When I was 15, my room looked like a shrine to ballet. I had been dancing for 12 years at the time, I was considering going pro, and had even stood in front of the Bolshoi Ballet theater in Moscow that spring.

My room had ballet posters, signed toe shoes from famous dancers thumb-tacked to the walls, and falling-down stacks of Dance! magazine. I even had a six-foot portable ballet barre, handmade just for me. (Bet you’re surprised. Because, you know, I have all kinds of time to pirouette around the house with my littles right now.)

But as you might guess—I have absolutely no idea where any of that stuff is now. 19 years later, and I’ve moved on. God led me in absolutely the right direction (which, for me, was away from ballet), and I don’t regret it for one day. You couldn’t guess I was headed towards professional ballet if you looked around my house. I hope there’s some other ballerina-in-training enjoying that wooden ballet barre right now.

Now, I’m not saying those years don’t mean anything to me. I have nothing but fond memories of rehearsals, annual Nutcracker productions, tutus, and even the bleeding toes. I’m so glad I spent much of my childhood in ballet class.

But can you imagine what my house would be like if I kept all my ballet stuff that I haven’t used in almost two decades? We wouldn’t have any room to make new memories.

I bet you could say something similar. Soccer trophies, prom dresses, homecoming mums, old history papers… We’ve all collected stuff like this. And except for a few precious items, most of it doesn’t reflect who we are now. It’d be silly and unreasonable to keep all of it.

Stuff doesn’t usually hold our memories… Stuff is often just stuff. And it can be hard to let go of stuff. We believe it holds a lot of power, and it can be scary to let it go.

• We think if we get rid of something, we’re saying the memory behind it doesn’t matter.

• We believe that we’d upset the person who once gave it to us, even though we never use it.

• We think we may one day need it, even though we haven’t for five years and it takes up space.

Holding on to too much stuff can hold us back. It can keep us from making plans for the future, and it can overwhelm us in the present. It can make our days more congested than they need to be.

In short… stuff can rob us of peace.

And I’ve found that when my physical world feels crazy and cluttered, my internal world does, too. I’m less motivated to rise out of bed with a good attitude. I’m more reticent to to face the day with gladness, to be patient with my family, to be thankful for the my blessings.

It even affects my heath—I’m not as likely to exercise, to eat well, or to go to bed and sleep soundly. When I don’t have the room to work out, or I can’t find my ingredients in the pantry… It adds mental clutter to my day, and I give up before I start. And when I go to bed among stuff without a permanent spot, I truly don’t sleep as well.

Having a reasonably decluttered home is so much more than just an act of gathering things for your local thrift store. It’s a deliberate choice to add some peace and order to your life. You’re trading in things for blank space; the inability to find things for a purposeful spot for the things that matter most.

Getting rid of things is a gift. I don’t regret not having my ballet paraphernalia one bit… I still cherish the memories of those days, and I don’t have to deal with dusting stuff I once loved. I can thank God for those days, and still have the freedom to hope for the future in front of me.

Joi n me?

If you feel the need to declutter, we’re starting our annual spring cleaning series this next Monday, March 5. It’s called Project: Simplify, and for four weeks, we’ll declutter four hotspots in our homes. You can read more about it here. All are welcome!

Consider your decluttering an act of worship. You’re freeing your family to wait expectantly for what God has in store for the future, you’re thanking Him for the possessions you truly love, and you’re unhinging your spirit from things on earth that will one day be dust. Our stuff is a gift… And yet, it’s just stuff.

Have you found that decluttering your physical space also frees you mentally and spiritually?

From Tsh of Simple Mom, who’s really going to roll up her sleeves this month…

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  1. 1

    Yes, even inner stuff that weighs us down, jealousy, greed, fear.

    Thank for the reminder. All good things!

    • 2

      Especially that stuff Charina – and hatred, anger, grudges!
      Once we let go of those it is like a cleaned out room or closet all fresh as a breeze and definitely worth having had to chip away at, even if it takes time and struggle like the ‘real’ clutter.
      I enjoy the comparison below to mental chaos and how cleaning it up frees us up to fill it up, our home/ourselves/our time with better stuff – beautiful reminder!

  2. 3

    Yes I definitely notice that when there’s lots of clutter my brain jumps from idea to idea … And I get nothing done, it is all “too hard”… But when there is clear space, especially on the surfaces, I actually WANT to do worthwhile things … Like read my bible, wrap a gift, send a card …

    • 4

      Clutter has been referred to as “causing mental chaos”. For me, that is totally the truth! I am emotionally overwhelmed by clutter and cannot concentrate when I am surrounded by it.

