Spring Cleaning

Spring Cleaning In Russia

Time before Easter and/or May Holidays is time to do Spring cleaning, both at home and in the city. Here is how we, Russians, approach this task.

Spring Cleaning At Home

We do not call it Spring Cleaning – we call it General Cleaning. The difference from everyday cleaning is that it typically involves washing curtains, windows, lamps, crystal ware and a very thorough cleaning of everything at home.

Newspaper for window cleaning

Newspapers were used to polish windows, when cleaning

Window cleaning in Moscow and other big cities (in apartment buildings) is done by people, who live in the apartments, not by the building maintenance, like in the US cities. Our windows open inside, so it is possible to clean them. It is usually a project in itself, especially if you have an old type of windows and have to unscrew and open them and clean two sets of glass. Now it is easy to do though, the modern cleaning products make this process go faster. In Soviet times window cleaning was done with soap and water. To get rid of soap stains on the glass after the glass dried, we used crumbled newspaper sheets, which squeaked terribly. Also, now we can call professional cleaners, who charge $7-10 per window. That really saves time!

Washing curtains usually happens at home (unless the curtains need to be dry cleaned). Again, unlike in the US, most urban households have a washing machine in the apartment. Laundromats in the building is a very foreign concept for us. We do not have dryers though. To dry  washed garments we use special hangers. In a case of curtains we often just hang the wet curtains and let them dry naturally. That works really well if the curtains do not need ironing.

Carpet cleaner

Carpet cleaner, which you use to beat dust out of the carpet

Washing carpets is often done without water. Having a carpet floor is very rare here (we prefer wooden floors), so carpets could be lifted and brought outside to be “cleaned” by beating the carpet with a special stick. That is a “Summer” way of cleaning the carpet, the “Winter” way is to clean the carpet outside, using the fresh snow. Of course many households just use vacuum cleaners and some have washing vacuum cleaners now, so the outdoor cleaning of carpets is not seen as often as before

Apartment cleaning during spring cleaning means that you may move furniture and clean in places, which are not cleaned at the everyday cleaning. You also wash ceiling lamps, which could be a big project if lamps are made from crystal. You dust in the places, which you normally do not get to (such as top of the cupboards).

By the time you are done with the cleaning, you feel “the angels are flying in your apartment”, as my grandmother used to say. But there is another way to strengthen that feeling. De-cluttering your space – that is what really makes the angels fly!

De-cluttering And Storages

In general, de-cluttering is a very foreign concept for us, Russians. Read the first story in my blog – The lifecycle of things – balcony, dacha and the garbage can. Years of deficit in the stores in the Soviet Union made Russian people extremely frugal and stimulated hoarding mentality. Any thing, even if it is old or broken, could have a second life at dacha or could wait until it could be used for spare parts. Thankfully now there is no deficit of anything, so people slowly started to value free space and started to de-clutter their homes.

We are still far from achieving zen, described in Marie Kondo books, we are still sending old clothes to dacha, but we did start throwing away things. I see that from the old TVs at the garbage, from the stacks of books and toys in the entrance of my building and from the changes that are happening in my own apartment. We definitely want to see less clutter in our homes!

Storage RedBoxCo

Storage RedBoxCo, Moscow

And, guess what – there are companies, which capitalize on that wish, while providing us an opportunity to still keep some things. Storages, very similar to the ones in the US, are mushrooming in the big cities. People use storages to keep seasonal clothes and sports equipment there, but also to keep the things they do not use (like the sets of china etc.), but are not ready to part with. I am not an exception – my winter coats go to drycleaning and then in storage in May, together with skis and boots. And, I am thinking that one day I should probably do the de-cluttering of the stuff I have in those 3 square meters of the storage space.

Spring Cleaning At Dacha

Dacha, by V. Gubarev

Dacha, by V. Gubarev – a jocular way to portrait “soviet dacha” phenomena

Once you are done with the Spring cleaning of your home, you can go play, right? No, not at all. May holidays are all about dacha. Thousands of cars stand in long traffic jams, going from the city. There are seas of work and mountains of work there – from the Spring cleaning of the house to the agricultural work in the garden.

Most people do not mind that work though. After sitting in dusty offices, being outside and cultivating your own plot of land is something that Russians really enjoy. Work in the field is hard, but rewards will soon come in shape of berries, fruit and vegetables. People also enjoy May holidays at dachas because of the warm weather and the first bbq event of the year, called shashlyki.

Spring Cleaning In The City – Subbotnik

But wait – we forgot to mention the Spring cleaning of the city! That happens even before you start cleaning your own home, in the last decade of April. And, again, it is not called “Spring cleaning”. It is also not called General cleaning! It is called – Subbotnik, from the word subbota (Saturday).

Lenin and the wooden log

Lenin at Subbotnik

Subbotnik is a volunteer day of work for public goodwill. This initiative originated in 1919 and is one of really positive legacies of the Soviet Union. When it started, Soviet Republic was very young and poor and could really use the free workforce. Leaders of the country also participated in that work and, image of Lenin, carrying a wooden log with comrades at one of those events, was used later in propaganda hundreds of thousands of times. By the 70s subbotniki became mandatory, which kind of took the fun out of the event. Anyway these initiatives were always useful for the cities.

I very much like the modern trend – in Moscow subbotniki are very popular now. All the parks invite young people to participate via social media. Organisers not only provide all the tools, but also provide ambiance (live music) and/or snacks and beverages. The city is almost spotless now at any time, but it is good that citizens can spend one day a year making the city more beautiful as it creates a stronger bond between the city and people.

We are ready for the most gorgeous time – late Spring and Summer. Our homes, dachas and cities are waiting for play time and waiting for you to visit us! Meanwhile, please share your tips and stories about Spring cleaning!

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  • David Roddis - 4 years ago

    Subbotnik – this is a very good idea! It’s good for people to contribute to society and not just feel that everything is always provided for them – then you feel invested in your city and more proud of it, too, and you get to know your fellow citizens. I wish we could have something like this! – DR