I was chatting this past week with a friend about the need to declutter. I had been reflecting on how lately I’ve been enjoying uncluttered spaces, and yet realising there’s a large amount of unnecessary STUFF in the house – the accumulated stuff that hovers in corners, sits in drawers, keeps under-the-bed dustbunnies company. The stuff that is no longer relevant, or needed, or wanted. Not the things that remind us of loved ones or special events, but the junk. My general rule is that if I don’t remember where it came from, or if I haven’t used it in 3 years, then it’s time for it to find a new home. My delicate angel collection (all gifts from dear ones) – they’re staying. My giant inflatable Christmas moose – going.
I think part of the challenge for me is that I believe I’m part magpie – show me something shiny, and I want it. I want it as part of my nest, to show it off. This can sometimes lead to spontaneous accumulations (a jute dragonfly garland or a Winnipeg Jets rubber duck); my 3-year rule is now applied to such purchases – am I really going to want that in my house in 3 years time? Or will it fall victim to a decluttering process? (And yes, Ducky will be staying!)
I know sometimes people buy these extra things because they fill an emotional void – the stuff is an attempt to provide emotional happiness or fulfillment, to be trendy or to fit in, because its marketing suggests that our lives were incomplete or inferior without it.
It can be emotional and difficult, it can bring back memories and we can spend much time in reminiscing. But it needs to be done; there’s only so much stuff we can collect; with too much stuff we forget what we have, we minimise the significance and importance of that stuff.
So, I’m in the process of decluttering. I’m not expecting to do it all at once, but I’m motivated and following a routine and intentional about continuing. I’m carefully assessing what I have, what I need, what is useful, what I want, and what I’m ready to let go of.
This is not just a physical decluttering; I’m also initiating a process of spiritual decluttering. I’m looking at my spiritual practices and sorting out those that are life-giving and presently useful, from those that have become stagnant. I’m working to make sure that I am not so overwhelmed by numerous spiritual practices that I am unable to deeply engage with any of them.
This can be especially difficult as all spiritual practices are useful – but in their own time and space. When we try to fill our lives with as many different practices as possible, we force out some of the potential that each can bring to us. A worship service that includes a praise band singing and clapping the Gloria, and then offers an Iona-based guided meditation for the homily before continuing with liturgical dance for the intercessions may be more distracting and disjointed to worshipers than the liturgical diversity that the officiant intended. Each of these practices has its merits, but by cluttering them together they may be simply too much.
As I am decluttering, I am hoping to remove the extra stuff that is cluttering my connection with God. This will take some practice and focus, but I expect it will be worth it. I have many practices for my daily office in addition to the BCP and BAS offerings; I use the rosary and Celtic prayer resources and prayer books from other countries. For now, my de-cluttering will be to only use one practice per week. They all bring me joy, they all aid my prayers, and they will all be used – in time. I’m hoping that through decluttering they will all aid me in a deeper relationship with God, one less distracted by ‘other’ things, one where I can deeply appreciate the simple beauty of intentional communion with my Creator. I want my spiritual life to have significant depth and unimpeded quality, a connectedness that will continue to have great meaning to me despite the test of time.
Does your spiritual life need to be decluttered? How do you practice an uncluttered spirituality?