Decluttering as a Lenten Discipline

I’ve got a lot of stuff.

Some I’ve inherited. The books, tools, and furniture from my parents. Photos, film reels, and old board games. Cooking utensils such as beautiful Sabatier-K that still cuts vegetables cleanly and easily. It was the first real cooking knife my mother had bought.

Then there’s clothes, some of which I can’t wear anymore as they seem to have diminished over time. I’m not sure how fabric does that, but it’s how it is. Books from college, and notes from divinity school.  Lots of stuff.

In the old testament, sin could be defined as a “burden,” and I wonder if much of the stuff represents the burdens I’ve carried along the way. Or even, given the many things I’ve bought on a credit card, that the stuff represents another, later definition of sin, my debts.

Recently, a book about tidying has become quite popular: it’s method is to declutter any specific category of stuff, like books, clothes, glasses, all at once. She discerns what to toss and what to keep by asking: does this thing bring joy? The consequence is that we become surrounded by objects that make us happy.

I wonder if this gives us a bit of a strategy for thinking about decluttering and refocusing during Lent. Concentrating on what brings us joy. But let us not be vague or ethereal about the question, look at the concrete, specific, everyday objects that we use, without shame or sentimentality. Don’t start, she suggests, with the sentimental: begin with clothes, books, and other things that will not stoke nostalgic feelings. Perhaps by laughing off all the excess stuff we have in our lives, we can begin to live more lightly, unburdened, liberated.

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One comment on “Decluttering as a Lenten Discipline

  1. You have described my own situation perfectly. It is a good idea to sort toward happiness, but what happens when I am completely happy and find I still must get rid of things that bring me joy?
    Unhappiness!…. and the last state of the man is worse than the first

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