by Kimberly B. Southall
Most of us have some sort of unneeded clutter. Some is physical and some is spiritual. Most of us have some of both. But we don't have to. All we need to do is de-clutter our lives. First, we must recognize the clutter. Take a good, unbiased look.
Physical Clutter. If your goal is to de-clutter your physical surroundings, start by looking at just a single area of the room. Is it pleasing to the eye? Does everything serve its purpose so that the room functions well? No? Then why live with it that way? Material objects are only useful if they are serving you. When you start serving them, then they are a nuisance and you are a slave. Free yourself of the clutter.
One question when weighing the necessity of an item is, "Have I needed or used this item in the past year?" If the answer is no, get rid of it. Do you have lots of "pretty" things sitting around doing nothing more than collecting dust-and you hate to dust? Consider "pruning" them down to a couple of your favorites or getting rid of them entirely. Chances are, you'll never miss them, but you will certainly enjoy the time you used to spend dusting around all that stuff! Is there a stack of old papers and mail cluttering your desk and hindering your work? Sort through it, filing the important papers and disposing of the others. What about that handy-dandy kitchen gadget that turned out not to be so handy? There it is-taking up valuable space. Doing what? Plaguing you. Get rid of it. But what if Aunt Ethel gave it to you for a wedding gift? Well, it isn't doing Aunt Ethel any good just sitting there, is it? What if you "paid good money" for it and can't stand to "waste" it? Think about it...it's costing you space and peace of mind already. You're still paying for it while it's in the way. Get rid of it.
Once you get into the swing of things, de-cluttering will get easier and easier. However, each person will have his own "problem area" in which he has difficulty recognizing clutter for what it is and dealing with it. Ask for help. First, ask God to open your eyes to the things which are bogging you down. Then ask an objective friend to help you find and eliminate the clutter.
For years, one of my trouble spots was my sock drawer. Originally, it began as a small lingerie-sized drawer. When it became too stuffed to close properly, the socks graduated into a larger drawer. For a while that worked well. But soon enough, that drawer became difficult to close without a sock protruding here or there. It was when I actually considered cleaning out another large drawer in order to accommodate the socks that I realized I had a problem. In desperation, I asked God what I should do. Suddenly, the obvious thought popped into my head. For goodness sake, why would one individual ever need umpteen-dozen pairs of socks!? This was ridiculous! I wasn't wearing those socks; I was hoarding them. Why? I didn't have a clue, but the solution was simple. I selected all the socks which I regularly wore. I placed all the others in a large bag and sold them later at a yard sale. Voile! Freedom from the slavery of socks. Interestingly enough, a couple of years later, I discovered in a casual conversation that I wasn't the only person to have been a "sock slave." I shared my solution with a friend, and she freed herself, too. Perhaps you have a "sock drawer" of some sort in your life, too. I don't mean a literal drawer of socks...just something similar in your life. Stop and think about it. Then get rid of it.
Sometimes the issue is a larger one-literally. We had a full-sized bed in our spare bedroom which reached the status of clutter a few years ago. The mattress and boxed springs were about 20 years old and bothered our allergies anytime we dared to rest upon them. Finally, I realized the bed wasn't doing anyone any good sitting there. We didn't want to invest any money into a new mattress and boxed springs at the time, so we took the worn-out ones to the dump and placed the bed frame in the attic. We never missed the bed. Done de-cluttering, right? Wrong. It wasn't until about the third time that I nearly broke my toe on that stupid bed frame while looking for something else in the attic that I realized we had only eliminated part of the clutter concerning the bed. We had transferred the rest of it into the attic to further torment us. We then sold that bed frame at a yard sale, and I haven't tripped in the attic since.
Good Stewardship. When you are purging your life of unneeded physical possessions, be a good steward. God allowed you to gain possession of these things, so you are responsible for their proper "disposal." Remember the old saying, "One man's trash is another man's treasure." Don't waste resources which could be used to benefit others. Are you getting rid of a pile of old magazines? Perhaps a local nursing home would be able to use them. Are you cleaning out Junior's toy box or your closet? Many charitable organizations would love to have toys, clothing, and household goods to distribute to the needy. Some will even pick up large pieces of furniture. Never throw away something of value which someone else could use. Instead, have a yard sale or give it away. Think about how creative you can be when you are figuring out how to cram something else into your home, and be just as creative in thinking of people who might need or want the things you don't. At the same time, though, don't plague others with items which are inappropriate for anyone. For example, if you are throwing out items which are inappropriate in a Christian life, then don't give them to anyone else, either. And items which are unsafe for you or your children are as equally unsafe for others. Be a responsible steward of the possessions you have accumulated. Give objects of value to others, but don't pass on useless or objectionable items.
Spiritual Clutter. More important than
de-cluttering our physical surroundings is de-cluttering our spiritual
lives. Everyone has "extra baggage" in this area. Things which clutter
our spiritual lives are mentioned in the Bible:
See what God's Word instructs us to do with the spiritual "clutter"? Get rid of it! We can do this much in the same way as with physical clutter. First, we must recognize it for what it is. It is by measuring ourselves against God's Word that we can identify the clutter in our spiritual lives which is hindering us.
Look at a single area of your life. Is it pleasing to the eye? (Do others like what they see in your behavior?) Does everything in your life serve a purpose so that you function well as a Christian? Has a certain character trait or activity been beneficial during the past year? Just as with the physical objects, if the answers to these questions is no, then get rid of it! Are there "pretty" things serving no purpose in your spiritual life? Maybe seeking recognition for all the "good" things you do might fall into this category. It's clutter-get rid of it. Is there something someone "gave" you which you won't bring yourself to part with? Maybe someone insulted or slighted you and you're holding a grudge. It's clutter in your life. Get rid of it! Is there something you "paid for" and consequently won't part with it? Maybe you believe you've earned a certain position in the church but it just isn't helping you or anyone else. It's clutter. Get rid of it. If you have a "sock drawer" of clutter in your spiritual life-something you might fail to recognize for what it is-then prayer and the loving guidance of fellow Christians can help you eliminate this spiritual clutter. And don't neglect the larger spiritual clutter, either. Just as with removing the mattress and boxed springs, the bed frame should go, too. In other words, when you clean a large piece of spiritual clutter from your life, don't hang onto any fragments or painful reminders of it. It will only "trip you up." Get rid of it.
In Conclusion. De-cluttering is a life-long process. No matter how careful we are, some extra baggage will always slip in when we aren't looking. We must periodically review our lives, both physically and spiritually, in order to remain free of clutter.
The clutter we allow to remain in our lives adversely affects us. Clutter slows us down, depresses us, and robs us of space and effort which could be used for more worthwhile purposes. Don't be a slave to clutter. Free yourself...de-clutter your life.
Copyright © 1999 Kimberly B. Southall. All rights reserved.