Why We’ve Given Up Clutter for Lent
Now I know it doesn’t sound all that spiritual to give up clutter for Lent. But stick with me as I explain our rationale, and I will be blogging about this off and on in the days to come. For starters, what you are seeing here are a true-to-life photos of my office. I share this with much fear and trembling (“What will people think of me? Maybe I will never get another job again after people see what a mess my life really is!”) And while this is probably the worst of our clutter spots, I’m embarrassed to admit that almost every single room and hallway in our house had been untidy, at best.
So, instead of giving up sweets, chocolate, meat, media, or any of the other Lenten sacrifices that I’ve considered or done in the past, I approached my husband with the idea that we give up clutter for Lent. His first response was to laugh–not because he thought the idea was a bad one, necessarily, but because he doubted that I could actually stick with it. But now four days into Lent, with marked improvements emerging in different parts of our house already, he is all in, and our kids are, too.
The Bible does not appear to have much to say on the topic of neatness (although plenty to say in the Old Testament particularly about beingunclean!) I admit that I haven’t yet done an extensive examination of Scripture on this topic, except to confirm that the famous saying “cleanliness is next to Godliness” appears nowhere in the Bible. But what had happened in our house was that over time, the discipline of trying to keep our house in order just became too much for me, to the point that it was just easier to be apathetic about it than to put it in order. And as neither my husband nor I are predisposed to neatness, the combination of our natural tendencies and the second law of thermodynamics–that the universe is always moving towards maximum disorder–conspired to work against us.
This is not to say that our house was always slovenly or that we never cleaned up. But it became habitual for everyone to drop things on the floor and leave them there, or fail to put things back in their proper place, or create a mess then forget about it. Something had to be done. Exasperated, my husband looked around one day and said, “It would be nice to have at least one area of our house reflect some peace and order!”
Something about the way he said it startled me, as I realized that the lack of order in our house had gone beyond just normal, everyday clutter, to the point that it was weighing his spirits down. I had just chosen to turn a blind eye to it all, but I realized that in some ways, what I had done was to develop a slothful attitude towards maintaining order in our house–and slothfulness, as we all know, is right there on the list of the seven worst sins. Worst of all, my kids were just all following my lead. Something had to be done.
So our decision to emphasize a reduction of clutter is actually a decision to battle a slothful spirit in our house, to be disciplined about how we treat the things in our house, to be considerate to one another, and to help create an atmosphere that reflects peace and not chaos. And the missional tie-in to this decision is this: so many times, I have hesitated to invite people over to our house because the effort involved to make our house presentable just seemed too overwhelming. Not because I needed to present ordered perfection, but because it seemed completely inhospitable to invite people to a pig sty for dinner!
In subsequent posts, I’ll share how things have been going, as well as bringing in some spiritual lessons I’ve learned by facing my own clutter demons. But I have to say that so far, this has been one of our best Lenten decisions yet! What do you think about this as a Lenten choice? Have you ever tried it in your family, and if so, what were the results?
(P.S. I have not forgotten the post about missional parenting as an antidote to over parenting….still mulling over it but will hopefully post it some time in the next couple of weeks!)