Why We Clean

Now is the time you find all the little hammocks the spiders laid out on your windowsills, when the days were long and the bees danced their tipsy jigs.

But the spiders are gone now.

Roll up their bedding and wish them the best, wherever they might be. Think of Charlotte and her pig-friend Wilbur and send up a prayer of thanks that you too have had such a nice long time in the sun.

Now is the time to pull out those winter clothes, and how many coats or jackets are there that I haven’t worn for a good 15 years? Give them away I tell myself.

In my hall closet I have just found a pair of pink rubber boots with flouncy fake-fur trim and I can tell you it has been many a moon since the people drawn to such footwear lived here. 

I found Old Dave’s high school football jacket too, its white leather sleeves slightly darkened with age and “Dave, Co-Captain” stitched on the front.

I put it in the attic. 

In one corner, I found two family tablecloths wrapped in protective brown paper, rolled on fat cardboard dowels and left to stand in the odd corner of four different houses over a 50-year period. Will anyone ever use them again, artfully patched as they are and speckled with faint brown speckles? And from what old gravy boat, I wonder? From what brimming glass of claret?

I put them back in their corner.

There are consolations in cleaning, letting go of what needs letting go of and holding tight to what we can’t yet part with.

I found old gloves, my favorite kind, in black, my favorite color. Five identical gloves for the right hand and none at all for the left so what to do here? Save them in case their wandering partners ever return, or throw them away? Such quandaries lie at the heart of all cleaning projects.

Finally, way in the back, I found the fur coat our male cat fiercely peed on when he was sick and on his way to the vet. He hissed and arched too, mistaking it for a living foe. I put in a whole new lining but still, I seldom wear the thing. Keep it or pass on?

I fished in its pockets and pulled out a slip from the dry cleaners. I studied the items listed there and hey, hadn’t I just been looking for that mauve-colored gypsy-looking dress just the other day?

I closed the closet door and drove right to the cleaners.

I gave the slip to the man at the counter, who, five minutes later, smilingly brought forth a whole armful of clothes I had put in storage there…in May  of 2007, fully four and a half years ago.

So now I have three good wool skirts, a tweed suit, three wool jackets, the missing gypsy number and four warm sweaters I did not have before. A whole winter wardrobe almost. I just have to throw on the coat and be willing to wear right-handed gloves on my left hand and I will be SET. (And tell you what, those cute pink boots with the fur trim are looking better to me all the time.)

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3 thoughts on “Why We Clean

  1. The dispossession comment is the same conclusion I came to last week as I sorted AGAIN that which I brought to my apt. My car holds what I removed from my storage locker in an attempt to part with even more stuff. One lone peach colored knee sock – where’s it’s mate? M’mmmm, maybe it would make a good hand mitt to clean my venetian blinds. Took some old pictures to show my mother in the nursing home and was surprised at the delight she had looking at them. Hospital receipts from 1946, old letters going back even further–can’t part with those until I at least can sit down and read them. Recipes saved, dated 1978 not really healthy now went partly to the trash barrel and some went to the share table in the community center – they were gone in minutes! Someone wanted them. Little by little I see space I saw for the first time a year ago when I moved in. Yes, it IS freedom to let go. Like the descriptive term of spider hammocks; all I could think of was to dust away those webs of dust with hanging tendrils like a girl’l hair in need of a good shampooing. Would you believe in a whole year I never knew I have a pull-out shelf in the kitchen–I kept dancing between one tiny counter on one side of the ktichen to the other on the opposite side while making banana bread? Oy!

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