Decluttering Life

Clutter is not just physical stuff. It's old ideas, toxic relationships and bad habits.
Clutter is anything that does not support your better self.
Eleanor Brown

People lose their way when they lose their why.
Michael Hyatt — "Living Forward"

True confessions time. I'm an inherently disorganized person. Along with my tendency toward procrastination, it's one of the main things I don't like that about myself. Add that to being a bit of a pack-rat and, well, stuff starts to build up and quickly becomes that horrid thing that is the bane of all you organized types out there — clutter.

And since neither of my daughters lives with me anymore — although a lot of their stuff does — I can't really use them as an excuse for not doing anything about it any longer.

For years, I have held onto things for nostalgic reasons or, worse, because I vainly think I will use them again even though I know deep inside that I never will. Two examples illustrate this perfectly. First, I started getting into woodworking many years ago. At that time, I owned a 30-acre farm with lots of room and an area in the barn that was a makeshift workshop. I never got too serious with it but I dabbled. Then we built a house which had a dedicated shop area as part of the garage. I dabbled a bit more seriously but I just didn't have time to pursue it like I wanted to. Since then, however, I have downsized my living space twice and am looking to do so again now that I live alone. But I still have a bunch of tools in my garage which, by the way, is used only for storage of stuff. Many of those are handheld and don't take up too much space considering their utility but I do have a table saw and a big sliding compound miter saw, both of which take up some hefty space. I could make a feasible case for hanging onto the miter saw but I shouldn't. And I have no reason at all to keep the table saw. Realistically, I'll never have a good need for it again and, if I do, I have a friend who is a professional custom woodworker who would let me do whatever I needed in his shop. They both need to be in the hands of people who can use them and not continue to take up space here.

Second example. I still have my first computer, which I got in the 1985-86 timeframe. It was state of the art at the time and was a game changer for computer video technology back then. Last time I tried it, it still powered up just fine and I've always told myself that I would love to get it up and running again just for grins. To that end, I also have scads of software for it — all in the original boxes, of course — packed up. Both the computer and the software have followed me around packed up in boxes for years now. If I'm honest with myself, I'll never get around to doing anything with it. And even if I did, what then? What would it accomplish other than sparking a few memories for me and a providing few surfaces for dust particles to hold their annual convention?

So during this whole cancer thing, I've been laying the mental foundation for changing my default setting. And I'm now starting to actually do something about it. In a nutshell, I'm getting rid of the clutter. There are people in the world who would like to have — and would actually use — both the tools and the computer. So let them. Win/win.

This will, I'm sure, be a very long and slow process but that's deliberate. Basically, if something doesn't have a purpose, I don't need to keep it around. That purpose doesn't necessarily have to be utilitarian, mind you — simply bringing me enjoyment or reminding me of a person or a special time is perfectly acceptable — but there is plenty of stuff that has no real purpose at all and it needs to find a good home.

And then, as if on cue, we started a new sermon series at church and it dovetails perfectly with this phase of my life. We're talking about finding the "why" in our lives and in the things we do. Without the "why" there shouldn't be a "what." We shouldn't just busy ourselves with religiosity however well intentioned simply because it's what we think we're supposed to be doing or, worse yet, because it's what we've always done. Even if those things seem to be successful from our earthly perspective, it doesn't really matter. See, success comes from the "what" but significance comes from the "why." Maybe those are the whats we need to be doing but, without really knowing the whys, they are destined to be just busywork. Clanging cymbals and resounding gongs, as Paul says in Corinthians.

So I'm not just decluttering my home, I'm decluttering my mind and my actions. I'm decluttering my whole life.