Friday, February 20, 2015

Decluttering As A Spiritual Practice

"Those are all in excellent condition." He indicates the box of assorted computer wires I had pulled out of a closet and brought down to donate. "There's no reason to get rid of them."

"Yes, but we haven't touched them in at least 6 years. Are we ever going to use them again?"

He admitted it. "Probably not. No."

If you've been on social media before or during Lent for the past 5 or so years, you've probably seen "40 bags in 40 days" linked to by friends and family. Even those with little if any connection to the church and possibly no idea about what Lent is really all about link to it and resolve to embrace the challenge. 40 bags of donations in the 40 days of Lent.

I've dabbled in it for the past few years, never committed enough to actually keep track but knowing that it doesn't take much for me to get 40 bags of stuff out of the house even when it's not Lent. I'm an avid declutterer at all times, so Lent just gives me a little extra push. Still, I've been thinking on the motivations and wondering if there is really any spiritual benefit to this practice.

It's not an unfounded consideration. When giving up (or embracing) new practices during Lent, I make sure to look at my motives. Giving up certain foods can be a great way to fast, but is the motivation really drawing closer to Jesus or more about that 5-10 lbs I want to lose? Making the commitment to be more intentional about exercise is certainly a good and healthy thing to embrace during Lent, but again - where is my heart on this?

Similarly, when thinking about decluttering for Lent, I wonder - am I really just "Spring Cleaning" my house? Or can there be a deeper spiritual benefit to this? As with giving up certain foods or taking on a healthier lifestyle, it comes down to the heart of the matter.

I found this graphic to be very helpful in showcasing the non-spiritual need for decluttering, but also for considering how the simple act of decluttering has the potential to change our lives and the lives of those around us for the better.

If you choose to do 40 bags in 40 days or something similar, here are a few things to meditate on as you work.

Decluttering embraces God's provision.

Philippians 4:19 
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

There is a strong temptation to feel like we are our own saviors when it comes to our material needs. When I look back across the life we've lived, I know how untrue that is. God's provision is a real thing. It's truth. While it is not a call to be careless and wasteful, it is a nudge to set aside worries of self preservation and have the trust that generosity will never cost us more than we can afford.  This is a tough one and took me a very long time to embrace, especially in a home with many growing children. Embracing God's provision is an exercise in trusting Him better.

Decluttering frees up time for other pursuits.

Colossions 3:2
Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things.

Excess stuff doesn't just clutter up our homes. It clutters up our lives. It eats our time as we shuffle it from one space to another, spend time caring for it, repairing it, thinking about it, dealing with it. Making intentional decisions on what you own based on what you actually need can free up space in your life for other things. Ever notice how if you have one cell phone charger, you make sure you know where it is - but if you have four, at any given time you are spending time looking for one because the excess has made you careless? Perhaps not the best example, but I've found it to be true. Less time spent on stuff means more time to intentionally live the life you've been called to.

Decluttering yields Generosity

Hebrews 13:16
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

This one comes with a bit of a caution. Generosity is not just giving away the things that aren't "good enough" for you. Generosity can sometimes pinch a bit. That's a good thing. I used to try to hold onto all the clothes for my kids that were in great condition - and found myself overwhelmed with much more than we need. Decluttering isn't about only getting rid of the stuff no one wants. Being thoughtful about giving good things to others instead of storing them all up for yourself is a heart - stretcher and opens you up to loving others better.

Focusing on these aspects of decluttering helps to examine our intentions on the matter. As with any fast, it all comes down to the heart.

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  1. These are some great points, Lydia. I was considering doing this for Lent and I think you've convinced me. :)

  2. Thanks! Coming from parents who worked hard for things, I have a hard time getting rid of things I think I could use again. Time to get rid of things that just haven't been used!

  3. Thanks for this Lydia - I had not heard of the 40 bags in 40 days for lent, but I like it. It is nicer to know that all things are done to the glory of God though isn't it.


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