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Spring cleaning revisited

Posted: April 30, 2011 - 1:59pm
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Is it just me, or does the re-invigorating sunshine of spring also make you realize how truly messy your house has become?

There must be some scientific explanation, but right around this time of year, every year, it’s as if suddenly every piece of clutter, every single speck of dirt starts casting a shadow. You can practically watch the dust collect. Sometimes this proves more exciting than watching early season baseball.

Of course, spring also lays bare a trove of defrosting ephemera, let’s call it. Looks like my neighbors’ dogs especially like to “ephemera” in our strawberry patch. Maybe I’ll send my 3-year-old daughter out to collect it — she’s already primed from Easter egg hunting.

In some ways, I’m actually excited for spring cleaning. For instance, I just bought myself a new power washer and I’m just dying to wash something. Powerfully. Man, I haven’t been this stoked since spring cleaning of 2009 when we got a 6.5 horsepower Shop-Vac. Imagine, 6 1/2 horses all sucking together in perfect synchrony.

My issue with spring cleaning is that its very idea hinges on the premise that you left your house in good order heading into winter.

But what if you’re still cleaning up from last spring? Or the spring before that? Not to mention all the other crazed, almost angry, bouts of cleaning you’ve started but never quite completed randomly throughout the year, like when your in-laws are coming to visit. Or you’ve had a bad day at work and wish to make your family as miserable as you. Or you notice a strange, unpleasant odor that can’t be masked, not by Glade, not by incense, not even patchouli oil. Incidentally, back in college, that’s how I knew I finally had to bathe for real — when I could smell myself even after my morning patchouli oil “hippie shower.”

Anyway…

Somehow, the mere passage of time clutters space — perhaps that’s what they mean by the “space-time continuum?” For instance, I don’t remember placing a single item on top of the junk table in the garage. And yet there it stands, a pile of detritus packed tighter than me into a pair of skinny jeans.

Thinking about it now, that might be part of the problem, that my family calls it a junk table. Maybe we should rechristen it the “orderly shelf” or the “obsessive-compulsive slab.”

Nevertheless, results of a recent survey of said junk table: old mail; new mail; tide books from various years, none of them current; a Thermos-brand thermos; an off-brand thermos; a bag of bags; a fish tank that’s been there so long not only has all the water evaporated, but also the goldfish carcasses I kept meaning to deal with and now effectively have; a grievously grease-stained towel (at least I hope that’s grease); a gallon jug of wiper fluid and a gallon jug of Magic Bubble (remember, I’ve got a 3-year-old) that so closely resemble each other it’s a wonder I haven’t inadvertently turned our car into the world’s most dangerous bubble machine; petrified chicken fingers from some long-forgotten supermarket bribe (again, 3-year-old), no longer golden brown but cold and gray, like how I envision the chicken fingers in Bulgaria; every empty receptacle of every single beverage I’ve ever consumed and for some reason, a CD wallet containing the entire Smashing Pumpkins discography, including that horrible electronica album they released right after “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.” Woof.

And that’s only the garage.

As the glacier recedes from our yard, it’s exposed a vast moraine of debris: a broken camping chair; a thrashed garden gnome; the splintered remains of a toy rake-hoe-shovel set I accidentally ran over (tough year for my daughter: first the goldfish, then the rake-hoe-shovel set) and a pile of cardboard boxes I made last spring before abandoning the project halfway through. On the plus side, that means I’ve successfully procrastinated taking it to the recycling center for an entire year; that kind of procrastination takes effort. Of course, now the pile’s all mushy, moldy and gross. Maybe if I leave it another few freeze-thaw cycles, it’ll just disintegrate on its own. Maybe I’ll help it along by blasting it with the power washer.

Speaking of mushy, moldy and gross, this year the snow melted to reveal three rotting Halloween pumpkins, which look and smell like a puddle of spongy orange vomit. Silver lining there, mystery solved re: what happened to the jack-o-lanterns my wife had been on me to get rid of all through January. I guess I should’ve believed her when she threatened to kick them off the porch unless I did something by Martin Luther King Day.

Yeah, I’m thinking power washer for those, too.

• Slack Tide runs every other Sunday; check out more of Kirsch’s work at www.geoffkirsch.com.

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