Monday, June 04, 2007


About a year ago, one of my Sunday school groups discussed the idea of unburdening ones life from the many possessions that we seem to accumulate. The primary reason presented was that when one trimmed down ones life one then gained freedom. Freedom from clutter was a biggie. Freedom from the need to clean and care for all of that stuff. The heavy theme of the discussion was the freedom to get up and go should the Lord call. I can think of a few other freedoms that getting rid of clutter provides.

Freedom from distraction. You don't have all these things calling you to do stuff because you haven't done them in a while. Suddenly you have time to mentally go places you haven't gone before because you had all these things to do with your stuff. A sense of calm comes over your space when it isn't filled to the max. Which leads me to...

Freedom of movement. You suddenly have space to move around in. And not just you but your possessions. Finally there is room to rearrange that shelf so that it looks better. You can set that prized possession front and center where it can be seen with nothing to detract from it pride of place. And let's not forget that, as stated above, going places mentally requires space too. So you suddenly acquire mental room as it were.

Freedom from stress. There is a sense of peace about a space that is simple in its design and content. That's why minimalism is often popular in decorating schemes. I think that organization of things both physically and mentally is stressful. Imagine how many things you actually own and then imagine the energy you expend mentally just keeping track of where they all are so that you can find them instantly. That's a huge use of mental resources. No wonder my ex was often lost among our many papers and the clutter on the desk. He was the one who had a mental list of store prices and a road map of which roads went where. I was the one who knew where and in which stack a paper or bill was and if it had been dealt with.

Freedom for spirituality. This is a biggie for me. When I see clutter I don't feel calm. And I need calm for the spirit to take over. Without that place, yes room, for spirituality I can't focus on prayer effectively and tend to pull back from the experience. This isn't something I want to find myself doing, so I really need the freedom of space for worship at home. I need it at church too.

My church, like many others, holds two services each Sunday. One is early morning, at 8:00 AM. The other is late morning and finishes about noon. The late service is big, most of the members attend this one. It has music, acolytes, more than one lay minister, cantors...all the trimmings. If you want to be in on the social world of my church you go to this one. In contrast, the early service is very small, fewer than 40 people. It has no music. There is only one lay minister to help out. It is also very short being only 40 minutes in length. This is the service I attend. And I pay a price for attending it by missing out on much of the social goings on. But this is the one where I can focus. It is quiet, meditative and the only thing missing to make it a Taize service is the music. When I first started attending this church I went to the late service. A month or so later I decided to try the early service to see who was there and how it worked with my schedule. I went once and never switched back.

One more freedom that lack of clutter provides is productivity. Suddenly you know where everything is and you have space to spread your projects out so that you can work in whatever fashion makes you most effective. And that is what I'm going to need this fall when I student teach. I've no real idea yet what all student teaching involves other than that I will end up managing a classroom for 4 weeks out of 12 without support. And I'm imagining all kinds of night time projects to keep the classroom activities going from day to day. I may be able to do this in the classroom I'm assigned to, but teachers have different styles and this won't be my space. I'm going to have to play it by ear, but I already know that having comfort in my own space will be important for me in being effective, productive and able to focus on the tasks instead of the search for resources and tools. That will come best from my own space at home unless the teacher makes me welcome in every possible way.

So, as I mentioned in earlier posts, I am starting the process of getting rid of clutter. All the freedoms I've mentioned will be then be added to my life. This past week I've done the more piles of clothes on counters. This week I am getting rid of magazines. The stacks will be gone when I am through...and hopefully the articles I cull from them will be read. Then I will start clearing out my files of unnecessary documents and keep only the most relevant and current. If I'm really creative I may find a way to get rid of some furniture. Then I really will have space to move around in, and I love to dance and stretch which is hard in the small place I rent.

Will this give me the freedom to go should the Lord call? I hope so. It will certainly make it easier to move should I have to pack up and haul my stuff elsewhere. If God calls, I hope it is to a nice place. I trust that when I start searching for that teaching position my prayers will be answered and I find a really good fit that allows me to grow and do my best for the children I will teach. Since I have been dealing with the stress of an unknown future lately, I think that getting rid of stuff will let me feel in control and at peace knowing that I can do what is necessary where I am or where ever I need to go. So here's to decluttering and peaceful places and paths.


Susan Palwick said...

Hi, Lee! I desperately need to unclutter, so I admire your steps in that direction. Good luck with it!

Lee said...

Thanks Susan! Don't feel alone, I've needed to do this for way too long. It's just that now is the time to do it, if ever. Maybe you could tackle yours one item at a time?