Adventures with Lisa, Frank & Daisy Dewdrop

Off The Cuff – Fall Cleaning
September 6, 2006, 10:51 pm
Filed under: My Weekly Column

You can view this installment, all archives, and other Calhoun information at, updated for the week today.

Fall Cleaning

All through the mountains, animals are preparing for winter. Bears are packing on weight, squirrels and chipmunks are packing away seeds and nuts, and soon the geese will begin their migration practice runs.

This time of year, I too start a scramble to get ready for winter. The difference is that animals work toward winter the whole season. I always wait until the last minute. Most people do their big “spring cleaning” in the spring. My major cleaning comes in the fall.

Sure, in spring, I like to toss out all things I got sick of looking at while shut up inside with it all winter: dirt, a lamp that broke, piles of newspapers, and anything else that may have worn out its welcome over the cold season.

Fall cleaning is different. Instead of tossing out all things that already have gotten on my nerves, I toss out and deal with things that I think are going to get on my nerves, but haven’t done so yet. Very often, this process involves completing unfinished projects: books started on a lazy summer day and not finished, bags of mulch and lawn gravel still piled in a corner of the yard, and dis-posing of all the things I threw out of the house in the spring.

Fall cleaning is more challenging that spring cleaning, because in spring, we toss items we have lost our love for. In fall, I part with pieces that I am still attached to, but feel the attachment is no longer warranted or strong. In other words, I part with it “for my own good,” and not necessarily because I really want to.

The difference between spring cleaning and fall cleaning is the difference between “I don’t want it,” and “I don’t need it.”

Spring cleaning involves hard work. Fall cleaning involves hard choices.

Do I need 17 dish towels? Do I need as many bottles of body lotion? Do I need all my notes from the college history class I took in 1989? Do I need two staplers, four measuring cups, three sets of silverware, or place settings for eight? Do I need sheets for a twin bed, which I haven’t had in my house for six years?

Do I use all of them? No. Do I want them? In varying degrees, yes. The history notes were easy to toss, the ragged towels–the same, but one stapler could break, I like different cups for different ingredients, all my silverware sets are beautiful, and some day, although it has never happened in 38 years, I may have to set a table for eight. I don’t have a table that big either, but you never know. And, flat sheets from a twin bed have a hundred different uses.

Sure, I may someday re-read those English Literature text-books, and though I haven’t worn any of the jeans piled in the corner in three years, they still fit. And shoes? Of course, I love them all–each pair that is packed away and each pair strung throughout the house. That coat in the back of the closet is nine years old, yes, but a few more years and it will be back in style.

My mother says she would like to get rid of anything that “doesn’t have a place.”

If I did that, there would be nothing left.


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