A cluttered house or office creates a cluttered mind, sucks up our precious mental energy and blocks the flow of love. Lent is a great time to get rid of it so that we can create more space to rest and connect with those we love. Here’s how I’m decluttering this lent:
- Acknowledge that clutter is a problem. Our nervous system collects and “attaches” to stuff, usually to numb pain. But this consistently backfires. Compared with 50 years ago Americans have tripled their living space, filled garages with clutter and added 2.2 billion square feet of personal storage. And happiness levels have not improved! Decluttering frees us to focus less on stuff and more on people.
- Choose a decluttering plan that works for you and make it fun. Some people give one thing away per day. Others do five minutes per day. I, personally, attacked one room at a time, put on my favorite, high-energy tunes, and worked until I was done.
- Give away what you don’t use. For clothing, use Oprah’s Closet Hanger Experiment: First, turn all hangars in the reverse direction. After wearing an item, put it back with the hanger facing the correct direction. In a year (or sooner) you will have a clear picture of what you can probably give away. Create a similar strategy for the rest of your clothes, shoes, linens, toys, cleaning products, etc.
- Organize and give away books. Here’s how I did it: I put all of my books in piles organized by topic. Any book I had not read in the past two years went into the “give-away” box or in a “maybe” pile. I re-shelved the “maybe” books in one place. Several months later I was able to give away all but a few of the “maybe” books.
- Use brain science to overcome irrational attachments. Take pictures of things with sentimental value (t-shirts, souvenirs, etc.) and keep the pics in one folder labeled “nostalgia”. (Disclaimer: I did not declutter my kids’ old art projects. I’m attached. They are staying! ) Overcome the “endowment effect” (our irrational tendency to overvalue something just because we already own it) by looking up its value on eBay. If we would not pay that amount today, sell it or give it away.
As St. Augustine famously said, “God is always trying to give good things to us, but our hands are too full to receive them.” Let’s take some time this Lent to let go of the clutter that blocks love from flowing through our homes! (Next week I’ll show you how I’ve been decluttering my virtual world this lent!)