Spring Clean

2 Feb 2019

An elderly feeder of street cats invited me into her one bedroom rental flat once.

While I was there, her window panes that faced the common corridors were discreetly angled to allow for air ventilation, but deter neighbours from peering into her living room, where her 5 cats roamed free.

The cat feeder works as an office cleaning lady by day. On her way to work she checks on her street cats. In the evening, equipped with a shopping trolley laden with cat food and medicines, she goes out to feed homeless cats, and medicate the ones that are injured or sick, while nursing her own arthritic knees.

Her flat is sparsely furnished to allow for easy cleaning. In her living room are 2 chairs and 1 small coffee table. In her kitchen is a one burner stove by the sink. There’s a washing machine by the balcony. Against the wall old newspapers are neatly bundled with raffia string and stacked up. The newspapers are shredded to be used as cat litter for her cats.

Each day before she leaves her flat, she makes sure to keep a trickle of water running from the tap by the kitchen sink. This is so that in the event that she meets with an accident on one of her feeding rounds or at work, and had to be hospitalised, her house cats would at least have access to drinking water till help comes.

It was a privilege sitting on her linoleum lined floor and taking in all the simple details of her spartan abode. Every item in her house was streamlined to facilitate cleaning ease & maximise comfort for herself and her cats.

Such single-mindedness of intention has given this elderly woman’s one room rental flat an almost shrine-like ambience. Being in her space put me in an almost meditative state.

In a couple of days, the Chinese Lunar New Year of the Boar will be upon us.

Many families are cleaning their homes to get rid of the old in order to usher in Spring, which is the Chinese Lunar New Year. “Spring Clean” or “Spring Cleaning” describes the various activities of cleaning & replacing to welcome Spring.

As I listen to intense discussions on making new curtains, or replacing a piece of furniture, the humble flat of this elderly cat feeder in Lengkok Bahru comes to mind.

In her purpose built life and home, she has nothing much to throw away, and nothing much to replace, because her house is spring cleaned every day.

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