Giving Up Clutter for Lent, Part Two
We are a little over a week into Lent, and in this post I wanted to address some of the lessons I have begun to learn as we have been pursuing this particular choice of discipline. And, let me also answer some questions, such as, “How exactly is this working for you? Did you go through an entire decluttering of the house first?”
Uh, no. That would have proven nearly fatal for us to try to execute, such is the extent of clutter in our house. In fact, the enormity of the task has proven in the past to be the cause of my not addressing it; it just seemed too hopeless to make much of a dent in all the clutter, so in the end, why bother? But as a result of taking on this Lenten discipline, we have started chipping away at different trouble areas in our house, and as they become de-cluttered, we seek to keep them this way for the remainder of Lent (and hopefully beyond!) There is a practical element to what we are doing, as well; our house will play host to five additional family members who will visit on the Monday of Holy Week, so if all goes well what we accomplish in the de-cluttering will dovetail nicely with the arrival of the relatives! In any case, here are some lessons we’ve learned thus far along the way:
1) Involve the kids! We began by encouraging and helping our older boys, who are 9 and 6 years old, to organize and clean their rooms, to a greater extent than they were doing on a daily basis. So, they are joining with us in this exercise by maintaining clutter-free rooms and helping us with the public areas. This doesn’t mean that their rooms don’t get messy during the course of a day, but once a day they strive to return their rooms back to neatness. What I have really enjoyed about this year’s Lenten discipline is that we are doing it together, as a family. So often we privatize our faith journey, when God clearly indicates that we are to live out our faith in the context of community. Joining together to do a Lenten practice, and spurring one another on to higher standards (both from parents to children and from children to parents!) has been a much more enjoyable endeavor than the years when I’ve given up something on my own.
2) Celebrate even the little successes. Our next goal was to work on our main floor, which in our split-level house includes our living room, dining room, and kitchen. These areas are constantly used in our house, all day long, and contain two clutter hot spots–the top of our grand piano, and our kitchen island. Once we neatened those areas, though, the question was, what next? Some days we haven’t had time to tackle any big projects, but we’ve done a closet, or a cabinet. And each time we successfully improve on an area that was previously a mess, we take a moment to enjoy it and affirm those who were involved. This makes me think of how so often we avoid tackling the big spiritual problems we have in our lives because they seem too overwhelming. But perhaps if we can just start taking those baby steps, however small, we become emboldened to continue to strive for more and more ways to improve. Which brings me to the next point.
3) Improvement begets more improvement. The fascinating thing about this exercise is how, as we have become more intentional about de-cluttering, we have experienced the gratification that
comes from these little successes, which only motivates us to keep on going. This is the exact opposite of how I felt before we began Lent when it came to our cluttered house. Now, even though there is still a sizable area that needs to be neatened, when I look around I no longer feel defeated. I feel they are opportunities. Perhaps the same applies as we start taking a focused, intentional look at areas of sin or struggle in our life. Perhaps, if we see them less as burdens that will never change, and more as opportunities for us to let God’s grace shine in and through us, we may actually begin to see real change occur. Maybe, at the end of the day, an attitude welcoming God to do His work in us, coupled with trust and faith that he will come through and bring his good work to completion, is the most important element that actually catalyzes those changes to happen in our lives.
So that is what we are learning thus far. Next post: is there potential for legalism to set in with this Lenten discipline? In order to keep things ordered, are there things that have to be let go, and if so, what?
(And check out my previous post if you haven’t already done so: “Why We’re Giving Up Clutter for Lent.“)
Thanks for visiting and for your comments!