It seems that in most houses there is at least one place that is a magnet for clutter. It might be the garage, the attic, the laundry room, a spare closet, or even the kitchen sink, but wherever it happens to be, there is something about that particular space that seems to attract extra stuff like a black hole. In my house it is my hallway desk area. This is the place I study and work, the place we use our family computer, the place we gather around when we watch something as a family, and it is also the place that becomes the dumping ground for every strange item in our house.
To be honest, most of it is my stuff, a bill here, a note there, a stack of books to read or look at later, but there is also the other stuff: my wife’s camera and its extra lens, those ten random Lego pieces picked up off the floor that have not yet made it into the kid’s room, the hair brush and hair bands that were used in a hurry this morning but did not make it back to their regular spot, the extra key ring with keys to who knows what door in this house, and last, but not least, the stack of homemade Coronavirus masks stacked in a little wicker basket on the corner of the desk. There is something about clutter that seems to attract clutter.
I have learned over the years not to let it go too far. I can try to ignore it and pretend it’s not that bad, but all that ‘stuff’ gets to me after a while, whether I admit it to myself or not. As a wise woman once said, “One of the most important elements in a room is space.” It is hard to live, create, and enjoy life when our lives are over run by clutter.
Fortunately, Patty and I learned early in our marriage the value of decluttering our home (moving half-way around the world multiple times has a way of helping with that), but one thing God is still working on in us is decluttering our lives.
Just like there is only so much space on my desk, there is also only so much space in my life. Sooner or later there is just no more room. Life has limitations, which means that a ‘yes’ to something is a ‘no’ to something else.
If I am not careful, I will say yes to so many unnecessary things I will have no space left for the important things.
Charlotte Mason put it this way, “Do not let the endless succession of small things crowd great ideas out of sight and out of mind.”
God our Father is all powerful and all knowing. He has no limitation but his own character, but throughout the six days of creation he took time to step back and consider what he had made, to see and acknowledge that it was good. He even set the example of resting one whole day a week, ceasing from his labors. He took time to consider and appreciate his labors so he could say it was ‘very good.’
God did not stop there, though. Christ Jesus our Lord and Master told us repeatedly to stop and consider the birds, the flowers, and the value of a man’s soul. He told us in the parable of the sower that it is the presence of weeds that chokes out any available space so that the Word becomes strangled and thus unfruitful. He told us it was not enough just to hear, but that if we had ears, we needed to take the time to listen. He knew consideration does not just happen.
The Bible is filled with the instructions to “behold” and “harken.” The general idea of these words is to pay attention, to see and hear well. Before I can do this, I have to pause, give myself room, and make the choice to look or hear fully. I need to create enough space to observe fixedly and hear completely. If I am going to ‘behold’ and ‘harken’ I will have to fight for margin. Everything in our modern lifestyle will seek to draw us away from this choice, because consumers are more profitable than contemplators.
As George McDonald said, “Certainly work is not always required of man. There is such a thing as a sacred idleness, the cultivation of which is fearfully neglected.”
As a family we are seeking to make choices to form habits that will help us cultivate this fearfully neglected necessity. Eating together as a family. Taking walks together out in nature at least once a week. Having one night a week dubbed “quiet night” where we all sit in our living room together while each of us works on a quiet pursuit, like reading, writing, painting, or coloring. Sometimes it looks like just taking time to be still, inhale fresh air, and appreciate the life going on around us: sunsets, sunrises, birds singing, or the sweet taste of a scoop of homemade ice cream. As a family we are determined to create small spaces to consider. We set time aside to de-clutter our schedules, our lives, and our souls, because cultivation of quiet and consideration is holy rebellion against the rhetoric of this world.
Featured image from definingcreativity.com