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May 2018

HOME FREED: the theology of de-cluttering - Part 4: How Much is Enough?

Jane Brockenhurst for Parish Pump

Decluttering a small space is on a par with spring cleaning. A more significant, grand-scale declutter is about completely changing the way you live.

As I write this I am facing the prospect of moving to a new house. What shall I pack? How much will fit into the new house? It is brand new (exciting) but its footprint is only half the size of the house I live in now (daunting). I can only take half of my belongings with me, unless I intend to live in a cluttered mess! How will I know I have enough to meet my needs?

Although my new house is surrounded by others that look alike, no two homes are ever exactly the same. No two people have exactly the same needs. "Enough" is not a fixed quantity. I can't look at somebody else to decide how much of anything is sufficient for me.

Before becoming a domestic declutterer I used to teach Biblical Studies. Studying the ancient texts opened up thought worlds outside British culture. I found insights into different ways to live. At first glance Nehemiah chapter 6 verse 15, in English, doesn't seem to say anything at all about decluttering:
"After fifty-two days of work the entire wall was finished" (Good News Bible).

However, the original text was not written in English but in Hebrew, where it says literally: "After fifty-two days of work the entire wall was SHALOM".

Doesn't Shalom mean "peace"? How can a wall be peace?   When we say "peace" in English, it can sound negative. We are influenced by the Greek word for peace, irene, meaning "no noise", "no war", "no turmoil". We talk about "peace and quiet" together, so you can't have peace without something being absent.

By contrast, Shalom is a positive word, meaning blessing and completeness as an expression of peace. When Shalom is used as a greeting it is a wish for everything joy-giving and wholesome to come to the person you greet. Shalom invites the Spirit of God to be present, filling the space.
This is what I want for my new home. If there is not enough there it will feel bleak and unwelcoming, if there is too much it will be cluttered and stifling. I just have to keep on giving things away until it is finished – Shalom.

I pray that the Lord will help me to recognise how much is ENOUGH.

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