Yesterday was Mardi Gras. The holiday of revelry that kicks off Lent, 6 weeks of stern abstinence from food or temptations in the name of self-restraint.
I didn’t grow up in the Catholic Church. In fact, I didn’t grow up in any church. My upbringing was decidedly secular. I’m slightly embarrassed to say that I was in my early 20s before I knew that Easter was a religious holiday.
So I’m not well versed in the Lenten tradition of abstention.
The only time I’ve given something up for Lent was about 8 years ago, when a then-co-worker was giving up chocolate and I decided to follow suit. I was trying to lose weight anyway.
It was hard in the beginning. I didn’t even eat much chocolate, but the idea that I couldn’t have any drove me crazy. But by the end of the 6 weeks, I didn’t miss it at all.
This year I’ve decided I am going to again give something up for Lent.
I’m giving up clutter.
I’ve always tried to live as a minimalist. I don’t like having a lot of superfluous stuff around. Never have. It overwhelms me and weighs me down. I’m married to a packrat and we’ve had more than one confrontation over clutter.
For at least the past year, I’ve looked around my house and have been completely overpowered by all the stuff I see. Every shelf, every drawer, every cabinet is full. I don’t see an inch of open space anywhere.
With all this stuff around me I’ve been feeling sluggish and have been having trouble completing the most basic of tasks. For example, I still haven’t finished my son’s 2015 (yes, 2015!) photo book. It’s like I’m paralyzed by the weight of all the stuff.
I used to go through and clear out clutter – an act I affectionately referred to as “property purging” – regularly. Every few months, I’d fill up a few trash bags with both trash to dispose of, and items for donation. It felt great, even liberating! I also never let myself acquire much because I lived in small places and moved every few years. Moving is great for purging.
But I’ve lived in my current home for 7 years and haven’t done one purge in that time. The more I acquire without clearing stuff out, the more overwhelming all the stuff becomes, and the less I’m able to accomplish. Add the packrat husband to the mix and it’s downright scary.
I’ve never had this problem before. I’m completely overwhelmed. But I have to do it.
Purging is a great activity to do during spring, which is just around the corner in the Northern Hemisphere where I live. Spring is an opportune time for clearing out old stuff, hence the term “spring cleaning.”
Clearing out stuff has significance for us on more than a physical level. It helps us improve our ability to get things done.
Research has shown that a cluttered environment inhibits our ability to focus and process information. Think about it. A pile of mail on top of a table, a bunch of tchotchkes sitting on a shelf collecting dust, or a cabinet so full that stuff falls out when you open it, are all stimuli that compete for our attention. An uncluttered environment allows us to be more productive because there’s less competition for our senses.
Clutter is more than the physical stuff, though. Clutter is also a force of energy. It’s physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual energy that has become “piled up” in our mind or our spirit. It doesn’t move us toward greater health, well-being or happiness. It stagnates us. In this “stuck” state, it doesn’t serve us.
When trying to move forward in anything in life – trying to conceive or any other big life goal – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual clutter, holds us back.
I’ve definitely felt this restraint on more than a physical level. For my own emotional and spiritual well-being, I must get this stuff out of my house. I’ve warned my husband that in purging stuff over the next 40 days, I’m taking no prisoners.
By clearing out the clutter in our lives, we’re opening our hearts. We’re physically, emotionally and spiritually making space in your life for new things to come in. Things like new energy. New beginnings. Possibly even that new baby that we’ve been dreaming of and trying so hard for.
We owe it to ourselves to clear out the clutter and make room for the promise of a new beginning.
I know (or at least I hope) that once I get started on clearing clutter I’ll be able to find my groove. I’m going to start small; for example, one day I just might do one closet. And that’s it. And celebrate the accomplishment, and the cleaned-out closet, when I’m done.
I also need to be gentle with myself. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was the clutter in my house. Some days I may get more done than others, and I need to be okay with that.
My goal is to fill one bag with trash (or donations) each day during Lent. It can be a big garbage bag-sized bag, or a smaller, grocery bag-sized bag. It doesn’t matter, as long as there’s one full bag of stuff leaving my house each day.
40 bags of trash or donations isn’t too shabby. That’s 40 bags of stuff that’s just been sitting around that I don’t use or need. 40 bags of stuff I’ll be able to say good riddance to. I think after 40 bags I should be able to breathe again, free from the shackles of clutter in my house.
Wish me luck. And prayers. It is Lent, after all.