The Parish Church of St John-at-Hampstead

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January 2018

The Theory of De-cluttering

Jane Brocklehurst for Parish Pump

Part 1: Goal!

Forgetting what lies behind, I press on towards the goal. (Phil 3:13)

An important aspect of spirituality is to live in the present, without letting the past hold you captive, or the future make you anxious.

But in a house full of clutter, paying close attention to what is immediately in front of you may be the last thing you want to do! Heaps of clutter demand attention, because it occupies the space you need to work in, because it hides the important thing you are looking for, because it is difficult to keep clean, because you literally risk falling over it and injuring yourself if you don't pay attention.

The desire to clear clutter and live more simply can be strong, but people often don't know how to begin. Just throw it all away and start again? There may be treasures buried in the junk! (And anyway, recycling is more responsible than simple disposal.)

For the past decade, I have been helping people to declutter their homes and also to organize what they want to keep. No matter how the process ends, decluttering always begins the same way – we set a goal. What are you aiming to achieve? What will be the end result?

Motivate yourself
Your goal provides motivation, a sense of purpose when the mess is at its worst. With no goal, you might just move stuff from one place to another, without sorting through it. One room is cleared, but another is newly cluttered! So, it is better to go through things by type – shoes, tools, pans, books, and so on – rather than room by room. For example, do you really need 20 pairs of shoes, and eight screwdrivers? If your goal is to keep only things you use at least once every year, then the answer becomes easier.

Often clutter is inherited. Although you don't really want it, there is a sense of obligation, guilt, or fear of what might happen if you give anything away. So, part of your goal could include a change of attitude. Pray you will be able to see things for what they really are. Pray for wisdom as you choose what to keep. Pray that you can open your hands to let go of what you do not need. Pray for perseverance until your goal is reached. Remember that clutter is as much in the mind as in the home. 

Then begin. Gather your possessions into ‘like’ groups, and look at each thing in turn. Make positive choices. How will this possession help you to reach your goal? Surround yourself with beautiful, useful things that make living in the moment a joy and a delight. Take the rest down to the nearest charity shop – where they may well go on to light up someone else’s life.

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