The other day at Mass, a friend came over and told me that she had been inspired by the 40 bags in 40 days decluttering project I had done for Lent a few years ago and now she was doing it. For the record, that was eight years ago (!) and my house could desperately use it again.
My battle with clutter is never-ending. It multiplies when I sleep. Every single person in my house is inherently messy, myself included. When I was young, my desk used to overflow with papers. My high school locker was a deathtrap. So, as much as I know that my children greatly contribute to the “stuff” problem, I know that a great deal of the blame also rests on my shoulders. While I dream of minimalism, I’ll no doubt be battling clutter until the day I die, but the important thing is to keep fighting the good fight. It might just be that more is at stake than just being able to have a clean kitchen table.
Can cleaning your house help with your spiritual life? Mary Elizabeth Sperry makes a compelling argument that it can in Making Room for God: Decluttering and the Spiritual Life (Ave Maria Press, 2018). As Sperry states, “dealing with clutter can help me to deal with some of the barriers that keep me from living as the person God calls me to be.”
Sperry, like most of us, struggles with the clutter in her life. She shares her battle with stuff as she explores the connections between clutter and the spiritual junk in our lives. When we are buried under the weight of all our possessions, we are often also suffering from the sins of envy, greed, gluttony, sloth, and a lack of trust in God. Cleaning the physical clutter can help with our repentance as it goes along with fasting, prayer, and almsgiving (which makes it a perfect activity to do during Lent).
Making Room for God also tackles the issue of a cluttered calendar. How many of us suffer under the weight of a too-busy life? It can be important to remove a few obligations in order to have more time for prayer.
The two goals of this book are to help you have a “clutter-free house and a closer relationship with God.” Neither one of these things happens once and then you are done – they are ongoing processes. Sperry is single so she doesn’t have to struggle with other people’s stuff in addition to her own (although she did work as a nanny and offers some suggestions she utilized in that role). I also wish the publishers had capitalized “God” on the cover. Those minor criticisms aside, Sperry does provide an excellent road map for working on having both a clean house and a clean soul.
And with this book to inspire me, I cleaned out one of my kitchen cabinets this weekend – it’s a start!
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