Shaking the house

I recently fell down a very satisfying rabbit hole looking up the origins of spring cleaning. Basically we don’t know where it started but like most civilized things it definitely didn’t start in western culture. There’s a theory that it comes from khaneh tekani, the practice of cleaning the home before Nowruz aka Persian new year. Nowruz falls on the first day of spring and khaneh tekani’s literal translation is “shaking the house.” I really love that.

I have been doing my own version of shaking the house and I am finding it to be equal parts soothing and painstaking. Cleaning and scrubbing comes easily to me but organizing and getting rid of things has proven to be more of a challenge this season. We moved a lot when I was growing up so I learned not to get attached to any of my objects. I moved to this country at the age of 19 with a suitcase and a carry on. I cannot believe how much I have accumulated since.

I appreciate the waves of calm that wash over me when I look at Scandinavian furniture catalogs but I am not a minimalist. I just reject the philosophy that owning fewer things is a virtue. That concept is (usually but not always) just another form of conspicuous consumption and I am not… buying it. I grew up in African poverty and we didn’t own a lot. It did not feel virtuous or aesthetically pleasing.

I love the idea of not being encumbered by things but I am also an adult who has carefully selected the things I own. I am trying to reconcile the version of myself as a child who understood there was very limited space in my go bag for sentimental property with the person I am today who owns more clothes than I could wear in a year even if I wore something different every single day. I’ve spent the entire pandemic paring down my closet but I am still not satisfied with the result. I will keep purging, dealing with my clutter, scrubbing and scouring every corner of this tiny apartment. It doesn’t feel fraught at all. Just another opportunity to slough off the disappointments of the past, embrace the current reality and hope for better days ahead. I can work with that.

I’m reading

  • Speaking of minimalism, I will never tire of reading about the Cotswolds

  • Please read this if you want to know how "canceled" went from a black inside joke to one of the corniest phrases is in American politics. Someone should definitely write a similar piece on “woke.” Black vernacular mangled by white mouths always makes my head explode.

  • Italy is beautiful. The food of Italy is beautiful. Not insignificantly, Stanley Tucci is beautiful, too.” I really enjoy the narration on that TV show. I realize that sounds a lot like saying you’re reading Playboy for the articles but it’s true.

  • Not all heroes wear capes. Here for this delightful profile of another sexy New Yorker.

  • You know what I am NOT here for? Color and category chaos! Side bar: Caity Weaver also wrote about the scam of horse therapy and I cannot stop thinking of ways to con rich people into giving me their money.

  • "I was raised really hard, but I’m actually very soft." Janicza Bravo is a breath of fresh air

  • I was riveted by all the Suez Canal memes but I have to say that this interactive game where you can attempt to drive a container ship through the canal was very cool. Turns out it’s a very hard job. I crashed.

  • Dorothy A Brown has done careful, important work documenting the racism in America's tax code. It is difficult work because the IRS doesn't even publish statistics by race/ethnicity. I learned a lot and remain angry that lobbying by tax prep companies is the reason we do not have a free and simple way to do taxes in this country.

  • Breathing—and being deprived of breath—has been a leitmotif of this pandemic year in a host of ways. What does psychoanalysis have to say about it? Paywalled but worth the subscription IMO

  • A great read to find out what’s behind the bunny mac-and-cheese box that continues to be a comfort food staple

  • “I moved from telling a story about the sweeping history of Black women in popular culture to a story about why we don’t have that book yet." Daphne A. Brooks' new book, 'Liner Notes for the Revolution' places Black women at the center of pop music

  • R.O. Kwon’ A Letter to My Fellow Asian Women Whose Hearts Are Still Breaking is a must read. Related: good advice to the parent of a 9 year old who bullied his Asian classmate and good advice to an Asian American parent who is hurt by their friends' silence and struggling to talk with their own kids about racial violence. Solidarity forever: to fight anti-Asian racism, we must also understand and fight anti-Black racism.

  • The rare estate tax feature that is nuanced and dare I even say, beautiful? Talking about money is my #1 favorite thing to do. If you have it, it doesn’t have to cause anxiety to share knowledge. It’s the not talking about it that perpetuates inequality beyond your wildest dreams.

  • Nepotism can ruin a company so fast and the beloved Studio Ghibli is no exception

  • I am always amused when people are surprised that Harvard had an active KKK chapter in the early 20th century. There is also a well documented cross burning at Columbia in 1924. The 1920s Klan wasn’t white working class anxiety, just an open expression of white supremacy shared across class lines. Reminds me of a recent presidency.

  • A heartbreaking and illuminating profile of Elizabeth Loftus, a psychologist whose career has been defined by her recognition that the language we use to describe an event will change the way we remember it.

Hang in there

“Afraid is a country where they issue us passports at birth and hope we never seek citizenship in any other country. I need to travel light and fast, and there’s a lot of baggage I’m going to have to leave behind me. Jettison cargo.” — Audre Lorde, 1984

It’s a new season. Leave your baggage behind. See you midweek with some gentle suggestions.