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:

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.

10 Responses

  1. Great post. A few years ago, when my husband was so sick and debilitated, I assumed that we would end up in senior housing some day. As a result, I did a lot of “hoeing out” (my term for decluttering). I found it so freeing too. We live in an old farm house and had way too much stuff that had accumulated. I sent some to an auction and made a little money. I haven’t missed anything.
    BUT it wasn’t easy to get started and took a number of years to actually get done. Sometimes it felt like I was tearing off a part of myself when I was deciding to part with some of our stuff that we accumulated over the years, especially the things with strong emotional attachment. I wasn’t walking with God at the time. I’m absolutely certain that the Holy Spirit will give you just the guidance you need.
    God bless you greatly, my friend.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences in decluttering, Debbie! It’s reassuring to me to be reminded that I don’t have to complete this job in a day or two and that God will guide me through it all. Yes, it is stirring up emotions, but this gives me another opportunity for emotional and spiritual growth. God bless YOU, my friend.

  2. I went through my closet a year or so ago, weeding out things not worn for some time. I read that we should hang like-clothing together, to make it easier and more uniform in the closet. Last week I packed up much that will be passed on this coming fall. It makes me happy to not have so many pieces of clothing to choose from. It’s actually an unnecessary problem that we tend to bring on ourselves, when we don’t pay attention to how many pieces of each type of clothing we have!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Jean. It’s wonderful that you are passing so much of your clothing on to others. I’m sure they will be blessed.

  3. Jane, I love this post on your decluttering journey! Since we’re on it together, I can relate to many of the things you’ve posted. Your wisdom in finding balance while decluttering – rejecting either/or thinking for contentment in the process is wisdom I need to hear.

    Thanks for sharing this with us!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Rhonda. When I began to realize how much “stuff” I’ve collected, I felt depressed and stressed. Writing the poem helped me regain perspective.

  4. Jane,
    I just finished going through my closets to see what clothes I needed to pack away or donate to the thrift shop. I had no idea that your post was about decluttering until I sat down to review my emails! I found myself smiling as I read your post and the poem. You have such a gift for language…thank you for sharing how God speaks to us about practical as well as spiritual matters! Sometimes we forget that God cares about every aspect of our lives and our development.

    1. I’m thankful that your found my poem encouraging, Laurell. I’m encouraged by your comment. Thank you! You have such a heart of compassion for those who lack basic necessities in life! I love the way that you initiate and manage projects to meet practical needs.

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