Make room for joy by getting rid of guilt and angst
July 17, 2021
Decluttering is not likely the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about spiritual practices. It may even sound more like a chore as we think of sorting through closets or our dreaded junk drawers. The process can be overwhelming, particularly if it’s been a while since we last decluttered. However, the end result is worth the work as we admire the organized shelves and drawers.
The first step in decluttering is to acknowledge this is not easy work. While some possessions are valuable or evoke feelings of happiness, others just gobble up space. Letting go of what we have held on to for a long time can even stir up feelings of grief. Marie Kondo’s insights from her bestseller “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” can be helpful in thinking about this difficulty. Kondo counsels that when decluttering our physical space, we are reluctant to relinquish some of our possessions for two reasons: guilt and anxiety.
Guilt keeps us from letting go of possessions that have some sentimental value. We hold on to an item we don’t particularly like because a relative or friend gave it to us. Unconsciously, we may believe that giving up the gift represents a rejection of the giver.
Anxiety causes us to hold too tightly to our possessions because we fear that we may one day need those belongings. How many of us cannot fit a car into our garage because it’s full of “someday” items?
Now if Kondo advises letting go of possessions we no longer want or need to make room for belongings that spark joy for us, imagine what decluttering our spiritual space — letting go of “things” that clutter our hearts — could do!
Just as guilt might keep us holding on to physical things, we often hold on to memories, beliefs and past arguments that no longer serve us in our spiritual lives. Perhaps we hold on to dogma we were taught as children that is no longer helpful or healthy for us because to let go of it makes us feel as if we are turning our backs on our childhood homes or communities. Or perhaps we hold on to anger or hurt because we fear letting go of them would make us vulnerable.
When we declutter our spiritual lives by giving up what is no longer useful for us, we make room for the One who brings us true joy. Decluttering our spirits creates liminal space, full of possibility and creativity, for the Holy Spirit to move in our hearts.
How do we declutter our spiritual lives? Perhaps the answer lies in other spiritual practices such as confession and prayer. If we are holding on to guilt, let us practice confessing that guilt to God. If we are holding on to hurtful things that have been said or taught to us, let us share that with God. If we are holding on to fear or anxiety, let us give that to God as well, as Philippians 4:6–7 teaches us: Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Just as a decluttered physical space can bring a sense of calm, a decluttered spiritual life opens us to an even greater peace — one in which we have room to see how God is at work in our lives and in the world.
Put into Practice
Spiritual decluttering ideas
- Take an inventory of your emotions. What are you holding on to that is leaving no room for joy? Now hand the “clutter” over to God in prayer.
- Create a tradition by writing down your spiritual clutter on a piece of paper. Then start a fire outdoors and toss the paper into the flames. This can be done alone or as a church activity.
- Take a few minutes each day to clean out your “spiritual junk drawer” by confessing to God the “items” that are weighing you down.
Courtney Bowen, Associate Pastor for Youth, First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Florida
Today’s Focus: Decluttering
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray
Dear Lord, we thank you for your church and the witness and ministry. Be with the ministers and servants who love you, carry their crosses and bear witness to your love for the world. Do not let them get discouraged in their ministry. In the name of Jesus Christ, the Lord of the church. Amen.