Wednesday, 09 January 2019 19:26

Decluttering Your Heart To Make Room For God

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Marie Kondo, a Japanese organizing consultant, set off a decluttering craze around the world with her book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Kondo suggests in order to properly declutter, you should place your hands on every single item you own, one at a time, and ask yourself if it sparks joy—and if not, get rid of it. That’s easy enough, right?

It makes total sense to me: if it doesn’t make me happy (or isn’t necessary), then don’t keep it around. A dress that does not fit anymore after two kids definitely doesn’t spark joy—so into the donate pile it goes for someone who may need it. A box of old beat up kitchen utensils I’m holding on to because “maybe one day I’ll need those 3 extra spatulas.” Nope. Out they go. It feels SO GOOD to let things go. It’s like a weight lifted, a relief.  How then can I apply this concept of “de-cluttering” to my spiritual life?

Marie Kondo’s book taught many of us how to declutter the material things in our homes, but what about all the things in our hearts and in our minds? God did not intend for us to go through life stuffing our homes with things let alone “cluttering” our souls.  He intended we fill our lives with His grace. However, we continuously muddle it up with too much noise and too many things and activities. We often cannot see Him or hear Him because there is too much going on. We don’t take time to be with Him, to listen to Him, because we are too busy. Life is strewn with material things, activities, and media—do these things really bring joy?  

What is joy? What does “spark joy” really mean? I have a feeling that Kondo’s definition of joy is different than mine. Kondo defines joy according to material items—she says any item in question should give you a little thrill when you hold it. Is that joy? Merriam-Webster defines joy as, “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune, or by the prospect of possessing what one desires”. That sounds nice, but true joy isn’t derived from getting what you want or from your successes. Joy stems from being who you are meant to be in the light of God. St. Therese of Lisieux said, “Joy isn’t found in the material objects surrounding us, but in the inner recesses of the soul. One can possess joy in a prison cell as well as in a palace.”

The only way we are going to be truly filled with joy is by living a life close to God. Our call to holiness is not an option; it’s necessary that we may be good, faithful, and happy people. Clearing away the clutter in our hearts and minds is necessary to obtain that true joy. Letting God into your life and making room for Him to work in you should be a priority. Sometimes we can take on certain disciplines such as regular and persistent prayer, spiritual reading, spiritual direction, and/or daily Mass in order to let God in, but we might have to give up certain habits or affections as well. We may have to remove the “clutter” in our souls and our lives to make room for the Lord, to let Him in our lives to do His work. Maybe it means not doing certain activities or sports for your children because it conflicts with weekly adoration or formation meetings; or maybe it means getting rid of the television or video games to make more time for prayer as a family. Sometimes you have to say “no” to things in order to put God first. It’s definitely not easy or even comfortable, but we were not made for comfort. For me this means waking up at 5:00am every day because that gives me an hour with God before my kids wake up. I don’t very much like waking up that early, but the stillness of that time with Our Lord is so very worth it. On days when I sleep in and don’t get this time, I notice a difference. My temper is shorter, and my stress and anxiety is higher. I find myself falling into old vices much easier when I don’t make that time of silent prayer a priority. 

What we are exposed to also affects the amount of “clutter” in our lives. The deluge of information floods our minds throughout a normal day. Between the television, computer, cell phone and social media, we are easily distracted.  This culture we live in sometimes pulls us in the opposite direction of Our Lord. We can’t hear Him because of all the “noise”. In his book The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise, Cardinal Sarah says, “without silence, God disappears in the noise. And this noise becomes all the more obsessive because God is absent. Unless the world rediscovers silence, it is lost.”

Wow.

What a powerful statement. I encourage you to be silent. Turn off your phone, turn off the television, say “no” to things and sit in the presence of Our Lord. Spiritually “de-clutter”. Fill up your heart with the love of Christ and love of others so that you may truly spark joy. 

Sarah HopkinsSarah is a wife and mother in Georgia. She and her husband Michael are both lay members of the Home of the Mother. Sarah graduated from Auburn University with a degree in Human Development and Family Studies. It was at Auburn that she fell in love with her husband and the Catholic Church. She converted to the faith in 2014. When she is not busy running after her two toddlers, she enjoys grocery shopping alone, cooking, drinking good coffee, and being outdoors.

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