The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
“The purpose of our lives is to give birth to the best which is within us.”
The Masons are in the daunting process of moving houses. Bubble wrap, packing tape, and Home Depot boxes stacked to the ceiling are my present reality. It is no small feat to pack up and move six children, four dogs and a fish named Dory! But this gargantuan move has given me the opportunity to take stock and ruthlessly “clean house.” I ask myself, “Where did all this clutter come from?”
Over the last weeks, my domestic mission has been to systematically go through the house of us; every room from basement to attic and determine what to keep, what to donate, and what to retire to the dumpster. You cannot imagine the clutter: American Girl dolls with missing limbs, 3-wheel only toy dump trucks and guitars with broken strings. We have an impressive collection of t-shirts from every team sport, theater group, school activity and rock concert, (100’s of them), baby toys that Finn, who just turned three, has sadly grown out of, and comforters covered in the graffiti of magic markers and electric pink fingernail polish. Amidst the clutter, I have rediscovered treasure: a piece of pottery with Charlie’s first handprint, a 25-year old love letter from my husband, my grandmother’s gold wedding band, a photo of me in the first grade (wonky glasses, knock-knees and pigtails!)
A friend of mine gave me a book to help in my pursuit to declutter my house and life, entitled, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by the Japanese guru, Marie Kondo. You probably have heard about it as it’s been a national bestseller since its release. Apparently, I’m not alone in my longing to tidy up my life. Marie Kondo advises us to go room by room and if the item in question sparks joy, you keep it. If it does not, you thank it for its service and let it go. I believe Marie Kondo’s instructions for tidying the home are applicable to the spiritual life. The “tidiness” of our inner sanctum directly impacts the kind of mate, parent, leader, employee and friend we are in this world. It also affects our creativity, health, perspective and joy.
We need to declutter our “inner house” from any negativity, anxious thoughts, frenetic busyness, envious resentment, aggrandizements of false pride and dead end stale dreams. We need to stop buying into the idea of “More is better,” and embrace “Sacred is best.” We cling, hoard, over-schedule, and give into our egos. We wonder how our houses appear so full, yet strangely empty. No sparks of joy.
Jesus instructs us to cut off every branch of the tree that bears no fruit, even prune some healthy branches to insure the best harvest yield to come. The Master Gardener dictates that serious pruning is always required for not only the health of the present tree but to insure years and years of productivity. Jesus knew our inner struggles; that our insecurity and lack of trust would clutter our hearts. He warned, “You only gain what you are willing to give up.”
The tree of you and me were created to yield fruit. Cut the withering branches weighted down by the unruly thoughts of selfishness, of fear, of guilt, of restlessness, of hopelessness so the strongest limbs of love can grow skyward.
The irony is that when we have the courage to declutter our inner spaces and submit to some painful pruning, we are set free to be the best version of ourselves. Eyes are opened to all the goodness around us, and we begin to breathe, even taste real peace.
This week is the beginning of Lent. I invite you to lay on Love’s alter whatever is cluttering your heart and robbing you of soul joy. Try listening to your soul more than the world’s clanging cymbals. Spend these coming wilderness days, tidying your inner house. Pack up what no longer serves you and sift for the treasure. Release your tight grip. Turn up your inner glow. Leave God more than enough room to yield new fruit in you. Spark joy!