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Life Notes: Spring Cleaning 
It’s more like wishful thinking in our house 
By Sally Friedman

It always began right around now.My mother would get a certain look in her eyes, and then the frenzy would begin. It was simply called spring cleaning,” but there was nothing simple about it. 

Mom would become a whirling dervish, straightening, then deep cleaning, then organizing and ultimately digging out the slipcovers that were then magically locked in place over the living rooms upholstered furniture. And the final signal of spring cleaning was saved for last: the placement of the summer rug on the porch floor. It felt like straw, and my sister and I hated it. 

My mother did all this by rote. No excuses. No outside help. And no mistaking the earnestness of the mission. Spring” and cleaning” were inextricably linked. 

Alas, the ritual has skipped a generation. But while I surely dont tear the house apart at the sight of the first robin, those sense memories do run deep. And on a recent early spring weekend, I found myself almost mystically driven to get my life in order. 

We have no slipcovers and no summer rugs. Nor do I have the drive Mom had all those years. What I do have is a house so cluttered with debris that I cannot fathom from whence it came. Never mind that I haunt flea markets, yard sales and church rummage sales. That doesnt count. 

My single goal: to thin the herd. To finally, no-excuses-accepted, get rid of the junk in at least two areas of the house: the den and our bedroom.Ah, optimism. 

The den has become the repository for things quite un-den-like because it happens to have temptingdrawers and shelves. They bulge, now, with the weight of magazines well never read, letters well never answer, photographs weve been swearing to paste into albums since the Jimmy Carter presidency. Ceramic pots and cute little tchotchkes from my rummaging hang on for dear life inside the den drawers, not quite fit to be seen, not yet classified for disposal. 

Therein lies the problem. Were a household that just cant say goodbye to junk.During the recent den spring cleaning drill, we also found our daughter Amys notebooks from third grade, her sister Jills college paper on comparative religions and our granddaughter Hannahs socks from kindergarten. Hannah is now a college graduate. 

When it became clear the den was too powerful a foe,we pushed on to the master bedroom, another major disaster area. Every season andyear, I see order – in my dreams.  

The clothes, the ones we believed in our cockeyed optimism wed fit into again, become a fantasytest.Each garment that was poised in mid-air to go into the Goodwill bag somehow lands back on a hanger, living proof that the diet starts on Monday” mentality lives on. 

As it turns out, lastyear, when we – ahem – “downsized,” we paidmoversto transport the size sevens of my past life and my husbands hopelessly outdated and outgrown sportsjackets. They nestle, still,among the clothes that we wear, the ones that button and zip. 

My dear mother would have been horrified to watch our spring cleaning as we once again vacillated between true commitment to a purge and a sentimental hour-long detour to look at those old college notebooks we both brought to our marriage 50-plus years ago. One never knows when a geology textbook and copy of Beowulf” will come in handy. 

The alien invaders that took over our space decades ago live on.Our adult children will never reclaim their stuff. But for one long, optimistic early- spring day, we pretended to do a really efficient, really effective spring cleaning. And once again, we failed to cleanse our souls by cleansing our household. Once again, the accumulation of bloat beat us at our own game. 

To add to theshame, we celebrated our failure with chocolate mint ice cream – and not the low-fat kind. No, my mother would not be proud.But we still tell ourselves that come fall, the deed will be done. Every last closet and shelf and drawer will be in pristine order in the autumn. 

And if you believethat, have we got a bridge to sell you. 

May 2019
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