Don’t distress over your mess

by Annette Bridges. © 2007. All rights reserved.

You can stop drowning in clutter and reclaim your home — along with your peace of mind. Not too long ago, I learned a life-altering lesson that taught me that a simpler lifestyle is achievable and also that it isn’t just about having less stuff.

Yes, I discovered that clutter isn’t confined to messy closets, overflowing cupboards, covered desktops, jumbled shelves or drawers that won’t open. It also includes our mental pantry which can be jammed full with indecision, worry, fear, stress, pressure, anger, frustration, anxiety, depression, dread and countless medleys of other feelings and emotions. Such mental chaos robs our peace and steals our hope for a happy and satisfying life.

When my daughter and son-in-law recently purchased their first house, I offered to help with the moving, unpacking and organizing. I was especially excited about helping my daughter sort through their stuff and reach her great goal — to purge and pare down to create a clutter-free home. But in the process, I was reminded of some insights that lately have been buried in piles of new clutter I had allowed to accumulate mentally.

My lesson began the year prior to our daughter’s wedding a few years ago when my husband and I had the grand idea to remodel our house. We had lived in the same house for over 20 years, and, needless to say, we had gathered and collected lots of stuff.

The first requirement before a remodeling project could begin was to do major and significant downsizing. But this seemed like an overwhelming job, and it was difficult to know where to start.

I pondered some wise instructions that Jesus gave to us about what we esteem and hold dear. He cautioned against storing and hoarding needless and pointless treasures that have no long-lasting value. He told us that our best treasures are discovered in the desires of our heart (Matthew 6:19-21). This sounds like we determine what we value by answering the questions — What matters most? What are the things, people, occasions, events we value the most?

So with these questions directing our “housecleaning,” we decided what we were going to keep, take to a secondhand shop, sell, recycle or discard altogether.

Prior to this sorting and eliminating, I frequently harped on the fact that I didn’t have enough space — this house wasn’t big enough and there weren’t enough cabinets, drawers or closets. No one could have convinced me that cleaning house could result in more than enough space for our stuff. But it did! After years of complaining, I learned, much to my surprise, that my home was suddenly big enough. I now had space for all the things I had decided were truly important to me.

Around the same time of my house makeover, I became faced with making a career decision. A mishmash of uncertain and confused feelings buzzed around in my thoughts. It seemed impossible to determine the best course of action. Making a change is not always easy. You usually can’t see what’s down the road until you begin to make the drive. And you usually have to get to the top of the hill before you can see what lies at the bottom. So, sometimes you’re reluctant to make the turn onto a new road. Or at least I was.

I finally realized a decision was not going to be reached as long as my vision was getting obstructed by the maelstrom of emotions whirling around me. It was time for some mental inventory to be taken. Once again, I asked myself what was most important in my life. As I answered this question, I began ditching all the worry, concern and uneasiness that were cluttering my mind. The less cluttered my thoughts became, the more clearly I could envision the correct next steps and goals for the rest of my life. I was on the path to a simpler life, and it felt great.

Once again, I’ve been struggling over another big decision. It really is no surprise that I’ve been in such a quandary. I had allowed my life to become jumbled with so many self-proclaimed responsibilities, as well as needs and demands, that there were never enough hours in my days or days in my weeks. Being reminded of my life lesson on cluttering and de-cluttering was just the impetus needed to help me start trimming my duty list. I’ve been beginning with the obvious changes that are possible this very moment. And already my load feels lighter.

A simpler life is possible to maintain if we can remember what matters most to us and have those treasured and most precious values guide and direct us. Without a doubt, the list of what is most important to you will be far shorter than the list of stuff that is only unnecessary clutter.

When we let “what matters most” navigate and pilot our life — every moment of our day, every purchase we make, every choice, every decision, every goal — we can maintain a de-cluttered mind and house and live simply and happily.