by D'Ann Mateer
I came by it honestly. My paternal grandmother kept everything. When my aunt cleaned out her house after she died, my aunt packed that stuff into her already full house. I don’t think my father has willingly thrown away an article of clothing in his entire life. So I fit comfortably into my pack rat skin for many years. I kept cards and flowers—even after they had dried up and begun to crumble—and clothes and books. Old pairs of glasses. Calendars long out of date. You get the picture.
When my parents moved after my senior year of high school, I was spared the agony of “cleaning out” since I worked out of town that summer. Then I married and had children and continued my pattern, adding kids’ drawings and clothing and blankets and shoes and toys.
Somewhere along the way, my little house grew cluttered. I had no more room to store stuff. Something had to go.
I thought I would die the first time I threw something away. But I didn’t die. In fact, I found a freedom in letting go of my “stuff,” even when it had a memory attached. I learned to weed through several boxes and reduce them to one. And my sentimental heart was assuaged with that one. I learned to cull books, applying my test of “if someone asked for a book to read is this one I’d want to have on my shelf to loan.” I reduced the clothing in my closet, at first due to economic necessity, then by swallowing my pride to (gasp!) wear the same things over again before half a month had passed.
In all my renouncing of my pack rat ways, I have also learned that “reducing” means more than de-cluttering. I have a friend whose goal this year is to reduce at every level of her life—her stuff, her body, her emotional and spiritual baggage. It’s a good goal, because just as our outer lives get cluttered, so do our inner lives. We need to “spring clean” ourselves, to take inventory of our faults and our failings and our weaknesses, ask the Lord to do a new work, to clean out the back closet that hasn’t been opened in years, the one that smells of mildew and hides scary things under webs of dust. And just as we feel freedom from the paring down a closet or a bookshelf, letting the Lord poke His vacuum into the recessed corners of our hearts brings that clean feeling of freedom from within.
I’ve found this to be true in my own life. To let go of vanity or selfishness or fear or anger is to take on a new freedom, an easy yoke, as Jesus says. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:20-30.
I don’t know about you, but I want a light burden, both in my house and in my heart. But I have to be willing to let go in order to gain. So it is in the upside down kingdom of God.
So how about you? Do you reduce systematically or sporadically? What do you do with your castoffs? What is the most difficult area for you to de-clutter, both inside your house and inside your heart?