with a pleasant and grateful attitude of the privilege that we have a home or apartment or hut to take care of, to put our stamp on.
From there we can use an endless array of homekeeping how-to books as references if we are not as lucky as Rose was in having an Aunt Plenty to personally mentor us in these tasks.