Spring Cleaning: Busting Tradition

Trading Chores For Dreams

Mar 31, 2011 by

I hate to clean. And it’s that time of year again when millions of women participate in the annual rite of Spring Cleaning.

Handed down from mothers to daughters, this tradition is steeped in the symbolism of beginning anew after a long winter, where the entire house gets cleaned, sorted and rearranged from top to bottom.

I’ve always envied men who seemed to be exempt from this tradition, although I have witnessed a husband or two in their garages, reorganizing their manly tools, getting their farm toys ready for yard work, dusting off the barbecue and perhaps even washing the car.

My mom is one of those women who loves to clean and, even though she’s in her 80’s now, she still looks forward to spring cleaning every year. I remember witnessing her version of this ritual as a child, which included taking everything out of the kitchen cupboards and drawers and washing all the dishes and silverware (by hand since she’s never owned a dishwasher).

I never understood the point of washing things that were already clean. Then she’d wash the walls and polish the kitchen floor on her hands and knees till it sparkled. Matresses got flipped, windows washed inside and out, and most of the furniture in the house would get rearranged which was always a traumatic experience for the housecats (and my dad), who preferred everything to stay the same.

Mom tried her best to instill an appreciation for spring cleaning in me, but for some reason I just never connected with the concept. As I mentioned before: I hate to clean, which is why I sometimes wonder if the stork delivered me to the wrong household. I simply didn’t inherit my mom’s genes for good housekeeping.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a clean living space, and I spent years trying to be like my Mom and thinking I must be somehow flawed as a woman if I couldn’t “keep up a house”. (Wow, did that sound “1950’s” or what?) But by my mid-thirties, I was beginning to admit things about myself that ran contrary to the way I was brought up.

One of those things was that I was an artist and not at home in the corporate world, which prompted a radical change of career. And the other thing was, I do not take any enjoyment whatsoever in mopping and dusting and rearranging the furniture.

So I gave up the charade of being the “perfect housekeeper” and  hired my first cleaning woman.

I’ll never forget her expression as she entered my small Montreal apartment. “C’est tout?” (Is that all there is?), she said as she looked around the room. ” Il n’y a pas d’autres étages?” (You don’t have another floor?)

I assured her that my little 3½ was indeed all there is. I could’ve sworn I caught her rolling her eyes in disbelief, but I can tell you this – I had the best day of my life. I went out and let her get right down to work and when I returned, the place was clean and fresh and spotless. It would’ve taken me a week to do all that cleaning. She did it in 4 hours.

Here’s the important part: This freed me up to do more of the things I’m much better at, like cooking extravagant meals and creating artwork and working on cultural projects that are near and dear to my heart. That cleaning woman was a huge step towards my living with more integrity.

Mom never understood this, but now that’s she’s older, I’ve finally convinced her to take on a cleaning professional of her own – although she still insists on doing most things herself. As a matter of fact, the first couple of times the woman came, Mom would mop and dust and vaccuum prior to her arrival!

I remember a conversation I once had with one of my mom’s friends, who is also in her 80’s. She told me a story of when she was newly married and her French-Canadian mother had come over while she was washing down the walls. After watching her work for a while, her mom reached over and gently took the cleaning rag out of her hand. “C’est pas nécessaire.” (That’s not necessary), she said.

“What do you mean?” replied my mom’s friend. “I watched you wash the walls of our house as a child!”

“C’est pas nécessaire.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

About the Author

Serena Kovalosky Has Written 10 Articles For Us!

Serena Kovalosky left an 18-year corporate career in the travel industry in search of a more creative lifestyle. Establishing herself as a successful professional sculptor, Serena now travels with the eye of an artist, exploring artists' studios, eclectic restaurants and cultural gems off the beaten path, chronicling her discoveries and sharing stories of the creative people she meets along the way.
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  1. polli

    I am also missing the “cleaning gene”. Spring just means there’s more sunlight to see the dust that the dark stormy days of winter hides. I’ve seen magazine covers touting the joys of spring cleaning. I don’t buy those. I have a sister who cleans incessantly when stressed. Not me. I’m a firm believer in keeping doors of messy rooms closed. I just got the name of a cleaning service in the area several friends use and like- absolutely can’t wait! I promise I will not feel guilt and I know wherever she is my Mom would totally understand!

  2. Spring Cleaning: Sorry but I prefer to hire someone to do this, so I can do what I do best – create! http://bit.ly/ePGzGs


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