Decluttering Our Souls…and Our Closets

“Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (Luke 2:15)

Lent is all about taking an honest look at our cluttered lives and taking stock. It is a time when we take time to notice all the “dust” that has unnoticed and unintentionally collected in our souls and lives and be willing to do something about it.

There is a story about a spiritual seeker who wanted to spend a few days in a monastery. ‘I hope your stay is a blessed one,’ said the monk who showed the visitor to his cell. ‘If you need anything, let us know, and we’ll teach you how to live without it.’”

We don’t need to learn how to get more, but how to be okay with what we’ve already got and what we do not already have.

Disclaimer: I am a minimalist by nature; passed on to me from my mother. It means I live by the principle, “Less is More” and I am okay with that. You don’t have to be like me or live like me, but I hope you catch an awareness and resolve today to live intentionally in ways that are life-giving to you. You will have to decide what is enough for you.

Clutter in our lives has a way of collecting much quicker and more substantially than we often realize. Before we know it, our stuff has control over us. Is it wrong to have things? Of course not! I think, however, that if having things control us in ways we don’t want to live is a warning sign that not all is well.

Maybe you are a “spender” (if you don’t know, ask your spouse!). This is a great time of year to take stock of why you do what you do. This needs to be a ruthless assessment, but it could set you free (and relieve stress in your marriage). Debt takes its toll, especially on your marriage.

The funny thing is, I never feel discontent about my home until I go to someone else’s home. Comparing will cause you to do things you normally wouldn’t do. There is nothing I want that is worth going into debt over (there are exceptions). The overabundant accumulation of things creates a weight you were never meant to carry.

Jesus warned, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” (Luke 2:15). These are not just nice sounding words; these are words that describe the ways in which you were created to flourish. If Hollywood has taught us anything it’s that the accumulation of stuff does not bring well-being, meaning, or happiness.

It’s not just stuff: We clutter our lives with so much doing. We live hyperactive lifestyles. We think all this activity is what it takes to make us successful or important or give us meaning and purpose. What it does is make us sick. We were not created to live at that pace. If we don’t slow down our bodies will make us.

Be careful about cluttering up your kids’ lives also. There is huge pressure to have your kids “do it all” and “have it all.” (We are so afraid they will be left behind.) Ballet, soccer, piano, gymnastics, tennis…I am afraid our kids will burn out and/or grow up just like us.

A cluttered life will make it difficult to make decisions. Too many options paralyze you. Have you ever tried to buy a pair of tennis shoes!?

It’s hard to dream if you feel stuck or overwhelmed by choices. That’s why Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs wear (wore) the same tee shirt every day. In a very crowded life, it is one less decision to make.

A few years ago, I committed to nine months of not buying clothes. The money I saved went to empower impoverished women around the world to help them become self-sustaining for themselves and their families. Talk about living freely and lightly! When done with honest self-awareness, the journey toward living more lightly will help us to realize that we are blessed by less.

A cluttered life makes us forget what the good things look like. When we say yes to something, we have to say no to something else. Invest in the things that matter and tenaciously guard that. Open up space in your life for less stuff and more margin,

Living lightly is not just about the stuff we accumulate. It’s about an attitude of living with fewer burdens and encumbrances and living in an intentional way; living in ways that we really want to live. As you continue to strip away the unnecessary stuff in your closets and soul, you will be able to see more clearly how much is enough. It’s really a spiritual paradox that the less tightly we cling to our stuff, less becomes enough.

Where does all this lead for me? I want to be able to respond to fresh invitations from God…to go, to give generously, to spend time with those I love, to not be restrained or distracted by things, or feel pulled in a thousand directions. There may be other factors that might force me to say no, but I do not want my stuff to keep me from saying yes. You need to decide…when is enough, enough?

Reflection Questions:

Are you willing to look in your closet and calendar to identify two things in each you can live without?

How does Luke 2:15 help us with discovering contentment?

What does “less is more” look like for you?

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