It’s time to take the trash test

Ah, spring. Birds chirping, forsythia bursting into golden bloom, bright green willows leafing out, violent wind ripping shingles off the house, and ... spring cleaning.

Where did spring cleaning originate? I suspect it came from a few different places. The Jewish preparations for Passover require a thorough cleaning of the house from top to bottom, and Passover is from April 14–22 this year (it’s always right around Easter). Preparing for this important holiday sometimes begins a month before, and the cleaning is all about getting down to the nitty gritty, every nook and cranny.

Many cultures have annual full-house cleaning traditions. In Scotland, it comes at New Year’s Eve and is called Hogmanay. The idea is a clean house helps usher in a clean, new year.

Another cleaning tradition is the Quema del Diablo festival in Guatemala. “In local traditions, the devil lurks in the corners of homes, beneath beds and among garbage,” according to

On Dec. 7 every year, people pile their trash and junk in the streets and set it on fire, sometimes adorning the rubbish with effigies of the devil. Setting the garbage on fire somehow banishes the devil from their homes, making them squeaky clean and holy for Christmas.

“To accompany the burn there might be marimba bands and there will certainly be fireworks ... another rocket up the fleeing devil’s behind,” Lonely Planet said.

This makes the spring clean-up piles along Grand Junction’s streets seem pretty tame.

But I think the way homesteaders lived contributes more to our idea of spring cleaning in these here parts. Just think of how the pioneers lived. In shanties, dugouts, or houses if they were lucky.

People didn’t have modern heating systems, so they kept their homes shut tightly all winter. All the soot from burning coal, wood and tallow candles for heat, light and cooking probably blackened the walls quite a bit.

If they had rugs, surely there was a hefty amount of accumulated dust and grime that had to be beaten out. If they had a dirt floor, it probably created a lot of dust.

And keep in mind that people also didn’t bathe as much back then (maybe on Saturday night for Sunday church) and didn’t wash their clothes as often, and I’m sure it made for a rather stinky situation.

Today, we have vacuum cleaners and appliances that keep our homes much cleaner than our ancestors probably could imagine. Hot water conveniently spews from our taps and, if we’re out of clean underwear, we just throw it in the washing machine and pour in some detergent.

At my house, spring cleaning is more about clearing clutter than it is about ridding the house of grime.

This year, it’s all about pretending like we’re moving and playing the “would we take it with us?” game. It’s brutal. When you hold something in your hand and think, “do I need/want this thing enough to pack it, haul it, and unpack it again?” there are a lot of things that flunk the test.

Old record player I never hooked up? Out. Scattergories game unplayed since eighth grade? Goodbye. Bronzed baby booties from 1977? I left it up to Hubby, but he said, “What’s the purpose of these? To hold them up against my foot and say my foot used to be that big?” Exactly. If it’s just another thing that needs dusted, it goes.

It seems harsh, but at least I’m not piling it up in the driveway with an effigy of the devil on top and torching it.

It’s tempting, don’t get me wrong, but I’m pretty sure with open-burn season in full force, there’s enough fire and smoke around here, no matter how cathartic it sounds.

Erin McIntyre is an advanced master gardener, writer and Grand Valley native. Please email her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) with story ideas or feedback.


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