Decluttering: Tips, Spiritual + Emotional Benefits

When people think of decluttering their home, it can seem like it only applies to removing unwanted items from their house. While this is a central element of decluttering, we will move beyond that to its spiritual and emotional benefits. 

My approach is not as a Marie Kondo tidying expert that has everything already perfectly purged and organized at home; but from a real-life, in-progress place. 

Decluttering tips and highlights that I discuss in this video:

  • Decluttering is not about just getting rid of things to have a tidier home, although that is desirable. 
  • Since most of us have attachments to our things, we need to approach this not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually.
  • A clutter free space is clear of the emotional distraction that our stuff represents. We feel a lightness when not weighed down by an overabundance of things. Also feel more ordered – which can bring a greater sense of peace in your heart and home.
  • Progress in the spiritual life comes from simplifying
    •  As we grow in simplicity, we find greater freedom. So too with simplifying our space by lessening the clutter. 
  • Attachments hinder our freedom, since we are holding onto to things to try and find fulfillment instead of in God.
    • We seek the gift not the Giver. In Genesis, we see that God created man and gave us dominion over creation. We enjoy His creation through our senses, but God desires that we enjoy the beauty of creation as a means to the ultimate end, Him. We are not to seek and hold on to things for themselves because they only dimly reflect the infinite beauty of God.
    • St. John of the Cross and the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles give us some helpful guides to detachment. “We fail to practice mastery over our attachments when we use them:
      • in excess of our needs;
      • for purposes other than that for which they were intended;
      • as ends rather than as means to a legitimate end.”
      • St. John of the Cross illustrated our attachments like a bird that is tethered to the earth with either a little string or a large rope (Ascent, Chapter 11, #4).  It matters not “how significant the attachment, as any attachment will hinder our flight to God.”
  • Because we have emotional attachments to many of our things, don’t try and overdo it. You need energy not just for the physical act of decluttering, but the emotional and spiritual elements of detachment. 
    • Be intentional – block out time to begin the work.
    • Think about how you are feeling and address your mindset. You may feel overwhelmed by the amount of things to go through, or ashamed by putting it off for some time. Acknowledge these feelings and be compassionate with yourself. 
    • Begin gradually. We’ve been clearing our garage during weekends over months. Don’t set unrealistic expectations that you can clear out years’ worth of paperwork or stuff in one afternoon, because then you’ll become discouraged when you can’t do that.
    • Be prepared. Think of the area you going to declutter. Do you need trash bags, a shredder, file boxes, storage bins, or something else? Where do plan to usher your items out to – St. Vincent de Paul? The trash? A friend?
    • Lauren Rosenfeld co-authored a book with Dr. Melva Green, the expert psychiatrist on the Emmy Award nominated show, Hoarders. Their book, Breathing Room: Open Your Heart by Decluttering Your Home, is guided by the Ten Principles of Spiritual Decluttering that form the book’s basis. Read more about their principles here, but they provide useful distinctions and questions to guide us through the intensive “should it stay or should it go” work   
      • The 3 Gates of Meaning: Whatever you decide to keep in your home should be intentional, useful, and kind to your heart. If it’s not, it’s clutter that weighs you down. Ask the following questions when you’re trying to decide to keep or let go, to test if it can pass through the three gates of meaning : 
        • Does it fulfill my intentions for my home? 
        • Do I use it? 
        • Is it kind to my heart? 
      • The Three Standards of True Value: You likely will reach a roadblock while decluttering, and it frequently occurs when you’re misled by the perceived value of something. “No object — no matter how much you paid for it or who gave it to you or how long it has been in your family — is truly valuable if it is eating up space in your heart. It’s truly not worth it.” To measure the true spiritual value of an object, consider:
        • Does the object provide you with happiness, freedom, or ease?
    • Don’t just hide things by shoving them in closets or drawers. That will weigh on you mentally because the items are just out of sight but not fully out of mind. 
    • Recognize the progress you make and reward yourself. It takes a lot of work to declutter and let go of your things. Enjoy the feelings and space that open up from simplicity, order, and detachment.
About Author

Creative, Entrepreneur & Silly-Heart. Christ has called her to bring the broken to His Sacred Heart. Calls Austin home with her mountain-man husband, Mike, who she loves to travel through life with as well as around the world.

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