Friday, March 20, 2015

Spring Cleaning and Spiritual Decluttering

by C.J. Chase

If you’ve ever read my bio (available here or in my books), you’ve seen my confession that I was born without a housekeeping gene. This actually isn’t the full story. I do try to maintain and clean and orderly home. The problem is that I’ll often start one project only to realize I need to do something else first, so I start that… At the end of the day, I’ll feel like I have little to show for all the time I spent working. I guess it’s not so much my lack of a housekeeping gene as the presence of housekeeping ADD.

Sometimes my husband (who, I should add, has absolutely no room to talk in this area) would say, “Our house is messy.” And I would respond with, “It’s clean. It’s just cluttered.”

So, after a brutal February where the kids were out of school almost two full weeks because of snow, the warm weather (and, oh, yeah, the knowledge that guests are arriving next week) motivated me to do some spring cleaning. I decided I wanted to be organized in my approach this year, so I started googling until I hit a site with a handy spring-cleaning checklist. 

To my surprise, I discovered that my justification comeback (clean, just cluttered) was essentially accurate. I do most of the items on the list—and pretty regularly. (Wash curtains? Check. Wipe baseboards and moldings over doors and windows? Check. Dust ceiling fans? Of course. Launder pillows? It’s just gross not to. Wash windows and screens? Frequently. I hate dirty windows.) Then why does my house feel messy so much of the time even though I seldom bother to put the vacuum cleaner away since I’ll just be getting it out again in a few hours?

Yep. Clutter. I just can’t get a handle on it. And the rest of my family is as bad or worse. At times, (like, when the arrival of company is imminent) I’ve resorted to a “magic box” where I toss in all the accumulated stuff. But part with it? Someday I might need that school paper/magazine/jar/mystery screw/box/coupon/business card/receipt/etc. Furthermore, I love my children. How could I possibly discard the clay turtle, rainbow painting, or indefinable yarn project they bring home from art class? Worse, what if I throw it away and they see it in the trash? They’ll be convinced I hate them, and
therapy is expensive.

As I meditated on this while scrubbing a floor this week, I realized my clean-but-cluttered situation is a metaphor for my spiritual life. My life is relatively “clean.” I’m a pretty moral person. No murder, adultery, or stealing here. I’ve never been charged with a crime. Never even gotten a speeding ticket. You can run my name against any law enforcement database, and I come back clean.

But I continually wage a battle against spiritual clutter—all the “stuff” that fills up time that should belong to God, a minute-by-minute conquest of my day as surely as old mail, a grocery list, son #3’s perfect spelling test, the refrigerator repairman’s phone number, the paper I need to sign for son #2, and a checkbook that needs balanced have appropriated my kitchen table.

Beginning today I'm going to start getting more ruthless with that spiritual clutter, reclaiming a few minutes here, some more time there. Besides, it will be nice change to spend more of that time on my knees having a conversation instead of wielding a scrub brush!


  1. Great post, CJ. I lack a housekeeping gene but things aren't dirty. Just cluttered. And you're right, there are definite parallels to my spiritual life. I've been wanting to work on improving both areas. Thank you for the post!

    1. Thanks, Susie. I think I'll have more luck working on the spiritual side this weekend. We're working on cobbling together a cabinet for the kitchen, so I have saw horses and boards all around the kitchen. But my husband realized 2 days ago that we have a regular 15-20 minute block of time every evening (waiting for one of the kids) that we waste, and he suggested we use that time for a devotional. Smart guy.

  2. I'm kind of the opposite, CJ. I keep any clutter to specified areas like closets and the garage, but sometimes I get behind on the heavier cleaning.

    1. Dina, my closet is neater and better organized than my kitchen counters. Of course, I don't let kids in there -- maybe that's the difference???

      I had a video I thought about linking to that had a harried mom stuffing things into the closet, but I decided it didn't fit the mood of the rest of the post.

  3. Sorry I'm so late getting to this, CJ, because it's a very good post.

    Our vacuum cleaner is always out because we don't have a broom closet in this old house. Nor a linen closet. So the vacuum cleaner stands beside an open bookcase in the long hallway to our room. So yes, we deal with clutter daily.

    At the start of January I caught a TV segment about decluttering your house and then keeping it like that. I saw 2 of the best tips ever...

    #1 - A handled plastic basket (like your pic but with a handle) for all your cleaning aids. I used to use this in other houses, but not this house as we don't have a closet nor a handy laundry room. Your basket/bucket would hold all your cleaners, scrubbers, and plastic gloves and stay by your side as you clean your house.

    #2 Most people have more clothes than they need and usually have some they don't wear which end up on the bottom of the pile. This happens because people wear their favourite clothes over and over and after laundering they place them on top of the others which means the bottom of the pile doesn't get worn.
    To begin your declutter, go through every clothing drawer and take away the bottom third layer. Donate those to charity.

    1. Anita, I have a solution for your vacuum cleaner: a vacuum cleaner cover. You can find them on the internet, or if you're more cheap than picky, send me your address and I'll send you my old one. (I think it's still upstairs in the storage room.)

      I had that when I lived in a house with no place to put a vacuum cleaner. It was an old house, so one thing we learned, if you can't hide something, turn it into a feature!

    2. Haha! Good idea, CJ, but in this case it doesn't matter because it's right at the end of a long, dark hallway and on the other side of the towel shelving unit.

      Great idea to hide things, though. :)


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