POCATELLO, Idaho - Don Aslett has spent more than half a century fighting dirt and clutter. Today he is sharing the results of his mission with his unusual Museum of Clean.
“The first reaction people have is that they are shocked,” Aslett said. “They are blown away by how big this place is and how much fun it is. They said they never knew clean could be so exciting.”
Opened in 2012, the six-story shrine celebrates the joys of cleanliness. “Our goal is to show how important it is to be clean with clean lives, clean homes, clean community, clean country and clean language,” he said. “No cuss words here.”
Some of the more than 10,000 items include a 1902 horse-drawn vacuum, antique Amish foot bath, 1,600-year-old bronze pick used to clean teeth and much more. There’s also an 88-seat theater, an art gallery and a gift shop with cleaning kits and plush toys shaped like germs.
The museum is very hands on and geared to all ages. Interactive exhibits show how to properly make a bed, clean a room, sweep, wash a window and recycle. A full-body child vacuum brings giggles when visitors get a spiffing up.
Even the chairs are clean related – fashioned from a 1945 washing machine, trash bin and claw foot bathtub. “All our chairs are made out of recycled cleaning things,” Aslett said.
Now 78 years old and the primary museum guide, Aslett has always been interested in clean. As a child, he kept his room clean and found it strange that others didn’t. To him, it was easier and less time consuming to have a place for everything and everything in its place.
GETTING CLEAN HABITS
Those habits were ingrained in him, Aslett says, by parents who farmed in the tiny south central town of Dietrich. “I’m a farm boy. I think that’s why I’m so healthy today. We didn’t have a lot of money but we had good clean food.”
Aslett’s mother said the reason she married his father “was because he was always so clean. Our home, our clothes, our food and our yard were always fresh and in top shape. There seemed to be some charm in taking care of things that made life better.”
When he was 18, Aslett put an ad in the Idaho State Journal advertising his cleaning services. That’s how he paid his way through college. “And Varsity Contractors was eventually founded. I kept a record of my adventures in cleaning and soon wrote books about it and gave talks about it.”
On this subject, Aslett is modest. For the record, he has written 40 books and done about 5,000 television shows. His company has branches in 40 states and employs several thousand workers. “I love cleaning,” he explained.
The brainstorm for his Museum of Clean started several years ago. “I thought ‘There are museums for trains, for cows, for planes, for almost everything else. Why not a clean museum?’ So I opened one.”
The first item for his collection was an old pump vacuum. His collection got a big boost when he paid $300,000 for 230 pre-collection vacuums. Little by little, his cleaning items grew with purchases and donations.
When word got out about his museum, Aslett said people suggested it be in Las Vegas or some big city. But Aslett stood firm – he wanted it in his hometown of Pocatello. “This is where I live. I wanted it to be a destination museum.”
As for his favorite display in the museum, Aslett admits he is partial to the “Your Garage” and “Clutter Corner” display. “I believe the biggest downer to clean is disorganization, waste and excess,” he said. “When people learn to de-junk and live simpler lives, they automatically live cleaner. Clean has a great carryover to affect one’s behavior.”
Nothing can change a person’s life faster than throwing away junk, Aslett said. “You have more time. You have more space. You feel better. And you are healthier.”
Seeming museum visitors get “clean” ideas and enjoy his lifetime pursuit is a great joy, Aslett concluded.
“We may be crazy here but we’ve never had anyone leave the museum without a smile on their face.”
For more information: Contact the Museum of Clean at (208) 236-6906, www.museumofclean.com