My Spring Cleaning Style’s Similarities to a Forest Fire

I’m not exactly what you would call domestic. I went out of my way to earn enough money so that I could hire a cleaning service and avoid ever scrubbing down my bathroom again. But every year, often with some surprise, I feel the need to do a little spring cleaning.

I’ve got a theory, which could be entirely bunk, but here it is: after spending winter mostly indoors, I just want to drag everything out into the light of day and get rid of it. Any mess that I’ve been looking at since the leaves started to fall last year needs to be dealt with now, before summer comes around and I risk spending a whole year with it again.

My Own Personal Forest Fire

I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of the forest fire: a fire that rages, a seeming force of nothing but destruction. But forest fires are necessary for a healthy forest. They clean out the junk that collects as trees drop their leaves every fall, branches build up and all of that. Without that especially deep cleaning that a fire provides, new plants can’t flourish in the forest.

While I’m not about to advocate a fire as a way to deal with a mess, that level of deep cleaning can be useful once a year or so — about the frequency that healthy forests seem to have a fire to clean out the junk. The sort of spring cleaning that I do can easily be compared to a forest fire: there’s often plenty of damage done in the process of pulling out things, dusting them off and deciding whether or not to get rid of them. More than a few people have fallen afoul of this habit by having their stuff in a place I wanted to clean (though I like to think that my husband and I have found a way to manage the process so that no one actually gets hurt).

The Danger of Big Fires

If you find yourself a park ranger, at least in the U.S, and start talking about forest fires, you’re likely to get an earful. That’s because many areas of the country maintain a policy of putting out fires as soon as they’re spotted, rather than letting them run their course. That means that a lot of the branches, leaves and other junk on the floors of forests in these areas are building up, often to dangerous levels. If a fire gets past the officials who are supposed to guard against it, there’s a world of trouble: after a few years of building up the sort of junk that you’ll find on a forest floor and letting it dry out, one little spark can turn into a huge blaze in a matter of feet.

There’s a parallel to be drawn to our own spring cleaning. Letting the junk build up puts you in danger of a much bigger blast when it comes time to actually deal with it. Explosions may result, depending on just what happens to be piling up. And for those of us who don’t consider dusting to be in our repertoire, the occasional deep cleaning may be the only way to keep everything from getting away from us entirely.

Is your spring cleaning like mine — fast, furious and willing to take a little damage if the job gets done? Or maybe more like a gentle spring rain, washing away what needs to go? Or somewhere in the middle?

Image by Flickr user Dave S.

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