By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe
Open the windows! Air the quilts! Wash the baseboards!
It’s that time of year for cleaning house and welcoming sweet spring.
Today, the wind has died, and we are burning the twigs and branches that dropped during the cold months, pulling old leaves out of fence corners, raking the remains of winter away. It feels good.
We remember several spring-cleaning jobs during our childhood.
In the house, Mom put us to work—her tiny fleet of Merry Maids—and we began in earnest, doing our best to channel that unlimited energy of childhood: I held a can of Pledge, sprayed a rag and attacked furniture; another washed woodwork with soapy water and a sponge; one of us squirted windows as high as could be reached and circled the panes with an old towel; the busiest brother ran the vacuum, cleaning behind and under chairs and couches; and the youngest picked up and put away toys.
While we were proud of our work, it was a short-lived, sweaty work session, lasting probably 30 frenzied minutes, before we lost enthusiasm and focus and were released to play outside.
On the farm, the barns and pens also needed spring cleaning. Old straw and manure were hauled away and fresh straw added. This was something we also helped with. Dad ran the “loader tractor,” a reliable John Deere with a front-end loading bucket, used for nearly every barnyard task. We tossed down fresh bales of straw from the upper barn story, cut away the twine holding the bales together, and worked to “shake down new bedding.” Dad loaded our manure spreader and applied its contents on the corn fields, adding important nutrients to the soil for the upcoming growing season. Like everything on a farm, tasks and activities cycle with the seasons.
Today, my house-cleaning enthusiasm is inconsistent: sometimes I determinedly open cupboards and closets and begin sorting and tossing; sometimes I arm myself with a long-handled duster to eliminate spiders who silently squat in corners with their quickly-spun webs; and sometimes I go to the basement to straighten the stored history of our life together—occasionally even parting with things I thought I needed to save.
I personally need some occasional spring cleaning, although as I age, I realize it’s not quite as easy as the Sunday-night-baths of our childhood, where we scrubbed our grimy selves clean and watched the murky bathwater circle and swirl down the drain.
It’s harder to let go of the dirt—the old grudges, the unproductive attitudes I harbor, the dust and filth that keep me from realizing my best self and life. Occasionally I need to push myself, to accept a different point of view, to consider and recognize I might not always be right.
We recently traveled some distance from home and stayed in a lovely Airbnb for nearly a week. We got away from the routines and responsibilities of every day, and we entered a different space, full of new sights and experiences.
We tried new foods. We rested. And we listened, clarified, and re-aligned our priorities.
We de-cluttered and did some relationship spring cleaning—recommitting and planning for our future.
It was an opportunity to refresh. To rejuvenate. To spring-clean.
It’s a Fine Life
By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe