Saturday, February 13, 2010

Adventures in de-cluttering and hand-written notes

I have recently devoted several hours per week to de-cluttering our household. Since moving from South Dakota to Washington, our home was downsized from 2200 square feet to 1350. The first few rounds of de-cluttering were easy, it was more like moving pieces of a puzzle around and attending to things I didn't have time to address during the move. Now, each disposal takes deeper thought and reflection. The bags that go to Goodwill take longer to fill.

Linking this de-cluttering to the Christian life is tempting. Though I know I'm forgiven for the log jam of sins committed over decades of life, it's still easy to carry the stuff around. God forgets it, so why can't I? If I forget what happened, does that make me prone to sin again? What I've found in de-cluttering my mind, soul and life is that the more I release, the easier it becomes in some respects. It may take more time to de-clutter, but the muscle and will required is exercised, and the depth of release is increased.

There are many reasons in a lifetime for holding on to things that need to be released. I remember the stories of disaster volunteers during the North Dakota flooding in the 1990's. My seminary colleagues found stacks of Styrofoam meat trays in one home (hundreds and hundreds) that had been saved for years in a home that had obviously lived through the Great Depression. Another found financial records dating back to the 1940's. Hanging on to things out of a strange combination of fear and resourcefulness left household after household of families and volunteers sorting through disaster areas of diseased flood waters and decayed stuff that was never released. I do not want my children and family to have to sort through meaningless stuff for months on end after my death. They'd have to at this point in my life, but what was once a few months may be able to be done in weeks. We will both be free to live our callings when we release.

One of the principles of organization consultant and TLC personality Peter Walsh discusses is giving things you want to save appropriate honor in a household--set up for easy recall, sharing and reflection. I recently found some handwritten notes from colleagues and congregation members. They were thoughtful, well-written and encouraging. About once a year, I review some of these notes and remember that my work does have a positive impact in people's lives. I have recently rejected and removed more paper in various forms than I ever could have imagined. Maybe I am a dinosaur--but a thoughtful, well-crafted, hand-written note of encouragement and thanks is a treasure. I suppose I can place these 20 or so notes in a display binder for future reference. In these notes I see the blessing of the body of Christ--definitely worth remembering and saving.


  1. Good post!

    We are blessed to have the problem of so much that we need to constantly pare it all down to something manageable! It does seem to be one of the main tasks of my life, and never ends. At this point my goal is similar to yours: to make sure the stuff that matters is honored and cared for, and not engulfed in the stuff that doesn't.

    I find reactions and interactions similar to clutter and "stuff", and have learned to filter out much that is negative simply by paying attention to the reactions and interactions that are life-giving or where I can be God's life-giving tool. Your binder does that well!

  2. Maria--

    Thanks for you comments. It is discouraging and encouraging to find that paring down stuff is a life long task in your life. I'm vigilant about what my daughters bring in the house--it's strange to see that my daughters are the world's pathway to store junk and make my home not so peaceful. I'm finding that peace (or lack thereof) and clutter are related.