Last week I donated ten bags of clothes and a bunch of miscellaneous household items to a local thrift store.
I’ve been trying to pare down my belongings for multiple reasons. First, I have unused items taking up space in my home that someone else could potentially use and enjoy. Second, I’ve noticed that it’s difficult for me to focus at home. I’ve found myself writing, paying bills, doing my Bible study and other tasks in coffee shops simply to escape the clutter. Finally, I’ve considered relocating closer to family. If I decide to take the leap, I want less stuff to pack and move across the state.
Truth be told, I’m no minimalist. I don’t plan to go “all-in” with that aesthetic or lifestyle. I much prefer a cozy, lived-in space full of the things I love: books, blankets, photos, my nephew’s artwork and far too many coffee mugs for one individual. I’m a highly sentimental ENFP (Myers-Briggs, anyone?), so it’s also hard to part with gifts, souvenirs, keepsakes or items that are in any way meaningful.
Can anyone relate?
But I can no longer keep up with cleaning, maintaining and putting into proper places the belongings I’ve accumulated in the nine and a half years I’ve owned my townhouse. In fact, I realized while decluttering that I’d only ever added stuff over the years; I’d rarely parted with anything.
In the quiet process of sorting and storing, tossing and transferring to Goodwill, I had time to think, daydream and pray about what I want my home to become in the future. The result was two fairly general ideas that apply to any stage in life, whether living in an apartment, house or dorm room. I want to provide a peaceful environment for myself and the people I love, and a welcoming space for neighbors and newbies.
A peaceful place for friends and family
For a while, I hosted my women’s small group in my home until we outgrew the space and had to move it to our church. Hosting provided built-in motivation to keep my house tidy, free from stacks of mail, books and laundry. It was fun to cook dinner for these women, see them perched on my couches for our study time, and spend meaningful time together. We’re still in relationship, but without them coming over on a consistent basis, I’m essentially paying a mortgage to sleep, shower and do laundry. All the important stuff is happening external to my home. That doesn’t feel right to me.
My desire is to be at home in my home. It ought to be a place I want to be after work and on the weekends. I aim to open it up again to my friends and family – becoming a space to drop in, relax, rest and “just be.” It’s hard to rest in a space that, although generally clean, is stuffed with stuff.
So, I’m reconsidering the purpose of the things I own: Do I use it on a regular basis? Does it add beauty? Is it contributing to a peaceful environment or does it add to the “noise”? These questions help me make decisions on what to subtract.
Jesus says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Our God wants to relieve “weight” from our shoulders, giving us soul rest in exchange. I’m asking Him two things: to show me how to unburden myself from what’s unnecessary (particularly in regard to possessions) and, as His witness, to extend His peace to friends and family who enter my home.
A welcoming space to gather neighbors
Aside from friends and family, there are people in my neighborhood whose faces I see on occasion, but whose names I don’t know. You’d think that since we’re 40-units-worth of people packed into a small townhouse community, sharing lawn space, a driveway, and even walls, we’d get to know each other. That’s not the case. We aren’t friendly or, well, neighborly, to one another.
Earlier this summer, I read “The Turquoise Table: Finding Community and Connection in Your Own Front Yard” by Kristin Schell. She uses Romans 12:13 as a catalyst for ministering from her home: “Take every opportunity to open your life and home to others.” I’ve been thinking about that verse non-stop, and it’s convicting. I’ve made plenty of excuses for why I haven’t opened my home to neighbors and the people I meet as I move about my day:
- I’m never home
- I don’t have time or energy
- It’s not safe, since I live alone
- It will be easier once I’m married
- It won’t be well-received in my neighborhood
- I’ll do it once I declutter
God is persistent. He has been stirring this message of neighboring in my heart for years. The image of a table pops up often, from Neighbors Table (I dream of owning one someday!), to a YouTube video that brings tears to my eyes every time I watch it, to the declaration of John 1:14. I love how The Message puts it: “The Word became flesh and moved into the neighborhood.”
I know what I want my home to become, and I’m ready to make the necessary changes. I need to free myself from the burden of excessive stuff so that I can live with intention and be physically and mentally ready to respond when God opens my eyes to a need or an opportunity. It’s time to get rid of the clutter, one bag at a time. I’ve got to invite friends over, one invitation at a time. And I ought to think of ways to bless my neighbors and love them well, one idea at a time. Amid these steps of faith, I’ll pray that God will use my efforts and do something more than I can ask or even imagine.
Do you get overwhelmed by your stuff? What do you want your house to become? How is God using you to minister in your home or neighborhood?