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Friday, March 4, 2016

Knee Deep in Domestic Alchemy by Rose Anderson

I've just returned from the sunny south where daffodils are already blooming and robins are filling up on fat worms before they head north. Here, well, we just had four inches of snow. 

To many people, myself included, robins are the harbingers of spring. I can picture them hopping through the new grass listening for worms, their round reddish bellies rocking as they dash from one choice spot to the next. Spring travels east to west and south to north. I figure it’ll be two weeks before the birds actually get to my yard. I’m so looking forward to it. Fresh snow or not, early bird or not, I’m restless. Winter is coming to a close and spring is definitely knocking on my imagination. What's more, my house is full of visual clues: things out of place, things stuffed where they don't belong, dust, webs, clutter, clutter, clutter. In the bright light of day I hear, Stop writing! It's time for spring cleaning!!  

My spring house toss is the stuff of legends. It's known as the Annual Purge to family and friends who laughingly get out of my way. lol Even my husband's colleagues ask if I'm spring cleaning yet. For the next three weeks my world stops and every nook and cranny, every drawer, every cabinet and corner are cleaned. This is my renewal. This is how I find myself each year.  

It all started with sad news about twenty-seven years ago. I won't go into details, but it was so sad I wanted to pull a blanket up over my head and sleep it all away. It was the sort of depression that one drowns in while still breathing. My soul-mate/best-friend/husband and I have been together nearly forty years and in that time we've come to know all sorts of things about one another. He recognized something about me early on. He knows I define myself, in part, by my home. This knowledge was used to throw me a lifeline.

Our home has always been an eclectic, eccentric canvas. My style, interests, and collections are blobs of color upon my palette. Up until the sadness hit, we'd only been in this house a few years. The white blah walls waited on "One Of These Days" when time and money aligned enough to decorate. One morning, he sat on the edge of the bed, and said, "I want you to decorate the entire house from top to bottom. I want you to find yourself again."

There was no grand swapping out of furniture and appliances, no tearing up carpet or laying down new tile. Instead I painted murals and filled the house with color. After, I decorated with all the little things that make a home interesting.
While I considered the changes to make, I rid myself of the weight of things no longer pertinent to our lives. Oddly enough, my dark thoughts went with them. In what could only be described as domestic alchemy, my mind turned from despairing thoughts to possibilities. He was right, I did find myself again. I've been doing this annual event every year since. It's essential to me. What was once a two week power-stint is now a slower, more thoughtful process, and boy, am I exhausted at the end of the day. This thorough cleaning results in far more than a cleaner house. It's a catalyst for deep introspection. 
What began as several truckloads of donations to the Salvation Army, is now just a few bags in the car. This precise organization will last until the holidays come rolling around. Then I'll start to notice those unnecessary things that somehow crept back into my life. I don't know what possesses me to absently stuff this or that, here or there. Just busy I guess. Saving bits is an old habit born of crafting with my kids. I don't even realize I'm still doing it. Heck, it took me five years just to stop saving Campbell's labels after my kids were out of school! 

I'll find a dozen or more wine corks stashed in the requisite kitchen junk drawer. They'll have to go. Six dead batteries? Yeah, they go too. Single socks? They're outta here. Where did all these paperclips come from? Ratty potholders and towels? Gone. Why do I have four pasta forks and two dozen plastic spoons?? Out the door! Cob webs and spiders? You're out too!

While I’m knee deep in separating wheat from chaff, I'll mentally finish the story I've been working on as well as craft blog posts in my head for the entire month of April. And when I sit down to write it all out two weeks from now, my head will be clearer and my house will be decorated for spring. Am I a little premature in my plans, given winter is lingering and the robins haven’t arrived here yet? Nah. The robins will come and the lilacs will follow. I'll be ready.

Stop by my main blog all next month where I'll be blogging the alphabet from A to Z in the annual A to Z Challenge. Subscribe to get my posts in your inbox!


Rose Anderson is an award-winning author and dilettante who loves great conversation and delights in discovering interesting things to weave into stories. Rose also writes across genres under the pen name Madeline Archer. She lives with her family and small menagerie amid oak groves and prairie in the rolling glacial hills of the upper Midwest.

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Jane Leopold Quinn said...

I get what you mean by using the cleaning to clear the brain, but I just can't imagine doing it in the complete way you do, Rose. We live in a small two-bedroom place with limited storage. Decent storage closets but no outside storage lockers not even in the building. So, we're pretty well organized that way. But to me deep cleaning involves moving furniture which I just can't bring myself to do. sigh... I'm glad your cleaning regimen saved your sanity. Kudos to the dh for thinking of it.

Judy Baker said...

I too have been spring cleaning - tossing all that hasn't been used in a year. I even painted an accent wall red and love it. Yesterday the sun came out and the temperature when up to mid-60s, so I ran out and worked in the yard, loving every moment. Here's hoping your spring breaks through and melts the snow soon.

Paris said...

I've been itching to get started on my annual renewal project. I think, like you that it's our rituals that save us. Every spring I de-clutter, clean out the cobwebs and take the time to just be in the moment. I'm trying to get to a stopping place so that I can devote some time to clearing my mind and my house, lol. I may even work in the yard a bit, if our pleasant weather holds. Thanks for the inspiration:)

jean hart stewart said...

My clutter is stuff I want to keep, I've weeded out most of the rest. I do have stuff I want to give certain people, and I'm doing that gradually. I pretty much de-cluttered on my last move when I went to a smaller house. I have to keep careful watch on myself not to clutter up again!

Cara Marsi said...

Good post, Rose. I clean my closet and bureau drawers twice a year, spring and autumn. I get such a good feeling out of paring things down. I understand how you feel doing your annual spring cleaning. My husband, though, is a pack rat. He keeps everything because they might someday be "collector's items" No, they won't. He has stuff no one will ever want. While my stuff is down to the things I actually use plus some mementos, his stuff clogs the basement and attic. I tell him if he goes before me, I'm calling 1-800-Got-Junk and having everything hauled away.

Melissa Keir said...

Great Post! I usually clean throughout the year. I love taking things to the re-sale store across the street. They have the best items and always sell our things. A clean house is a wonderful house. My hubby has issues with too much clutter. He's able to get rid of everything and be able to move on a moment's notice. I'm not that good but I'm getting better at getting rid of things.

Rose Anderson said...

Thanks for stopping by, everyone. Glad to hear I'm not alone!

Sam Cheever said...

I loved this post! Your hubby is a very smart man. #:0) Thanks so much for sharing!

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