Column: Spring cleaning determined more by clutter than season

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 3, 2005

In Nebraska, from whence I hail, spring came to us about two weeks earlier than it does in Minnesota. With it came that demanding ordeal, spring house cleaning. If you had stoves, rather than central heating, and until I was about nine years old we did, you had to take them down.

Sounds simple? Never. First you had to lay down newspapers all over the floor so falling soot wouldn’t be all over the place. You usually dampened the top newspaper so the soot wouldn’t scatter.

The stove pipes were carefully removed and emptied into large sacks. Holes through which the pipes had been were carefully brushed out, then covered with brass bound covers which framed scenes to brighten up the room.

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The scenes were usually rural portraying very green meadows peopled with flocks of fleecy lambs and, perhaps, a little boy and girl, young enough to run about holding hands without suggesting anything less innocent.

Floors were waxed, windows washed, heavy draperies were sent to the cleaners and clean starched cotton curtains put up for the summer. In some homes carpets were removed after being carefully cleaned. They were then rolled in heavy brown paper, with plenty of moth balls and stored in a storeroom for the summer. In some homes upholstered chairs were covered with cotton covers for the summer.

In a little housekeeping book printed in 1909, a chapter entitled “Sweeping Day” says that “occasionally, perhaps once a year, table salt may be freely scattered over a carpet and swept off; this is a good cleaner if it is dampened very slightly.”

The chapter warns against using this method on delicate colors or on carpets with cream-colored

grounds, &uot;as all moist substances mixed with dirt give a perceptibly grimy appearance to anything that they come in contact with.&uot;

It’s pointed out that sweeping a room properly “takes time and management and strength; so if any of these prerequisites are lacking, it would be better for the sweeper merely to brush up the apartment temporarily and wait for the right conditions to appear.”

I remember that my grandmother used to bring in to the living room and dining room a bucket of snow into which she dipped her broom before sweeping the rugs. The snow brightened the rugs, she maintained, and made the room smell fresh.

By time I was six or seven, we had an electric vacuum sweeper which I gloried in pushing. No one wanted me to push it because in that era it was thought that if an electric sweeper were not kept in constant motion it might &uot;gather energy,&uot; and explode.

I grew up in a family, though, that felt one should not be taught to be afraid of anything, so they

humored me.

Almost, that is. All the time I was sweeping, an adult member of the family hovered in my vicinity with cries of “Keep it moving, honey, don’t slow down.”

They always directed the way I ate an ice-cream cone, too. “Bite off this side honey, a piece of ice-cream is about to fall off.”

I’ve never needed a psychologist to tell me why, when given too much advice, I tend to resist by fang and claw.

As for spring house cleaning, I love spring, but have learned to recognize the need for cleaning the house not by season but by how many papers and other objects that I can’t seem able to find.

(Love Cruikshank is an Albert Lea resident. Her column runs Thursday.)