A Clean Break
Written by Matthew Dicks
Illustrated by Sean Wang
Cleaning? Great. But never in the spring.
The cold has receded. The merciless piles of slush at the foot of our steps have finally melted. The grass, invisible for months under a coat of white, is now reaching, stretching, yearning for the sun. The first flowers of spring have bravely risen from the soil.
I have replaced my winter coat with something light. In the words of my mother-in-law, “The perfect weather is when you can wear your lightweight cashmere.”
That time has arrived.
It’s spring. It’s the season that allows the mole people of the New England states to emerge from their hovels and finally take pleasure in the outdoors again.
Except we can’t. Not yet. It’s time for spring cleaning.
This might just be one of the stupidest ideas on the planet.
At the very moment that the world has transformed from miserable to hopeful, dismal to delightful, millions of Americans huddle indoors, cleaning their homes of dust and debris. We declutter. Mop and wax. Scrub and scour. We empty pantries and cupboards. Toss away condiments long since expired. Cull our wardrobes of waistlines no longer possible. As the flowers wisely poke their heads above ground and swoon in the warmth of a spring sun, we crouch on our hands and knees, forgoing the beauty of the outside world for the potentially tidy world indoors.
I am not opposed to cleaning. Not at all. Ask my wife. I am tidy and organized to the point of annoyance. I spend my days eyeing piles of papers, folded clothing sitting atop the dryer, and never-to-be-read books in the bookshelf, plotting their eventual exit from our home.
Some are tossed instantly in the dead of night. Others are secreted to offsite locations where they will sit for days, weeks or months, waiting for me to determine if they will be missed.
When it comes to cleaning and decluttering, I am relentless.
But not in spring. Never in spring.
There are times in the year when “spring cleaning” makes sense. February, for example, when the weather outside resembles that of a walk-in freezer. As we go stir crazy in our homes, binge watching Netflix and overeating, why not get off the couch and clean? If you’re going to be trapped by negative wind chills and freezing rain, why not be productive?
Or how about in the weeks before Christmas, just before three tons of unneeded merchandise will be added to your collection of stuff you still don’t need. Clear out space for this new load of nonsense with a little “spring cleaning.”
Or how about one of the dog days of summer when the temperatures exceed 95 degrees, the humidity is 9,000% and you can’t imagine going outdoors? Why not descend to the cool of the basement and rid yourself of that ancient baby swing, your box of aspirational college textbooks, and those Halloween decorations you dutifully stored down there 12 years ago with every intention of reusing? Spend a sweltering summer in the cool of your basement, emptying its contents before you die and your children are forced to rent a dumpster and hate you.
But spring? The very moment that the world has invited you back outdoors? As buds burst forth on the ends of tree branches, the warm sun defeats the last of the enormous snow piles in the mall parking lots, and baseball players return to the fields … at that moment, the very last thing you should be doing is rooting around your basement or attic for stuff you didn’t need in the first place.
According to researchers, we can blame the terrible timing of spring cleaning on the Iranians, who celebrate their new year on the first day of spring and practice “khooneh tekouni,” which literally means “shaking the house” just before the Persian New Year.
Somehow this tradition has traveled west and become a part of American culture.
So there you have it. We clean out homes at the most inopportune time of the year because the Iranians, who have never experienced a New England winter, choose to clean their homes at the onset of spring.
This might be fine for a people whose average winter temperature never drops below freezing and will never experience the stark contrast between a frigid winter and a lovely spring day. But for New Englanders, who can watch three feet of snow transform into lush, verdant fields in the space of two months, spring is perhaps the worst time to hole oneself up inside the house, cleaning.
Not perhaps. Definitely.
Stop the insanity! No more spring cleaning, I say. At least, not in the spring. Never in the spring.