Spring Cleaning :: How Practical and Sentimental Find Compromise


Pre-baby, my husband sometimes traveled with work to what I felt like were remote places. While blessed to be able to go with him, I yearned for a sense of home in those hotel rooms or corporate apartments. So I’d pack my own pillow, bottles of bubble bath, a framed wedding photograph, and the crock pot, in hopes of making minimum square footage something more than a generic bed and bath pit stop.

When we bought our first house several years later, I was then both invigorated and intimidated by the square feet of empty space. But no matter the size or the budget, our house was soon full of stuff.

Yours probably is, too.

The sentimentalists I live with don’t want to toss anything. So the semi-annual purge is difficult. Why do they want to keep so much? For the same reasons that I packed so much on those work trips. The stuff helps make it home.

I’m not saying that the people aren’t important. Home is certainly where my people are. But home is a treasure of memories. It is a place of shared experiences. It is created through repetitions of what we see and hear and taste and smell.

I’m encouraging you to listen when they balk at your spring cleaning. There’s room for a few kept things even in the most minimalist of lifestyles.

But while you’re at it, consider placing a few new sensory memories in their lives. Most of these don’t require much space or money! Repeat often and at least one of these will make even the most practical of us a bit sentimental.

What They See

  • Paint a wall their favorite color
  • Hang a mirror at just their height.
  • Display family photographs
  • Undress a window to see outdoors
  • Make yearly handprints, footprints or some other growth chart reminder – on a doorpost or wall or floor
  • Watch a kitten or puppy learn and grow
  • Smile often

What They Hear

  • Sing their favorite song
  • Practice an instrument.
  • Laugh at daddy’s jokes
  • Read aloud
  • Say “I love you”
  • Memorize a family blessing
  • Ring the dinner bell.
  • Raise a window and listen to nature (or traffic or trains …)
  • Use a teapot to boil water
  • Hang wind chimes on the porch

What They Taste

  • Buy (or grow!) fresh fruits and vegetables in season
  • Dunk cookies in milk
  • Make homemade ice cream
  • Learn everyone’s favorite birthday cake
  • Have “Make Your Own” night with pizza, tacos or omelets
  • Create your own family recipe book – online

What They Touch

  • Water splashes at bath tub time
  • Pillow fights on Fridays
  • Play dough and finger paint art times
  • Favorite teddy bears and blankets
  • A couch piled high with pillows for sick days
  • The ceiling fan breeze after summer play
  • A beanbag chair
  • Hardwood floors or shag carpet

What They Smell

  • Mom’s perfume
  • Dad’s cologne
  • Baby lotion massage
  • Freshly laundered sheets (always use the same fabric softener!)
  • Popcorn on movie night
  • Morning coffee perking – even if they don’t drink it
  • The same flowers in the yard year after year
  • Your signature kitchen spice (ours is garlic!)
  • A freshly mowed lawn

What would you add to the list?

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Melanie McGehee never knew she wanted to be a mom. Even marriage caught her somewhat by surprise, in spite of the fact that she met husband Andy through a matchmaking service. She thanked eharmony by writing about that experience for an anthology, A Cup of Comfort for Women in Love. Almost two years to the day after marrying him, she stared at two pink lines and wondered aloud, “Is this okay?” His response, “Kind of late to be asking that now.” It was a bit late – in life. But at the advanced maternal age of 35, she delivered by surprise at 35 weeks and an emergency C-section, a healthy baby boy. Ian, like Melanie, is an only child. She’s written much about him during her years with the blog, but he’s now a teenager. Please, don’t do the math. It’s true. Momming in middle age is the best!


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