Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Bust Your Clutter, Free Your Life

I am on a cleaning spree. Not traditional cleaning with the Windex and Swiffer; I am cleaning OUT our house... and with it, our lives.

Tomorrow I am making my second donation drop in one week to a local charity. Let me clarify.

My second CARLOAD this week.

It is amazing how much stuff we Americans collect that just fills our homes with clutter. We (I) love yard sales, TJ Maxx, estate sales, the mall, and before you know it, your house is full of...stuff. (But it was on sale!, we say.)

"If you love trendy decor, it can be expensive to keep up with what is hot and what’s not! Just when you get all the latest stuff and start feeling all trendy, you open up a new magazine to realize your things are already hopelessly out of style. Or worse, they have fallen apart and it is time to reinvest in what is new. You don’t have to be a slave to trends dictated by someone else." - Melissa Michaels, The Inspired Room

And it doesn't have to be decor. Maybe it is clothes. Or toys. Or souvenirs picked up on vacations through the years. Or documents from the 1990's that are taking over your office.

(yes, that is a George Foreman grill that hasn't been used since college.)

Lately I am coming to realize that the accumulation of things is not only costing money. It is taking up our sacred space in our homes. Our homes are to be our sanctuary from a long hard day out, a place of peace and calm. But our habits of accumulation are defeating the life-giving purpose of those four walls. A cluttered space steals our peace of mind. Just think about it: which is more calming? A clear kitchen counter or one piled high with bills, books, and knickknacks?

A house full of stuff not only saps our peace of mind, but it robs our time. Which would you rather do on your Saturday? Go to the pool with your family or spend the day inside cleaning all your stuff? The more we have, the longer it definitely takes. (Again, compare the time it takes to clean a clear counter top versus one covered with objects.)

I don't consider myself a pack rat, but I am now finding myself on the fast track toward simplifying our home and life. In the evenings, I am going through our house room by room, closet by closet, drawer by drawer, and pulling out items that we don't use regularly or love. I am either tossing them out or donating them. Some donations have gone to the Salvation Army and others to the local Wellspring store, a ministry who supports women in crisis. {Another benefit to purging the excess: helping those in need!}

I got so excited on Saturday when several of the dresser drawers in our guest room were EMPTY. And the others were no more than half-full. No more drawers that get stuck because there are too many old shirts or picture frames crammed in.

I have listed several benefits above to decluttering our home -- money, time, and peace of mind. But there is higher purpose for streamlining and simplifying our life. I want to be free from concern.

"What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not;
those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep;
those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them.
For this world in its present form is passing away.
I would like you to be free from concern."
I Corinthians 7:29-32

Yes, we buy things. We use the things of the world but"as if not engrossed in them." "Engrossed" is a powerful word. It means, "to occupy completely, as the mind or attention; absorb." We live in this world, and therefore we use the physical things of the world - a home, a car or bus, clothing, food, phone, internet, furniture, gifts, television, etc. But we aren't to be ENGROSSED by them, completely absorbed by them. They can't be the focus of our lives!

Paul reminds us in these verses that the time is short. We have one short life here on earth. We must make the most of every day, not for our own pleasure and enjoyment, but for Christ and His kingdom. "This world is fading away, along with everything it craves. But if you do the will of God, you will live forever. "{I John 2:17, NLT}

To live this way is to live a life free from concern. To fly above the circumstances, above the noise, above the stuff. To be free of heart and mind to focus on WHAT REALLY MATTERS.

Dean and I have a growing desire to capture each day for this higher purpose. To have time to devote to our friends and our family. To have energy and money to invest in the hurting, the broken, the weak, and the needy. To have quiet in which to hear the Father speaking and guiding us. "Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.' " Isaiah 30:21b

I want to be free to hear that voice. Free from the love of things. Free from concern.

Our dear friends April and Matt just moved their family to Hong Kong to reach college students with God's love. The flats in Hong Kong are very small, and in preparation to move, they went through a downsizing process that took months. Many yard sales. Many items sold on Craigslist. Many carloads of donations.

Luke was not a donation :)

As they purged their belongings to the bare minimum, April challenged me to go against the flow of materialism that is prevalent in America. Although she was the one moving to a foreign country, she said, "We are being forced to downsize and keep it simple. It will be harder for you...harder to stay here in America and fight against materialism to put His kingdom first."

She is right. But no matter where we live, whether we have a big house with plenty of room for lots of stuff or reside in a small Hong Kong apartment, we have the same calling. We as Christians MUST put His kingdom first.

"A man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." - Luke 12:15

Stuff. A great article.
Becoming Minimalist: "A family of four in the suburbs becomes minimalists and so can you." Read about their story, starting with the first blog entry. Inspiring!
The FlyLady recommends the 27-Fling Boogie among other tips to beat the clutter.

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