caribbean house surrounded with trees

Clean Up! Clean Up! Jamaican Style

“Clean! Clean! Clean! Clean! Everyday me clean. As me wake me clean, everyday mi clean”. ~ Popcaan.


Jamaican Saturday Morning Settings

Who remembers growing up in Jamaica when Saturday mornings seemed like it none stop cleaning, cooking and washing? Didn’t it feel like by the time you finished cleaning the day was done?

For me sometimes it just made sense to stay home. Even if I got done early enough to go somewhere I couldn’t stay out late. Not that I could stay out late anyway. It could be 3pm and Grandma would say “Memba church a mawning.” DWL

I grew up with my mother, grandmother, uncles and cousins living in the same house. As a matter of fact my neighbors were cousins. By the time my brother and I got up on Saturday mornings there was already a lot of activity in the house. Grandma had already left for the market and everybody else was doing their part of the cleaning.

The Red Floor Shines

It was my uncle’s job to polish the kitchen floor and the steps. I’m sure you remember the coconut brush and the Genie red and clear floor polish.

He polished and shined the floor and steps until sweat ran from his face. My gosh he worked hard to polish the steps. When he was done you could see your reflection in the floors. Little did I know that when I got older this was the standard by which I had to live up to.

My favorite part was the little dance that came out of using my foot to slide the coconut brush side to side or forward and backward to shine the floor. I’m sure that’s how they came up with the idea for the dancehall dances “Nuh Linga/ Sweep” 

More Things Fi Do

Mommy had already polished the other floors of the house with the clear polish and had already started washing the clothes. I use to love to try to make the sound she made when she was washing. And I also love to pin the clothes pins on my clothes too.

One Saturday, I was probably around 6 or 7 I remembered asking my mother if I could do the dishes. Of course she said no, but my Uncle said to Mommy “if she want to do the dishes, mek she gwaan learn”. The young me was foolish! If I were to do a letter to my younger self I would say – “poor chile you know not what you asketh for. Go siddung and relax yuhself” 🙂

I don’t remember if she let me do it on that day. But as you already know – when I got older I was doing most of those chores.

Rain or Shine

Mommy used to say – the house must be kept clean especially when it’s raining. I always thought to myself – without let her see that I’m thinking to myself of course – that we didn’t have the option to have an untidy house rain or shine.

If it rained, we had to go out with the rag to wipe the step off before the rain dried and left water marks. It didn’t matter whether the rain fell day or night – you had to wipe off the steps. Well one exception was if the rain fell in the middle of the night when everyone was asleep. Which meant as soon as you woke up you had to wipe the steps off.

Like this isn’t the same steps we’ll be polishing and buffing come bright and early Saturday morning. Nothing was ever out of place in the house. The cleanliness was kept up throughout the week. So looking back at it, I’m not sure why we had to do all that cleaning on Saturday because the house and the infamous red floor and steps were already clean!

We can laugh now

I don’t see too many red steps when I go back to Jamaica. Although i’m sure they’re still prevalent in the “country”. All I can say is the post red step dominated generation is very lucky.

Who has time to do the big cleaning nowadays? Not me. We live such busy lives trying to balance work and life that cleaning the way we were trained to do just isn’t doable anymore. I can only take on those big cleaning when I’m in the right mood.

Whenever there’s a family gathering we laugh at these things – but back then it was no laughing matter because cleaning Jamaican style was serious business. I know all that cleaning benefitted me in some way other than knowing how to keep a clean house. I just can’t think of a reason right now. LOL.

What was your Saturday morning routine like growing up?


Photos courtesy of Brian GratwickeObject Lessons, Kirk Distributors Ltd, Steve Johnson, Paul Morris


Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown is Founder & host of Carry On Friends one of the first podcasts dedicated to the Caribbean American Experience. She is leading the way for Caribbean Podcast as the founder of Breadfruit Media, the first Caribbean podcast production company; and founder of the Caribbean Podcast Directory a place to discover podcasts by people of Caribbean Heritage.