Every year, on the first warm day in spring, I get a powerful urge to clean my apartment. I spend time strategizing in the middle of the room, motivated with a bracing mug of coffee. I make plans. (1) Bundle recyclables for Monday morning pickup. (2) Do the dishes. (3) Clear all surfaces of accumulated stuff. (2) Sweep. (3) Dust. (3) Mop. (4) Scrub. (5) Throw out everything possible. Then I get out the under-sink bin jumbled with decanters and spray bottles of environmentally-safe liquids, powders and polishing creams.
This year, before I actually begin the ritual, I am hit with a second powerful urge, to buy a flower. I figure I’ll hop downstairs to the farmer’s market for a moment, to procure something foliate, for inspiration.
It takes more than “a moment” to browse through the many species of four-dollar flowering plants in four-inch pots. Each comes with instructions printed on plastic tabs stuck in a smidgen of soil: “Keep Moist But Not Soggy.” “Fertilize Occasionally.” “Keep Away From Frost.” Preferences too are specified, the most popular by far being “Needs Full Sun.”
My windows mostly face north. Two western-facing windows get afternoon light, but they are in the painting studio. Can a flowering plant thrive on turpentine fumes? Unlikely.
After disqualifying many full-sun worshipers, I come upon a pink-blossomed “Polly Elatior Begonia,” which prefers “filtered” light. I purchase Polly, take her home, and settle her in a window whose light I can only hope is filtered. I wonder if she prefers filtered water, too.
I return to my spring-cleaning project. I stand in the middle of the room and re-ponder my plan. Eventually I jettison it, having decided to start with the floors. But even as I reach for the Murphy Oil, another powerful urge arises, which is to go to Barnes & Noble and peruse their decluttering, cleaning, organizing and storage books. For inspiration. I realize that I already have dozens of such books, which contribute to the clutter. With a sigh, I resist the urge to go browsing. I stoically wring out the sponge mop till moist, but not soggy, and tackle the floors.