  3. 5
    Lisa H says:

    I used to clean like I was constantly in a manic phase but I realized it was only to avoid my now ex husband and the problems we had in our relationship. Cleaning was my escape to a world where he would not join me. If my house was out of order then I was even more out of order! Now, 2 + years after he moved out, my manic tendencies have left me and my house is way more out of order for longer periods of time. Not because I don’t want to clean, I do. It’s because now I do not have time to clean between kids, work, church, choir, and I’m now enrolled in an RN to BSN online completion program. The classes are taking way to much of my time but I keep saying its for a short amount of time so keep plugging away at them. I do have weekends though when I do not have my kids that I just clean the entire weekend because if I don’t find order in my house my mind will just explode from being on constant overdrive! I love to declutter physically and mentally on those weekends and its when I get with the God non stop while I clean and we work out a lot of things those weekends.

  4. 6

    I would love to join you!

  5. 7

    I am joining you in decluttering. I am ready for internal peace and excited to make plans for the future.

  6. 8

    Love your thoughts on this. Love the idea of letting go of stuff so that we can see what the Father has for us in the now and in the days to come. Blessings.

  7. 9

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your post! Having written about and explored this whole dynamic of clutter in the last 4 years, all I can say is a hearty amen! This is a huge issue for many of us, and you touch on such an important point … so much of what we cling onto is remnants from the past, outdated and long abandoned, that has little to do with who we are now.

    “Are You Living in a Fantasy World?” explores the whole dynamics of letting go who we used to be so we can embrace who God’s created us to be in this season.
    http://creeksideministries.blogspot.com/2011/08/are-you-living-in-fantasy-world.html

    I’ll be sharing Project Simplify with the people in my world! Can’t wait!

  8. 10
    Anonymous says:

    “But can you imagine what my house would be like if I kept all my ballet stuff that I haven’t used in almost two decades? We wouldn’t have any room to make new memories.”

    It is so easy to set up shrines to our past – and that’s exactly what they do – prevent us from making new memories or look forward to the future. I am just waiting for spring (I live in ND) so I can open the windows and start a major purge. Can. Not. Wait.

  9. 11

    “But can you imagine what my house would be like if I kept all my ballet stuff that I haven’t used in almost two decades? We wouldn’t have any room to make new memories.”

    It is so easy to set up shrines to our past – and that’s exactly what they do – prevent us from making new memories or look forward to the future. I am just waiting for spring (I live in ND) so I can open the windows and start a major purge. Can. Not. Wai

  10. 12

    My motto for this year is LESS IS MORE! I don’t “need” all of the stuff I have and it would be much more peaceful in my mind if I just donated and got rid of the stuff. An organized closet and home leads to an organized mind and life for the whole family. I am in the cleaning mode NOW!!! Think I will do a blog series with a friend about this for the month of March.
    Thanks for sharing Tsh and nice hearing you at Blissdom 2012!

  11. 13

    This is a very good lesson. I too have been decluttering our home which is giving me such a feeling of accomplishment. It opens the door for new ideas. Thank you for posting!

  12. 14

    Yes, I do feel so much better when my home is decluttered but I definitely need the help. I need to ask my friend Megan over – she is a professional organizer. I was a Jazz dancer when I was young and I remember crying when my mom sold my beautiful costumes in a garage sale, but you are right, the memories of that wonderful time in my life are not tied to those costumes, and I still have photos. I wrote about my messiness on my blog in a post titled “I am Messy, Okay”. This has been a struggle for a long time.

  13. 15

    I absolutely LOVED your post. Tomorrow was already set aside to begin decluttering once again. Now I have your ongoing series to inspire me!
    Thank you so much!

  14. 16

    “And I’ve found that when my physical world feels crazy and cluttered, my internal world does, too”

    AMEN!!!

    I have recently discovered the joy of selling my clutter on e-bay. Then if it doesn’t sell, I will donate it and bless someone else. It is quite liberating to “dig out”…I look forward to the decluttering series.

  15. 17

    Oh Yes! It is always difficult to go to work unless my house is cleaned and deluttered both inside of me and in the home I live.

  16. 18

    I find I am more stressed out with more stuff. I am definitely decluttering this month.

