My wife and I cleaned the top of my desk in my home office this week as part of our spring house cleaning. I must confess that the whole idea for this project came from my wife and yet I am delighted with how it all turned out. We share our home office space and for some strange reason she had become tired of looking at the clutter that was stacked on top of my desk. What she referred to as clutter was simply the twenty or so new books that I had purchased over the last year, as well as an assortment of papers and notebooks I had piled there. The reason the books were stacked on top of my desk was because my overstuffed bookshelf. I knew that before I could move the new books from the top of my desk to the bookshelf I was going to have to create space for them by getting rid of a number of books in my bookshelf. And getting rid of books is never easy for me. But with the assistance and insistence of my life partner I did it and I feel this great sense relief now that it is done.
I have heard from several people recently that have taken on a decluttering practice as a way of observing the forty days of Lent. There is even an official “40 Bags in 40 Days De-cluttering Challenge for Lent” program that one can join. One of the benefits of joining this program is receiving daily inspirational emails with lists of specific areas of one’s home and one’s life that can benefit from decluttering. I visited the website for this challenge and found a list of 79 areas of one’s home that they suggest decluttering. I’m not sure whether I find that inspiring or overwhelming, but I am delighted to have conquered one of the 79 areas for now.
I know others who are observing Lent by practicing a different kind of decluttering. This decluttering is not related to material stuff, but to time. To declutter one’s life in terms of time is to become intentional about slowing down and even stopping for a period of sabbath time each day. This sabbath time can be used to simply rest, or it can be used for prayer, writing, or anything that is a small break from everyday life and that renews you.
The word clutter is closely related to the word clot, and it is easy to see why. A clot blocks the flow of something that is supposed to flow freely. And so it is with clutter. I am pleased to be sitting at my clean desk right now writing this column. Just yesterday, before our spring cleaning began, it would have been hard for me to find room at my desk for my laptop. After avoiding sitting at my desk for some time, I now find myself delighted to have rediscovered the joy of this workspace. Similarly, clearing a portion of our day to make room for sabbath time creates an opening for spiritual energy and vitality to flow more freely, a metaphorical spring cleaning.
Sometimes it takes someone else in our lives to notice that our clutter is becoming out of control as I learned from my recent desk cleaning. In the case of my desk, it took the help of my wife to point out what I already knew but had been pretending not to know. When our material, emotional, or spiritual clutter builds up to the point that others are being affected by it, it is clearly time to address it. When we do, not only will we feel so much better, but those closest to us will as well.