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"Tips on cleaning out clutter" by Colleen Mallette (CatholicMom.com) Image credit: Pixabay (2007), CC0 Public Domain[/caption] By nature I am an organizer and I loathe clutter. I consider it one of my strongest God-given talents. I feel better about my day when I have a plan, a written To-Do list I can cross off, and everything set out the night before that I need. When I can’t find something I get flustered, because I try to be very consistent about knowing where things are in my house. That is why I am amazed at how much stuff I have accumulated over the years. How can we possibly have “homes” for so many things if I truly know where everything resides? How can I possibly make room for new things as we transform into each new phase of life’s journey (we are quickly approaching being “Empty Nesters”). The new trend is environmentally friendly smaller, even tiny, homes. I can’t imagine living in a Tiny House, but I admire those who can simplify their lives that much. I have a brother and several friends who have had to move recently. They were disappointed at how much stuff they had unknowingly accumulated over the years. Hearing their woes about the work involved to declutter their homes has inspired me. After living in our house for over 17 years, I know it is time to start clearing out some old things, before we have to. Or worse yet, before our kids are forced to have to do it on our behalf. The Scripture verse where Jesus sends his disciples out in pairs and commands them to take nothing with them has always amazed me:
“No bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff ...” (Matthew 10:10).
Now I tend to be a light packer, but I just cannot travel on vacation without at least one change of clothes, basic toiletries and makeup, and usually one extra pair of shoes. Does that make me a packrat in Jesus’ eyes? What did the disciples think about leaving home with so little? Did they trust Jesus that believers would take care of them on the road? I think what Jesus is trying to say is that we don’t need STUFF; we only need each other. By eliminating the focus on what we have, we can focus our days on what we say and do for one another. By showing our kindness, the rest will usually take care of itself. So I have made it my mission this fall to go through every cupboard, drawer, closet, stack, cabinet, box and bag we own. I actually made a list of each area that needs gone through so that if I find a half-hour or so free I can look at the list and pick an area that fits my free time. Some days are difficult, I feel like a hoarder who doesn’t want to give up anything because “I might need that again someday.” Other days I am ruthless, wondering why in the world did I ever think I would wear that sweater again, let's just give that away along with three others just because I need the space in my closet! I have a long way to go, and a long Midwest winter ahead to continue working at it. But what I’ve accomplished so far is very freeing. Plus I feel good knowing I have helped those less fortunate by giving away my excesses I would probably never use again anyway. I have already donated six old baby blankets to a pregnancy center, my little purple golf bag to the local First Tee golf program for youths, and my kids’ old video games to a local after-school program. Now it is easier to find what I do need, as well as being easier to maintain the house. Hopefully it will be less of a burden when it is our turn to move. Also, it has made me more determined to not collect more stuff and keep my home more simply.

Here are some well-known guidelines for cleaning out the clutter in your home:

* When you buy something new, get rid of an old one. * If you haven’t worn something in three years you probably never will so you might as well donate it. * If you are having trouble closing a drawer, it is time to eliminate some things from it. * Once you finish reading a book give it away for someone else to enjoy it, the chances of you reading it again are slim. * If your children are over ten years old, give away those maternity clothes and baby items to a women’s shelter or pregnancy center – they can use them more now rather than you waiting for grandchildren to use them. * If something is broken, either fix it or pitch it. * Simplify your home, remind yourself when out shopping the difference between want and need.
Copyright 2018 Colleen Mallette