Somewhere along the line, this blog shifted out from under my grasp. I fully intended to spotlight the best-selling book, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, a newer entry in the growing field of decluttering. The more I thought about the subject, the more it skittered away from easy definitions or explanations. This made me wonder if I needed to straighten up decluttering in my own mind before promoting it for others.
From what I can tell, spiritual foundations seem to underlie most writing about decluttering: Kindness to the environment, love for one’s descendants, diminishing materialism or living purposefully. Professional declutterers—and those who write about this ideal—seem to start where the human spirit can be in synch with what’s biblical, what follows Jesus’ invitations. These folks add pragmatic wisdom to stewardship. They are gentle in their encouragement and hopeful in their outlook. This all seems right and righteous.
I think that those of us who are old may have a special niche in the decluttering movement. Many of us have piled up more possessions than we can ever use. We may live with a quiet vexation about this matter. We realize that our children will most likely NOT want most of what we have accumulated. We know—perhaps from experiences with our own parents—that a crammed-full home could be an overwhelming burden to those who will follow us. At the same time, we realize that cutting back our stuff requires time, energy and finances that we may want to shepherd carefully for other older-life purposes.
As I contemplate the process of decluttering, what looked obvious—“Get rid of your stuff, Bob”—has become a little more complicated. More questions arise:
• Which of my possessions are a cherished or necessary part of my legacy? Which are not?
• How can I declutter my life without adding to landfills, or otherwise desecrating the environment?
• What will it take for me to start or continue this process?
• What spiritual values will grow stronger as I declutter?
• Where can I find the greater good in all of this?
• Besides my possessions, what else in my life could benefit from a good cleaning out?
• What will it take for me to think of decluttering as more than a chore?
Any of these question sound familiar to you?
Because many of the answers have spiritual roots, I start to question how strongly I believe what I preach about stewardship of life, about life-purpose. I find myself looking at my possible laziness, addiction to stuff or mindlessness about my lifestyle. Sometimes I just want to avoid thinking about all of this—that’s what closets, basements, attics, garages, sheds and commercial storage units are for!
What helps me sort out the clutter about decluttering: Knowing that this necessary process can begin slowly, my taking one step at a time. I can be satisfied with my decluttering if I’m whittling down my unnecessary possessions, little by little, and doing so mindfully. I can derive some comfort when a decluttering spirit in me remains constant.
If your decluttering questions and spirit are ready, let me encourage you to consider any of the well-written books and articles that have appeared on the lifestyle scene in recent years. For starters, you can link to Next Avenue’s recent article about Döstädning (Death Cleaning) at https://us3.campaign-archive.com/?u=f254e8e727c963f12db297d6d&id=a812790f65 . You can also see Death Cleaning author Margareta Magnusson’s personal observations by visiting https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fWGxxCDEj0 . (Of special note for Full of Years readers: Magnusson is a much-older adult, and writes from that perspective.)
I wish you well in this part of your stewardship, and I’d love to hear from you how you’ve decluttered your decluttering!
(To subscribe, go to the upper right hand corner of the top banner and click on the three parallel lines. Scroll down to the subscription form and enter your information.)