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9 February 2021
Decluttering the house and heart
Words Belinda Davis
A few weeks ago we moved house. This means that, for a number of weeks, we had boxes in various states of ‘packed-ness’ around our house. I don’t like packing and moving, and so am in the worst job for that. Since becoming a Salvos minister, this is the 14th move I have undertaken.
The packing process is quite cathartic and distressing at the same time. It affords the opportunity to purge my life of things that have become less useful than they first were. It may be clothing I have outgrown or that doesn’t suit my taste any more, craft supplies for an activity I no longer do, gifts I have never used or surplus makeup.
It’s amazing just how much stuff I can accumulate and hold on to ‘just in case’. It turns out that often, when the ‘just in case’ moment arrives, I have forgotten that I had said item and buy another one. It is not uncommon that during packing, I come across things and say, “Oh, I forgot I had that.”
My rule tends to be, unless there is a high sentimentality about it, if I haven’t used it since we moved in (usually between three to five years), then it is not essential to my life and existence so it can go.
This isn’t as easy as it sounds. I find it extremely difficult to part with those things that have a strong association attached, but that I have never loved enough to use or have on display. It’s helpful to have to explain to another person why you are holding onto something, which is where the opinion of my husband is helpful (and sometimes annoying).
What I have discovered, however, is that by holding onto the things that stay tucked away in boxes and at the back of cupboards, that they can add to the burden of what needs to be packed, transported and then rehoused. While each ‘thing’ might only be small, together they become a significant weight.
It’s not rocket science to draw parallels between this practical example and what can also go on in our emotional life. There are plenty of thought processes and practices that might have served us well at some point, but that do not really fit what we need to exist well in life now. There are also memories of pain and betrayal that we store away, not willing to forgive and let go of ‘just in case’. These things can literally be a burden that can weigh us down in life.
Discarding them is quite freeing and worth investigating in order to live a life that is fuller and more meaningful. There is freedom in letting go, in releasing what clutters your heart and mind. It is not an easy thing to do, but a short period of discomfort can bring such high rewards. In the Bible, Jesus, when talking about himself, said, “If the son sets you free, you are free indeed” (John chapter 8,verse 38). Including God in the process helps in the identification of what to let go, and helps with the healing.
Just as in a house, there is a limit to how much stuff you can hold onto before it becomes too restricting. It can actually stop you enjoying life to the full. Take it from me, it is worth having a sort through from time to time and letting go. You gain a life better lived.
Major Belinda Davis is a Salvation Army officer (pastor), who has just moved to Adelaide, South Australia.