In the past few months, my husband and I have been on a house purge. We have taken the first pass at purging our home environment from unneeded or unwanted possessions. We have spent hours and hours sorting through items and taking trips to recycling centers, resale shops and the Goodwill.
I wish I could say that this is something we do on a regular basis, but I cannot. The truth is that we have not participated in an honest purge in many, many years. The house we live in now is the biggest that we have ever owned and our move into this house was both quick and chaotic, so no purge was necessary or convenient prior to moving here.
I wish I could say that we have been doing this as part of a well-defined future plan, but I cannot. To be honest, we know we want to eventually downsize, but we don’t know where exactly God is leading us.
But I can say this – this purge has had a major positive impact on my mental and emotional health! I guess I never realized how much of my mental energy has been used up in the cleaning, upkeep and storage of our possessions.
It is almost as if the now clear and open space
in our cabinets and closets has also produced
more clear and open space in my mind which results
in greater focus, greater peace and less stress.
My observation has been verified by a few interesting research studies:
Clutter and Focus – Research out of Princeton University tells us that “Multiple stimuli present in the visual field at the same time compete for neural representation by mutually suppressing their evoked activity throughout visual cortex, providing a neural correlate for the limited processing capacity of the visual system.” In other words, we tend to be more unfocused and unproductive in environments with numerous and disorganized stimuli.
Clutter and Stress – Research out of UCLA tells us that people (particularly women) who describe their home environments as “cluttered” or “messy” have higher levels of stress hormones as well as increased fatigue and depression.
After my purge of the kitchen, Bob commented “She even decluttered the refrigerator door!” And I have to admit that the sight of the clean and clear refrigerator door makes me almost breathe a sigh of relief. I only allowed a few of my favorite magnets to remain. This is not too surprising given that the UCLA researchers also found an association between the number of items on the refrigerator door and the overall amount of clutter in a household.
As Christians, we are very familiar with the Parable of the Seeds (Matthew 13: 1-23). I thought about this parable of Jesus a few times as we went through the house purge process. I particularly thought about the seed that fell among the thorns.
…“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown…” (Matt: 13:3-8, emphasis mine)
In interpreting the parable for his disciples, Jesus describes the seed that fell among the thorns by saying, “The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.” (Matt. 13:22)
In the passage of scripture, Jesus is clearly not referring to the problem of clutter. But my house purge experience has made me wonder if my clutter has sometimes choked out my ability or willingness to respond to God’s messages to me. How many times have I been unfruitful in my response to God in some area of my life because I was concerned about or distracted by my stuff?
Perhaps my thinking is a bit of a stretch or perhaps it is spot on. Either way, I can’t help but believe that the less mental energy and space that is taken up by my stuff, the more mental space and energy I will have available to be used to hear and respond to the invitations and opportunities from God and others.
How about you? Have you ever thought about decluttering as an exercise in stress management and as a spiritual discipline? Do you long to free up some mental energy and space so you can have greater focus, greater peace and greater responsiveness to God’s workings in your life? Why not start by simply decluttering your refrigerator door?
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About the author:
Hello! My name is Ginger Hill and I am a Christ follower and a wellness professional. Over the years, I have personally and professionally seen the benefits of healthy living and I have also seen the hardships of struggling to practice good health habits in the midst of a busy and sometimes stressful life. I am passionate about helping myself and others to live a healthy lifestyle and I believe that good health is essential in helping us to do the good works that God has called us to do. Because I am a work in progress, I write these blog posts to encourage myself and I share them with others in the hope that they may be encouraged as well.
Psalm 92:12,14 (NLT)
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