Just over a year ago, I became a first-time-homeowner. That may not sound like a spiritual experience … but, I assure you, it is.
My most recent confirmation of this began last month, when I declared war on clutter.
After moving into my new (old) house – which required cleaning out at least two storage units and the attic of my parents house – I discovered that I was up to my ears in clutter.
My first attempt was to try to manage the clutter.
Clutter refuses to be managed.
I engaged in attempt after failed attempt. Finally, the time came to launch an all-out assault against the clutter.
I gave away furniture and linens and kitchen items and clothes. I recycled and organized and discarded. I spent a portion of each of the 28 days of February working my way through boxes and drawers and closets.
I would love to say that I’ve finished (we all know better than that, don’t we?) but the extraordinary thing about this project is not the completion of it … it’s the reflection that occurred along the way.
Like an archaeologist, I sifted through the remains of my previous lives: piecing together histories, wondering at riddles, and trying to understand someone who lived a (seemingly) long time ago.
Like an anthropologist, I used the evidence in front of me to trace the development of someone I (almost) don’t recognize: the child who hid, the girl who obeyed, the woman who sought.
The experience was both strange and profound.
After a month of clearing clutter, I have recently found myself sneaking quiet moments with seed catalogs, planning this year’s garden. This yearning points me toward a timeless truth: once space is cleared, things begin to germinate and grow.
Though the season of Lent doesn’t start until next week, I’ve already been on a journey through the wilderness. (I guess you could say that I’m a bit out of sync with the liturgical calendar.)
Lent is the time when we engage in disciplines that help us clear away the clutter and cultivate space for God to be at work in us, the time when we take a closer look at who we are and who we’ve been along the way.
Lent, too, is a strange and profound experience: one that can easily be minimized by convincing ourselves that the focus of the season is on giving up soda or chocolate.
Instead … clear the clutter; make space; wonder; investigate;examine; remember. Give yourself the time to listen for the quickening of seeds within you that God is germinating.
Usually, clutter is just clutter.
It’s frequently a pain in the neck and dealing with it is always a chore.
But sometimes you are rewarded with treasure.
Tonight, I am half-way through my 28 Days of clutter-busting … I suddenly, out of the blue, I am rewarded with these nostalgic goodies: a cheerleader shirt from when I was VERY small (complete with my name on the back); a monogrammed sweater (from a day when that was cute); and a vintage Malan Jr. High Redbirds jacket.
My first day of the ClutterBuster28 Challenge is complete … and it was a smashing success, if I do say so myself.
I fearlessly began where all women dread to go: the closet. I thought I could get it done in a couple of hours; but a couple of hours later, I was spent and the closet was not finished.
However, I made progress of which I am quite proud:
1) all non-closet items have been removed from the closet;
2) all clothing and accessories now have their appropriate place, including seasonal items;
3) almost all of the clothing has been folded (relatively) neatly and put in its appropriate place (I have one laundry basket of clean clothes that still needs to be put away);
4) I managed to find 4 items that can be counted toward my 100 Things Challenge (1. a hanger for belts or scarves or something, 2. a pair of camo shorts, 3. a pair of camo pants, 4. a pair of strange blue lounging pants).
This means that my closet clutter is actually going to end up being a two-day project. I still have to finish putting away the clean clothes … and then I have to start weeding out the things that will be going to charity.
I’m fairly certain that there isn’t much that will be thrown away … but I know for a fact there are a few items that no longer fit. It’s time to get ruthless: if it doesn’t fit, it goes.
On a related topic:
Yesterday, I promised to post the before pictures of the clutter in my house that I would be attacking during the month. I took all the pictures, I uploaded them to the computer, and then I froze. You know, it’s a very different thing to see your chaos on a computer screen than it is to see it in person. It seems so benign when it’s sitting here beside you. When you see it all framed up on a relatively tidy computer screen, it just seems … well, words fail me.
I just couldn’t post them. At least, not all at once. I’ve decided I’ll post the before and after pictures together. That way, you’ll still be able to see the change … but your senses won’t be quite so shocked as if I had posted all the chaos at once.
Well, that’s all for me today!
Yesterday, I issued my Clutter Buster 28 Challenge and I’m looking forward to the results of that challenge much more so than the actual work of the challenge.
Today, I’m still pondering the Clutter Buster 28 Challenge and I’m intrigued by Dave who began his 100 Thing Challenge more than 2 years ago.
In short, Dave owns only 100 personal items.
Now, there are a few rules and exclusions (and you can see more information at 100 Thing Challenge) but for the most part, Dave has pared down the stuff he owns to the bare minimum.
To be clear: I do not feel called to go quite as far as Dave. But I have decided to honor the spirit of Dave’s challenge. During my 28 Days of Organization (better known as Clutter Buster 28), I intend to get rid of at least 100 things (preferably by giving away, but possibly by recycling or throwing away). As I said, it’s not how Dave chose to do it; but it’s a start.
Feel ready to get a start on your spring cleaning? Or just tired of the clutter that’s built up over the long, cold winter? I’m looking for companions in this journey through February. Post a comment to join in or just to encourage me!
I bought my house more than a year ago, but I only finished moving in about 4 months ago. Sound strange? Yeah, maybe. Because of all the moving around I’ve done while preparing for professional ministry, I’ve lived in a lot of places. At the time of buying my house, I had two sizable storage units (in two different states).
In November and December of 2009, I emptied one storage unit of its contents and moved these “treasures” into my house.
In January 2010, I “inherited” a houseful of furniture and belongings from a friend whose mother had passed away and who was looking for a good home for furnishings and other home goods. (We completely filled a rather large U-haul truck.)
Over the summer of 2010, I slowly but surely cleaned out the last storage unit. The final car-load was moved out in September.
Cut to January 2011. I have a house full of junk. Ok, it’s not all junk. In fact, there’s very little of it that is actually junk. My problem is that the inside of my house looks like a junk pile.
Nothing is organized. Very few things have a “proper place” in the house. I can’t find anything that I’m looking for and, most of the time, it drives me crazy. (The only time it doesn’t drive me crazy is when I’m not at home.)
With that being said … I am issuing the Clutter Buster 28 Challenge (also known as the 28 Days of Organization). Every day during the month of February, I’m going to spend a little bit of time (anywhere from 10 minutes to the whole day) getting my house organized.
I recognize that the task of organizing my house is a huge job. (Not only is it a big house … but I also have a lot of stuff!) And, since I will still be trying to do my job while taking on this little project, I am fairly certain that I will not be completely finished organizing the house as the month of February comes to a close.
But you’ve got to start somewhere, right?
I’ve already spent some time scouting out the locations most in need of attention and took some “BEFORE” pictures, just to document the process. Join my in my challenge, either by following the blog and offering support and encouraging comments … or do your own Clutter Buster 28 Challenge and see how the shortest month of the year can help make the biggest difference to your living space.