Print Edition: May 20, 2015
The winter semester ends with the squirmy recognition of how long it’s been since I cleaned anything. My couch is no longer a couch but a nest formed by the accoutrements of final paper writing: mugs and glasses, fading pens, and stacks of overdue library books. So the brighter, longer days of spring’s sudden onset bring the undeniable impulse to clean. And, since the end of a semester often heralds changes — whether a new job, no job, or just a new set of classes — it’s also a time to evaluate what stuff needs to stay, and what must go.
This impulse isn’t limited to students; one of the by-products of living in a society with so much stuff is that it all tends to accumulate. There are the freebies, the items your parents offloaded to you when they went through their stuff, stuff you thought you needed or wanted and never used, stuff people gave you for your birthday or Christmas that you didn’t know what to do with: all this stuff stuffed in your closet, gathering life-force like the monster you were terrified of as a child, breathing heavily behind the doors, waiting to emerge and suffocate you in your sleep.
So there’s got to be a time, a place, and a means to get rid of all this stuff. Spring cleaning is a practice that goes way back and is often associated with times of beginning and new growth. In some traditions it marks the start of a new year; just as we resolve to make internal improvements, we make the space to be better people. It’s not just a matter of reorganizing cupboards or cleaning oft-neglected areas. It’s an opportunity to reassess which material objects deserve a place in your life, to downsize, and to unclutter. But the problem arises: how do we dispose of the old without being irresponsibly wasteful?
Mission takes it to the curb. Every year they hold Spring Clean-up Week (this year it was May 4 to 8) during which households can put out additional waste on collection days as well as kicking other items to the curb like small pieces of furniture or appliances, and other random bits of basement detritus. During the week, people keep an eye out for free curbside treasures which may find new life in their homes, thereby reducing the amount of waste that goes unnecessarily to landfills. Manageable, contained items left behind are either recycled or disposed of appropriately by the City.
This strikes me as a better way to deal with spring cleaning than posting that old end table on Craigslist or taking items that no one wants to the dump. There are donation bins for clothes and books, and some items can be taken to second-hand stores, but, right or wrong, many consider it to be too much effort when they have a lot of items they want to disappear. Much of what accumulates at city dumps could be fixed or repurposed. So the main benefit of Spring Clean-up Week is that it takes a lot of the hassle out of discarding no-longer-welcome stuff, within reason.
There are limits and rules, but overall the practice is responsive to city-dwellers’ needs to clean up and improve their living spaces. It’s a practice other cities, like Abbotsford, should strongly consider.