  17. 19

    I have to admit I have started my spring cleaning early:)! I figured if I didn’t get a jump start I wouldn’t be able to keep up, & I find once I get on a roll & stop….that’s the end of my spring cleaning. So…..I started & I’m going room by room – following your book. I can totally relate to your feelings on “stuff”. My oldest daughter likes lots of little things on her dresser, etc….I can barely think when I go into her room! LOL. But I let her keep her room how she wants – it is on the 2nd floor, & we spend most of our day on the 1st floor so I can avoid it. I love the feeling of getting rid of stuff we don’t use. It’s very freeing. My goal is to not replace the stuff I get rid of with new stuff!! That’s not easy:(.

  18. 20

    I am ready! It’s so true – stuff holds us back – and I don’t want something as meaningless as clutter to hold me back from my dreams!
    Thanks, Tsh.

  19. 21
    Beth Williams says:

    Decluttering is actually easy for me. If I haven’t touched, worn or used the item in a year then out it goes to friends or Goodwill.

    When we married my husband and I got rid of all his ex-wife’s junk. I must have made 15 or so trips to Goodwill. For us clutter is just something to be stored or cleaned. We want the simple life.

    I enjoy giving other people items that perhaps they can wear or use.

  20. 22

    OK. I’m on board and look forward to have others to declutter with.

  21. 23

    The more I avoid it….the heavier it all becomes.
    I have been trying to JUST MAKE IT to my school spring break to tackle it. This whole week, I’ve been sick and I’m feeling part of it is the clutter hanging over me.

    Good encouragement for a gal like me!

  22. 24
    Valerie says:

    I so agree with you.As a matter of fact,”Decluttering House and Mind” has been my motto so far this new year!!! If my physical space and interior space is so cluttered and disorganized,I feel out of control. I find that if I “declutter” around me,I feel less agitated all around. I just recently moved to an apartment(from a bigger house) and I had to get a storage locker because I have so much “stuff”. I felt in my spirit to get rid of it,to bless someone else with what they can use and donate the rest. This is such a freeing prospect for me! So,yes,I’m very interested in Monday’s Blog!!God Bless!

  23. 25

    Yep, disorder makes me feel overwhelmed.

  24. 26

    Great post Tsh! I loved the line ” We wouldn’t have any room to make new memories.”
    This is so true in the physical sense, but also in the mental and even spiritual. We have to know when to let go, let the past live in the past, and move on to the better and new adventures God has for us. I can’t wait for this declutter project!
    Bernice
    Reducing clutter to reduce stress

  25. 27
    MelissaV says:

    So many great reasons to declutter and simplify….. thanks for sharing Tsh. I also feel like sometimes, our keeping things is like the man in Jesus’ parable who buried his “talents”. The things we have been given by God can be the things we use to give back to God – and He can then use those things to bless the people around us.

  26. 28

    I am so looking forward to joining you this month in decluttering 4 areas of my home. It is long over due. Just last month my husband and I finished a 5 year long journey renovating 3 homes, and to make room for that project I put off decluttering for quite a while, and well….stuffed it all in our attic. So my bonus project, is going to be the attic, that currently I can’t even step into. Its overwhelming, but I am thinking that having the accountability of having to blog about it, is really going to help. Thanks for such an opportunity to dig in and let go.

  27. 29

    Thanks for the post Tsh! This is absolutely perfect timing for me to join you in decluttering! My family is moving in 4 weeks, so Project: Simplify is going to be great motivation for me as I begin to pack and organize! I haven’t been much of a cluttery person (in the hoarding-ish sense), but every once in awhile I notice STUFF piling up. I get that drive to declutter and organize. It’s really cool how you pointed out that connection between decluttering and peace, because I definitely see that correlation! Thanks for the motivation and your insight! :)

  28. 30

    We are going through a process of decluttering in so many ways I needed this reminder. The “what ifs” often weighs us down, what if we need it in the future, what if we cannot replace it if we need to, what if. You know twice in my life I lost every thing, once to a fire and another time when we had to move quickly without notice. The owner of the place we rented defalted and all our stuff was locked in his building. It is interesting both times we ended up with more stuff and moved one. I try to reminde myself we are just passing through and to not collect so much because it will not move up with us.
    Mrs. J.

  29. 31

    Just posted about Pushing through to Him as part of my Lent postings on Wed…not only the physical declutter or cleaning but the spiritual one too. Practically, I have trouble focusing when stressed if my space is a mess so cleaning helps me.

  30. 32

    This is really something I’m working on. I keep telling myself to hold on to the memory, but let go of the stuff. Not to mention that we’re moving so I ask myself: Is this worth packing and hauling? If not, out it goes.

