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Possumhaw: The art of spring cleaning


Shannon Bardwell



In fact that particular article of clothing has already completed its role in your life. You are free to say, 'Thank you for giving me joy ... ' and let it go." 


-- Marie Kondo 




I'm still taken with the Tiny House concept and author Dee Williams who listed all her personal belongings on one yellow legal-size sheet of paper. Just as I was finishing Dee's book, I was given Marie Kondo's book, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing." The back cover said, "With detailed guidance for determining which items in your house 'spark joy' (and which don't), this international bestseller featuring Tokyo's newest lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home -- and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire."  


The friend said, "I'm surprised you haven't already read it." So I did. 


It's not like my house is cluttered; it's just I love that feeling, as Marie says, of "tidying," and tidying is not just straightening up -- it's parting with items that are of no use or have served their purpose. 


At this moment I'd define purpose as useful, beautiful or memorable. Memorable is the one that often trips us up and causes us to keep way more than is necessary. 


By the way, here's a quick Internet study on the history of spring cleaning. 


Spring cleaning appears to cross all cultures. First attributed to the Jewish culture of ridding the house of leavening products in the celebration of Passover, it would involve cleaning top to bottom and often involved a traditional candlelight search for crumbs. 


Iranians celebrate March 21 as "Nowruz" where they participate in "Khaneh takani," which literally means "shaking the house." Cleaning involves making everything good as new. 


Chinese, before their New Year's celebration, sweep the house of bad luck and welcome good luck in the coming year. 


Early Christians, probably carrying on the Jewish tradition, cleaned their homes between Palm Sunday and Easter, known as the "Great Lent." 


In North America, after harsh winters and before vacuum cleaners, windows and doors were thrown open to allow dust to blow out. Soot was cleaned from walls, and rugs were dragged outdoors.  


Spring is also a time when energy is renewed by fresh air and sunshine after sometimes dormant and dark winters.  


With Marie Kondo's information I went through the house again. From my closet, I came out with another large trash bag of clothing and boxes of kitchen items, which I donated. When I first read Marie's suggestion to talk to your soon-to-be-departed item and thank it for its service, I thought her a bit wacky. But there were certain items I had for a long time and I liked their feel, but the colors were wrong, so I did it. I thanked them and imagined them with someone who also liked their feel, but the color was right. 


"The clear, refreshed feeling gained after standing under a waterfall can be addictive [similarly] ... when you put your space in order; you will be overcome with the urge to do it again."


Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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