Sproing Cleaning

No, that is not a typo. Well, it is, but it’s an intentional one. (This time.) The first time I typed it I was aiming for Spring Cleaning, but my right hand decided that Sproing Cleaning was much more accurate, and I must say I agree with it (not least because it is presently spring nowhere on earth).


There’s a sort of a fizz in my blood at the moment, a wild and reckless fizz which suggests the committing of wild and desperate acts of pruning. (Of stuff, not plants. Mostly.)

This is hardly surprising, coming as it does on the heels of the completion of a years-long project. And it’s encouraging. According to Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way, “One of the clearest signals that something healthy is afoot is the impulse to weed out, sort through, and discard old clothes, papers, and belongings.”

So here I am, poised on the brink of the Sproing Cleaning, little pebbles falling over the edge at my feet (a game here, a book there…) and wondering – how far do I go?

Caspar David Friedrich - Wanderer above the sea of fog
This question is of course affected by many factors. How much stuff I actually have, how much of it is not ‘mine’ but ‘ours’ and therefore not mine to fling at will, how much energy I have to expend (always bearing in mind that it’s more economical of energy to do the job thoroughly once than fribble away at the edges of it for years).

[Digression: I thought I had invented the word ‘fribble’ but according to the SOD it can mean “to falter, stammer; to totter in walking… to act aimlessly or feebly; to fiddle;” or “to behave frivolously” – said to be the more modern meaning, around since the 1640s. And that’s just the verb…]

But at the heart of it, I think all these questions come down to one factor: regret. Would I regret getting rid of things? Would I regret not getting rid of more? Where, in fact, does the true sproing lie in all of this?According to Marie Kondo, “The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.”

How do I want to live my life? What does that entail getting rid of? And even if I do regret the occasional discarded item, is it still worth it for the resulting sproinginess?

I guess the reason I’m asking all these questions in a public forum is because I’m not sure I yet have the cavalier attitude necessary to plunge over the edge at which I stand, and, well, we’ve all heard the story about penguins, haven’t we?

(Penguins don’t actually do this, it turns out, but bear with me; it’s a useful metaphor.) The penguins allegedly jostle together at the edge of the ice until one is shoved right over the edge – thus providing valuable research data on the presence of predators in the waters below.

Adélie penguins in Antarctica, Antarctic Peninsula
Test subject #1 is in the water!
So, has anyone here been over the edge? (Are there sharks? Sea lions? Oceans of tasty krill?) And if no one here has yet taken the plunge, who’s up for a bit of encouraging jostling?

2 Replies to “Sproing Cleaning”

  1. Well, moving is certainly an incentive to subtract everything and only put back what you really want! But who has time to do that much thinking just before they move? A few years ago I started down that track, just before our gigantic move from a 5-bedroom house to a much smaller one, far enough away to warrant a costly transport company and a really fresh start on life. But sadly I only had about 2 weeks to achieve this mammoth task, so of course we ended up putting a whole lot of unsorted stuff into storage, and it still hasn’t re-surfaced.

    But while I was doing the sorting, I asked myself these questions: Is this something from my past? Do I need it for my future? If not, out it goes, unless there is some compelling reason (intrinsic value, special memory, family history, etc.) why it should be kept. Along the way I tried to bestow some items – rock collection, books, special china, etc. on people who might be blessed by it.

    The process was very freeing – no sharks in sight!! In fact the biggest incentive to dive off the edge is the looming predator coming up behind – the threat of one day being forced to let go of pretty much everything in the move to supported care. Why save up all the work, angst and grief till then? Why not get rid of stuff now, while the going’s good?

    1. Very thought-provoking, thank you! I think my biggest problem is probably not knowing what my future will look like, and therefore what will and won’t be needed for it. But perhaps I should just aim for what I hope my future will look like 🙂
      I’m relieved to hear there are no sharks, although I’m hoping the supported care predator is not looming too close behind at my age! But who knows what the future may hold? International moves, for example, require a similarly drastic down-size.
      Thanks for contributing to the conversation!

What do you think?