Kirsten Mustain

The idea of “spring cleaning” is certainly not new. It is one of those phrases we use out of habit that dates back to some foggy time in the Great Long Ago.

I’m not an expert on the subject, but I suspect that if one could read cuneiform one might find references to spring cleaning on ancient stone tablets or on underground walls in the temple at Carnac.

It is probably as old as the idea of spring renewal, since cleansing and renewal go hand in hand.

This is the sort of truth I like – the kind that can be confirmed by simple observation.

For instance, I know that when spring comes I have to clean out my flowerbeds and turn the soil to make ready for new growth.

Tender young shoots cannot sprout in a bed choked with last year’s weeds and winter debris.

Before the seeds can take root, they have to have a space in which to do so.

It’s hard work clearing the beds, but I find it refreshing to spend time outdoors in the sunshine and fresh air working the rich black soil. And I also know that if I want to be blessed with petunias and snapdragons all summer long, it is a necessary task.

Of course, spring cleaning applies indoors, too. The floors must be swept, the rugs shaken out, the counters scrubbed, the tables dusted, and the carpets vacuumed. (One hopes you do this more than once a year.)

But one of the things I think many of us forget, is that spring cleaning can also be done for the heart and the mind.

I have often noticed that the mere act of cleaning out the flowerbeds and the house clears my mind as well.

However, I have also noticed that there are things I can consciously do to get rid of all the winter debris in my psyche.

Each of us is bombarded every day with things that can be damaging to good moods and positive outlooks. We are all prone to having our mental flowerbeds invaded by irritating weeds of cross words and criticism.

Oh, we can rail at our detractors well enough, or kick our feet and scream at God and the president, but when we hang onto all these irritations they fester and create obstacles to the seeds of happiness and well-being.

So when I encounter these “weeds” of irritation, in whatever form they take, I try to yank them out by the roots and toss them into the compost heap. Rather than concentrate on unkind words and unwarranted criticism, I make a conscious choice to banish them from my thoughts.

If they continue to plague me, I write them down, tear up the paper, and toss it in the trash.

I also do this if they come in the form of anonymous notes.

Mr. T. said some very kind things in his column today, and I would like to respond because even if he didn’t heap compliments on my head, he would be my idea of the best newspaper publisher around.

He is balanced and fair-minded and willing to do whatever it takes to make my job, and the jobs of everyone else at the paper, as smooth and easy to handle as possible – believe me this task is even more daunting that it sounds.

I can’t say that I know what a “stereotypical” newspaper publisher would be like – I’ve only known a couple, and they have all been different in strange and colorful ways - but I believe the portrayals I’ve seen paint them much the same as the stereotypical newspaper editor. If that’s the case, Mr. T. definitely is not stereotypical.

He might refute this in his own self-deprecating way, but I find him to be a calm bastion of sanity in an office where sanity is not always readily apparent.

And so as each of us prepares for our own spring cleaning, whether it be the house or the yard, or the psyche, or all of the above, remember to make a space for a flower or two – one small bastion of sanity in a world where sanity is not always readily apparent.

(Yes, Mr. T., I think I compared you to a flower, but you must understand, flowers are some of the best things in the world as far as I’m concerned.)

It is my belief that life is too short to tolerate crab grass in a place where there could be flowers instead.