  31. 33

    We moved a few years ago after living in one house for 25 years, and I chose then to declutter and not be a pack rat in our new home. We gave stuff away and threw stuff away, and it was very freeing. Of course, we didn’t throw everything away, the important keepsake items are in clear storage bins and neatly organized. I still have to make a deliberate choice to not start to accumulate too much stuff again, it is so easy in this over materialistic world! I consider myself a less is more person now, and like it that way. It does leave more time for the things that really matter.

  32. 34

    Oh, I would love to join this. I need to do some serious decluttering in my home!!! Have a great weekend. Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather ;)

  33. 35

    Well said. I come from a long line of hoarders of stuff. It does use up energy having to take care of it all!

  34. 36

    I had no idea you were a ballerina! And, yes, decluttering definitely makes me feel better in general. Thank you for this post. I feel like I have renewed permission and motivation to jump on the decluttering wagon. No need to hang onto things that no longer define who I am.

  35. 37

    alright…I’m in…When I read the blog title, “What is keeping you from decluttering?” I suppose my answer would mostly be it’s too overwhelming sometimes…all of those decisions that need to be made about all of that stuff! The kids toys/clothes are a big one, especially because we have yet to decide if we’re going to have another and so we’ve been hanging onto a lot of stuff…

    Looking forward to the monday post!

  36. 38

    I like your thought on decluttering being an act of worship. :)

  37. 39

    Yes ~ Tsh, I’ve found exactly that. Endless clutter weighs on me, and one perk of our military lifestyle is frequent opportunities to declutter. *But* ~ we’ve been in this house 18 months now, and it’s time for me to thin out and simplify some rooms. Man, it piles up fast!! Rolling up my sleeves with you, sister! Love you!

  38. 40

    I am totally in the decluttering mindset! My pantry has been in process for two weeks.

    I once read “When my outsides are a mess, my insides are a mess” Well, my insides have felt all jumbled up so I must purge and evaluate all the outside messes!

    Thanks so much!

  39. 41

    I am excited to start this!!! and so glad to have a plan and a company of ladies to do it with.. Thank you!!!!

  40. 42
    MemeGRL says:

    I have to tell you, my two boys were playing yesterday and using a ruler as a Lego bridge. The last inch snapped off, and my son asked me to fix it. It was a cheap, unfixable ruler and I told him to toss it. “No!” he said. “It holds memories of first grade!”
    And there is was: my own issue, lovingly transferred to my child. I’m horrified and gently tried to find ways around it with him. In the end, it is an 11-inch Lego bridge that apparently still holds magnificent memories. I’m still blinking, trying to figure out how to help him (and myself) with this…8 is too young to hoard!

    • 43
      Rachel says:

      When my children didn\t want to toss outgrown shoes I took photos of the shoes so that the kids could “remember” them. Maybe something like this would help you and your son.

  41. 44
    Kimberly says:

    I am enthusiastically joining in the decluttering parade! I can’t count the number of times I have attempted to go through the kids stuff … only to find it is me who is sentimental about it, not them. Although I too have been alarmed to find this being transferred to my kids … if they start keeping every little note from a friend and picture they drew now, by 18 they will need a spare house to store it in. Time to nip hoarding in the bud and find a bit of real estate in my playroom!!! Thanks for the encouragement!

  42. 45
    Betina R says:

    Wow! I needed that…. “Getting rid of things is a gift” – what a great perspective! I have really been struggling with this. I really want to and hate that it is so hard for me to let go. Very frustrating, but this gives me hope.
    Thank you.

  43. 46
    Doreen says:

    I have been trying to declutter my stuff and always come to a standstill. Usually I will stand or sit and not be able to decide what to do next. After I think I decluttered, I still have piles to be organized and the job never gets finished. I too have a hard time deciding and letting go of enough. Any suggestions.
    Thank you.

  44. 47
    Heather says:

    I truly believe the space you live in, the clothes you wear, maybe even the car you drive and the hobbies you like, the people around you should ALL reflect who you are in this very moment. It doesn’t mean I don’t cherish my past, because it brought me to this point. I have very little from my childhood, mostly pictures. If I had saved all that, I would now be the proud owner of many cat items, figurines, pillows, books, etc. Now I just have one real one and I good with that little guy.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] love what Tsh said about decluttering and simplifying in a post last week; Jane Anne even read it and [...]

  2. [...] Or you might need to look yourself square in the eye and dig deep for the reasons it’s so hard for you to let go of stuff. Perhaps it’s holding more meaning than it was ever intended to do so? [...]

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