Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 732 Spring Cleaning

This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery.

Where I grew up spring cleaning was a big thing. I mean the curtains would come down.  The rugs would be taken out to the clothes line and beaten with a broom. The walls would be washed down. The top edges of windows and doors would be dusted. Cupboards would be emptied of glasses, cups, plates and stuff we never used. Everything in them would be dusted or washed and new paper would be placed on the shelves. Closets would be gutted and then restocked with the same stuff that had come out of them.  Even the ceilings would get a good sweeping. Spiders and webs would be vanquished for the moment.

My mother was retired for twenty-seven years before she died. She lived alone in a big traditional, white two story framed house. It was over a hundred years old. Similar houses can be seen in almost any small midwestern town. Each spring the ritual cleaning was repeated. Not that she didn't have other time to clean it. Not that it needed cleaning but if it was spring the house must be cleaned.

My in-laws were the same way. Though retired, spring was the time for cleaning. Everything had to be picked up and dusted off and then returned to await a repeat performance the following year. When my mother and my in-laws died it was hard to believe all of the stuff that had to be taken from the nooks and crannies for the final time. This time they were not cleaned nor returned.

Now we are retired and my wife talks about spring cleaning. We could clean any time - and we do. It seems to me that the house is always clean but of course being clean is a very relative matter. What is clean to me is not what is clean to her.

These annual rituals seem to stay with us throughout life. I know that rituals are good things to have in one's life. They tie us together. They span generations. They remind us of those that have come before.   In our house whenever spring rolls around there is always talk of our parents and their sense of duty to cleanliness. "Cleanliness is next to Godliness", they used to say. And they meant it.

There is something comforting about seeing these rituals repeated. I know that every Christmas day we pull out Handle's Messiah after opening our gifts and let it roll at a high volume. When we now call our own kids and their families on Christmas day we can usually hear the same music coming from their homes. It feels good.

Spring cleaning always reminds me of the New Year. There are certain things that need to be done. At the new year it is more mental than physical. We decide to change our ways: exercise more, read more, see more movies, have more dinner guests, etc. Spring cleaning approaches in a more direct fashion.

We can see the work that needs to be done. We can attack and complete it with direct action. We don't need to wait a year to see if we have achieved our goal. That's the part I like. It feels like self-improvement just to gaze at a clean garage floor or bookshelves that are in order.

Putting your surroundings in order is not one of my highest priorities. I have a couple of shelves in my garage that are an absolute mess. My wife always suggests that "If you would clean that mess up and organize it perhaps you could find things". There is just something about having a little mess that appeals to me. I'm not that way about the rest of the house. I like to have things in their place but having a mess on just a couple of shelves reminds me of the choice I have and that I alone can make. It's a reminder of freedom.

Just to be honest I have to admit to also having a desk, computer space and recording space that is fairly messy. I hate to think I would have to give that area a spring cleaning. I do re-organize on occasion but it never lasts.

One great thing about spring cleaning is that it is always accompanied by spring blooms. Colors change from gray to yellow, blue, red and green. Flowers constantly surprise us with a new burst of energy. And with the flowers come the birds with colorful plumage and melodious song.

All of this is wrapped in more hours of daylight. And with the extended hours of light comes warmer temperatures. Coats and hats can be put away. We travel lighter. We feel freer. Our mind becomes lighter. Winter gloom and problems are forgotten or  buried amidst all of spring splendor.

Spring cleaning is a time for rebirth. It is time for new thoughts. New plans. For the retired it is time to move our dreams from the inside to the great outdoors. Now is the time to seriously try fly fishing, biking, walking, gardening or long road trips. And when we really desire action we might amble down to the local coffee shop and spend a strenuous hour watching the world walk by the big windows. 

This is Retirement Talk.












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