Choosing to Declutter

Is “spring cleaning” a real thing?

For some, this annual purging is what marks the official emergence from the dark survival mode of winter. It’s a time to step into the bright and hopeful newness of a fresh season. It’s a regenerated start, embracing warmth, sunshine, flowers, and cleansing breezes fluttering the curtains in open windows.

But when did all this grime on the glass clouding my vision accumulate? This layer of dust stirring up my allergies? Actually, there’s a whole lot of debris, disorder, and unnecessary stuff in here. A deep cleaning is in order. It will surely reinvigorate and help inspire a new perspective on life!

Yes, this is how some people think.

But not everyone.

Few people, if any, consciously enjoy dirt and disorder. There are, however, situations and conditions that predispose individuals to accept the accumulation of crud and inconsequential items as necessary, or at least preferred over expending the energy needed to do dispose of it all. Effective cleaning, be it ridding a room of useless kitsch, allergen-carrying particles, or sickness-causing germs takes intentionality as well as a bit of passion. One must hate or at least strongly dislike the negative impact of accruing unnecessary stuff. The Mayo Clinic website has as article describing what is called “Hoarding Disorder.” Excessively acquiring items that are not needed or for which there is no space. It creates health, safety, and social problems. And when the person cannot see it as a bad situation, it typically gets worse and doesn’t usually end well, on multiple levels.

While I am not an impulsive cleaner, I have come to appreciate an uncluttered and sanitized house. This is primarily due to being married to someone who is passionate about cleaning and organizing (and not just in the springtime). I sometimes argue with her about the things she wants to get rid of. “We may need that someday.” “It will feel weird to not have that.” “But that reminds me of things I don’t want to forget.” Or “That just sounds like too much work.” In the end, however, it feels good to have a living environment that is free of unnecessary stuff. And rarely do I ever miss any of it (especially the dirt).

Another Level of Cleaning

The house of one’s heart can have the same needs as a physical home. We accumulate spiritual pathogens as well as emotional baggage and debris over time. Especially through the dark winters of life, unhealthy stuff clings to us. And many of us just continue to live with it all, even when deep down we know it’s time for a seasonal change, not realizing that there is a cleansing process available.

There are all kinds of spiritual junk that can build up over time. But here a couple that need regular purging, not just in the spring. Becoming aware of it is always the first step:

Fear and Anxiety

Aren’t they just part of life that we have to learn to get along with?

It can feel that way. But I have come to see fearful and anxious thoughts are largely what fill me when I am not filled with their opposites: hopeful words and images of God’s promises. Right now, there is so much apprehension in the world as well as tension in relationships. I continually find myself reading and listening to news that feeds my negativity and worry. If I do not instead intentionally seek to fill myself with the words of God that express His goodness, His strength, His kindness, His identity imparted to me, then debilitating dread and despair rush in to occupy the vacuum left in my heart.

Here are some words and images that I seek to fill my mind with. They then leave less space for the spiritual toxins seeking a place to settle:

“God is our refuge and strength,

a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,

though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam,

though the mountains tremble at its swelling.” (Psalm 46:1-3 ESV)

“The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 ESV)

Resentment and Grudges

Another bit of spiritual sludge that naturally builds up over time is in our attitudes toward other people. I think it is nearly impossible to not feel offenses, irritations, insults, judgments, accusations, and complaints against those around us. Sometimes they don’t even have to be with people we know or rub shoulders with. But left unaddressed and unreleased, it all builds up like greasy grime on our souls.

There is probably no greater need for cleansing right now than that of forgiving those offensive creeps who hurt or devalue others. We easily hold on to this kind of layered build up because it feels right. Afterall, letting animosity grow in my heart toward people like Vladimir Putin, or the guy who just cut me off on the freeway, feels appropriate. I don’t experience it as dirt in my soul at the time I initially perceive it. But this is the toxic muck that, if not consistently cleaned out, will corrupt me and keep me from experiencing those spring breezes of refreshment.

Letting go (a.k.a: forgiveness) is what will free me. It sometimes feels that if I release offenders within my heart that I’m letting them get away with something. But letting go is merely an acknowledgement that resentment is too toxic for me to keep held close to my own chest. I release each one of those offenses, no matter how devastating or miniscule into the hands of the One who can handle it and judge it rightly. I am then unfettered to live more fully immersed in the joy and peace that guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7). It’s a deep cleaning of my soul.

It’s Time!

There’s more that can be said about what needs to be decluttered from our lives. Unnecessary busyness, worthless entertainment, bad and unhealthy habits all should be examined and reconsidered as we clean our houses. But there is no way to hold onto fear, anxiety, unforgiveness and still maintain anything near a healthy lifestyle. For followers of Jesus, this is the kind of cleansing the Holy Spirit has promised to help us accomplish. But we’ve got to want it and ask for it. I heard it said once that we will finally choose to release stuff when it becomes obvious that the pain of holding on to it is greater than the pain of letting go.

The pain of cleaning your house of worthless and toxic stuff will be greatly rewarded in the end!

Let’s get up out of our winter sluggishness, admit there’s dirt and accumulated garbage, and ask for the assistance we need. The Holy Spirit is here to help.

Happy spring cleaning!

Response:

  • What am I holding on to that is not good for me or my relationships?
  • How do I give room in my mind and heart to fear and anxiety? What can I do differently to fill myself with new thoughts and images? What scripture can I memorize and regularly recite?
  • How have I let bad attitudes and resentments toward people take a hold in my heart?
  • Who do I need to forgive and release completely into God’s hands?
  • Jesus, what kind of cleansing do you want to do in my life today?

4 Comments on “Choosing to Declutter

  1. Hi Jeff This is one I really need. I have to get rid of stuff, but I also think I will need it. I also need to get rid of guilt from my past. I better keep this and read it again. Sharon

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  2. Hello Jeff. Thank you so much for sharing this. The information and recommendations you provided are meaningful and timely for me because I just went on stress leave from job as a teacher here in Sacramento. I’m eagerly seeking out help and advice from those closest to me, so your words are welcomed and are very helpful. A recent message I was given by my priest was, “Use this time during Lent to Return to God.” And so I will.

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    • Hi Dave. I’m encouraged that this post spoke to you. Yes, God has some things He wants to show you. He, ultimately, is our source of peace, peace that goes beyond all understanding. Blessings on your journey. I taught middle-school English in the public system many years ago in Sacramento. And I can understand the potential stress!

      Like

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