As we move into the Lenten season and embark on our new message series called, Bare Necessities, these bulletin articles are going to focus on the practical benefits of decluttering — why, how, and when we need to evaluate our belongings, both spiritual and material, and decide which ones to keep and which ones to let go. Lent is an especially opportune time for this kind of re-evaluation.
Jesus’ forty days in the desert are perhaps the most extreme example of living with only the bare necessities, but we don’t need to spend five weeks in the desert to engage in similar exercises. For us, the process of decluttering, of simplifying down to the bare necessities, can be extremely difficult — especially in the world in which we live, where success is often measured in terms of our material wealth, and all of our memories, relationships, and life stories are painstakingly documented and shared.
Simply put, decluttering is hard. So, why should we do it? Is it really worth all of the time and physical and emotional energy that decluttering requires? The Bible is full of wisdom of the benefits of the simple life — “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil,” (Matthew 6:25, 34). But the support for decluttering actually extends far beyond the realm of the Bible.
Mayo Clinic researchers found in one study that having lots of material belongings is stressful. In a study where working couples described their homes as “cluttered” and “disorganized” had much higher levels of cortisol in their blood, a hormone linked to chronic stress, than those who said their homes felt “peaceful” and “orderly.” Elevated cortisol has been linked to headaches, fatigue, irritability, and weight gain. It’s amazing to think that we might actually improve our physical health by making a few trips to the Goodwill or cleaning out that closet or garage we keep putting off.
Often, Lent is a time for us to take on things which are challenging. It’s why the idea of “giving something up for Lent” is so ubiquitous. There’s a sense of self-deprivation and challenge that comes along with the season, like Jesus in the desert. With Lent as a specific time for us to reflect on our bad habits and work to change them, it’s often too easy to slip back into the bad habits of our pre-Lenten selves the moment Easter rolls around. But decluttering could be a wonderful Lenten exercise and something that can continue well into the rest of the year.
Each week, we’re going to focus on one element of decluttering — both spiritual and emotional — and walk through some steps for each day of the week to help us accomplish small, manageable goals, and reap the rewards of a major life decluttering along the way.
--Claire Kosewic, Staff Bulletin Writer
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