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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Giving Up Distractions--Clutter




Here we are in Holy Week, the final stretch of Lent. How have we faced our trials and carried our crosses? How well have we offered up our sufferings? And how can we continue to give up our distractions, for good?

Everything I've written about in this series is clutter of a kind. The mental, emotional, and spiritual clutter is perhaps all the more insidious because we can't literally see it. But it could also be that the physical clutter in our home environments is indicative of the deeper, hidden elements. I think that the physical clutter has something to do with holding on to the past.

Some of us are more sentimental than others. Indiscriminately throwing everything out is no better than clinging to every little possession. Either extreme is a sign of imbalance. So no, we can't just set fire to all of it and begin again. Unless there is, actually, a fire or a flood or some such disaster that clears the clutter for us. Usually, we have to employ prayer and self-discipline and attend to our stuff with temperance and diligence. It sounds as if we are being called upon to cultivate virtue, doesn't it?

When I was a young adult, I tended to pride myself on being from a family of pack-rats. I also believed in the popular notion that creative people are by nature messy. The chaos of my apartment bore testament to my artistic, sentimental soul! It didn't help that as a Montessori teacher, I was encouraged to save anything that could be used to create "works" for the children. As such, I had a substantial collection of things like laundry detergent lids in my tiny kitchen closet.

There was one saving grace. Two, actually. The first was the Kidney Foundation charity. My youngest brother had a kidney removed as a newborn, so as a way to protect the health of his remaining kidney, I gave to the KF. They came to collect one's donations. I gave so often that they would call me monthly when they were scheduled to pick up from my neighborhood. I had no money to give to the poor, but somehow I always had stuff. I learned that when one gives of one's abundance, the Lord provides.

The other saving grace was my sensitivity to beauty, which I inherited from both parents. My mom's primary artistic outlet has always been home decor. I grew up with her regular rearranging of the furniture. Because of my own impulses to suddenly need to move the furniture around and re-decorate, I would be forced to clean! I also enjoyed entertaining friends and having parties, so there was that motivation to bring order to my surroundings as well.

These principles should hold true for all of us. We are called to be charitable with our time and our possessions. Our God is a God of order. There is no Beauty without order. And hospitality and Christianity go hand in hand. So it seems that we've received a divine ordinance to clear the clutter.

After sorting out my clothes to donate this Lent, I realized that there is no need anymore to store away off-season clothing, having pared my wardrobe down so well. And the way the weather works in my neck of the woods, it makes more sense to have just one, year-round capsule wardrobe. Sure, there are those few items that belong exclusively to winter or summer, but much of the time we are in-between the various seasons. Layers are the name of the game!

And so with clothing squared away and my vanity table tidy (jewelry and make-up sorted and organized), I had to face finishing up with my books. And this I have accomplished. I'm far from finished. There are still the magazines, the personal papers, and those sentimental items that will require my intense attention. There are closets, drawers and cupboards that will see the light of day and be shown very little mercy. Oh, and there is my daughter's room. But let's not think about that today. It's painful, my friends, this clearing of every type of clutter, but it's the virtuous thing to do. It's the kind thing to do, for ourselves and for our families. We have to start with being good stewards of our own homes before we can effectively spread the love.

Have a happy Easter, my dears, and I'll see you dancing in the Son!

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