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Schools, both K12 and colleges, have been on spring breaks the past few weeks and maybe some are yet to break. It only took two true spring days in Paradelle for me to feel the sap rising in myself. I went outside and cleaned up around some flowerbeds. I started some flats of seeds. I got the garden hose out of the basement and turned on the water to outside.

The season will slap me with cold nights and frost and maybe even snow again, but it has all been put in motion and there is no turning back.

Spring cleaning is usually more associated with cleaning a house, but we clean out in other places and in other ways too.  Spring cleaning might be more of a ritual in cold winter climes, but it occurs in some way in every culture.

We use the term metaphorically for other kinds of cleaning or organizing activities. I read suggestions to do some tech spring cleaning.

There has been a lot of talk about Facebook, social media and privacy this past month.  One writer was suggesting that we may have too many online friends. He suggested some cleaning and pruning of “friends” that aren’t friends on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and elsewhere.

I see the point, but I won’t be doing that. For example, I have a lot of “poetry friends” in these networks. Some are people I know who are real life friends, but more of them are people I have met at a reading or workshop or only know as a name online will likely never meet in person. I see no reason to separate from them.

I have been editing Poets Online since 1998 and have had thousands of poems mailed to me as submissions. I know almost all of these poets only virtually, but some have been sending poems for 20 years. I know them by their poetry and I do feel connected to them.

This is also the season of the spring break. Usually that involves a beach, alcohol and general debauchery, though I also know of students who go on charitable missions, build homes for the poor and do personal pilgrimages.

What are we all taking a break from? The everyday. The madness. Our own overcrowded, overly materialistic days and life. Winter. School. Home. A path we see ourselves on that looks far too certain.

Like that technology spring cleaning, some suggest we take a tech break. Put away the computer, the phone and disconnect. It sounds like it might be renewing. It sounds like it might be painful.

The origin of spring cleaning is not certain. One possibility is the Persian New Year, Nowruz,  which falls on the first day of spring. Iranians have a practice of khooneh tekouni which has an interesting literal translation of “shaking the house.” It is a thorough cleaning done just before the new year, but I like the idea of shaking things up.

That cleaning makes me think of the ancient Jewish practice of thoroughly cleansing the home in anticipation of the springtime festival of Passover. This week-long observance is more than just cleaning the house and involves strict prohibitions in eating or drinking.

The Catholic church thoroughly cleans the church altar and everything associated with it on Maundy Thursday, the day before Good Friday, as part of another springtime observance. This religious cleansing is still observed in Greece and other Orthodox nations.

It has been nice the past few days to finally open the windows and “air out” the house.

Stravinsky’s ballet score “Le Sacre du Printemps” is a landmark in music. Its French and Russian (Vesna svyashchennaya) titles translate literally as The Coronation Of Spring, but its English title, “The Rite Of Spring,” is a bit stranger. This translation references a pagan ritual in which a sacrificial virgin dances herself to death. Please, none of you should get that seriously involved in celebrating spring.

trash

Having just passed a birthday that allows me to seriously consider retirement, I have also looked around me here at home and realized once again that there is just too much stuff. What’s the connection? Thoughts about retirement lead me to thoughts about moving, downsizing and that third act of life when one leaves things behind.

Spring cleaning is more traditional than autumn cleaning.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing is by a Japanese “organizer,” Marie Kondo. This “International bestseller” has “2 Million Copies Sold” and that is bannered on the book’s website and the book seems to have caught the interest of many Americans.

I read an excerpt of the book  and rather than the oft-suggested approach of  “one room at a time” or “just discard ten items each week,” this book suggests the KonMari Method that seems to be a “category-by-category” system. Kondo recommends starting with clothes. Apparently, this is an easier category than books, pictures or heirlooms.

I think the Japanese connection here makes people think of the simplicity of a Zen garden or ikebana flower arrangements.

There is ritual involved, also very Japanese. Place all items on the floor. Pick up and touch them one by one. The question is not whether or not you need this item, but does it spark joy?

I do the entering and exiting winter clothing transfer each year, shifting long-sleeved shirts for more t-shirts, shorts and bathing suits. But my question (especially for my beloved t-shirts) is “Have I worn this in the past two years?”  I’m not sure that any of the shirts spark joy.

One article I read mentioned the science of the effect clutter has on your life and cites some UCLA study that looked at how mothers’ stress hormones spiked when they were dealing with their belongings.  It said that 75% of families in the U.S. can’t park their cars in the garage because they have too much stuff packed away there. My garage is a perfect example.

There is a program on TV about tiny homes and lots of articles about a new minimalism that is seen as a shift away from the materialistic mindset. This is far more than getting rid of those old books you will never reread and possibly never read.

I started selling some of my good old books back on Amazon. I gave boxes of them to the local library and to a church flea market. And there are still more. I have a room of vinyl record albums that I know must be worth something. And what about my comic books and 50 year-old issues of Rolling Stone magazine? My wife (not a collector) is quick to say that, “If they are worth something, sell them.” But no one seems eager to buy them – not that I’m trying very hard to get rid of them.

Can getting rid of stuff help you  stop worrying about things that hold you back and allow you to move forward?

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