Press-Republican

April 1, 2013

Seniors share memories of spring cleaning

SUSAN TOBIAS
Press-Republican

PLATTSBURGH — As winter becomes a memory and thoughts of warmer weather come to mind, many people also think about spring cleaning.

Even though we have electric vacuum cleaners and robotic sweepers, there’s no magic wand to wave that will take down winter’s dust webs and wash the windows and walls.

Talk to seniors about spring cleaning, and the older they are, the more laborious are their memories of that spring ritual.

At Lake Forest Senior Living Community, Nancy Collin, 87; Mary Lue Gould, 78; Betty Gregory, 92; and Joan Clarke, 84, shared a variety of memories, from washing curtains to wallpapering to changing the bedspread each spring.

STRETCHER

“We always had summer and winter curtains,” Mary Lue said. “The lace curtains would come down, be washed, and then my mother would stretch them on the curtain stretcher while they were still wet. 

“They never needed ironing. It was also my job as a kid to wash and clean the front and back porches.”

Betty said that at her house it was like each room was turned inside out.

“Most of our walls were wallpapered back then,” she remembered. “My mother’s sister would come to help. They would wallpaper every room before they were done, including some of the ceilings. I can still see them walking from chair to chair, with their hands over their heads, holding the wallpaper to the ceiling, and laughing all the time. 

“They made their own wallpaper paste, too.”

UNIQUE WINTER CURTAINS

Spring cleaning can also mean just moving a few things around.

“I don’t say I spring clean but I change things around,” Nancy said.  “I have a beautiful heavy bedspread that was my grandmother’s. That’s on my bed all winter.

“When I think spring is coming, I take it off and put on my summer spread. I’m thinking it may come off by April 1st this year. 

“We’ll see.”

She also has a unique set of winter curtains that she made from felt that covered the rollers at the old Diamond National plant, where her husband worked. They are warm and heavy and keep out the cold winter winds.

AIRING OUT RUGS

Joan remembers taking up small area rugs and hanging them out for a good airing on the clothesline, and washing windows at both home and camp.

“I’m a birder, so not only did we spring clean our home in New Jersey and camp in the Adirondacks, but we cleaned out all the birdhouses in the yard so the birds would have a clean place to build new nests,” she said.

Betty remembers how puffy and beautiful feather-tick mattresses were. She described sinking down in the feathers and said she slept very well.

“We also had to drag them outside every spring and shake the feathers so they would fluff up,” she said. “Then we’d lay them on the grass and turn them over and over on a sunny day.”

CLEANING SOLUTION

Water and vinegar seemed to be the consensus for washing windows, and newspapers worked for a spotless drying job. 

“We used cloth diapers back then, too, and when they were worn out, they made the best rags for cleaning and dusting,” Mary Lue said.

Cleaning wasn’t limited to windows, walls and rugs. Wood-stove pipes came down and were “tamped,” Betty remembers. 

Mary Lue’s in-laws removed their small stove completely from the house and stored it for the summer months. 

Nancy enjoys her more relaxed lifestyle at Lake Forest, but it does have its drawbacks.

“It’s a mixed blessing to live at Lake Forest. It’s beautiful, but I miss having the extra room to have family stay with me.” 

Asked if they missed those spring cleaning days when they lived in their homes, there was a resounding “no.”

“It’s wonderful here,” said Joan. “The staff does the cleaning. I’ve only used my stove to boil water once since I came here.”

“If we don’t want to cook or clean, we don’t have to. It’s all done for us, from a cup of coffee to meals and beyond. I don’t miss spring cleaning at all.”

Email Susan Tobias: stobias@pressrepublican.com

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FACEBOOK FEEDBACK

We asked Press-Republican Facebook readers what they do for spring cleaning. Here is a sampling of responses:

Jennifer Chasalow VanBenschoten: "Still too cold for us to get into our spring cleaning, but we open all the windows, move the furniture, clean the floors, the furniture, scrub down the windows ... We give our home a bath from the inside out!"

Tiffany Taylor: "I'm going to be starting mine very soon. I do the floors, the walls, the windows, I wash EVERYTHING that can be washed, and I organize and declutter. I do it room by room and then I do my car inside and out. It feels good to have everything all clean and fresh and organized! I do mine and my parents' house."

Carol Russell: "Walls, floors, cupboards, everything hung on the clothes line, many things."

Jaime Whittaker: "I pretty much do little things around the house every day all year round so that I don't need to do 'spring cleaning' ... I feel like if I just did these things in the spring my house would be nasty."

Tammy Whitty-Brown: "The first real warm spring day, I open all the windows and roll up the oriental rug in the living room, take it out and beat it, move the furniture and do a thorough cleaning of the house. Windows get washed inside and out and I go through and get rid of anything I haven't used in a year or so. If it is in good shape, it goes to the Salvation Army."

Tammy Cole: "I go through winter clothes, wash walls, pictures, windows. Anything that has to do with winter goes, for a new start of spring and summer. whoop whoop ... .

Have a great spring."