Time to Clear the Clutter
Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?—LUKE 24:32
In my part of the world, April is not a time to think about self-improvement and other interior matters. We do that in January, in Lent, and maybe in September, but not in April. Here in rural Missouri, April is when it starts to get warm. My husband, Pat, is in full garden-preparation mode after a winter of planning, repairing fences, and ordering seeds. It’s time to raise the storm windows and let in the fresh air. It’s time for spring-cleaning and for throwing out the accumulation of winter, of many winters.
It’s astounding what we hold on to. The shirt we never wear, but might someday. The books we never read, but might someday. The platters, plastic storage containers, pots with no lids, lids with no pots, that old brown purse, the shoes that never did fit (and whose feet ever grow smaller?), all those unused tools, all those half-completed projects, all that cluttery stuff!
It’s too much to deal with. Let’s go “yard sale-ing” instead. Sale signs are popping up everywhere along with the daffodils. There might be some good deals. Maybe. But first, what about the cost of too much stuff?
Pat and I try to control the ever-encroaching too-much-stuff by adhering to the wisdom of designer William Morris, who said, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Pat is better at that than I am. He has a rule for himself: when something comes in, something else must go out. Give him a shirt, he gives a shirt away. He has one small closet, one bureau drawer. I cheat. I put clothes in the upstairs closet or cedar chest, or I store them in the attic until I decide later what to do with them. (Meanwhile, let’s go yard sale-ing!)
Here’s a sobering factoid. The self-storage industry claims over $22 billion in annual revenue from over two billion square feet rented out for storage.
Self-storage. It’s an apt name, for we give a little bit of ourselves to each thing we own—our time and energy to buy it, clean it, walk around it, store it, wonder what to do with it. And someday, the people we love will inherit all this. Lucky them.
There’s only so much space in our closets. A home can hold a few beautiful and useful things—too many, and a home ceases to be beautiful or useful. The same is true of our hearts and minds: they can hold only so much. If our homes are cluttered, chances are our hearts and minds are cluttered too.
The disciples on the road to Emmaus took only what they could carry on a seven-mile walk. Traveling so light, feeling empty inside after the death of their friend and teacher, their hearts did burn when Jesus appeared and spoke to them. They didn’t recognize him—who would? He was dead!—but they had room for him and his words. Their hearts burned within them, and his words changed their lives.
Do we have room for life-changing words? Do we have time for the risen Jesus? For Jesus to rise in us, anything that is not of Jesus has to go. Go ahead, let’s do what comes naturally in April.Let’s spring-clean.
But while we’re cleaning out the closet, let’s let go of whatever is holding us back from being the person we’re meant to be. As we throw out the shirt or recycle the plastic container, let’s also let go of grudges, anxieties, selfishness, envy, pessimism, cynicism—anything and everything about which the Spirit is whispering in our ear, Oh, come on, you don’t need that anymore. Let it go. Trust me.