Part I: The Reluctant (Irish) Spring Cleaner

Bee Smith, our contributor from across the pond starts a discussion on how (and why!) she spring cleans her home. She and her husband have a beautiful little homestead in Ireland, growing much of their own food. —Editor

I was once listening to a radio broadcast of Irish woman poet Eavan Boland. She told of the story how she was giving poetry workshops to Irish women. At the end of the workshop she asked if they would go home and tell their friends, family and neighbours and tell them that they were poets. “Oh, no, now I couldn’t be doing that,” said one participant with a baleful look, “they’d be thinking I was the kind of woman who never washed her curtains.”

Dear Reader, I am a poet (amongst other things), and I do have a certain amount of self-recognition in that statement. Having come from a family that is very neat, tidy, domestically organised and clean, I seem to have inherited some rogue gene. It’s not that I don’t want to be more like them. 

“The Age of Barns”: A great addition to the reading list.

It’s just that I want to write, read, dog walk and garden a whole lot more. Something has to give. Hence the crud behind my cooker.

But once a year when the sun comes out I acquiesce to the siren call to clean. Perhaps a good spring clear out and clean up is so ancestrally atavistic even my usual sloth is overcome. I am fortunate that I live with a man who also writes and had a mother with rather relaxed domestic standards. This helps to work against my own familial conditioning. But once a year he just had to get out of my way. Most recently, he hides in his office until it seems safe to emerge for him to plaintively ask if it is okay to make a cup of tea.

As I get older, I realise that I need to do the clear out in spurts now. I have little time. My energy is not what it used to be. But finally that ruthless German hausfrau gene cannot be ignored, and rises to the fore. I want to be efficient about this. So – basic tools that will multi-task. Also, basic cleaning materials that can multi-task. Consider me as a sort of Peg Bracken of Housecleaning. I hate to do it but when it’s got to be done it has to be done.

My spring clean essential tools are:

  1. A yard brush, a stiff bristled broom that would normally only be used on the patio.
  2. A long handled fluffy duster
  3. Vinegar
  4. Bicarbonate of soda / washing soda crystals
  5. Rags, plenty of rags
  6. Old newspaper – of which we have way too much
  7. Lemon juice
  8. Plain soap – either liquid or bar soap that can be flaked
  9. Some nice essential oil (lemon, orange, lavender; choose a favorite)
  10. Rubber or latex gloves
  11. A dust pan and a brush
  12. A vacuum cleaner or hand-held Dustbuster-type vacuum

I have particularly fallen in love with the yard brush. You see, we have many hairy pets – both canine and feline. The cats have been casting drifts of hair that waft down the corridor like tumbleweeds on a ghost town street. Although the sheltie has gone to Pet Paradise the replacement dog, a deaf terrier-spitz cross, leaves traces of white hair everywhere. But who could refuse a little deaf puppy in need of a human hearing aid? So we live with the noticeable hair – everywhere.

But the pet hair has disabled virtually every kind of vacuum cleaner we have ever bought. So now, I use the yard brush – which is far more efficient at whisking up the pet hair. A hand-held vac is used for the harder-to-reach areas and upholstery.

Odor-Free Compost Bucket

Odor-Free Compost Bucket Shop Now

Which brings me to rubber or latex gloves. I’ve never been precious about my hands. I use the gloves as the only sure-fire magnet for getting rid of pet hair. Don the gloves, give the upholstery a good rub, and the fur will come up easily. You can create a nice little pile and then drop it into the compost bucket.

That should be enough to at least get you pet owners started. The other items on my must-have list? I’ll tell you how I use them in my next post.

About BeeSmith

I was born in Queens, N.Y, reared in Pennsylvania, did university in Washington, D.C. Then I moved to England for nineteen years. I lived first in London and then in Leeds. After my partner's sister died of cancer in 2000, we decided to take the leap of faith and move to Ireland to be nearer his family. Despite our friends thinking we were mad and feckless, it has worked out. The angels really do look after fools! We have a cottage on an acre and a quarter three miles from where the River Shannon rises. We have a polytunnel to grow vegetables and fruit organically, a small orchard of apple trees and plans to create a sacred space on the land over the rest of our lifetimes. We share our home with two tortoiseshell cats, Zelda and her daughter Zymina, and three dogs, Murphy, Pippin and Cara.