Sunday 7 March 2010

Spring cleaning 4

From Spirit of the Home by Jane Alexander (1998) -
 the polar opposite approach to Superwoman's.

Whereas she remembers as a child hearing the sound of a vacuum cleaner every day and the sight of women cleaning the front step, washing the door and polishing the knocker, she acknowledges that 'these days we don't have time or would rather spend what free time we do have in other, more entertaining ways... so cleaning becomes an activity we begrudge.'
But then she asserts that 'these days there is a real need, both physical and spiritual, for clean homes' because it provides a good healthy balance to a life spent 'slumped all day in chairs, staring at computer screens or battling with machinery...

 In Jungian terms, the slog of cleaning can be a powerful way of dealing with the 'shadow'. The shadow being 'the dark side of the psyche.'

All through our daily lives we wobble on a kind of seesaw... Good and evil, positive and negative, light and dark, yin and yang, muck and brass - all need to be balanced. And yet we always strive for the light, for the bright, for success, for the sun. However we cannot live in the light without acknowledging the dark... by physically cleaning, by getting down to earth on our hands and knees, by clearing our muck and mess and dirt, we can keep the shadow balanced... So clean for your soul's sake. Especially if you have had a brilliant day at work and are feeling full of righteous self-satisfaction. Particularly if you have had praise and are feeling proud... Then, and especially then, go for the grimiest jobs in the house so no-one else has to bear the brunt of your shadow asserting itself
So what of the actual cleaning methods? Well this is less about what you do than your attitude while you do it. Certainly she advocates environmentally- friendly products, better still, homemade ones with essential oils added to suit your mood, but mainly this is about acceptance,
'cleaning is as ephemeral as the wind. You can't turn back dust. But don't use that as an excuse not to bother. After all, flowers don't last forever but that doesn't prevent us bring them into the house and enjoying their beauty.

Be serene when you clean.
If that's not possible remember that the poet Stevie Smith apparently composed her best poems while vacuuming.
Perhaps this one from the Poetry Archive, introduced and read 
by the artist herself:


  1. Well, I vacuumed the entire staircase today, from attic to ground floor, and the rooms on the ground floor too. And not only did I not complain, I actually found it quite therapeutic. But there is so much muck in the house at the moment, it was really more like ploughing than hoovering.....

  2. Enough Hoovering surely to have composed a poem of epic proportions.

  3. I am loving this "thread" of yours at the moment.........

    The shadow photograph made me smile............ a LOT!

  4. I'm enjoying the spring cleaning theme, and thank you so much for the diminutive crinoline lady in your earlier post but that is as far as it goes.I have far too much displacement activity going on!

  5. good one ... especially the shadow!

  6. But will asking the house-staff to spring clean the compound balance my shadows or theirs?

    If only theirs, would I be justified in docking their wages?

  7. I'm not , I feel , naturally poetic and so tend to spring-clean to loud Simon and Garfunkel .
    I must try to upgrade my housewifely self .