Spring cleaning: Forget the brooms and mops


My clothes closet is a throwback, a collection from a past life. Who bought all these clothes, I wonder. Whose life was dressed in these costumes? What woman, aside from the extravagantly shod Imelda Marco, could possibly think she needed so many pairs of shoes?

I stand in awe at the bizarre items hanging inside. I cannot connect to the life these clothes adorned. There is a floor-length, multi-colored, layer-cake skirt that I bought and last wore on a trip to Africa, when it was only marginally appropriate, even in Mozambique. Truth? There are two of these skirts. I also have a bright, bright red, heavily embroidered Chinese jacket I bought in Shanghai in 2003. It’s lovely, and it fits, but it is so, so pre-Covid life.

I see shirts I bought 25 years ago, when big, padded shoulders were de rigueur. They still have paper stuffed into the sleeves from the last time I had them cleaned, several decades ago.

It’s like wandering through Pompeii. Who was this person? I wonder. The big belts, the silk shawls, the long velvet pants for formal attire add to the sense of disconnection. A hot pink cocktail dress?

Today I could keep my wardrobe in a paper sack. Since the pandemic and the collapse of the social life we once enjoyed, I dress down. Way down. Still, there are four pairs of spiked heels on the shelf. A walk in those babies would be a suicide mission.

On another shelf in the closet is the crocheted blanket that I started with my mother-in-law, who has been dead 40 years. Any day now I guess I’ll take up crocheting again. The bejeweled handbag I bought in the gift shop at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore doesn’t go with my mom jeans.

You get my point. I hereby publicly vow to use this spring to fling out the old and give away the wardrobe of the woman who once lived a very different life from mine. My new life requires five hangars and a drawer.

There’s more. Closets are a metaphor, are they not? Clichéd, but still the perfect symbol of all that is tucked away, out of sight.

With that in mind, I want to spring-clean my mind of the addictive behaviors brought on by the deprivations and anxieties of the coronavirus. The super-killer is done, and we’re still standing. The virus, no doubt, is here to stay, but with the appropriate vaccines, we will go on. What remains is our pathological obsession with devices that intensified during the pandemic, and that needs to be treated.

For example, I thought I had a clear mind when I sat down to write this. Then I glanced at an incoming text. My sister wanted a recipe, so I stopped writing and looked up the ingredients of sheet pan lasagna. But wait — as I searched, there was “incoming”: A new sale by Eileen Fisher, so I checked it out, and was about to buy a new T-shirt to stash in the aforementioned closet when, blip, there were notices from a dozen charities offering to match my donation today if I made them right now. I started to give my $25 to Planned Parenthood when, whoosh, there was a text from my granddaughter, who was turning in a paper in three minutes that she wanted me to edit.

So, what was I doing? Writing my column — right, that’s it. But sister texted back, thanking me for the lasagna recipe, and then my husband texted to ask which lettuce to buy at the supermarket. I had to tell him romaine, right? Or he might come back with iceberg.

What did I sit down here to do? Oh yes, I want to focus on spring cleaning, but the news and the texts and the endless notifications are a disorienting sound-and-light show signifying nothing but distraction.

But, really, hold on a minute, can I afford to ignore a text from a company that will help me control upper-arm fat? Can I write about spring cleaning this week, when Donald Trump is possibly eating a puppy online in another magic MAGA moment? (Relax, I made that one up.)

What practical steps will I take to clean up the psychological and technological distractions? I will stop “notifications” and turn off my phone when I write. Next time. I really will do that, I promise, but first I have to check out two tiny must-read urgent news flashes: the best undiscovered beaches in Newfoundland and photos of an ancient worm that grew to 37 feet long.

Copyright 2024 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at