Spring cleaning, beyond the dust

It should not be surprising in a capitalistic culture that the majority of Americans have too much junk. Junk may seem like an extreme term for the desiderata clogging drawers, stuffed in closets, hidden away in the attic, cluttering every horizontal surface, or out-of-sight-out-of-mind in an offsite storage facility. But junk it is.

Spring cleaning, beyond the dust

We are not referring to the obvious targets of Spring cleaning; dust, cobwebs, dead food, mismatched socks, archive-quality newspapers and magazines, the stacks of unread junk mail, assorted toys and books littered about, empty shampoo bottles…in other words, dirt and trash.


Desiderata is defined as indispensable, essential, necessary; and that is why it remains in place, resisting efforts at deeper Spring cleaning. Yet it is only indispensable from a hoarder perspective. To be honest, there is a bit of the hoarder in all of us; we all have a certain amount of junk.


For now, let’s define junk as any item that is usable (even if it requires repair) but for which the owner has no immediate or specifically foreseeable use. For argument’s sake, it has occupied space in a drawer, closet, shelf, attic, etc. for over two years serving no utilitarian purpose.


To support the notion that one person’s junk is another person’s treasure, we adopt polite titles such as Collector or Genealogist. For possessions that do not represent that level of organization and purpose, we call ourselves ‘green’ (hoping to re-use or recycle items destined for the landfill) or ‘financially responsible’ (having taken advantage of discount pricing, despite no immediate need).


Spring cleaning becomes an onerous task when it adds another polite title—archeologist—in which sorting thru the junk evokes memories of the past. Unless you are a historian, archivist, or curator (maintaining items with organization and purpose), effective Spring cleaning requires a simple acknowledgement that junk is junk. Junk may evoke memories but is not the memory itself. And any memory that hasn’t been jogged while the item has been in storage can hardly be considered a ‘significant’ live event.


As a mental health exercise, Spring cleaning is an opportunity to practice discernment; that is, sorting thru the desiderata, honestly discriminating the essential from the merely reminiscent. Junk need not be a pejorative. Having no use for you does not mean it cannot have use for someone else. So release it.


A garage sale is tempting but can be emotionally exhausting. Choosing what to sell. Watching strangers pick thru your possessions. Negotiating prices far below your perceived value of them. Why put yourself through that!


North Texas has a wide variety of charitable organizations that receive, sort, repair, and sell serviceable goods. Some will even come to you and cart it away. In a way it is selfish to cling to junk, hoping that someday it may produce a value for you. To bring a new perspective to Spring cleaning, adopt a new title—Philanthropist. Give away what you do not need or want so that others who are less fortunate may thrive. Giving up the junk weighting you down makes it available to people who really need it.


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