Spring cleaning

Farm Forum

The biggest problem I have with spring cleaning is dealing with all the decisions. And we’re talking decisions that are so important, they can’t be handled with the mere flip of a coin, which is how we chose names for our kids.

First there’s the decision as to whether or not we should do any spring cleaning in the first place. This issue is usually settled by my wife, who drops such subtle hints as, “The yard looks like a twig storage warehouse” and “That junk drawer is so cluttered, Emilia Earhart could be in there somewhere!” and “This house has a full basement, I just didn’t realize how full!”

The basement is a sore spot for me. I can’t bear to throw out anything that might someday, somehow, in this universe or a parallel one, have any possible future use. This means that a lot of stuff gets stowed in the basement. Our cellar is the place where we store things until we throw them away.

The return of clement weather meant that it was time to get going on spring cleanup. But who decides what, exactly, is “junk” and what is an item that I didn’t even remember that I owned and that I now cannot live without?

For example, here is the baseball glove I used when I played 4-H softball. This is an incredibly important artifact that should probably be in a museum. It’s a memento of that summer evening in 1973 when, with me playing third base, our County Liners 4-H softball team eked out a one-run win over the powerhouse Argo Township.

Besides, it’s entirely possible that some Major League team, having finally gotten wind of our victory over Argo, might call and beg me to play third base for them. So this glove doesn’t only contain huge sentimental value; it might also be key to my baseball career.

What to do with other flotsam and jetsam is less clear. Here is some tubular ductwork that was removed to make room for the new furnace we installed 20 years ago. Will we ever use this ductwork again? Not likely. But then again, it would be an ideal place to store duct tape. So that belongs in the “maybe” pile.

Some folks have a rule that goes something like: “If I haven’t looked at it or touched it or thought about it for ‘X’ years, it’s time to toss it.” Well, OK. But if you were to follow that rule the letter, I would have to throw away my navel.

After the junk is loaded onto the pickup, there’s the problem of the actual visit to the dump.

I know, the proper term these days is “landfill,” but I grew up calling such places a dump. “Landfill” sounds hoity-toity, similar to the contemporary practice of calling household pets “companion animals.” Come on! They’re just dogs and cats!

Anyhow, the dump can be a dangerous place for me. As I offload the worthless crap from my pickup – there’s a particular pleasure that comes from lofting an old television and watching it crash – I’m eyeballing the valuable stuff that others have thrown out.

Who in their right mind would abandon such a nice recliner? Only one arm is ratty and those stains aren’t too weird. And there’s nothing wrong with that lumpy old couch that a new slipcover wouldn’t cure!

This is why my wife has to accompany me to the dump. If she didn’t, my pickup would come home with more stuff than when it left.

True story: when our youngest son was in college, he and some buddies were tooling around town during the week when folks leave junk on the boulevard for city sanitation crews. They spotted what appeared to be a new vacuum cleaner and took it home.

The vacuum was indeed nearly new and was simply plugged with a major hairball, which was easily removed. Thanks to their innovation and thrift, the boys were able to use that vacuum cleaner for many years thereafter as a power beer bong.

My wife and I recently motored through Sac City, Iowa. One of the town’s most striking features is a majestic Victorian mansion that overlooks downtown.

At least it used to be majestic. The old house has definitely seen better days; its corbels are crumbling and its brickwork needs work.

But we could also see some signs of renovation. Someone had looked at that creaky old castle and thought, “Who in their right mind would abandon a perfectly good humungous Victorian mansion? All it needs is some cleanup and some new slipcovers!”

My wife saw the expression on my face.

“No!” she said, “You can’t take that mansion home with you!”

If you’d like to contact Jerry to do some public speaking, or just to register your comments, you can e-mail him at: jjpcnels@itctel.com.