Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Gospel principles help with de-cluttering

Organizing and de-cluttering is an activity near and dear to my heart. So near, in fact, that one of my dreams is to be a professional organizer. My mom has told me that when I was three, she found me organizing and arranging the toys in the milk crate that they were kept in. During my growing up years, she would periodically enlist my help to restore order to various chaotic areas of the house. My dad would occasionally ask me to organize his collection of CDs.

I’ve learned that there are principles in the scriptures that can be applied to organizing and de-cluttering. I’ve learned that when we look at organizing and de-cluttering from a spiritual perspective, it has much more meaning and can give us more motivation to succeed. For instance, I realized that at bottom, there might not be much difference between clearing clutter and consecrating our surplus. I hope to share with you some scriptures that can help with efforts to de-clutter, so that you realize these efforts are sanctifying.

19 ¶Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:19)

This scripture can be extremely challenging, but it also can be extremely liberating. I’m sure you are perfectly aware of that. But I also believe that we have a tendency to interpret it too strictly, which causes us to get frustrated and feel like we can’t live by it, which in turn causes us to find ways of ignoring it. (Thinking it impossible and ignoring it would be exactly what Satan would want us to do.)

One of the things I have realized about this scripture is that Jesus didn’t go into great detail about what “treasures” were. All kinds of objects can be treasures to people. (Heck, I once met a woman who considered an empty Evian water bottle to be one of her treasures.) Because Jesus didn’t explain in hair-spitting detail what a “treasure" is, this leaves it up to us to ponder exactly what in our lives we lay up as treasures on earth. We can ponder the difference between “treasures” and tools that we need. We can ponder whether there is a difference between treasures we lay up and treasures we use. The ball is in our court to ponder and apply the principle according to our individual circumstances.

If you look at this scripture from an organizing and de-cluttering perspective, it makes perfect sense to let go of treasured objects that are just being stored, especially if they really aren’t useful for anything. They just take up space when they are stored. Jesus could see that when we lay up our treasures, we do it because at bottom we want them to last extra long…even forever, if possible. (Sometimes we even let them go completely unused because we don’t want to ruin them.) Jesus noted that when treasured things are stored for long periods, they usually get ruined or stolen. He gave a better solution—lay up treasures in heaven instead (suggesting that the treasures on earth be sold and used to help someone in need) and the reward from the good deed would last throughout eternity.


Ramona Gordy said...

I have been "wrestling" with the (my)problem of clutter and your thoughts on the subject mirror my own. I would love to have a "house of order",a life of order,but I still struggle with it and I know why. It has been my attitude toward "stuff" and the accumluation of said stuff and once accumulated, where to put it, how to use it,etc. So what is helping me,believe it or not is my ongoing study of the Book of Mormon.Could my husband and I just pick up and take what was necessary and leave all that we know? Could we trust in God enough?

I found a passage in Proverbs that seemed to me an explanation of the treasure we should seek:
Proverbs 7:1-3
7 My son, keep my words,
And treasure my commands within you.
2 Keep my commands and live,
And my law as the apple of your eye.
3 Bind them on your fingers;
Write them on the tablet of your heart

The things we call treasure, we go through a process to "own" them. We "love" them, name them,put them in special rooms,boxes,etc. We research them, study them, etc.And these are just earthly treasures that do rust and mold.My entire basement is filled with boxes of things that I thought would make up the life I thought I always wanted." Now I am just a little angry with myself for storing these things, and compulsively buying them.
So I have been "organizing" them so that I can donate them to a charity, where someone else can actually use them.
This clutter is so much more spiritual as it is temporal.
So I believe that which we treasure up in Heaven is what our real focus here and now is. Come unto Christ and he will give you rest: from the anxieties of feeling we don't have enough.
For me I want the Savior to fill the void that stuff cannot. To be happy with enough. Imagine, having just enough, and then no more clutter.

Rozy Lass said...

One of my favorites, and I quote it often to my children, is D&C 132:8 . I've taught lessons in RS about patterning our homes after the temple. Temples are not cluttered and dirty which is one reason they are so peaceful. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, they make a lot of sense to me.

Michaela Stephens said...

RGG, that is a fantasy I have too--to have just enough. I wish I could be there to help. I love helping people do that kind of thing.

Rozy Lass, I agree, the temple is a great model. While you do different things at the temple than are done at home with a family, the temple is a great model of the principles of beauty, utility, order, and subtle comfort without excess.

Becca said...

I love this post. I am an avid de-clutterer (although my husband would tell you otherwise). I am constantly taking loads of stuff to charities, and I rarely buy something or acquire something if I don't absolutely need it.

In fact, I spent a few days helping my husband's grandmother clear out some clutter, and she kept trying to give me some of her little trinkets and misc objects and I had to tell her that I just didn't want anything else.

Thanks for sharing these principles.

chococatania said...

I absolutely love this post.

1. Last year, my little brother passed away. One of the biggest impressions felt the strangest (at the time). I was in his room, with the rest of my siblings, and we were having a discussion about the funeral, our family, my brother. It was so strange. His stuff was everywhere. It was his room. His sandals were on the floor. His iPod was on the shelf. His laptop was open. Based on the room, it didn't look like he had passed away. Everything was left undone. His treasures were still there - yet he was gone.

My family has not been super close, and I wasn't really that close with my brother, and I was getting angry - in his room. We let all of our "treasures" just get in the way of our relationships. These things were gone. They didn't matter. In a matter of seconds all of the things that mattered most were just lifeless- and the thing is they were always lifeless! I realized that I needed to make sure I was nurturing my relationships rather than putting them off because of something shiny.

2. my mom is definitely a hoarder. Last year, I visited her, and her house is consumed with her "treasures". I know that it is difficult for her to get rid of anything because she feels pain to let go of something. So, her house is closing in on her. You can't feel the Spirit there. It is so overwhelmed with stuff - couches, clothes, desks, craft supplies, instruments, dishes, you name it - and it is there. the clutter is making her physically sick, but she can't let go. It is kind of an extreme situation, but very easy to see the spiritual connection between clutter and peace.

I think that there are more people who suffer from hoarding these days than we realize.

Long comment, but thanks for the post.

Michaela Stephens said...

Catania, thanks for sharing that. It would be nice if the proper perspective on things could be achieved before death, huh.
I think I have some relatives who have the same problem as your mom.