Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Prophetic Simplicity and the Buddy System

Simplicity and Minimalism taunt me these days. This pair of philosophers has quietly demanded my attention for years, but the noise of the world generated by Commercialism, More-ism, and Busy-ism drowns them out. I sit in a new house--spacious and beautiful--packed full of junk that weighs my family down, clutters my vision, and sucks my time with its need for containment.

I don't have a home yet; I have an extremely expensive and messy storage unit we're slowly purchasing from the bank at an extremely attractive interest rate.

What we need is a home, a place of rest and refreshment for our souls.

Whatever is a girl to do?

Pair up with a buddy and pray, that's what.

My friend Liz and I are praying for each other. She wants to de-clutter and has made a good start with her garden, pulling out plants that were overgrown and choking each other. An overgrown garden. What a metaphor for the cluttered life, don't you think? I've taken car-loads to Salvation Army and will take many more as I slowly chip away at the clutter and junk.

Both Liz and I struggle with letting go of sentimental know, the stuff that belonged to loved ones, especially those who have died; the stuff given to us by loved ones; stuff that was once useful but now, not so much; the stuff others give us as they clean out their own junk. Liz and I are specifically praying for strength in dealing with these things, in letting go of them in healthy ways. Divine intervention, we feel, is necessary.


I've been on the lookout for inspiration in our quest to declutter our lives, and I have found two things in the past week that I want to share with you.

First, Sundays in the Storage Unit is a blog about clearing out a dead man's things. Two daughters, Sarah and Rachel, moved all their dad's stuff into a storage unit after his death, and on Sundays they work at cleaning it out. Their father was a hoarder, and it's a big job. I find inspiration from Sarah's writing, not only in her courage to let her dad's things go, but in recognizing the burden placed on loved ones when we have too much stuff.

Do I want a loved one to spend weeks, months, or years feeling obligated to sort through the detritus of my life? Do I want them to angrily and resentfully shell out money having it all hauled to the dump?

Not really.

Sarah's journey inspires me and motivates me. If you're struggling to let go of stuff, perhaps she will inspire and motivate you, too.

The second bit of inspiration I found in quite an unexpected place: the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah was an Old Testament prophet, quite your stereotypical gloom-and-doom guy. He said things like "circumcise yourselves to the Lord and take away the foreskin of your heart." That metaphor conjures images I'd rather not carry around in my head, which is why I share them with you. Take the images, please!

Besides, if I circumcised my heart, I'd probably put the foreskin in a jar of formaldehyde and keep it in a storage bin with my children's and dogs' lost teeth. Ewww.

Anyway, Jeremiah also said, "Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls."

Jeremiah surely didn't have my overload of junk in mind when he said this, but it struck me forcibly as a tidy summation of where I'm at right now. I've been thinking a lot lately of what people possessed centuries ago, as well as what I possessed as a child (which sometime seems centuries ago).

The ancient paths, I think, were simpler. My childhood possessions fit nicely into a rather small closet, easily organized and lovingly tended. They were not a burden, but a blessing. The Hebrews carried what they needed on their backs through the wilderness until they settled and grew strong as a nation and Jeremiah had to come along to tell them that their greed and covetousness were leading them to destruction.

God, through Jeremiah, laments the loss of His old tabernacle...the nomadic tent that was God's dwelling place while Moses led the Hebrews around the desert. Solomon's magnificent temple, with deep foundations rooting it firmly in Jerusalem, had become a den of wickedness, too full of treasure to have room for God, whose home it was.

See. Jeremiah is relevant to my current situation. When I think of home, I think of rest and peace and laughter and joy and lightness and comfort and warmth...a place to rest my soul and where others I love may also find rest and refreshment.

 George and I sat outside on our patio this weekend, reveling in the simplicity and openness of our green grass. There is nothing in our back yard but grass...trees ring the right side and back of the lot, but the yard itself is simply grass...peaceful, natural, uncluttered.

Then I walked inside the house and saw chaos. The contrast was overwhelming.

