Cleaning Out the Clutter

I recently sorted through all of my clothes and shoes to remove items that I no longer wear or use. As I was rifling through the mountain (yes, a mountain) of clothes that came from my closet and dresser, I started thinking about my dad.

My dad is a very neat and organized person. He hates clutter, and he does not attach sentiment to items. Growing up, I would get so frustrated with him because of this! Admittedly, my bedroom was often a disaster, with clutter piled all around. I distinctly remember one day when Deddy walked in with an empty trash can and scraped the mountain of junk off of my dresser into the can, in one smooth and dramatic motion. He immediately took the trash can to the barrel and lit it up. I was furious. Now, I think back and know I probably would do the same thing if I was in his shoes. What I failed to acknowledge in that moment of tragedy (or what felt like tragedy to my preteen self) was that my dad gave me ample opportunities to clean up. He told me multiple times to do so. He told me if I didn’t, then he would come in and throw it all away. Obviously, I didn’t believe him. Instead of obeying my dad and heeding his warnings, I chose to avoid the piles of mess strewn all around. In the end, I paid the price for it. I watched as my dad carried a trash can filled with my possessions out to burn. Let me add a note here to tell you that I honestly never missed one of those things that was burned that day. I can’t name even a single item that was consumed by the fire. Clearly, these things were treasures .

As I grew, I became a tidy person. I hate clutter, and I love when things are organized. Sometimes all I want to do is purge the excess from my home. I begin to feel overwhelmed by how much stuff I have, especially when I realize how unnecessary most of it is for our life. It was in one of those moments I found myself last week, clearing out huge trash bags full of clothes and shoes that I don’t use or need. It makes me laugh to think about how frustrated I used to get with my dad about it, and now I do the same thing.

One thing that struck me, as I picked up and examined each item, was that everything was still in great condition. Everything I packed up to donate was still good and useful – just not for me. Because these things were still in great condition, I held onto them far too long. Once I packed everything up to donate and reorganized my closet and dresser drawers, I was able to clearly see the items I truly treasure, those things I feel good wearing or I use regularly. I had so much excess that many of these items I love and value were being neglected, buried in the overwhelming mountain.

In the past several months, my life has undergone a similar purge. This year our lives have drastically changed. At the end of 2019, Daniel graduated from PA school, and I was gearing up for a busy year of traveling and work for 2020. As we all know, by mid-March any plans were upended. Travel was removed from the agenda. Daniel started working in a local hospital here in the city.

While all of this change has been jolting and overwhelming, the new routine created by the pandemic created space in my life that has never been there before. So much has been stripped away in this season of sheltering at home. We went from hectic lives, with quiet moments scarce at best to time at home all day every day. Although I didn’t choose it, the current circumstances of our world cleared out the clutter in my life.

The pandemic snatched so many things away from us all. Today, the Lord reminds me to praise Him and thank Him for it – not in spite of the loss inflicted but because of it. Being forced into solitude has given me time and opportunity to learn more about the character and will of God than ever before. As a result, I’m learning more about myself too. Without this season of quiet in my daily schedule, this time of clutter being forced out, my heart would not be in a posture of listening to hear God speak. I would have missed out on abundant blessings that come from drawing closer to Christ. It’s not easy. Some days I want to ignore it all and lose myself in a busy schedule again. In some ways, that way of life is easier for me because it is familiar. I am tempted to love my sin more than I love the God who saved me from that sin.

As life starts getting back to normal in many ways, I long to love God more each day. When He is our first and deepest love, we keep our eyes upon Him. What we fill our time with is our priority. Oftentimes, what we say are our priorities are not what we actually spend our time doing. In this moment of quiet, a time of reflection, a purging of things filling my every waking minute, I can see more clearly where my priorities lie – what I actually love the most. I pray for God to align my priorities with his.

I challenge you to cut the clutter – for good! For me, clutter in my life usually looks like over-committing myself to other people and things. For you, it may be something else. Is it social media? Is it news media? Do you ever have moments of silence in your life? If not, evaluate what noise you consistently choose to fill the silence. Do you seek solitude and stillness to worship God, to listen to Him speaking? Or is it something else?

The enemy does not want us to have quiet moments. When we are lost in a schedule, in a social media feed, in a black hole of political rhetoric – we fail to rest in the One who saved us. We forget to worship the true God and instead worship gods of our own making.

What is cluttering up your life? What is taking up space that is meant for something else?

“Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?” He [Jesus] said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

Matthew 22:36-40, CSB