It’s spring, go on, be anal. It’s good for you

By Lisa Sugarman

Ah, spring.

We wait for it and we wait for it and we wait and we wait … still waiting… and then we wait a teeny bit longer… and then it comes. (You’re sighing, I feel it.) And then it’s all about crocuses and pastel shorts and beach stickers. I know, I feel you. And we all breath and sigh and smile. My friend Jenny actually celebrates when we turn the clocks ahead. It’s her favorite day of the year. You go, Jen!

But for me, spring has a much different meaning. For me, it’s only partly about the flower bulbs and the shiny new grill brush. What really lights me up is actually the bastard child of spring. He’s the one no one likes to talk about. You know him, he’s the one we have to tolerate because he‘s a byproduct of the season, but the one we wish we could avoid because he makes a lot of people edgy and anxious.

I call that bastard child Spring Cleaning. And I love him.

To me, spring means organizing and all that that implies. My friends are laughing now because they know that if a little girl got a pony for her birthday, she’d be as happy as I am when I get to switch out my winter clothes. But I can’t help it. Just the idea of cleaning the slate and getting ducks in a row makes me happy. I guess it’s kind of a Zen thing for me. Some people crisscross applesauce under a weeping willow and om, some people get a hot rock massage. Me, I put on my nappy old cutoff overalls, grab a handful of double-lined Glad bags, and I’m in my happy place.

In my little world, spring means filing, labeling, hanging, folding, purging, cleaning, shredding (alright, now I’m getting flushed). I get giddy this time of year because spring affords me the almost God-given right to legitimately do something I’m inclined to do on just about any given day—clean, sort, and organize. Yeah, sure, I love a good spring mani/pedi just like the next girl, but give me a Brother P Touch Label Maker and some Joy Mangano Huggable Hangers and whoa baby!

It’s liberating tearing through underwear & sock drawers, filling bags to give to Goodwill or the Magic Hat. But it’s even more fulfilling to be able to go out and buy new underwear and new socks. That’s the real fun.

Look, I know I might be a bit of a minority here, but I actually do get some kind of a bizarre high from switching out my riding boots for my wedges and Dr. Scholl’s. We all have our weaknesses. I realize that most people switch over their winter/spring clothes and maybe pressure-wash their shingles under duress. I know it’s not the norm to get this happy over something so tedious. But I just can’t help myself.

So maybe you toss out a few old sweaters left over from the Dukakis days, Fantastic the vegetable crisper, and switch your knee-highs to your espadrilles. And that’s all well and good. In fact, it’s great. Whatever makes you happy. Look, I accept that I’m the extreme. I know who I am. But I can’t help but think, though, that you might be missing an opportunity here to dig deeper, to kick it up a notch, to transcend. You’d be amazed at what you can accomplish when you feel the weight of all your unwanted, unused crap just melt off you like those last annoying 10 pounds of body weight that just won’t come off. Cleaning does that. It’s incredibly cathartic. (And maybe almost some sort of a freaky diuretic, who knows). After all, purging yourself of 10 pounds of unwanted clothes is almost as good as losing 10 of your own pounds. Well almost.

Think of it this way, in much the same way that the world’s spider population performs a great service to our ecosystem by keeping the insect population under control, us anal retentive organizers and cleaners add value, too. I mean every species has value, right? If it wasn’t for us purging all of our unwanted, obsolete stuff in your face, you wouldn’t necessarily think you needed to get rid of anything. So we inspire you. Right?

Even if it’s not your natural inclination, the least you could do is give it a try. Embrace your inner anal retentive. You won’t be sorry. And just think about how much room you’ll have for all the new crap you’ll be inclined to buy.

I think about it, the universe wants us to purge regularly because the alternative is hoarding is that’s just pathological. And you don’t want to wind up on A&E, now do you?

I’ve never tried to hide who I am. I’m neat and I function better when my stuff is organized. Plain and simple. And I’m not embarrassed to say that because of this mild (well, moderate) form of anal retentiveness, neither Dave nor I have misplaced our keys or a wallet more than twice in the last 20 years. A staggering statistic, I know. But true.

And there are others like me. I’ve met them. I’ve seen their post-spring cleaning pantries and they’re stunning. Very Sleeping With the Enemy. Gives me chills. And their mudrooms give me a warm feeling inside when I see the individual baskets filled with shoes and the one next to it filled with scarves. Labeled. It really doesn’t get better than that.

I think the super organized tend to get a bad rap just because they represent a minority. And super duper cleaning represents lots of extra work, I know. But the payoff is huge.

Bottom line is that people should live however they want to live. I don’t judge anybody. Be neat. Be a slob. Dive head first into your spring cleaning, or don’t. Makes no difference to me. I could care less about anyone else’s crap or whether or not I have to step over it when I visit you. If it’s not in my little world, doesn’t bother me a bit. I just function better when I’m organized. It’s really that simple. And if being what might be considered anal retentive makes me a freak, then I got my freak on fosho. Maybe you could get a little crazy this spring and get your freak on too.

Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at OR read her blog at


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