The unseasonably warm weather has me itching to rid windows of their grime and give any lurking dust bunnies the heave-ho. But where does that urge to spring clean come from? Is it just societal conditioning or does nature play a role?


The urge to throw off any hints of winter grunge must be partly instinctual, because I didn't grow up in a household that had any spring cleaning ritual, aside from cleaning the storm windows as they came off to be replaced by summer's screens.My mother's house never seemed to need special cleaning beyond the ongoing thorough routine. Mine, however, somehow seems to need a little more luster come springtime, so I've had to develop my own tradition.

We enter each spring armed with brooms and squeegees, bucked up by sunlight and backed by heritage. Several ancient cultures had some kind of cleaning rituals linked to the new season; some even tie their new year to the spring equinox, with cleaning as a rite of spring. Some cleansing rituals are linked to religious observations -- hence the many Passover cleaning checklists you can find online

Part of it may be the nature of the sunlight, now shining its beacon at new angles, spotlighting potentially overlooked crannies. And part of it may be sunlight's effect on our bodies: Seasonal affective disorder sites explain that lessened darkness encourages production of mood-boosting serotonin and diminishes production of sleep-inducing melatonin, so we feel a reborn energy.

Whatever it is, I hope it lasts until I get the garage cleaned out.

What are your spring cleaning rituals? And do you follow the one you grew up with or invent your own?

Illustration by Wes Killingbeck, San Jose Mercury News