Ruby Bayan is a freelance writer who likes to share her simple joys.

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Spring Cleaning With Friends

by Ruby Bayan

It was in September last year, after Mike and I signed the annual renewal contract for our apartment unit, when I first heard the term "spring cleaning". I knew he wasn't talking about mattress springs because our bed was new, so I assumed it had something to do with the spring season.

There's no such season-specific cleaning where I came from; in the Philippines, we only have two seasons: dry and rainy. And we certainly don't associate any type of house cleaning with either of them. So, when Mike suggested we do spring cleaning, I boldly asked for clarification, "But, isn't it supposed to be Fall right now?" He tried to be patient, and explained...

Mike in Florida

As renewing residents of our apartment complex in Orlando, we were entitled to a free carpet cleaning service. That meant that on a specific day, a carpet cleaning company will come over to "steam-clean and quick-dry" the whole place. Which also meant that we would have to lift practically everything off the carpet. Mike said this would be the perfect time to do some spring cleaning.

Seeing my eyebrows still in the what-exactly-do-you-mean posture, he continued to explain that for most parts of the United States, people clean out their homes and premises in the months of April and May -- when the snow has melted, and it's sunny and breezy enough to wash the windows, and clean the mess that autumn and winter had left on the yard. This is also the time they shampoo the carpet, scrub the tiles, rearrange the closets, and take out all the "junk" that had accumulated the past year. Most people hold garage sales afterwards.

For us in the Sunshine State, however, "spring cleaning" had taken on a season-less meaning -- it didn't mean we had to do it in spring, it just meant we had to do a top-to-bottom general cleaning. Okay, so I understood. Mike heaved a sigh of relief, and we went ahead with our spring cleaning in September.

Ron in Illinois

Last week, I opened an online chat with Ron, a Filipino friend in Chicago. Curiously he mentioned that he had just been doing some spring cleaning, which is mostly yard work (raking left-over autumn leaves buried by the snow) and getting rid of stuff he couldn't get rid of in winter, like an old washing machine.

What I found interesting was, part of Ron's yearly spring cleaning ritual was planting a new garden, and scrubbing down his golf clubs and spikes -- chores he never had to associate with the seasons while he was in the Philippines. We had to end our chat because he couldn't wait to play golf, though he said he had to buy some flowering plants first.

Lucy in Oregon

Well, spring must really be in the air because yesterday, when I talked to Lucy (also from the Philippines, who had recently moved into a big new home in the rainy State of Oregon), she was busy working out her spring cleaning schedule. She said they're getting ready to clean out the kitchen cabinets and pantry, stash the winter clothes and bring out the spring/summer wear, sort the children's toys (discard or keep), wash the windows, and clean-up the garage.

Lucy said that spring cleaning has become important to her family in Oregon because, unlike in tropical Philippines, they get cooped up during the winter months. She said, "We have to air all the rooms, and let the sunshine do the disinfecting -- so allergies don't set in." She hopes that there will be two weekends in April when it doesn't rain.

Renie in Missouri

But then there's my other friend, Renie, who's taking care of a huge house and acres of woods in Missouri. Since she was so glad that spring has finally sprung, I went ahead and asked her how she does her spring cleaning. Candidly, she said, "I don't do spring cleaning!"

That, I didn't expect. So, I prodded, "Isn't spring cleaning important to you? I mean, everybody does spring cleaning, right? And you did have a snowy winter, right?"

"Yeah, but, well, it depends," she answered. "If the weather is beautiful, and nature is calling me outdoors, it isn't important at all. But if I'm going to have company in a day or so, then it's very important!"

"So, what do you do?"

"I open the windows and let in lots of fresh air. Then I open more windows and let in more fresh air! Then, maybe I'll dust a bit, and wash some dishes, and put a bouquet of wildflowers on the table. Well, I try not to let the house get so bad that it actually needs spring cleaning."

Spring in the Air

With input from Mike, Ron, Lucy, and Renie, I finally figured out what spring cleaning was really all about. It's some amount of cleaning, usually done in spring (anytime if you're in Florida), involving diverse activities from opening windows to scrubbing golf clubs, from cleaning out the pantry to tossing out old appliances, and from planting a new garden to putting a bouquet of wildflowers on the table.

Now my next question was, what's a "spring chicken"?

[First published at, 2000]


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