Somewhere in humanity’s past, spring cleaning became some sort of tradition. I imagine this probably originated when we all lived in one-room cabins. When fresher weather arrived, the necessity to cart everything outside and beat it clean with a broom was essential after months of living together in a small space without much (if any) bathing and little (if any) outdoor activity except the daily trip to the barn.
I don’t know how many people still partake of the full meaning of spring cleaning. I certainly don’t haul my couch outside every spring, nor do I even take the rugs outside to beat accumulated dust out of them. Some wonderful entrepreneur invented the vacuum for that purpose. But there is still enough of the ritual ingrained in taking care of a house that when I do catch that first scent of spring, I want to throw open the windows and make everything in my house as fresh as the world outside.
Unfortunately, by the time this sensation has registered I no longer have any desire to actually be in my house. With that fresher air, warmer days and outdoor pursuits pull me away with much higher frequency. Spending the day with my nose in my closet, rooting around for accumulated dust is not how I imagine spending a fresh spring day. I want to be out of doors with my hands in the soil or my face to the long-hidden sun.
Therefore, many years I find myself on a “spring cleaning” rampage in late winter. Spring is close enough to arriving that it feels as if it is time to give the house a fresh start, but still far enough away that I find myself indoors for most days.
I find spring cleaning to not just be a good time to get rid of accumulated dust but also to get rid of accumulated stuff. It’s remarkable what can pile up around the house in the space of a year. So while I don’t exactly take every item of clothing out of my closet and beat it clean with a broom, I do find myself flipping through the rack, culling out items that are too threadbare to wear anymore, or putting toys in the donation pile that my daughter has outgrown.
Recently, a friend was remarking that her 10-year-old daughter is a pack rat and has trouble throwing anything away. I was reminded that I used to be this way too. I clearly remember boxing up stuffed animals and toys when I was a teenager, telling my mother that I wanted to save them for my children to play with and under no circumstances were we to give them away. Either that was serious foresight, or an inability to let go of items that I had outgrown.
When we are young, throwing away something that was once special is terrifying. Like insinuating that by discarding it, we are discarding something that defined our young lives. We wonder that if we throw it away we won’t remember what it was like to curl around that soft teddy bear or win that three-legged race or read that favorite book.
It is not until we are older that we realize that possessions can sometimes simply become clutter and an excess weight to carry around in our already heavy lives.
Having just moved across the country a year ago, I executed a fantastic purge of superfluous belongings. Moving is even better than the yearly clean out and clean up of the house. With that in mind, I find my spring cleaning to be a little light this year. Regardless, it’s still remarkable just what can accumulate in the corners of the house, everything from dust bunnies to worn out shoes and outgrown toys still need to be purged.
And although the official start of spring is still a month away, I suppose as long as we are still cooped up inside, I might as well tackle those dust bunnies.