I read once that it’s easier to simplify than to organize, so when I approach spring cleaning, that’s my plan. Thus, I’ve been ridding myself of a few things lately. Take a gander at this whatnot (a piece of furniture whose name my boys and I learned reading one of the Little House on the Prairie books). I bought it while shopping with a friend at an antique fair back in 2003. Here’s how it looked before the spring clean of 2018…
And then after…Can you count how many things I eliminated from these shelves?
Along with extraneous things from what was always intended to be a nature shelf, I’ve gotten rid of other items, too. A former Cru colleague, battling cancer, has been eliminating cosmetics with risky chemicals from her make-up bag. As I’ve kept up with her story online, I’ve gotten inspired and, last week, tossed two lipsticks containing an artificial preservative that I decided I’d rather avoid.
In March, our boys each lost a tooth. As they grow, the necessary replaces the outdated.
But clutter on our shelves–or other things that hang around even when we don’t need them any longer–isn’t the only mess that makes life messy. I often find I need to clean out my thoughts, to purge ways of thinking or things upon which I might dwell, in order to bring clarity. In order to clean up the space.
Comparison of myself to other women, to other mothers, or of my children to other children…
Jealousy of another woman’s success when it’s the exact kind of success I want for myself…
Irritation that may arise from taking things personally that were never meant to be personal…
Carrying around the burden of regret or condemnation from a long-ago mistake, one that I know is forgiven…
And yet, as 2 Corinthians 5:17 assures me, I am always, always a new creation in Christ. And Romans 8:1–Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Operating out of some need to prove myself…
A few years ago, when both Woodrow and Garfield participated in the same Cub Scout pack–before Woodrow graduated to Boy Scouts–all 4 of us attended a Scout fundraiser together. During this particular shift selling coupon cards in front of a grocery store, the leaders (myself included) had asked the older Scouts to step aside and allow the younger ones to get practice approaching people in order to make sales.
Woodrow was one of those older boys who’d been sidelined during this one-hour shift; his turn would come later. He wasn’t thrilled about waiting, but he cooperated. As he sat off to the side, an older man walked out of the grocery store and looked upon our Scouts and our table and heard the cheerful cries from the boys, begging him to buy from them.
Instead of purchasing a camp card, he elected to make a donation. He dug in his wallet to give each boy a one-dollar bill. He waved one over to Woodrow, who hesitated to retrieve it. After all, he was following our instructions to wait his turn at the fundraising. But this man didn’t know that–he looked at me, somewhat appalled that Woodrow wouldn’t jump up and grab the dollar with gratitude. I felt embarrassed and hurriedly ushered Woodrow to accept the dollar from the man.
Yet I didn’t need to feel embarrassed (or ashamed of my son or his behavior). The man didn’t understand our fundraising plan, and any judgment he may have made about my son was formed without having sufficient information. But still, I let that judgment (perceived or not) prompt me to nudge my child into something I’d just asked him to wait to do until the next hour.
What did I have to prove? To this man or anybody else? Nothing.
Giving my thoughts over to jealousy or annoyance or comparison reminds me of the game of Tic Tac Toe…nobody ever wins. (Unless you play with a toddler.)
But I find I must do something with those thoughts. So: I confess them to the Lord. I talk to Jesus about what I want, and what feels as though it’s missing, and what I’ve used to try and fill those spaces. With clutter.
I want things to go my way, and I want life to feel good, and I want to be understood. And when I feel anxious or irascible or defeated because I don’t experience what I want, I talk to the Lord–usually on my knees and usually gripping my holding cross. I clean house.
And I discover that the “simplify instead of organize” adage holds true for my thought life, too. I sometimes waste much energy attempting to organize those thoughts, when, really, I’m in need of simplifying. Just like with those baby teeth my boys lost–those teeth that had to make way for something new–the necessary replaces the outdated.