Clear all that clutter, and become free

Saturday March 05, 2016 Written by Published in Virtues in Paradise

At this season of my life, I have a longing for order and simplicity.


Chaos disturbs me. Cleanliness and order restore my peace. It’s easy to keep our home relatively clean and clutter free since coming to the South Pacific, because, as my friend says, we “disencumbered” ourselves of decades of belongings.

We came with little and have acquired only what we need, including really comfy recliners, which wouldn’t want to live without, having back issues which are soothed by leaning into their cushioned embrace.

Also, we have no children scattering stuff around, as our children are grown and living in other countries. The only little one around is our island granddaughter and sometimes her friends. Yet, she has learned to be “helpful” and put her things away before she leaves our house. One time when she was four, she tested my boundary. She “hid” under a table and refused to put her toys away.

I said, “You need to know that you can only play with your toys if you are helpful and put them away. So tomorrow, no toys unless you do that.”

Silence. The next day she stealthily moved toward the basket holding her toys and books. She looked back over her shoulder and I just shook my head. She backed away and went to find Papa Dan.

I stopped her and said, “You know why you’re not playing with toys today, right?”

She sighed and said, “No helping, no toys.” I smiled and said, “Good remembering. I’m sure you’ll be helpful next time.”

And she was. Kids do like to test the boundaries to see if they are real or fall apart with enough whingeing. My rules are few but solid and she seems to thrive on the orderliness. It is predictable and safe. I appreciate the fact that most island families expect their children to share responsibility for the chores on the land and around the house. Why not harness some of that amazing energy, teaching them cleanliness and responsibility? As long as there are times for play and laughter together too.

As the Bible says, 2 Kings 20:1, “Set thy house in order…” The designer William Morris says, “Keep in your home only those things you know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

An author friend says, “Bless and release the things you no longer want or need.” It is incredibly freeing to clear the clutter. It opens our minds, like a breath of fresh air. Here is a helpful guide to decluttering our homes and offices from author, Julie Morgenstern. It’s called SPACE.

SORT your things, one room or cupboard at a time, into 3 piles: Throw away, give away, and put away.

PURGE by either recycling or tossing the throw-aways immediately, and put the give-aways in a bag to be given to an organization that helps others. Do it right away!

ASSIGN a place for the things you are keeping. Think about the best way to keep them tidy.

CONTAINERIZE. Find or buy the perfect containers for your things. A shelf, a basket, a plastic container. I found that I didn’t like the clear containers where I can see everything inside. I prefer baskets.

EQUALIZE. This is a fancy word for maintaining the order you create. Put things away after you use them. “A place for everything and everything in its place.”

Engage your children, even when very young, in the clean-up campaign. Then send them out to play and give yourself time to think about how you want to arrange what you keep. Get help if you need it. When we think of the homeless chaos forced on victims of cyclones and wars, the suffering of wandering refugees, it is a reminder to pray for them to find home again, and to treat our homes as the treasures they are. 

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