If you would like to join me and Liz in our prayerful campaign of decluttering, if you would like to make room for what is important in your life, please leave a comment on this post. If enough of you are interested, I will create a place on the blog where we can gather whatever sources of inspiration we can find for this journey. Also, please share your own stories of letting go and finding rest for your soul in your own home.

I, for one, can use all the help I can get.


  1. wow, i really need this too. i keep saying i am going to get rid of things so my kids won't have to do it when i die, but i keep putting it off. (cleaning, not dying, i hope) thanks for the nudge, it's nice knowing i'm not the only one w/ this problem.

  2. And the congregation says "AMEN".

    I read somewhere in blog land that clutter inhibits creativity. Which, for me, is rather ironic, as I make a HUGE mess when I am creating! But, I understand the root of that statement. My house is in shambles. Well, my house is 10 years old and things need to be done as far as maintence and decluttering. My crafting area needs a scoop shovel taken to it. The yard is in serious need of attention and weeding.
    But, I look at it all and am overwhelmed.
    I need to look at a corner instead of the whole picture. One corner to clean and declutter (or weed, as the case may be) and then I can move onto the next corner as I will have one spot I can look at and see peace.
    Yep. I can use all the help I can get too!!

  3. You've been reading me long enough to know this is recurring theme on my blog. My parents died within a short span of each other. When we cleaned out my parents house after my mother's funeral, we had one week to go from 45 years of history to empty. It was the hardest thing I've ever done and I do not want to leave that task to my children. So decluttering is always on my radar, but moreso lately. My studio, which used to be my favorite space in the house, is overrun and inefficient and I'm in the process of overhauling it. I took photos of some of the mess today, just to remind myself where I'm starting. Then I concentrated one ONE task--getting all my art books out of there and getting them all together in a bookcase. More changes to follow. You can read along on my blog, as I'll be updating once in a while to chart progress.

  4. Great opening quote with the picture - love it! I tend to gather and collect myself and need to do some purging. I have "search and destroy" days when the urge and energy are in perfect synergy and I can work wonders on things, make hard decisions to get things out of the house. It is very freeing when I'm done. Just need a lot more of those types of days - need to take the time to have them! So koodos to you in your journey! I'm hoping this summer can put a big dent in some of the areas I need to work on as the pace of life slows down then. Wish me luck :)

  5. I am also striving to make my house a home, a place of rest and refreshment for my soul. I am starting to purge stamping supplies. Hard to do but I know I will be happier and more productive with less. Plus I can bless others with sets I hardly use. Thank you for your blogs!

  6. If I had my way, we'd get an industrial sized dumpster out at the end of the house and just start throwing things away. I'm SO tired of living in clutter. We have dealt with the deaths of all four parents in less than 10 years, each time, having more and more carried in here. Add to that both kids moving away AND DH traveling 5 days out of 7. Now we have mess AND disrepair to deal with. I can't do it alone, and DH wants to keep everything. Pray for me!

  7. We filled 5 30 cubic yard dumpsters out of my in-law's house. Let that be a lesson to me!

  8. Sometimes it's almost eerie how your posts apply to my life. I was just planning on spending some time (actually it will probably a LOT of time) decluttering my house. It has to start with my basement's just scary down there. I will pray along side you two and hopefully get a kick in the butt to actually do it. I've said this almost every summer, but for some reason I think this is it! Thanks for tackling the issues and sharing.

  9. Woo Hoo, I am all for de-cluttering in life from both an emotional and a materialistic sense!

    For me, about the home, it is all about clean lines. I had to giggle the other day as I listened to our 7 yo boy tell his 9 yo sister that he needed to clean his room because all the stuff was giving him a headache... yes, I may have been known to use this term in the past..

    I find it amazing how much calmer I feel when my eye/brain doesn't need to take in lots of 'things' on the shelves as it scans the room... clean lines mean clean thoughts.. I am all for that!

  10. I would be thrilled if you started a space on your blog for sources of inspiration for decluttering! I've been trying to do it for the last few years. My sister who is the queen of simplicity in her home, garden, and clothes closet keeps telling me that I will feel so much lighter when my physical space is less cluttered. Thank you!


Thanks so much for taking time to comment!