By Erin Wyble Newcomb
Illustrated by Annie Dwyer Internicola
This spring makes seven years since my husband and I bought our house. Before that, we moved around a lot, usually to apartments with little storage, making it easier to balance how much stuff we acquired with how much stuff we actually needed. But add up seven years in the same place (with ample shelving in the basement) and two children, and suddenly it takes a lot more commitment to be mindful of what we really need and use and what’s just taking up space. Spring cleaning rituals help me to declutter my home as well as my life; even as New Year’s resolutions fade, the season of new growth reminds me that spring can be a time of freshness and new growth for me, too.
￼￼￼In terms of basic spring cleaning, I try to stay on top of the clutter before it overwhelms me. So when my children outgrow things, we give them away or save them for our town’s yard-sale day. Sure, I save a few special, sentimental items, but each of my children has a box for those, and the containers limit the number and size of things I can deem heirloom-worthy. I try to keep tabs on my own closet and—the biggest pitfall for my family—our bookshelves. If it’s useful and in good shape, we can hold on to it; if it’s unused or unusable, we fix it, give it away, sell it or throw it away. It’s a process that often involves our whole family and helps us all appreciate the things we do love instead of lamenting the ones forgotten in a box somewhere.
Cleaning the house includes the whole family as well, and it’s refreshing those first days when we can open up the windows and air the place out after a long winter. We sweep and mop and vacuum (even the edges!), and I might—just maybe—even dust. No doubt the house actually is cleaner after these events, but what seems to matter even more is the attitude of clearing the air, shaking accumu- lated dirt loose and thoroughly shining up our space. Taking care of our home also shows us how much it means to us; it cultivates gratitude.
Yet even as I write this on a chilly winter’s evening, daydreaming about the upcoming season and how much I long to let a warm breeze in through the screens, I realize that spring cleaning is never just about decluttering my house. Each season calls us to a time of reflection, and the biggest questions about spring cleaning are not about garage sales or mops, but about regeneration. Am I stuck in a rut, or am I opening windows in my life to let a fresh breeze blow through? Am I holding on to things or relationships that don’t mean anything anymore, or that don’t work as well as they used to? Or am I, in the spirit of spring cleaning, washing away the grime of winter so that I have room to bloom in a new season?