It’s spring! A 1922 edition of the American Falls Press said “three unfailing signs of spring are the circus, the ball game, and the mobilization of soap and brushes in a house cleaning campaign. The first two we are not responsible for…The third we are responsible for”. They referred to a municipal clean up, but I’ll go into that later.
People have been doing spring cleaning for thousands of years. The history of spring cleaning can be traced back to spiritual traditions from around the world and can partly be explained by human biology. Regardless of our spiritual beliefs, we can all profit from the psychological benefits of a good clean up. In Judaism spring cleaning dates back to the liberation of the Israelites from Egypt, now celebrated as the holiday of Passover. To prepare for the Passover one would thoroughly clean the entire home. Ancient Buddhist purification rituals also require washing away bad thoughts and behaviors involving deeply cleaning their homes and temples. In Persian culture, spring cleaning traces back 3,000 years to a tradition called khaneh tekani. This translates to “shaking the house”. It was believed that sweeping up dust and removing clutter from one’s home would prevent ill fortune in the upcoming year.
Spring cleaning may also have something to do with our neurochemistry. During the shorter and darker days of winter we produce more melatonin and are more likely to sleep. As we move into spring we produce less of this and receive a boost of energy from the sun. As we emerge from winter hibernation natural instinct is to open windows and spend time outside soaking up the sunshine of which we’ve been deprived the past months. Once we organize and deep clean our homes, we can focus our attention on enjoying the sunny days ahead.
Psychologists agree that spring cleaning results in improved mood, increased creativity and reduced stress. Clutter overwhelms our senses and reminds us of undone chores and to-do lists. Organizing physical spaces helps us organize our mental space.
But back to the municipal campaign. Every year in both The Aberdeen Times and The American Falls Press for a long, long time, a huge community effort would go towards cleaning up the town. Volunteers would help clean up the park and trim trees/haul off trash. The city would open the dump and on that day only it would be free to take your trash to the dump.
Before the dump there was a trash collection by the city. Alleys would be cleared and cleaned. Everybody would clean up their yards. No more broken junk, no more rusty old cars that haven’t moved for years. Both Aberdeen and American Falls were towns that one could be proud of.
I can’t speak for American Falls, but Aberdeen city claims they just ‘don’t have the money’ – an excuse for anything they don’t want to do. Surely the city has no less money than they did 25 or 50 years ago!? Cleaning up hasn’t gotten more expensive. It was done by the whole community, public buildings needing work would be worked on by volunteers, people were proud of their town. And those who didn’t clean up their yard stuck out like a sore thumb – and nobody wanted that.
Cleanliness is free; tidying up is free; community spirit is also free. Why can’t we get back to having this day? A day where we clean up and get the town looking nice. There are city ordinances on every little thing from how many dogs you can own to who can sell liquor. Why can’t we have ordinances to do with cleanliness? Instead we go after people who are trying to improve their property. We deny curbing and spray weed killer on nicely maintained grass that happens to be on city property, turning it into a weed patch that needs chemicals over and over.
Let’s use some common sense, and put some of our abundance of pride into the communities we live in. As to the circus – that sounds fun, too!
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