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Out with the old, in with the new

Alexandra Tyminski
MSM Class of 2015

(3/2015) "Mom, I donated one full bag of clothes! Arenít you proud of me?" I asked.

"Yes, sweetie, thatís great. But do you think there are maybe a few more things you could donate?" Mom said.

"Hmmm, I am not so sure," I hesitantly responded. "What is the point of spring cleaning anyways, Mom? We just get rid of clutter and then I always end up with more!" I exclaimed.

Mom was sitting on my bed with a little smirk on her tiny face. Her name is Loree and she is the smartest woman I have ever met. I sometimes refer to her as the walking dictionary. She was elegant as ever, watching me intently and waiting so patiently until I finished placing all of my clothes in separate bags.

"There is a lot more to spring cleaning than just the concept of throwing away clothes," she kindly replied to my question.

"Well, mom, I just donít know about that!" I smiled back at her.

She rolled her eyes and tilted her head back, slightly laughing. "Someday youíll get it, sweetie."


The first time that I ever understood spring cleaning was when I was 22 years old and across the country from my family. It was the first time I was on my own in the real world with a big girl job and my own apartment. When springtime came around, I gathered my confidence and organizational skills and dragged myself to my closet. At first, I wasnít really excited to start my spring cleaning. It seemed more like a chore than a fun task. So, I decided to make the environment more fun.

It was early March and the weather was getting warmer, so I opened up my window. I put my nose up to the black screen and felt it pressing against the rugged surface.

"Ahhhh," I said as I took in and let out a breath of fresh air.

As I started pulling clothes, books, and items that were hiding away in my closet, I began hearing the birds chirping in the background. It brought a smile to my face, and I was really happy to know that spring was truly on the horizon. When I got back to cleaning out of my closet, I was getting very tired very quickly. I sat down on my bed in silence and thought to myself, I do not want to do this. I was tired and this was really the last thing I wanted to do on the first warm day we had. I laid back on my bed and looked outside of the window. I thought to myself that this would be a lot more fun if I had my mom here to keep me company like she did when I was younger.

While I sat there, I spent a second looking at the bags around me that I had filled. I had stuffed to the rim six full bags of clothes and two full bags of other things that could be donated. I chuckled to myself and smiled, thinking that my mom would be so proud that I had more than one bag this time. I couldnít believe how much I was donating. There was a part of me that felt a little sad when I saw some of my favorite clothes tied to my greatest memories sitting in a bag to give away. But, there was another part of me that felt relieved.

This feeling of relief came from being able to let go of things, move on, and pass them on. In fact, because I was donating many of my clothes, it was one of the first times I didnít feel justified to buy more. Usually, I had this attitude that if we throw out, we automatically have the right to get something better or more useful. In some ways this is true, but maybe not about material things.

If spring is a time of renewal and the birth of new things such as the simple opening of flowers, hearing the birds chirp again, or seeing the sun more, then this must mean that there are other renewing things that come with spring too. If spring cleaning is about getting rid of our old clothes and stuff that we do not use that much or simply donít need, then should we do this with our lives? I thought, are there other things that I could leave behind in my life? Stress? Worries? Restlessness? Fear? Reliance on technology?

I was still reflecting while sitting on my bed, and I was reminded of what my mom said. There is a lot more to spring cleaning than just throwing clothes away. Maybe my mom was right. Maybe as we "spring clean" the things we donít wear or do not use, we are unconsciously reflecting on what else we need to get rid of. I know that every time I finish my spring cleaning, I always take a deep breath and feel relieved because I worked so hard to de-clutter my closet. Maybe the de-cluttering of the closet could be applied to our lives when we get rid of the things that cause us to not be our best selves.

In some sense, this should make spring cleaning something to look forward to. As we are donating to others in need, we are also helping ourselves by taking away things that take up space. As spring approaches, we are asked to not only clean out our closets, but also to clean out the things that might be holding us back in our lives. Maybe less really is more.

The motivation inside of me started to regain itself, and I thought it might be good to give the spring cleaning another shot. I got back to sorting through my clothes, and as I pulled a sweater from my top shelf, a large box fell. It wasnít that heavy, and it didnít have much in it. I pulled out some old photos that my mom gave me. There were also a few letters from my college friends and a stuffed animal I had since I was a baby. I was about to place the box to the side when I noticed a small blue envelope with my name on it. I had never noticed it before. By the looks of it, I knew that it had to be from my mom based on the handwriting. I opened the light blue envelope and inside was a short letter from my mom. It read:


I wrote you this short letter for when you needed it. I stuck it in one of your move-in boxes when you left home. I knew you would find it at the appropriate time. I hope you are settling into your new stage of life. Remember, this spring could possibly be a time for you to start over and settle into your new lifestyle as a young adult! It might be because I am a mother and knew you wouldnít look at this box again until you needed something from wherever the box was hiding. Maybe you are even spring cleaning! How funny would that be! I am writing this to you to remind you to always be your best self and to never let things hold you back from being as successful as you can be. I will share a secret with you. I am reminded of how I can let go of fears when indeed, I am spring cleaning. Over the years, as I have thrown out so many clothes and things I donít use often, I realize the importance that less is more. Living simply is actually what has helped me move forward to being a better person. It is also so perfect to learn this during the time of spring. Spring is a time when we can have new beginnings, not just with our wardrobe, but also with ourselves. We can choose to move forward to better things, such as showing more compassion to others, becoming a better friend, or even giving money to those who need it. So, if you find this before, during, or after your own spring cleaning, remember that actually it is a time of reminders. A reminder that in life, there are some things we just donít need, both material and emotional. Take some time to reflect this year on the meaning of spring. What are you going to do to start fresh? Get rid of that old purple scarf and also lose the worries of being so far away? Toss those old tennis shoes from a few years ago and also spend some time calling your best friend? What can you leave behind, but also gain in order to be your best self? As I always told you when you were 12, out with the old and in with the new.



I looked up from my momís letter and a tear streamed down my face. I smiled and thought, itís as if she knew I was going to read this today. At that moment, I heard a bird chirp so loudly. It was a red robin sitting on my window ledge. I looked up at it, and I swear I saw his beak curl up into a smile. It sat so elegantly, watching me so intently.

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