02/27/2014 11:28 am ET | Updated Apr 28, 2014

Cleaning Out My Kitchen


It's that time of year--the end of February (still two-feet of melting snow outside)--when the spring-cleaning gene kicks in and the urge to clean out everything becomes irresistible.

But here's the truth about my kitchen: I don't actually live on a farm. But I do live in the woods with a huge garden! And this year, I'm not just spring-cleaning; I'm also giving lots of our old furniture to my "wasband" (a term I learned on my recent trip to California that seems the most fitting description).

I'm actually excited to start over and let go of a lot of our things. He really liked Mission-style furniture, which while I enjoyed it, now feels a bit too heavy and dark. I'm ready to lighten up. Still, I can't help but relive some memories as I empty out the cabinets. One piece in particular is bittersweet to part with: a beautiful mission cabinet with copper and brass details and green glass windows that I used to store my vintage tablecloths. My old friend Cletus Lutz found it for me. He was my "dealer." He would call and say, "Maria, you have to see this piece--it's perfect for you." And even when it wasn't, I couldn't help but surrender to him. After all, he did beautiful restoration work and needed the money.

But now that Betty has retired, I don't use the tablecloths as often, since they need to be ironed. And since my mother passed away and my in-laws (or "was-laws"?) are too old to travel, I don't do the big family entertaining as much either. So the truth is, I can do without the cabinet. I'll store the tablecloths elsewhere.

Besides, now when I look at it, I remember the week that Cletus died of AIDs. And I remember that I couldn't get to his funeral because we were stuck in Miami as a result of an airline strike--our worst vacation ever. I remember calling from a dingy hotel room, crying on the phone with his partner and telling him I was trapped.

Feeling trapped is a horrible thing. And I think it's at the root of the desire to spring-clean. We've been "trapped" all winter in our homes and have a desperate need to clean out and lighten up and be FREE! It's time to open up the windows, smack the dust out of the carpets, and prepare for the joy of spring.

I'll miss that old cabinet a tiny bit, but it's going to a good home, and my kids will still get to enjoy it. In the meantime, passing it on provides a perfect excuse to clean out and...redecorate! And really, we can't take our things with us when we "go" to wherever Cletus went to, so it's kind of good practice for the big "letting go."

What's really important isn't so much the piece of furniture, or even all my glorious tablecloths collected from around the world, but the memories of wonderful meals shared--all cooked, eaten, and enjoyed with love in the actual, real Maria's "Farm" Country Kitchen!

May there be many more meals, recipes, and memories to come!

For more from Maria Rodale, visit