Before my daughter was born, I used to go Wombling regularly in the winter months, collecting rubbish along the local footpaths I walked, targeting a different area each time. Now she is at school, and I am able to walk a little easier, I have been at it again.

For those not familiar, the Wombles were furry little creatures who lived on Wimbledon Common, created by Elizabeth Beresford in the late 1960s in a series of six books and later turned into children’s television episodes. They collected all the rubbish they could find, then carefully sorted it for reuse, having great stores of everything from usable paper to string to building materials. In those days there was not much plastic, and rubbish was collected every day before it got rained on. Today paper usually biodegrades by the time I am collecting, but plastic, glass, aluminium and steel can remain in place under plants forever if it is not removed. I collect in winter when the plant growth has died down, and often at the new moon as it feels like a good time for renewal.

It is a satisfying activity from the point of view of seeing the massive difference it makes to clean up an area, and I can almost feel the land sigh with relief when I have removed all the waste that should never have been left. I always feel the energy itself change as well; I have noticed that when I have started to clean a bad area but run out of time or bags (which of course are not given out free by every shop as they were 6-7 years ago!) as if by magic someone else comes along and finishes the job. Council, scouts, community payback, whatever. If this continues, then I will try doing small amounts by roads I want to see cleaned up and hope those better equipped and better protected from traffic can finish.

Most of what I collect is rubbish that should have been recycled a long time ago. Sadly I do not have the capacity to sort the rubbish, nor can I take it all home and put it in the correct bins – I usually find the nearest bin with space to leave that day’s bag in. But just occasionally real treasures get found and given a new home. Over the past 10 years these have included:

  • A complete set of plastic picnic gear, beach towel and bag, only slightly eaten by small creatures. (The bag proved essential for carrying the rest out, including the food rubbish.)
  • 6 Hammers of different types, found by roadsides.
  • Lenco Turntable, excellent condition and still in use by us after a decent base was built for it. Better sound quality than the one we had, after a quick arm and stylus swap, although we disposed of the cabinet.
  • Glass Marbles.
  • Money – usually given to charity if found in this way. Now that notes are being made of plastic, I wonder if there will be an increase in the number found at the bottom of hedges?
  • Spring Cleaning

    It’s March, the sun is shining, for some reason I have a great need to be ‘doing’ things. I started in the garden, where the second priority (after planting the first seeds of the year) was the removal of last year’s dead stems as the new shoots start poking up out of the ground. I made a huge pile of stuff to shred, which yesterday was all turned into the first compost of the year in the tumbler. Then having got into ‘clearance mode’, enjoying all that space and potential and light that enters, I find myself looking at the house to see where the greatest need is for a major sort out and clearing. I’m not like Mole who says “Hang Spring cleaning!” and runs off to the river with Ratty – this is about the only time of year when I manage proper cleaning!

    Spring Cleaning has a long history, with various commentators linking it to the Persian New Year, the Jewish Passover, Christian Lent, or even Scottish Hogmanay – although the latter feels a little early to me! For those with a very strong tradition of celebrating particular festivals then it is a great focus to get the work finished and decorate in honour of the event. I see Yule a bit like this, when I put up decorations, and then clear them away as the days lengthen – but other decorations tend to be rather lower key so Spring Cleaning is to me a seasonal exercise not a religious one.

    There are of course the practical aspects as to why Spring Cleaning in particular is so widespread. It is good to clean when it is warm enough to open all the windows and doors and dry the inevitable mounds of washing, but not be into insect season yet. In days gone by the extra light may have brought to people’s attention the amount of mud that had been tracked in during the winter months, or blackness from the smoke from the tallow candles on the walls.

    As a Pagan, cleaning acts as a cleansing, to clear out old, stale energies and make space for something new to happen. It happens on many levels – in an ideal world cleaning should be on the energetic and astral planes as well as the physical planes, as then real change can happen. By that I mean that not just the physical dust and dirt is removed, but any negative thought forms are left with no space to hide, and order is brought to whatever chaos resides in the area. A new mindset can be brought about as well, which leads to further positive changes in our lives.

    This year a long-planned major house project has affected my sewing area – thanks to having to move things out in order to plaster the wall. (Hooray!) However, I am amazed at how many ‘useful’ scraps of fabric I seem to have accumulated in just a few months, all of which need to find homes before they become scrumpled and dusty. I found I had three bags of worn out clothing or sheets for making mock-ups for new patterns. Then I have to keep all those sharp pointy sewing tools out of M’s reach – and more rearrangement needed as the tall chest of drawers moves rooms. I of course always have far too much stuff and not enough space to store it, so sometimes I do actually have to get rid of things. I try to leave myself open to guidance here so that I will not get rid of anything I will want – and put the pile in another room for a week in case there is anything to retrieve before it goes in the dustbin or charity bags. (On this occasion most of the worn out clothes were seized upon and ripped up for oiling and polishing rags by a certain model engineer before they had even made it into another room…) And this year various other bags to be carefully labelled and put in the loft while we get the plastering done. It all takes time and involves washing, dusting, hoovering, sorting, and lots of hard physical work keeping me warm enough to throw the windows open.

    And the net result? Old projects are properly packed away and laid to rest, and space for new ones has been made. I can find things, I have space to turn around and to breathe, and the whole area feels enlivened. My efforts feel worthwhile. Now can I please have a second chest of drawers to put the rest of my fabric in?