By Jane Highley
Spring is here because I can feel it in my eyes, in my sinuses, and in my throat. We had a very mild winter, and even though March can be a very dicey month, weather-wise, the early onset of seasonal allergies this year tells me that spring has sprung. Aside from Easter bunnies, chocolate eggs, and pastel dresses, this season is synonymous with cleaning. At least, it is for me. But I’ve been in “spring cleaning” mode since January when we rang in the New Year.
After a long holiday season, I felt completely overwhelmed with the consumption of what amounted to just “things”. Or stuff. Sure, I was and still am very happy for thoughtful gifts given and received. However, I was overwhelmed. I felt stuffed, but not with food. In fact, it was the kind of feeling one would get after eating an obscene amount of salty and sweet treats in one sitting after being famished all day.
I had a “lightning bolt” moment after Christmas when I was putting old things away to make room for the new things excitedly unwrapped. Why do I own so many striped t-shirts? Why do I hoard so many new Moleskine journals? Why is it so difficult to fit everything into our closets, drawers, containers, and storage boxes? Change was necessary because I felt overly and uncomfortably full, but not content. I own so much, yet was sourly discontent. I felt tantalized by more shiny, new things, yet I wanted nothing more. And I thought how the apostle Paul exhorts Timothy to live in this world: “Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into this world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content” (1 Timothy 6:6).
As much as I love all of my favorite things – fancy running gear, mile-high collection of (mostly unread) books, my calligraphy supplies – I am very relieved that they are just things. I want to slough off the insidious, infectious notion that things – what we wear, what we drive, what we use – define who I am. Thus, I began to declutter. The objective was not merely to get rid of stuff. That has been attempted in the past only to result in accumulating more things to replace what I had mindlessly discarded. This time, decluttering has become a means to detach myself from the overstock of the things I own so that I can enjoy God’s gift of Himself to me.
Since January, I’ve gladly purged my house of so many useful extras that I know I can’t enjoy any time soon. Many bags have been filled for donation, either to our church or elsewhere. Does my house look starkly minimalist? Can I proclaim a clutter-free house? Absolutely not! (I have 3 small children, if you didn’t know.) However, I feel freed from the constant frenzy of needing to buy or own. My soul feels hushed like the baby in Psalm 131: “But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me” (v. 2). I can breathe more freely because I can trust fully in my Father, who gives generously and holds back lovingly.