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The ugly truth about spring cleaning in Alaska

  • Author: Geoff Kirsch
  • Updated: April 30, 2017
  • Published April 30, 2017

Is it just me, or do the lengthening days of spring suddenly make you realize what a mess you've been living in all winter?

This time of year, every speck of dirt casts a shadow. Now in sunlight, my kitchen floor looks like a crime scene all taped off for forensic spatter analysis. While we're at it, better call the fingerprint team to work up the living room windows.

And that's to say nothing of the collection on the junk table: old mail; new mail; various keys; a Thermos-brand thermos; an off-brand thermos; a bag of bags; a bunch of electronic devices and chargers, none compatible; four nonmatching socks; and, for some reason, the entire Smashing Pumpkins discography on CD. Thinking about it now, maybe we shouldn't call it "the junk table." We could rename it the "orderly shelf." Or the "obsessive-compulsive slab"?

It's as if the mere passage of time clutters space. You should see the yard. In fact, it appears a neighborhood dog has been especially fond of "cluttering" our garden beds. Whatever — less fertilizer to buy.

Ah, the missing martini shaker

Of course, melting snow reveals a moraine of other, nonbiohazardous debris: a broken camping chair; a wheel-less wheelbarrow; a thrashed garden gnome; our missing martini shaker (that's got my kids written all over it); the splintered remains of a plastic snow disc I accidentally backed over; and a giant pile of cardboard I've successfully procrastinated recycling for two whole years.

Procrastination like that takes effort. Maybe if I leave it another few winters, it'll disintegrate on its own. Maybe I'll help it along by doing nothing.

And dig this: At the foot of our mailbox, under all the gravel, I found a 2016 Yellow Pages, a 2015 Yellow Pages and a plastic bag filled with gross mush, which I can only assume was once the 2014 Yellow Pages.

Speaking of gross mush, know what else I discovered on our front lawn? A pile of rotting pumpkins, which both looks and smells like vomit (from someone on a pumpkin seed bender). I guess my wife was serious when she threatened to kick the jack-o'-lanterns off the deck unless I got rid of them by Christmas.

Honestly, it's amazing just how much you can accumulate during an Alaska winter — in your car, alone. For example, you can probably hang up the family hockey gear. The ice is looking a little soft for spring skating. Check under the seats for old travel hot cocoa mugs, too.

Surprisingly enough, in some ways, I'm excited for spring-cleaning — as a signifier of fresh starts, sure, but primarily as an excuse to run machinery. Last year I got a chainsaw on a pole (best Seward Day gift ever!). This year, I approved my own requisition order for a pressure washer and I'll tell you, I'm aching to blast something. Man, I haven't been this stoked since spring-cleaning 2009, when I got a 6.5 horsepower Shop-Vac. Imagine, six and a half horses all sucking in perfect synchrony …

Cleaning up my act

But mostly, I dread spring-cleaning. For one, its very idea hinges on the premise that you left your house in order heading into winter. What if you're still cleaning from last spring? Or the spring before that? Not to mention all the other crazed, almost angry, bouts of cleaning you've started but never quite completed throughout the year, like when your in-laws are coming. Or you've had a bad day and wish to drag your family into your misery with you.

Which brings me to the aspect of spring-cleaning I dread above all others: cleaning up my own act.

First of all, I'm pale. And I mean I make Lord Voldemort look like Antonio Banderas.

And then there's the winter beard, which resembles an orange chia pet on my face. Do I trim it or should I try and go full-on major league relief pitcher? And if I shave, how many extra chins will I discover?

See, Alaska is full of fit people who run long distances up steep mountains for fun. I am not one of these people. No, I suffer from what I like to call "reverse anorexia." With me, it's all binge, no purge.

As a result, I once again find myself needing to "spring-clean" a winter's worth of chili cheese fries from my midsection. It's especially noticeable now that I've been skinny-dipping in the hot tub in daylight (by the way, if you're my neighbor, don't call animal control; that's not a wild orangutan on the loose, just me).

Especially with softball coming up, it's time to take action. Seriously, my life vest fits me like a sports bra. Maybe I'll even dust off the treadmill, if only to prove to my wife I still use it, lest it become a casualty of spring-cleaning, itself.

I mean, where else am I going to hang my clothes?

Geoff Kirsch is a Juneau-based writer and humorist currently working on an essay collection based upon his long-running column in the Juneau Empire.

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