In Poland it’s difficult to consider Lent and preparations for Wielkanoc (Easter), without also thinking of the annual ‘spring clean’ at home. The aim is indeed for your house to gleam with cleanliness; it is also symbolic of disposing of winter evils, illnesses and unhappinesses which may have gathered in our homes. It’s akin to the soul cleansing that is a key element of Lenten contemplation.
Our ancestors, particularly in villages would have put their hearts and souls into these preparations for the great festival of the Lord’s Resurrection. Cottages were whitewashed, gardens were tidied and paths filled with sand. Orchards were filled with wardrobes and beds as floors were scrubbed and walls repainted. Once clean, the walls were decorated with wycinanki (paper cut-outs) or straw pająki (chandeliers) made of coloured paper and straw from the fields , also known in the north east as a kierec.
So how can we set about doing a traditional Lenten clean to bring order into our lives and strengthen optimism? It’s a pretty thorough task which over half of all Poles will be starting soon – in a survey (TNS survey 2015) four years ago, 58% were going to clean windows, 52% scrub the floors, 50% wash the net curtains and others planned to beat the carpets, air the linen and tidy out wardrobes. Here’s a plan I found from a Polish site, for your Lenten ablutions (www.kasanaobcasach.pl). It’s pretty hardcore but I suspect very satisfying. Suggestion: don’t do it on your own, include the whole family and include breaks for treats and snacks.
Three weeks to go
Windows seem to be the biggest sinners that need cleansing for Poles, so start from the living room, bedroom and children’s rooms. Clean the windows, change the curtains and wash nets. Review contents of wardrobes. Give away unused clothes, pack away winter clothing in boxes and unpack spring and summer ones. Wash window and door frames, skirting boards, vacuum cabinets and shelves. Don’t forget the hard to reach places – under beds and sofas. Finish by thoroughly vacuuming the carpets and wash floors. Phew! – I think this is definitely more than a week’s work!
Two weeks to go
Now take care of the kitchen and bathroom. Review makeup and bath products, throwing away those out of date or unused for a long time. Thoroughly wash the shower tray, toilet bowl, washbasin and fittings. Clean out the cupboard under the sink. Don’t forget the mirror and behind the toilet. After having released all the dust, wash the floor and bathroom rugs. In the kitchen, wash the top cabinets and the insides. Review your tableware and storage products. Then clean the windows and kitchen equipment: oven, fridge, microwave, toaster and any other devices. Wipe the table tops, table and chairs. At the end, sweep and wash the floor. Clean the tiles here and in the bathroom with a window cleaner. Wow! At this point I think I’ll be feeling very pleased with myself.
One week to go
Finish in the hall. Clean the wardrobe if you have one, wipe the dust from shelves and clean hangers. Hide winter boots (we hope they won’t be needed), and bring out spring shoes in their place. Sweep the floor thoroughly and wash. Clean the hall mirror. Remember to wipe the entrance door and all internal doors with a wet cloth. Sweep the outside step and drive. Now there’s only (!) ordinary weekly cleaning left, dusting and vacuuming before the final celebration with the family.
Three P Principle
If you get the urge to tackle your possessions, use the Polish Three P principle. It’s much better than the Marie Kondo approach which I reviewed last year . When considering what to keep, leave only those things that meet one of three conditions: piękne (beautiful), pamiątkowe (commemorative) and przydatne (useful) —as opposed to Marie’s joyful items – not so good for Poles who like to keep memories. Give them away, they might be someone else’s beautiful. If you need to be less radical straight away, have three boxes – throw, give away, decide later, then give the box another chance four weeks later.
And when you can boast to friends about a shiny house, it’s time to decorate. Walk through your house or flat from the front door and see where you can add the unique atmosphere of Easter. A few sprigs of blossom in the entrance, a vase with pussy willow, a linen tablecloth with easter eggs and tulips. You’re done! Let me know how you get on!