It’s no accident that this has traditionally been the time for ‘spring-cleaning’; with the earth ‘renewing’ itself, it seems appropriate to follow suite.
One of the ways we can ‘spring clean’ is by decluttering. The western world is buried under an excess of ‘stuff’, and we keep on accumulating year by year; household goods, clothing, the latest technology, gadgets and gismos, leisure equipment, transportation and masses of toys….. And it matters!
According to recent research, clutter is bad for us:
- Princeton Neuroscientists found that when the environment is cluttered, the chaos restricts the ability to focus, and limits the brain’s ability to process information.
- University of California researchers found a link between high cortisol (stress hormone) levels in home owners (particularly female), and a high density of household objects.
- A New Mexico University study concluded that having too many things in too small a place cause the home environment to be viewed negatively.
- An Australian/U.S. study showed that people will consume more biscuits and snacks in a cluttered setting in which they felt out of control.
Why do we do it? Why do we want to acquire and hold on to so much stuff? It’s an important question to ask ourselves.
Clutter can be the outward manifestation of a number of inner issues; the things we hold on to often have a story to tell. Some items may reveal a reluctance to bring closure to a past episode; others may point to a dream of a different life; sometimes there is comfort to be had from being surrounded by things, perhaps revealing a fear of being without, or a kind of ‘insurance’ against lack. And if it goes hand in hand with an unkempt appearance, it may point to a poor self-image, an inner uncertainty that I am worth the effort.
18 months ago, we had to review all our possessions in order to relocate. Our wonderful new house did not have vast amounts of storage space & so from necessity we had to make some hard decisions. What an interesting exercise that was, as I took to the charity shop clothes I would never wear again, books I would never read, and duplications of kitchen ware – those were the easy things. More difficult were toys from my children’s early years, an excess of furniture, ornaments & keepsakes, work files and various bits and pieces for crafts. It was quite revelatory as I asked myself why I wanted to keep a particular item. The big question, ‘do I have my stuff, or does my stuff have me?’ needed answering!
Decluttering our personal space is a physical act which relates to our spiritual world; if things crowd our vision, and produce in us a range of emotions, they also have an impact on our spiritual wellbeing. Too many things in a small space create ‘noise’, as do too many possessions demanding cleaning, maintenance, and protection; too much noise has an impact on our ability to quiet ourselves, and too little quiet affects our ability meet with the Lord. Uncluttered, simplified environments give us room to breathe; body, soul and spirit.
‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed;
life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.’
And it’s important to note that the Lord hasn’t called us to a Spartan existence; He blesses us richly with things for our enjoyment [1 Timothy 6:17-19], but He expects us to discern when the accumulation of possessions starts to inhibit our life with Him, rather than enhance it, and will work with us to set us free.
We have to find what works for us as individuals and households; the important thing is.....
At this time of the year I usually re-read Joshua Becker's book 'Simplify' which recounts his family's journey into what he calls 'rational minimalism', which he defines as 'the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it.'
Becker's book allows that simplification means different things to different people, offers reasons for embracing this as a lifestyle choice, and gives suggestions for getting started.
I recommend this book, with its Christian perspective, as an introduction for those who would like to know more about this subject.
Click on the picture to be re-directed to Amazon where it can be purchased.*
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