Three years ago, I found myself in a losing battle against materialism. I was an unhappy shopaholic who couldn’t keep a budget to save her life.
Research shows clutter can compound stress and anxiety in our lives, but I didn’t need research to confirm what I was experiencing. We already have enough stressors in our life that we can’t control, which is why I’ve become a big fan of the recent “tidying” craze inspired by Marie Kondo.
And what about spiritual clutter? Much like our closets overflowing with unused items, our hearts have a tendency to fill up with harmful ideas and unsuspecting white lies influenced by the world. I’m by no means a tidying expert, but here are a few tips that have helped me declutter my own home and (bonus) my heart.
Learn to let go
Marie Kondo is the queen of minimalism and organization. Her world renowned tidying methods can be a bit unconventional, but they are proven to work, and I speak from experience. I was first introduced to Marie Kondo a few years ago when I read her book, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” And it really did change my life!
The “Konmari” method, as its called, walks you through not only how to get rid of clutter, but it also coaches you on how to keep your space tidy every single day! The technique I most resonated with was her “spark joy” concept. She instructs you to take a single possession in your hands and ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?” Although it seems silly, it really helped me find freedom in letting go of things I didn’t need or want.
My poor family got the brunt of my new-found Marie Kondo obsession that year. I repeatedly tried to force them to get rid of things in their house by thrusting items in their hands and barking like a drill sergeant, “Does this spark joy?!” I would not recommend doing this with friends or family, but it taught me a valuable lesson. You have to be willing to let go of things. Otherwise, you won’t get far in your decluttering efforts.
The same principal applies to our spiritual lives. Scripture says to throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles (Hebrews 12:1); to remove all bitterness, anger and wrath, insult and slander (Ephesians 4:31-32); and to cast off all our anxieties (1 Peter 5:7).
It’s not easy to rid our hearts of these excess thoughts and behaviors, but as we let go of these things our hearts will be guarded by “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).
Fight for contentment
Once you rid your home of unnecessary clutter, it can sometimes be a challenge to remain content with what you have left. Everyday, we have to fight for contentment in a world of materialism. Otherwise our homes will continually fill up with more and more stuff we don’t need. And boy, is it a fight!
When I was losing the battle against materialism three years ago, by divine intervention I stumbled upon a blogger who had created a 3-month Contentment Challenge.
For the next three months, I gave up shopping for unnecessary stuff—no Target runs, no weekend shopping sprees, no online sales—nothing! It was extremely difficult, but by the end of the challenge my heart had changed drastically. I wholeheartedly agreed with the author’s comments on her decluttering experience,
“I felt fulfilled, not depleted...Eventually, that immature voice of materialism became quieter and quieter… Yes, I buy things now. Shopping is not the enemy, unless you are a slave to it (which I was). Living a truly fulfilled life is the goal here! Stuff is not the enemy, but being ruled by your need for stuff is absolutely the enemy.”
(Excerpt from The Contentment Challenge ebook by Nancy Ray)
When we fall into the trap of believing we are only as happy as our latest purchase, our hearts can easily become buried by our desire for more stuff. This mentality is extremely detrimental to our spiritual health.
It took me three months to learn a very valuable lesson found in Psalms (and it’s one I still have to remind myself of daily). “In the Lord’s presence there is fullness of joy and at His right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).
I was recently gifted a book called Less: A Visual Guide to Minimalism, written by Rachel Aust. Inside the first few pages, minimalism is defined as “unsubscribing from the idea that how much you own equates to your level of happiness.” I’m far from being a minimalist, but I like this idea of unsubscribing from messages that drive us further into materialism and trap us into living cluttered lives.
Maybe the Lord is calling you to take some serious steps so you can experience the freedom of decluttering both your home and heart. Letting go of things and constantly monitoring the why behind your purchases can be challenging. It may even seem like an impossible task—but trust me—you’ll have a much happier life when your joy is found in the Lord’s presence and not in Aisle 3 of Target.
Meet the Author!
Mary Criner is a neat-freak and (recovering) shopaholic who loves to continuously redecorate her house and organize things. As an introvert (like 110% on the scale), she’s most content when spending time with her dog, Max, or family and close friends. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing and works as the Communications Director at Quail Springs Baptist Church. Mary enjoys volunteering in the CRBC student ministry and as the CRBC women’s blog coordinator.