Come late March/early April, and it's almost instinctual. We pull out the sofa to sweep out those dustballs, we toss the drapes in the washer, and we scourer every corner of the kitchen floor. We feel the days growing longer, and then we feel the need to get to clean. But why?
The Origin of Spring Cleaning
Some evidence points to Middle Eastern traditions as the source for our spring cleaning habits. In Iran and neighboring countries, the Persian new year, Nowruz, is celebrated during the spring equinox. And spring cleaning, or Khāne-takānī as it's known in Farsi, precedes this over 3,000 year old secular holiday. Celebrants dust out rugs, paint the house, and clean every corner to prepare for the new year and to welcome good luck into their homes.
In Judaism a similar practice is performed as a part of Passover, the holiday commemorating the Jews' escape from Egypt. Practitioners of the holiday cannot eat leavened bread for the seven (in Israel) or eight days (everywhere else) of Passover. During the two week period, no leavened bread is to be in the house, not even a crumb. To guarantee strict obedience to this rule, the house is vigorously cleaned, leaving no corner unchecked or crumb left behind.
A Look Further East
Middle Eastern traditions aren't the only area from where the practice of spring cleaning may derive. In China, the celebration of the Chinese New Year is also preceded by a round of generous house cleaning. After the New Year, it's believed that cleaning your house will sweep out any good luck that came during the new year festivities. So to prepare to keep all that good luck, a thorough cleaning pre-new year is a must.
Or Maybe It's Biological
But maybe the true origin of our love for spring cleaning comes from within us. Spring marks the beginning of longer days, which means more sun. More sun leads to less melatonin production. Melatonin keeps us feeling sleepy and lethargic. Maybe spring breaks us out of our lazy winter habits and kickstarts our better springtime habits, like spring cleaning.
Sunlight is also linked to our bodies synthesis of Vitamin D. This crucial vitamin is linked to just about everything we could want it to do, including our sense of happiness. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to depression and most people are deficient during the dark days of winter.
Spring into a Fresh Start
Cleaning and the feeling of successfully accomplishing a task can be rewarding, if not pleasurable. Getting things to look spick and span, and having every last thing in its place provides a sense of control and freedom.
As the Persians, Jews, and Chinese know, a clean house can feel like a fresh start, and there really isn't a better time for a fresh start than the beginning of spring.