I was going crazy so I tidied up

From a recent column in The Catholic Weekly:

Guess what I’ve been doing since last week?

Thanks to moving house just over a year ago and having a pretty tight budget since then we don’t have huge amounts of stuff, but we still had enough that we didn’t use mixed in with things we did to cause annoyance if we needed to quickly find something particular to wear, read, or play with.

So I’ve been decluttering. It’s going slowly since I only do it here and there when I have a spare 10 minutes or so, but the last couple of weeks I’ve blitzed most of the house. From our wardrobes alone I went found other homes for about five shopping bags full of clothing.

I found enough items for winter wear out of storage boxes that there’s very little I have to buy for the season – some sports socks and trackies for a couple of the kids, a jumper for Peter, a pair of jeans for me.

You might be wondering what this has to do with faith, yes? The answer is, lots!

I’ve been feeling a need to streamline my life and the easiest and most obvious place to begin is with the physical space in which we live. If the family is the domestic church, as the popes have taught us, then our homes are sacred spaces and we need to look after them and organise them so that they serve us properly.

I don’t see how merely filling our homes with stuff can help us in our mission of being evangelised and evangelising families. Nor can being surrounded by and over-stuffing every drawer and cupboard and bookshelf with so many things that we are constantly being distracted from or frustrated in our everyday tasks.

I’m not talking about making our homes look like something out of Better Homes and Gardens. I aim pretty low in the home-making game and simply want everyone in our family to be able to easily find a clean towel, or a book or a bread knife when it’s needed without having to sort through a lot of stuff each time. I want the place to be easy to clean so that cleaning doesn’t take up a disproportionate amount of time. And a decluttered space is an easy to clean space.

Decluttering always makes me appreciate how we lack for very little materially and are even blessed to be able to give a lot to other families, either directly or through our local Society of St Vincent de Paul shop. It saves us money when I find useful things that we’d forgotten about which I would have gone out to buy.

But mainly I hope that by creating some physically empty or at least ordered spaces here I might also be able to carve out a little more space and order spiritually as well. And I don’t know about you, but I find that having too much stuff around robs me of time.

Time is too precious to lose in moving around and getting stressed over largely inconsequential material objects.

We still have a lot of stuff in our home, and mess, which is proper for a family home with five children living in it. But there is a bit more order now and thus more room to breathe and invite a little less crazy and a little more calm into our daily routine.

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