With the new year comes new starts, new resolutions, new commitments, trying new things and so on. One suggestion I received for the new year – someone knows my study pretty well – was in an article I was sent about decluttering. In essence the article said that when I decluttered I would feel better about myself.
Now I know I have a lot of stuff. Particularly books and articles – and I know where part of that came from and that was my last year of seminary – when after 7 years of studying I was very much aware of what I didn’t know – and Australia is a big country and I could be sent anywhere and the chances of being near the seminary library were remote so I spent a big part of that year building resources in filing cabinets. This was largely photocopying articles rather than buying books but I did buy some sets of encyclopaedias. Some of that simply hasn’t left me so that I feel more comfortable having a library nearby. (And yes, I do know of such a thing as the internet!)
But now if I declutter – 10 minutes per day perhaps – not everything overnight – make piles based on usage – make piles based on desire and need – and if I do this with a rational head (not emotionally such is in grief) and not get side tracked by becoming involved with the item (eg. opening the book and having a read) – I will feel better. One thing in the article surprised me – that some people prefer to sell the things they no longer need rather than giving them away (and they often don’t get around to the selling) and so the advice is to give things away on the basis that since you haven’t used the item it is already ‘lost money’ to you.
I appreciate the encouragement to declutter. In Christianity one might hear more of the talk of simplicity – as a spiritual discipline – in terms of possessions or speech – and this may take one into a monastic frame of mind but it certainly doesn’t have to do so. I know that even the word ‘possessions’ can have a double meaning if it is actually ‘stuff’ that ‘possesses’ us. And so decluttering (simplicity) is something I – and probably all of us – could do more of.
But I find myself – perversely? – wanting to rebel at the idea that decluttering will make me feel better. I can hear in this idea humanity’s desire for control – don’t let ‘stuff’ control you – that sort of thing. And so there’s my inner rebellion against decluttering when I know – I may not want to know at times – but I know I need Jesus to clutter all of my life – each day – each relationship – even my relationships with all my stuff. Decluttering is supposed to give me more time for me – for relationships important to me – but it really doesn’t address the quality of those relationships or what I now do with my ‘extra’ time. Decluttering may help me and my children give away stuff – but always on our terms. Decluttering seems to be a tool to make me better. I suppose Jesus is seen similarly. And yet with Jesus I am regarded as me – decluttered – I can’t hide behind anything – and whatever I am, this Jesus cares for me – loves me – is gracious to me. Yes, he can be tough on me (as I experience it) and yet because the story of his life, death, resurrection, and presence has captured me and gives me meaning and purpose, I want that story – him – to be part of my life – and to clutter me however he wants to. And that is the best way to find hope and joy in this world – and to declutter. What an epiphany! GS