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Spring Cleaning for Mad Dogs and Englishmen

2013 March 19
by Ann L. Carter





Who came up with the term “Spring Cleaning” and can we find him and hang him out to dry?  Yes, pun intended, though it’s possible it was a “she”. Spring is for getting outside, for gardening, for planning trips to get away from the later searing heat of summer, when all these lovely outdoor activities need to be done at five in the morning or nine at night by anyone besides mad dogs and Englishmen (I picked up that wonderful expression while living in the tropics of North Queensland, Australia, and I try to find excuses to use it).

Before I had children and while living alone on Leavenworth Street, I liked to have a clean and orderly house. I liked to walk in the front door and see all that beauty and order in front of me. It made me feel good, understandably. I still like it. Very much. The trouble is, something has to give when your life gets fuller. Some standards have to be lowered, to allow the rest in. I want my house, the beautiful country house I live in now, to be cleaner and less cluttered than it is, but I hate that I let that goal burden me, weigh me down as if the unsorted pet paraphernalia and too small sports equipment and now the boxes brought from my mom’s house (these deserve my time in the future) are actually resting on my shoulders, causing more frequent trips to the chiropractor. Why do I feel I should be telling myself that writing this blog is an “excuse” for not doing what is on my list for this Tuesday morning.  Things like clean the floors upstairs, including large balls of dog hair surrounding unused exercise weights lying somewhere under the bed.  Like remove at least two buckets of dog poop from back pen and throw somewhere not too close to creek (there seems to be a dog theme here).  Why are those cleaning jobs somehow more important than putting these thoughts on paper?

When I was growing up in Topeka, Kansas, we lived in a small house that my stay at home mother kept fairly clean and uncluttered. Of course we had a lot less stuff to clutter up the rooms. But there was a neighbor woman down the alley, a stay at home mother as well, who couldn’t seem to keep her house clean and neat, which was even more looked down on during the Leave It To Beaver days of the 50’s. My mom liked to mention that about her, but not for the reasons you might think. She liked to tell me, “Virginia never let the state of her house keep her from inviting me in, having me sit for tea and a sweet snack, and finding time to talk about our kids or whatever. I will always remember that about her…I admired her for that.”

Helen arrived 15 years ago, or rather I went to China to bring her back, a 20 month old toddler.  Then Rose 4 and 1/2 years later,  only 4 months old and from Vietnam.  My clean and uncluttered house on Leavenworth Street, over time, became something else.


I Miss My Old Living Room

one quilt draped
over the sofa

two novels
the current Newsweek
and drafts of my latest poem
the only things on
the coffee table

the corners with a lovely bareness
filling the room with a sense of
and space


my new old living room
has no empty corners

the coffee table so full
coloring books
math tests
cut out flowers
glued to the backs of
my used computer paper
walking by it’s easy
to cause a landslide

a large dog crate sits in the
middle of the floor
occupied by Bobcat
the injured abandoned kitten
we found at a truck stop
lured to our cardboard box
by goldfish crackers
taken to the vet school for a tail amputation


I didn’t think there was room
in this house
but here she is
taking up the only open space left
in my new old living room

I hear her soft meowing
as I sit on my sofa
covered with an old blanket
not artistically draped

and the sound filters
into every corner
and is absorbed
by the fullness.


January 8, 2004


I suppose that spring cleaning isn’t really such a bad idea and I just hope by age 62 Merry Maids can be in my budget and they’ll drive this far out of town. But when someone tells me that so and so’s house is so clean it looks like nobody lives there, I cringe and think thank goodness it’s not my place they are talking about.

And now back to getting a photo uploaded of my messy morning work space (actually a room that looks pretty good, but I do have some pride concerning public display). The two buckets of dog poop in the back pen can wait. It comes from sane dogs, and that makes all the difference in the world.

3 Responses Post a comment
  1. March 20, 2013

    Ah, my friend. You have chosen the “better portion.” Nicely written.

  2. May 18, 2014

    Hello there! I know this is kinda off topic but I was wondering if you knew where I could find a captcha plugin for my comment form?
    I’m using the same blog platform as yours and
    I’m having problems finding one? Thanks a lot!

    • Ann L. Carter permalink*
      May 19, 2014

      Hi! I’m afraid I’m pretty clueless about how this all works—I had it set up for me. But thank you for reading my posts! And good luck in finding what you need.

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