By Holly Hutchinson
And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15
I spent my earliest years in Pinedale, Wyoming, a mountain town famous for long, hard winters. The word “spring” was never spoken aloud before April first. But a woman in our town was a nut about Spring Cleaning.
Her name was Madge. She moved to our town and became the lone employee of the Welfare office. Her tiny, century-old log cabin was one of the town’s first structures. Located on Main Street, the house was passed daily by everybody in town. Its living room had two chairs in front of the fireplace and a huge upright piano. Coats hung on a row of hooks. The tiny kitchen and bedroom were monk-like. The “facilities” were out back. The tiny windows made the interior somewhat dim, but colorful braided wool rugs adorned the floors. It was perfect for Madge. Not a stay-at-home person, she liked to be out and about. Playing piano by ear, she provided raucous music for local dances and community events, especially at the Episcopal Church. She started the town’s Campfire Girls, brought Red Cross swimming lessons to town, and helped start a museum. She organized a box supper for Valentine’s Day, an Easter egg hunt on the courthouse lawn, and Thanksgiving meals for shut-ins, where the deliverer sat down and shared the meal.
But the event Madge directed every year on April first was unlike any other: Spring Cleaning Day. That day everything from her cabin (except the piano) was carried outside. The house was dusted, scrubbed, and polished. Madge didn’t accomplish this alone; she recruited people to help—expecting us to honor the frontier tradition of “pitching in”—and she could be a little bossy. Kitchen cupboards were emptied; shoes and clothing were taken outside; rugs were draped over the fence; curtains were hauled to the laundromat. Then, after the last corner was swept and the last window washed, Madge started putting things back. But before each item was returned to the house she asked two questions: What is it for? Do I need this?
Madge said this yearly ritual helped maintain her balance. Not interested in possessions, she did not give or receive gifts. She appreciated beautiful things, but did not need to own them. “I need Spring Cleaning Day to eliminate clutter and make way for what is important,” she said.
Don’t we all? The season of Lent is a good time for de-cluttering our messy lives, and changing the focus to our faith and the lessons of Jesus.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I know I spend too much time counting, organizing, maintaining my possessions; and not enough time maintaining my relationships with people. I am determined to use this time before Easter to work on this, to “get my house in order.” Amen.