During the pandemic, Nicole Johnson learned that decluttering her home isn't the only way to achieve emotional freedom.
I can’t stand clutter. It makes me crazy, like physically uncomfortable. You could say I’m the exact opposite of a hoarder; if something is not in use in my house, I see no reason for that item to be there. My family often teases me, as I may (but most likely not) be a bit extreme with this. My husband is no longer surprised when I pick an item that has long been in our home, decide “I’m all done with this” and add it to the ever-fluid pile of giveaways. There is nothing I love more than a trip to the thrift store -- not to shop, mind you -- I’d break out in hives the moment my toe crossed the threshold. I’m the one pulling up to the back to unload and drive away feeling light as a feather. The little bit of stuff I do have stored has significant emotional connection (yes, I do have feelings) and is organized and labeled. You get the idea. Some might use a word like “anal”; I prefer something along the lines of “put together.” I crave order, clean lines, and minimalistic living; in simplicity is where my heart finds peace.
This said, it may now be clear what my state of mind has been these past several months in the midst of this new lifestyle that is anything but simple. It’s everything that makes me crazy; cluttered, bulky, messy -- no clean lines pleasing to the eye. In the grand scheme of things, I really have nothing to complain about and everything to be grateful for. We are all healthy. My husband is able to work from home and his work is more than steady. My kids aren’t showing the level of frustration and anger they have every right to be feeling. My graduating high school senior handled the disappointment of all he missed better than I handled knowing what he was missing. Even our structure-craving-need-to-always-be-busy 9-year9old has adapted to this restricted lifestyle better than we ever could have predicted.
So why does my heart feel so very unsettled? Why am I filled with such anxiety and constant discomfort?
It’s the clutter. Some days I feel like I’m drowning in all the unknowns like someone who struggles with hoarding drowns in the safety net of stuff around them. It’s a messy time, and there is little I can do to bring order to the chaos. Life before the virus at least had the appearance of order. There was allotted time for things, neat categories: work, school, errands. A calendar had meaning; the dates and activities giving definition to the months, weeks and days. Life now just feels like a big jumbled mess. The calendar is all but clear, and the few dates that do have something written is done so lightly in pencil, hanging in this strange abyss of “maybe,” “depends on,” “if and when.”
A time to search and a time to give up, time to keep and a time to throw away. (Ecclesiastes 3:6)
If you Google “what does the bible say about clutter?” (yup, I’m that Catholic. I do own several Bibles. They are neatly stored in the cabinet, under “B”) several passages actually come up. This particular passage spoke to me most, as it reminds me that this is simply not the time to be searching through the clutter for answers. And, as much as I might like to wish the time away, these days are not to be thrown away. There is much to be learned in the midst of the mess, not the least of which, for me, is the need to give up my desire for order on my own terms.
For God is not a God of disorder, but of peace. (1 Corinthians 14:33)
In the moments when the uncertainty gets the best of me, I need to remember I’m not alone in working through it. There is a plan much greater than all of my fears. The unknown is not meant to send us into despair, but rather send us running for the hand of the One who has had the path home neatly chartered from our first breath.
I have a pile of giveaways in my basement and I’m so looking forward to unloading what I’ve come to find as unnecessary. After a bit of discernment, I now understand I can find the same kind of emotional freedom by continually (sometimes several times a day) unloading my fears and anxiety onto the only one truly capable of carrying it for me. My mantra through these past few months has been “one day at a time.” Some days it is “one breath at a time” and, within each breath, “one prayer at a time.” And with that, my heart will find peace within the clutter around me.
Copyright 2020 Nicole Johnson
Image: Pexels (2020)
About the Author
Nicole and her husband have been blessed with three children. Nicole markets the mission of a non-profit that provides early therapies for children diagnosed with developmental delays. She and her husband serve on the board for the New England chapter of Bethany Christian Services, a national adoption agency. Nicole's family advocates for life, adoption, and embracing children with special needs. Visit her blog at Joy in the Journey.