My grandmother used to say, "Darling, we all have our own standards of slovenliness and are faintly appalled by everyone else's.". My grandmother, I hasten to add, was not the best of housekeepers. When she died, my mother and I spent days painstakingly washing her incredible collection of valuable antique china all of which had a thick yellow patina from years of being confined in the same room as a smoker. And as the true colours of the beautiful pieces came through the smoke haze I felt an incredible sense of wonder and satisfaction (and moral superiority over my darling but distracted grandmother) .
Just before Christmas I became "differently employed" - the choice was not entirely mine but finding myself at home (and now devoted to a full time writing career), I began to NOTICE that my own standard of slovenliness had definitely declined in the years I had been working. I have a wonderful cleaning lady who comes once a fortnight and manages in her 3 short hours to at least keep the house sanitary but the dust had accumulated on my collection of antique china (inherited from my grandmother) and under the furniture I did not have so much dust bunnies as dust elephants. I had simply stopped noticing.
In a pre-Christmas frenzy I spring-cleaned the living room (apparently a must before erecting the Christmas tree) and discussed the "need for clean" with friends on Facebook and why it particularly afflicts some of us (I will happily concede there are people out there to whom this will mean nothing) around the New Year. My Scottish friend claims "means you'll never be able to keep your house clean for the next year" and it got me thinking back to my time in Singapore.
The same frenetic "need to clean" afflicted my Chinese friends as Chinese New Year approached. A dirty house before New Year meant that the negative qi would stay around and make your life a misery for the rest of the year and I am sure if you were to scratch the surface of any culture you will find the urge to "spring clean" occurs at some point in the year.
Of course in the northern European culture, spring cleaning was a necessity. One can only imagine what state ye olde castle was in after a winter. Those nice fresh summer rushes laid down in autumn would be rank - man and beast were indiscriminate about where they relieved themselves, throw in rotting food among the rotting rushes and it makes my dust elephants look positively benign.
But I do think the Chinese are on to something - they call it 'feng shui' (the ancient Chinese laws of aesthetics). For a very good reason (a long story to do with a painting of a tiger) which I should make the subject of another blog, I am a FIRM BELIEVER in the principles of feng shui and among them is the belief in the negative energies generated by clutter (and dust). So whether you are Scottish or Chinese, the principle is the same, at some point in the year (whether it is the start of a new year or spring) the negative energies that have accumulated in the corners of your home need to be expelled in order for you to have a prosperous year. (For some handy home hints on on dealing with your troublesome negative qi click here)
Well I'm not sure this year will be too prosperous (owing to a lack of a job) but I know I am feeling better for the slow (room by room) cleansing my poor neglected home is getting. Then there are the cupboards and book shelves... and quite frankly, when did I ever have time to work? Is this what they mean by a "woman's work is never done"?
What are your thoughts...?
(PS...When I typed "medieval househeeping" into Google, I got a gazillion sites on medieval torture!)