Spring Cleaning & A Happy Home

Spring is my favorite time of year. I love seeing the crocus pop their little heads up through the grass and snow, followed by daffodils and then tulips. Apple trees, magnolias, and redbuds are magnificent puffballs of pink and white and purple blooms. The weather is brisk and invigorating, with afternoons bordering on hot. Perfect.

The days are longer now. More daylight gives me more energy. I feel so much more productive once winter’s gloom has been swept away by the sun.

Its light lingers on my hardwood floors in the late afternoon from angles I swear I see at no other time of the year. And with those slivers of light, the cobwebs of life are visible. Spring is always the right season to clean. Windows and walls and shelves, floors and tiles and more. I even just washed all my pillowcases and summer cotton sheets that were crumpled in the linen closet. I’m ready to pack away my flannels.

Don’t you just feel better in a clean house? Studies show that messiness and clutter negatively impact our health.

So why not make a date with your home? Pretend it’s a spa day: scrubbing the floors is like a massage, cleaning the windows like a facial. And clearing away those piles of paper and everything else that clutters your counters and tables, well, that’s a bit like popping pimples: get rid of the gunk you don’t need.

At the end of the day, slip into the tub or into your fresh sheets. Relax in the cool and clean new vibe of your home. Pat yourself on the back and celebrate.

The Guardian just published an article titled, “Wake up to a happy home: how to design a feelgood house.” As someone who suffers from S.A.D. every winter, the summary sentence “Banish the gloom from every room with these 25 tips to give your house a mood-boosting makeover” made me curious.

The suggestions range from ridiculous to absurd. If you’ve been struggling the last two years with the discomfort of pandemic confinement or looking for ways to ward off seasonal affective disorder before it begins, this is not the article for you. But if you’re someone who loves Marie Kondo and home makeover shows, you might like it.  Here are just a few of my top picks with plenty of my own suggestions thrown in:

* A mirror brightens every room. Yes, possibly. But oh my heavens, can you imagine a mirror in every room? Some of us are still recovering from the square mirror tiles that covered walls in the 1970s.  I don’t care how gorgeous or antique the mirrors are, if you have more than one in a room or one in every room, yikes. I absolutely need a full-length mirror wherever I get dressed, which can be both in the bedroom and then again where I put on a coat and shoes. And it’s always good to have one near the front door for a last-minute check before you face the world. But in terms of decorating, more is definitely not better.

Someone close to me has a huge mirror in their living room. It’s easily eight or ten feet tall and almost four feet wide. It most certainly belongs in a bigger space but… WoW! That mirror feels magical to me – like you could step through it into another world. 

In other words, hang mirrors in practical places but don’t limit yourself to practical mirrors. Find a mirror you love. If it makes your room bigger or brighter, that’s a bonus.

This is my favorite example of using a mirror to bring you joy, and this photo is probably 35 years old. Our great aunt was a milliner and when she died, my sister got her hats. She displayed them on the walls of her foyer. Later, when she painted those walls cantaloupe, it was even better. Any guest that visited would try on a hat – you couldn’t help yourself; they were just too fun. Best use of a mirror ever.

* Display your drinks in style. This is actually the second tip in the article. Hey, I love a cocktail but if you’re prone to depression, having your own fashionable minibar is not a good idea. Full stop.

* Decorate with storage.  Ok, this one I love. I like things put in their place and I like the look of less clutter. More than that, if you’re like me, you have many small things you are not ready to let go. You know, all that stuff that does bring you joy but you wouldn’t ever display, like maybe things from your childhood. Put it in clever storage. An ottoman that opens. Wicker baskets in bookshelves. Personally, I love storing things in old trunks and suitcases.

* “Doormats needn’t be dowdy” is another lame suggestion. Sure, there are fun doormats out there. But 1) you spend more time inside your house than standing out front of your door, and 2) doormats require you to look down and a much better mood-booster is to look up. Therefore, I rename this section Joy is in the small things.

This little bear was an impulse buy over a decade ago and it still makes me smile every day.

The article mentions a tulipiere vase as a wonderful way to “display rare flora and fauna.” Don’t know what a tulipiere is? Either did I. Honestly, you don’t need another “thing” in your house. The point is that anything blooming can make you smile. Bouquets are great if you can afford them but snipping a stem from your yard can be just as nice. Or something from your neighbor’s yard (with permission). Or buy a blooming plant as it will last much longer. Hey, I’ve even picked weeds and put them in a tiny vase. Their colorful little petals made us smile when we were young, before we knew they were “just weeds.” Be a kid again. Pick up rocks and twigs. Display your stuffed animals. Really.

* Choose colors that make you happy. Maybe even step outside your box here. Go beyond what makes you comfortable to what actually makes your heart skip a bit. Choose something that seems too bold. Maybe bold is exactly what you need.  I once bought five pints of paint, all in different shades of yellow, and painted my bedroom wall. Was it a sun? Not sure. All I know is that I needed sunshine, I needed a heavy dose of bright yellow and one solid color seemed too limiting. I loved that wall. It got me through one of the toughest times of my life.

If you don’t want to paint, there are always pillows and sheets and throws. Since I have a pup, I buy queen sheets at the thrift store and throw them over my couch. Red, gold, and brown sheets in the winter, cream and peach in the spring and summer. It doesn’t matter how you add color to your life, just add it. Live in a rainbow. A neutral-colored room may look chic and even feel calm but it won’t make you grin.

Tell me, how do you shake off the heavy slumber of winter and resurrect yourself and your home in the spring?

The Writer’s Almanac featured this poem by Louis Jenkins the other day. I’ve long admired how Jenkins speaks on home. This one is new to me.

BASEMENT  by Louis Jenkins

There’s something about our basement that causes forgetting. I go down for something, say a roll of
paper towels, which we keep in a big box down there,
and as soon as I get to the bottom of the stairs I have forgotten what I came down there for. It happens to
my wife as well. So recently we have taken to working
in tandem like spelunkers. One of us stands at the
top of the stairs while the other descends. When the descendant has reached the bottom stair, the person
at the top calls out, “Light bulbs, 60 watt.” This
usually works unless the one in the basement lingers
too long. I blame this memory loss on all the stuff in
the basement. Too much baggage: 10 shades of blue
paint, because we could not get the right color, extra dishes, bicycles, the washer and dryer, a cider press, a piano, jars of screws, nails and bolts…. It boggles the mind. My wife blames it on radon.

Louis Jenkins, “Basement” from Tin Flag: New and Selected Poems. © 2013  Will o’ the Wisp Books.

Advertising tells us we’ll be happier if we just buy more stuff. Better stuff. New stuff. But I’m pretty sure that too much stuff makes us sad. It weighs us down. It reminds us of the things we didn’t do: the instrument we no longer play, the language we didn’t learn, the books and magazines we never read. This spring, maybe get rid of some stuff. Start over. Clean slate.

As the poet Wendell Berry says, “Practice resurrection.”

If you liked this post and would like to make a donation to support my writing, you can do that through PayPal here: Gifts for Jan’s Finding Home    Thank you!

3 Comments on “Spring Cleaning & A Happy Home

  1. Every spring, there would be a beautiful day in April when my mom would take all the curtains down for washing and a hang on the line, open the windows and doors, and we’d clean everything down to the bed slats! I must say, even as a kid, I loved that feeling halfway through when the house smelled like outside breeze instead of wood smoke, with hints of pledge and Mr. Clean drifting about.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with you to “choose colors that make you happy.” I love seafoam blue and green colors around the house. Very refreshing and cleansing. Thanks for sharing a lovely post and photos.

    Liked by 1 person

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