This is the sixth post in my seven week series on restful living; and, for me, it’s a challenging task. Getting rid of clutter is harder than I expected it would be. I’m beginning to understand why it’s not the first step toward restful living.
In order to accomplish this task, I’ve discovered that I must remain with Jesus, schedule time for it, listen to others who know more about decluttering than I do, and take time to rest and relax ; if I neglect these things, I will exhaust myself and become resentful.
To rid myself of clutter seemed like such an easy task—until I started doing it. When I looked at the clothes in my closet and counted everything hanging there, I was shocked to discover how many articles of clothing I owned.
I wanted to shut the closet door and forget about the clutter. Why didn’t I? One reason is that the Holy Spirit (my GPS), kept reminding me of Jesus’ words. Words such as these, “If you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven?” (Luke16:11 NLT)
What does trustworthiness with worldly possessions look like? For me, it means making these kinds of choices:
- removing stains from my clothing rather than throwing them away, so they will last as long as possible,
- limiting the amount of clothing that I have to what I actually need and use,
- giving away the pair of only-worn-once new pants that don’t fit me,
- reminding myself, when I go shopping, to pay more attention to how my clothing feels
Giving new clothing away not only blesses others but also benefits me. Deciding what I’m going to wear for the day is much easier when I don’t have so many choices.
Still, this task is difficult. Why? Many emotions are tied to the “stuff” that I’ve collected over the years. Without God’s wisdom, encouragement, and love, I would be overwhelmed by what I’m discovering about myself as I purge my closets, cupboards, and dresser drawers.
For a few days last week, I did feel overwhelmed Thankfully, my husband noticed my increased stress level; with patience and some kindly-spoken words, he pointed it out to me. The Holy Spirit, also, notices my stress, and he brings me back into peace and balanced living.
One cause of my stress, while decluttering on my clothes closet, was legalistic thinking. Legalistic thinking means that I make a rule for myself and demand that I follow it with perfection. Making an unbreakable rule out of a principle in Scripture (such as, it’s more blessed to give than to receive) increases my stress.
I tend to go on a “give everything away” binge and then, feel sorry about it. While I was reading, meditating on Scriptures and praying, the Holy Spirit gave me the perspective and peace that I needed to understand in order to restore balance to my life.
These are the two Scripture verses, which the Holy Spirit spoke to me through: “Valuables are safe in a wise person’s home; fools put it all out for yard sales” (Proverbs 21:20 MSG), and “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15 NIV).
These Scriptures represent two extremes in life:
1) without thinking about the consequences, we indiscriminately and impulsively give everything away.
2) expecting that this will bring us joy and fulfillment, we accumulate more and more “stuff.”
If we gave away everything, then we’d be dependent on others to take care of us. God may call some people (including me) to give everything away, but this is not for everyone, and it’s seldom for anyone–all of the time.
I’ve finished decluttering my closet; In front of it, I have two large bags of clothing, which I will give away. My closet contains some empty space, but my heart contains more peace.
Although, I still have clutter in my house, I can look beyond it and focus on the sunshine-sparkled, lake. As usual, my rationale for doing this is best expressed in the words of a poem.
Contentment or Clutter
Contentment or clutter—
Is it one or the other?
Or can I have both of these—
In the midst of clutter, peace?
I’ve made some progress;
Now, I have a larger mess!
I emptied too many drawers;
I opened too many doors.
Shame and guilt jumped out at me.
I want to hide; I want to flee.
I need to go for a walk,
Or find a good friend and talk—
I need to give myself some time—
Compose a song or a rhyme.
Then, with a peaceful heart and mind,
Face the clutter I left behind.
Contentment in clutter,
Not one or the other;
That’s my solution for now,
Because I am just learning how—
(After years of collecting
I’m engaged in reflecting)
In one way or another,
I’ll get rid of my clutter.
But this job can’t be done
In a day, week, or month—
Without health and friendship damage;
Is that how I want to manage?
I could tell my friends they can’t come
Because I have a messy home;
I could forfeit sleep and exercise;
Would that be smart? Would that be wise?
Although, I’m not yet clutter-free,
Content is something I can be.