Thursday, April 3, 2008

The dust aways wins....

Spring cleaning wars rage on, but the dust always wins

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — When you get to what Jane Fonda terms “the third act” of your life, I think priorities change for many of us.
The desire to accumulate stuff decreases as your stuff increases…and collects dust.
Recently, while trying to clear out a patch of closet for a guest, and eliminate some major dust-collectors, I realized just how much I’ve accumulated.
Nearly 14 years ago, I’d pruned my possessions down to fit in a modestly-sized U-Haul truck, including the basics in furnishings, kitchen and household supplies, clothing, and the really important stuff: enough books to stock a small town library and a respectable little art collection.
My first little one-bedroom apartment here was Zen and minimalist enough to generate echoes.
Now, after more pruning and four moves later, somehow, I’ve managed to fill a three bedroom house, two patios and a garage with stuff.
Lots and lots of stuff.
I remember my mom protesting endlessly to my dad that she could keep our house neat if only she had enough storage space.
I realize now, she had an excellent point. Our family home, exclusive of surrounding acreage, was probably not much bigger than my solo adobe abode, and it was filled not only with stuff, but with two adults, three kids, at least one dog and several ducks and occasional bunnies who always managed to spend at least part of their time as live-in amigos. And there were far fewer closets and cabinets than I have.
Now I’m starting to suspect that more storage containers, bigger bureaus and more bookcases are not the answer.
The answer is what my big sister Sally, a pioneer in so much new-generation family wisdom, called the boat survival principal. It was developed when she lived with her husband and their young daughter in an old yacht anchored off a Florida pier.
The boat survival principal was simple: for everything you bring on board, something of the same size must go ashore.
I started last week by throwing out lots of stuff and collecting and delivering many large bags of serviceable things to local charities. After successfully resisting the urge to snap up more stuff at surprisingly cute shops of local charitable organizations, it was time for phase 2: spring cleaning.
Though I’ve long advocated a let-it-be policy when it comes to coping with desert dustiness (I encourage everybody to think of it as the artistic — and inevitable— patina of our daily lives), there comes a time when you realize that some action must be taken.
In my case, that time usually comes at the height of allergy season, unfortunately coinciding this year with the period when the Doña Anas are at their peak of full-tilt windy bluster.
After all these years, I’m still surprised at all the places our ubiquitous dust can settle in. I expect to do hard time on all my open bookcases, a price I almost willingly pay for enjoying the sight of my favorite books every day. After all, I know I will find dust even inside of my snugly enclosed kitchen cabinets, lingering on dishes, cups and glasses.
I’ve even come to accept that there will be dust on all the fans and vents, though it still seems to defy logic. Shouldn’t a fan blow everything away, after all, especially ephemeral stuff like dust?
But this is fine, grimy and even greasy dust, and like everything that persists in the desert, it’s very tenacious.
I climbed to dust high shelves and knick-knacks, including an entire platoon of kachinas, with masks and feathers and intricately-carved wooden crevices, all gathering bumper crops of dust. I rearranged framed pictures and discovered their back surfaces collecting sneezy clouds that rival the dust bunnies under beds and couches. Wooden furniture and the piano were rubbed down and emerged lovely and lemon scented.
Rugs were shaken and washed and still yielded a rich drier lint trap harvest. After vacuuming, I sneezed and relaxed for a moment, savoring gleaming, dust-free surfaces.
Then the March winds began again, and I watched the fine, gritty mist streaming in, even around my best-insulated and weather-stripped doors and windows.
There will be spring cleaning respites and an oasis or two after thunderstorms and monsoon season, but I am a creature of the desert now and I have no illusions. In this material world of ashes to ashes and dust to dust, and especially in the land where weather forecasts are often “mostly dusty,” we humans may prevail in a spring cleaning battle or two. But in the great housekeeping wars, I know the dust will always win.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

No comments: