From the Rector…
Steve and I spent the month of September decluttering. We’ve done this before utilizing a variety of methods including the Maria Kondo approach: “give thanks for that item and then trash that sucker.” For the most part we are successful in the decluttering exercise, but it is rarely long lived and usually a chore. Both of us seek a more transformative approach—one in which we are not simply successful in the moment, but continue to practice the decluttering mode and maybe even limit our accumulation tendencies. The method we used this past month has been the closest we’ve come to such a transformative process.
Decluttering is hard. Many of us hold on to things for a variety of reasons: we might need the item one day; surely we will lose weight and be able to wear that shirt again; it may be out of style now but it will come back into style in a few years. There are sentimental reasons. Pragmatic reasons. Emotional reasons that just seem to keep us from letting go. Whatever the reason, it is hard to let go of the past and trust that the future will hold everything that we need. My running app coach says it is ok to look back as long as you keep moving forward. That might describe some of my possessions but I think my attachments are better understood through the way I look at my things.
Wayne Dyer says, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” I think that is true not only about our possessions, but our beliefs as well. If we can invite ourselves to consider things from different angles, we begin to discover not only a broader perspective but a depth and appreciation of detail we may have missed when we only examine things from one angle. I’ve discovered that when I begin to see things from varying perspectives, I am often able to disconnect from ideas and perspectives that limit my view of God, the world, life and instead open up possibilities that make the world a little more interesting and delightful.
When Steve and I embarked upon our decluttering challenge for September, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Our strategy was to rid ourselves of the number of items a day that corresponded with the calendar date. For instance, on September 1, we got rid of one item each. September 2, two items. September 3, three items. And so forth, until September 30 we got rid of thirty items each. At first it was fun and then it started to get real. By day 29, I was frustrated and cranky. I felt overwhelmed as to what to get rid of. Not because there wasn’t thirty things I could have easily gotten rid of, it was more that I wanted to see a significant difference in our decluttering efforts and that didn’t seem to be happening. I mean Steve and I had gotten rid of 465 items over the course of the month and I still didn’t feel like we had put a dent in the amount of clutter in our house.
That seems crazy. You would think that after throwing out/giving away over 900 items, you would feel significantly less decluttered. And in many ways we do—I can close dresser drawers with ease that use to take a Herculean effort to shut. The bookcases in the den are no longer stuffed to the gills. But there is still a lot that we could be rid of. The joy and incredible thing is that whereas at the start of our decluttering prospects I was overwhelmed and smothered by my possessions, now I am still throwing stuff out—even two weeks after the “official” decluttering project is complete. I am not sure what the difference has been with this method, but the slow and steady approach seems to have been more effective on its powers of transformation than other methods of decluttering have been.
And maybe that is it. Consistent practice over time leads to transformation. That shouldn’t be too surprising. Anything we intentionally work at over a period of time helps us not only to practice and develop a skill, but internalize it as well. The more we changed from a position of accumulation to one of decluttering, the more our perspective and values changed as well. Our belief system works the same way. The more we are willing to question our beliefs and release particular “truths” we have always accepted—examining them and considering them from other people’s points-of-view, we discover that maybe our thinking doesn’t have to be so rigid. That other people may offer us invaluable ways of understanding and acceptance that we might not have imagined because we were so overwhelmed by our own belief systems. Decluttering might just be as good for the soul as it is for the home.
Light and Life,