This week we have been tackling a room in our basement. I use the word tackling because it feels like we are using football moves to pull down boxes that reach to the ceiling and then push and shove them out the door. This room has had many uses over the past fifteen years, including a school room, guest room and storage room. For the past three years it has stored 40+ boxes which contains 35 years of life work stored inside. It has been too hard to face this mountain, so instead of closing the door we just used the boxes to pile on anything in our house that we didn’t know where to place. Lives were at risk if folks tried to walk through the room not knowing what they might step on or what might fall on their heads.
Before we could start cleaning out this room and shaping up the other closets in our house I needed some inspiration. There are many articles, You tube segments, blogs, and books on the subject of organizing and cleaning up your home and life. I have been a willing learner for years as I read all of this material, but now I need to transition and be a student who puts her knowledge into practice. Recently I read the book, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” which expands on the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing. I resisted the read for awhile as it rose to the number one non-fiction book on all the best sellers list. It was hard to see what the rage was about from an author who had just turned 30. How much junk had she collected in her short life? Children’s painted art work, pictures of college friends with bell bottoms and halter tops, Beatles magazines from the 60’s just don’t accumulate overnight. However, with hesitation, I read the book and filed it away in my brain as another helpful tool.
One of the hardest items to toss as we go through closets and this scary room are the ones that are personal. I was sitting with a couple of friends lately who said that a new bride should never register for monogrammed towels. Sheets, pillowcases or bags were fine but towels get stinky over time and they are almost impossible to throw out with a monogrammed attached. This I know from experience! Gifts that were made just for me or a book that has a note from a friend long ago are especially hard to give up.
Personalized items have been hard for me to release because I treasure the memories. They are different than old towels, curtains, books and kitschy items that I am tossing. I know they will be thrown away by someone whether I’m dead or alive. It has also been hard to go through the basement room with its boxes filled with years of books and special gifts that are attached to people whom you love. Hundreds of books in this digital age are a problem. Personalized items are even harder to toss.
When a toddler uses the word “mine” we don’t get too upset and know it is our responsibility to help them open up their chubby little hands and release their treasures. As adults we also say “mine” even though it is not always verbalized. We have our chubby emotional hands holding on to children, husbands, health, finances, jobs, identities, and reputations. We are as tight fisted as the sweet little toddler. We feel that these treasures are not up for discussion because they are “mine.”
The ability to let go and tidy up what we claim as ours can be life changing. It is not magic, but it does require us to open our hands and allow God to navigate what comes and goes through our lives. We cannot hang on forever and there is freedom (not magic) when we can give our time, talents and treasures to the One who gave it to us in the first place. He personalized me uniquely. When we open our hands to allow the old to be released then He can fill our hands, hearts and lives with new things.
It is good to know that God has his name on my life and that I am not hidden in a cardboard box or a linen closet. When I am confused about what to keep or give away I know that The Lord is never second guessing on his plans for me. I need not worry that I will be tossed away or taken to the local consignment shop for a newer model. Tidying up all parts of my life allows me to see the new and the good that He wants to give me.
“He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” John 10:3 (NIV)