Homes Around the World

8 Cleaning Methods and Traditions From Around the World

published Aug 12, 2022
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Credit: Jessica Rapp

Many cultures from around the world have their own traditions when it comes to cleaning. Some believe in having a fresh start to the new year, creating annual rituals, cleaning in the springtime, or having regular cleanups and decluttering sessions.

Here are eight cleaning and organizing methods and traditions used around the globe that might inspire you to clean in a new way.

Feng Shui

Feng shui is an ancient Chinese art that’s all about creating balance and harmony in your home. This is achieved through arranging your things correctly and bringing in the right items. Decluttering is a major factor in this since clutter is viewed as negative energy.

Swedish Death Cleaning

It sounds morbid, yes, but there’s actually a nice sentiment behind Swedish Death Cleaning. In Swedish, döstädning in which “dö” means “death” and “städning” means “cleaning,” represents the idea of eliminating unnecessary items as you get older so that you aren’t leaving behind things for others to deal with. It’s about preparing your home for what’s to come so that no one is tasked with the upheaval of removing your items while grieving your loss. Margareta Magnusson recommends in her book “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning” to give away your items throughout your years instead of tossing them away at the end.

New Year’s Cleaning

For many cultures, the new year signals a new beginning — and with that comes the preparation for it. Some places have a to-do list of things that have to happen before the new year festivities can begin while others have plans throughout the celebration. Here are just some ways different countries clean and prepare for the new year.

Lunar New Year — China and Vietnam

Before you can partake in the Lunar New Year celebrations — with all the delicious foods, fun games, and lì xì or lì shì, little red envelopes of money — you have to deep-clean your home. Sweep, dust, mop, and vacuum all in the name of setting yourself up for a good year ahead. Remember that it has to be done before the new year, not during. Cleaning on the day of is forbidden. (You can’t even take out the trash!) Doing so means you’re getting rid of any good luck that’s arrived at the start of the new year.

Songkran in Thailand

As one of the biggest festivals in Thailand, Songkran is a cause for celebration. It’s a three-day national holiday that observes the new year. During Songkran, people partake in many ancient traditions. According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand, on the first day (Songkran Day), people clean their homes and public places, like temples and schools, to remove bad luck. Then on the second day (Wan Nao), people prepare food and offerings to the monks and temple while paying respect to their elders. For instance, washing the feet of your parents is a common ceremony called Rot Nam Dam Hua. And on the last day (Wan Payawan), people will flock to temples to present food and clothing to monks, pray, and participate in rituals that are believed to bring good luck.

Nowruz (Persian New Year)

Nowruz or Persian New Year is celebrated by people around the world, originating back in what was Persia (in the Middle East and Central Asia), according to The Outreach Center Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University. This ancestral festival marks the start of spring. Khane-Tekani, which translates to “shaking the house,” is a process that happens leading up to the new year, in which you clean things that don’t get much attention, think large furniture pieces or all your expensive dishware.

Spring Cleaning

When I think of spring, I imagine flowers in bloom, light rain showers, and feelings of renewal and growth. The practice of spring cleaning emerged as a way to tidy up after the lull of colder temperatures that prevent you from doing much around the home. It’s often associated with completing a deeper clean, where you get into the nitty-gritty of things, like whole-home decluttering. Spring cleaning is observed throughout the world — and at Apartment Therapy, with our annual Spring Cleaning Cure! — and usually occurs in March or April.

KonMari Method 

This method needs no introduction really. The KonMari method took the world by storm and Marie Kondo is a household name in the world of cleaning and organizing. She shared with us the magic and art of the Japanese way of decluttering and organizing your home — and life. The KonMari method of paring down on items and keeping the ones that spark joy is truly universal.

La Quema del Diablo in Guatemala

Not all cleaning traditions happen at the beginning of the year. Sometimes, it happens right at the end. La Quema del Diablo or “burning of the devil” festival is held annually in Guatemala. Every December 7, people burn effigies representing the devil. They also burn their trash and clear their homes of dirt and garbage to purify it. Some cities even have bonfires, people dressed in outfits, fireworks displays, and more. 

What cleaning traditions do you have in your home? Share it with us in the comments.