Spring cleaning and the dusty mind

Janice Lindsay discusses spring cleaning.
Janice Lindsay

By Janice Lindsay, Contributing Writer

With good intentions and delusions about the extent of my ambition, I compile a list of household chores to complete before summer: wash mudroom floor; polish woodwork; clean refrigerator; sweep garage; paint bedroom doors. Et cetera.

Then I promptly accomplish the one task that seems most appropriate for such a demanding list: I lose it.

I do not intend this outcome but I do not regret it. The list does not say: listen to the birds; smell the sweet spring air; admire neighbors’ gardens; watch for butterflies; find that spot in the woods where jack-in-the-pulpit grows.

The to-do list’s basic message is, “Be productive. Accomplish something. Achieve.”

Listening to nature, smelling deeply, observing attentively – the practical world doesn’t view these as achievements.

The world of the spirit, on the other hand, has a different definition of achievement. The spirit, being somewhat critical, says, “At the end of your life, will you really regret that you did not spend more time sweeping dead bugs off the attic floor?”

However, because the spirit inhabits a human body, it must sometimes turn its attention to the practical matters of household dust and dead bugs.

I accidentally find my spring chores list. I sincerely plan to attend to it.

The practical problem with spring cleaning is that in sunny warm weather, I long to be outside. On gray rainy days, there’s no point in trying to clean because it’s too dark to see the dust. Or some of those chores should be done with open windows. Outside window-washing is the only household chore fit for sunny days: enjoy the warmth and accomplish something, too.

But two spring cleaning challenges don’t even make the list. These are even more difficult to accomplish than scrubbing the porch floor.

One of these challenges occurs at that startling, occasional moment when I look around my house and observe it as a stranger might. I think, “Look at all this stuff! Do I really need all this stuff? Let’s get rid of it.”

Easier thought than done. 

Consider these books. Can I be absolutely sure I will never again want to refer to that 30-year-old copy of “The Birds of Great Britain”?  Or that cookbook from the 1980s that has one recipe I use?

Consider these knick-knacks. Could I part with the tiny clay toucan from Peru, the one with the broken tail? Or the candy-cane-stripe scented candle I never burn because it’s so pretty?

The stuff can probably feel comfortable that it will still be here at this time next year.

But the biggest challenge of all is to clear the dusty clutter out of my brain. Jettison old self-defeating ideas. Don’t obsess about past mistakes but concentrate on what I’ve learned from them. Stop fearing future catastrophes that might not happen and know I’ll be able to handle whatever does. Do what I can to make the world a little brighter place and stop worrying about the rest that I can’t do anything about. Enjoy what there is to enjoy and stop regretting what I don’t have. 

These tough, brain-sweeping challenges bring me closer to the world of the spirit and farther from the world of dust and dead bugs. These challenges are best tackled while reposing on the back porch, enjoying bird-song and the sweet spring air.

Contact jlindsay@tidewater.net.



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