Many of us are concerned with clutter in our homes. Some of us even made New Year’s resolutions to address clutter. If you made such a resolution, there are plenty of folks willing to help you.There are businesses who sell storage solutions will help you organize your stuff so it does not look like clutter. There are even certified professional organizers who will help you address your clutter.
Clutter can be overwhelming. Clutter can be so bad that it affects your happiness and becomes a hazard to your health, you may be a hoarder. The author Wendell Berry said, “Don’t own so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire.” The key word in that quote is “own.”
Clutter typically arises because we refuse to deal with certain types of possessions. Some people have trouble throwing things away, even if the item is unquestionably trash. The item may be junk, but it may be sentimental junk. Stuff that should have gone into the trash hangs around because it may have some perceived rather than actual value. Sometimes, we pick up a bargain that was too good to pass by even though we had no use for the item. Sometimes we simply own stuff that we use, but fail to store it properly thereby creating the appearance of clutter.
Too often a clutter problem is approached the wrong way. Clutter is often not a space problem that can be solved by bins and organizers. Clutter is often a personal problem the person needs to fundamentally change his or her attitude and approach to possessions. Without that change, a neat environment descends back into clutter over time.
While we think of clutter as having too many physical things, what about spiritual clutter? Do we allow our minds to become so burdened that it affects our spiritual life? There are times when a worry so consumes our time and energy that we cannot do the things that would spiritually help us such as prayer and reading the Bible.
Spiritual clutter includes the thoughts and worries that waste our time and energy. We have thousands of thoughts a day and many of them are the same mental clutter that we’ve had for days, months, or years. Take the time recognize the beliefs you have about yourself that are holding you back. Declutter your thoughts by being conscious of these thoughts and throwing them away.
Remember the story of Martha and Mary with Jesus in Luke Chapter 10? Martha’s mentality was so clutter with the details of being a hostess that she missed the spiritual fit of her guest’s presence. When Jesus refused to chastise Mary, he told Martha that she was worried and upset about many things, but few things were needed. Jesus said that Mary had chosen what was better which was sitting at his feet and listening to him speak. Like Mary, we too should focus on the spiritual gifts before us and not allow clutter to obstruct our spiritual view.
Negative thoughts about ourselves and others and worries over things we cannot change are examples of clutter that affect one’s spiritual life. Here are some suggestions that will help with mental and spiritual clutter: 1. Take a positive attitude. 2. Learn to forgive others and yourself. 3. Let go of grievances, bitterness, and resentments. 4. REalize when your inner world conflicts with the outward world. 5. Decide to live in a manner consistent with your desires, goals, and values. 6. Practice loving your neighbor and your enemies. If you can work on forgiveness, many of the other goals will become easier to accomplish. Pray for help if any of these are difficult for you to do.
Things which clutter our spiritual lives are mentioned in the Bible. Ephesians 4: 31-32 states, “Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, as God is Christ has forgiven you.”
Dealing with clutter, physical or spiritual, is a life-long endeavor. Do not be discouraged if you find yourself repeatedly dealing with clutter. Forgive yourself for any mistakes and move forward.
The Rev. Robert Haley
(originally published in the Daily Press, February 13, 2014, Section: Newport news town square; Page: GC4)