Finally. April has arrived. But with it also came the dreaded Covid-19 which forces all of us to stay home for our safety and the protection of others. No one knows how long our confinement will last but we must hunker down as long as necessary.
As we try to keep busy at home, there are many things we can do to pass the time.
From my window, I watch my garden gradually come into bloom. The much awaited fragrance of lilacs fills the air and the vibrant colours of the emerging tulips and crocuses brighten the landscape but not, it seems, our hearts.So much beauty and hope amid weeks of self-isolation and social distancing tinged with fear - and not an end in sight. When T.S. Eliot talked about April being the cruelest month, surely this is the deprivation he must have felt.
To counter the dreaded coronavirus, I have – as you have – washed my hands so often that they feel very dry. I keep disinfecting surfaces, doorknobs, telephones, TV controls. I launder everything I use everyday – everyday. I have washed my grocery bags and rubber gloves in hot water and chlorox. My husband and I are in self-isolation having returned from a trip a week ago, and I haven’t left our home which happens to be in a condominium. Once we are free to go outside, I will have to stay two meters away from other people. I feel as though I were in a futuristic sci-fi horror movie, except that, sadly, everything Is all too real.
At the best of times, I would be just starting my annual spring cleaning right now, but I have already been doing some of that for the past weeks – getting rid of dust and grime mostly, and the detritus of a long and wet winter – worn-out gloves and mitts, scruffy boots, broken toys, etc. But dealing with the frequent cleaning of surfaces and disinfecting made me realize that my tasks would be so much easier if I did not have so much “stuff” to deal with!
“The world is too much with us.” It was actually the poet William Wordsworth who said that but I find it very Biblical. In the spirit of Lent, in atonement for my materialism, and adding to that the concept of sustainability in this world of environmental concerns, I decided to de-clutter, keeping in mind my new mantra: refuse (rather than reduce), reuse and recycle. It will be my penance! And, from now on, my rites of spring. Luckily, I am in self-isolation and have more than enough time to go over my “things” of which I have so much – actually too much!!
I start with a general de-cluttering, going to every room with a green bag, throwing in old magazines and newspapers, dying plants, threadbare kitchen towels, empty bottles of lotions and potions, burnt-down candles, drooping flowers in vases, etc. Getting rid of trash (refuse) is the easy part.
Tackling the contents of a clothes closet is another thing. It can be problematic because it is very personal and can be emotional. Here you have clothing, shoes and accessories for various occasions and seasons. Some of them you bought for a small fortune, some you bought for a steal, some you have never worn, some do not fit because you have put on weight and are hoping to fit into them again someday after you go on a diet. Some of them are precious gifts and some are associated with cherished memories.
I am a bit of a hoarder – sometimes I keep things I should have thrown away a long time ago so this is a good time to take stock. The first thing to do is: shop my closet. I have saved much time and money this way. Very often, I find dresses or shoes that I had worn a few times and re-discovered that they are as fashionable or at least desirable again. I love it when I put something on and my husband says, “That’s very nice”, and I say, triumphantly, “I’ve had this old thing for 10 years!!” Of course, he never believes me.
Now I can decide what I will refuse – these are the throw-aways, old favorites, totally worn out, which I’d be embarrassed to give to anyone and certainly are not worth keeping. These go into the big green garbage bag.
And then there are those to give away: when my daughter visits, she usually raids my closet and she will get the clothes she wants – my husband always says, “Let her have it”! My 12-year-old granddaughter is now almost my size so she will get the jacket she has been admiring for some time. Whatever does not please or fit any of us will be donated to the Salvation Army or a local charity. I will keep the rest. Some of them may be out of fashion and some I may never ever wear again (like my decades-old wedding dress or the ill-fitting blouse my daughter bought for me with the salary from her first summer job) but they do “spark joy” as Marie Kondo, organizing guru says, and they are worth keeping.
For my next refuse, reuse and recycle rituals, I will shop my fridge. I will start by throwing out half-full bottles of catsup, mustard and relish from last summer’s barbecue, last month’s almost-empty wine bottles, last week’s left-overs etc. I will get rid of plastic containers and use more Bon Maman glass jars with the lovely red checkered lids for leftover sauces, garlic slices in olive oil, bagoong, etc.
I will take to heart an article that says we should not throw out our days-old vegetables and fruit just because they don’t look pretty anymore. But I will save this task for another cruel April day. I still have a few days of self-isolation left, and I need a (spring) break. As the Spanish proverb says, How beautiful it is to do nothing and to rest afterwards.