Sunday, January 11, 2015

Decluttering as Spiritual Discipline

I came across this blog post that talks about decluttering as a spiritual discipline.  Ruth Everhart says, "Perhaps the word 'unclutter' reminds you more of Martha Stewart than Martha the sister of Mary and Lazarus. But I believe that clutter — “stuff” — is more than a nuisance. It can be a spiritual stumbling block."

Stuff as spiritual stumbling block!  Those words resonated with me this morning, especially after a period of decluttering yesterday.

The more we got organized, I found myself spiraling into a sour mood.  Part of it was the putting away of the Christmas stuff--always a bit of a sad time for me.  I know that I'll see these objects in 10-11 months.  But I have so loved having them out.  I love the lights, the decorations made by people who love me, the reminders of the miracles.  But it's time to put them away.

Every so often, we try to remember to ask ourselves about stuff that we've stashed to revisit later.  For example, we have an easel behind a door.  We haven't painted a canvas since we moved here in July 2013.  Should we keep the easel?

It's a tough question.  If we get rid of it, I'm admitting that I'm not likely to paint anytime soon.  I know that.  But if I give away the easel, I feel like I'm committing to that reality.

I also feel sad because that easel reminds me of a happy time in the 90's when I was painting like a mad fiend.  I was deliriously happy then.  Sure I could take a picture and not keep the object--but there's just something about the object.

And then there's the money that we've spent on certain objects and tools and supplies.  To give them away means I have to forgive myself for spending money on stuff that I might not have used optimally.

Occasionally I can subvert my negative spiral by finding a worthy home for the objects.  When we gave away some extra musical instruments to a Lutheran church that's created a Friday night music program for at-risk youth, I felt good about that.  When I gave much of my excess fabric to a woman who has a church which makes quilts for Lutheran World Relief, I felt good about that.

If I thought about decluttering and letting go of possessions as a spiritual discipline, would it become any easier?  Let me try thinking about it differently.

I'm not getting rid of junk, but I'm releasing my excess so that it can find its true purpose.  My excess can move on in the world to bless someone who has less.

But more than that, I'm creating space so that I have more attention left for God.  Our possessions, even when they're just stashed in a corner, prove a distraction--if only in the periodic conversations we must have about what to do with them.

I suspect that's why time and time again, we see Jesus return to the theme of giving away our possessions.  I will likely never be to the point where I can head out with very little, like those early apostles. 

But I could begin by cleaning out some shelves.

1 comment:

Danny said...

I feel the same way about decluttering. One discipline my wife and I have is to only keep two bookshelves of books. We both read a lot and I feel the disciple helps us actually. We make more use of public libraries. I also find it is interesting that it is much easier to find books to re-read when you only keep books that matter to us around. When we have extra books we either donate them to different places or sell them to a used book store.