One of my supervisors challenged me a few years ago to name the best spiritual book I’d read all year. I knew I gave a strange answer when I said, It’s All Too Much by Peter Walsh, a professional organizer of television fame. The supervisor cocked both his head and his eyebrow at my clearly non-theological choice. I didn’t care. Reading that book helped me rid my life and soul of clutter. It was transformative and is still happening for me.
Decluttering is a soul healthy behavior. We have too much. I do, you do. I don’t even know what you have but I know it is too much. Walsh writes, Nobody seems immune (from clutter)–papers and magazines run amok, garages overflow with unopened boxes, kids’ toys fill rooms and closets are so stuffed that it looks like the clothing department of a major retailer is having a fire sale. The epidemic of clutter…is taking over all of us. He goes on to catalog other clutter we have including information, technology and social media clutter. It seems everyone is lamenting, It’s all too much. And it is.
Over the last years, I started the spiritual practice of de-accumulation. I simplified the holidays, birthdays, my closets, our drawers. I gave away much. I threw away plenty. I downsized.
This fall, I’m doing it again. I told my husband to get ready for the “fall purge’. He looked scared and said, “Again?” But, guess what? Those cabinets, drawers and closets I emptied in the past were full again. I’m choosing one clean out per day, Monday through Friday. I made a list of the areas that are bugging me the most as well as the smallest, easiest least cluttered places. Some days, I choose a very small project. Some days I go for big. Already, the purge has brought me great pleasure in just the emptiness of things.
Space, the having of it, in your heart, mind, schedule and cabinets is a spiritual practice.
Deaccumulation is a spiritual practice.
Sharing with others what you do not need is a spiritual practice.
When I get stuck wanting to hold onto something, I picture my children at some point having to make that decision for me, saying bad things about me (they totally will) and it helps me to let go. Letting go is a spiritual practice.
Using things up instead of buying new is a spiritual practice. In the fall cleaning of just one small area, under my bathroom sink, I learned that I have enough, enough everything. I do not need more lotion, mascara, body wash or make up. I need to use what I have.
Decluttering is contagious. It overflows to other areas of life.
In the past months, I’ve uncluttered my eating habits. It feels like a spiritual practice too, being free of cravings and foods that are bad for me. I’ve decluttered the number of medications I take because my body is healthier and happier decluttered.
I’ve been working for a while at uncluttering relationships. I’ve let go of toxic ones, destructive ones and stressful ones.
I’ve uncluttered the work I do, honing in on only the writing, speaking and projects that help me feel most alive and connected.
Hebrews 12:1 invites us to throw off everything that hinders. Stuff hinders our homes, our hearts, our emotional well-being.
One of my favorite old cartoons has a woman sitting on a couch with a friend in a living room that looks more like a jungle. There are plants, vines and small potted trees everywhere. There’s barely any room for the two friends. One woman says to the other, “Can you believe it all started with one African violet?”
Yes, we can believe it because that’s how everything starts. Our salt shaker collection, our too many sets of dishes, our make up drawer, our book collection. It is also how it ends. You begin reversing that process. You begin decluttering….one cabinet at a time.
Your soul will thank you for it.
Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and Pace, breast cancer survivor and de-accumulator.