Cleaning Out the Clutter

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I hadn’t ever thought about until recently, but, is it possible that living an uncluttered life is a spiritual discipline?  My maternal grandfather, “Father Bear,” was a hoarder. And when I say hoarder, yes he was just like the unimaginable type they film for cable TV — his house was beyond disgusting. Coming up through the Great Depression he eventually saved everything from all the newspapers that came across his table, empty cans of dog food, to the seeds of the fruit he ate.  I grew into adulthood abhorring clutter, also witnessing my parents following Father Bear’s example. Maybe you can relate to such an experience too? 

Are you ready to hear about a resource from a strong chrisitan woman’s voice that addresses decluttering all aspects of our lives?  It’s the book that triggered the question in my mind that decluttering might just be a spiritual discipline.  It’s my honor to commend Angie Hyche on a book well-written and to recommend to you her “Unholy Mess: What the Bible Says About Clutter.” 

Less is more, so I won’t boil down a prize ox into a bouillon cube by summarizing her entire book point by point. I hope, instead, to entice you to pick up her book and see for yourself how much better your life can be when you apply the principles she lays out. Her holistic approach holds more profound implications than simply tidying up your basement, though.

Maybe you’re thinking we don’t need another book on organization, but maybe it’s time for a book written from a Christian perspective. And that’s where Angie’s book comes in — her aim is to feed your soul and help shape your perspectives on your relationship with God and to navigate the areas of your life where being better organized (your attention, your schedule, and yes your possessions) will bring you more peace and joy. She wants to help us tame the chaos to experience the abundant life Jesus promises.

Angie packs “Unholy Mess” with ample research and statistics. She cites several studies and articles, and she sprinkles in volumes of vulnerability — she doesn’t claim to be perfect, and she won’t shame you. If you want to assess your values and priorities, Angie’s book is helpful, plus she isn’t dogmatic and her theology isn’t “Do this or you’re a sinner.” Instead, she provides Scriptures at nearly every turn of the page that help us prioritize our actions and our views, while confronting the cognitive dissonance we struggle with when we allow disorder to run amok.

We all need coaching in establishing healthy boundaries and the motivation to change. With clear writing and experience to back up her ideas, “Unholy Mess” will help you to adjust your habits and your attitudes, again all from a Christian approach/perspective. You’ll be encouraged and uplifted along the way as you learn about ways to apply the many practical strategies she offers. She offers a great filter on how to organize our lives: Declutter, arrange, and then maintain.

One of the aspects I liked most about Angie’s book were the reflective questions she provides to help you as you try to set realistic goals. The initial third of the book primarily addresses our relationship with God, the next third transitions to the “how to,” and the last third —which was my favorite part of the book — covers the obstacles to decluttering and how to manage our future so we don’t fall back into our old habits.

Some of the big takeaways I found to be extremely helpful were her thoughts on being purposeful with our possessions, her stewardship strategies, and how she aptly blended theology with theory, philosophy and application. She does so, balancing topics covering the physical mess we observe along with the inability we wrestle with to be fully present, like with others over a meal, and how much more of an abundant life God has for us when we overcome the chaos.

This book is a great resource, and it has a lot of potential for small group ministries. Certainly your small group could go through the book together, but that’s not my point. How often have you been embarrassed to have company over because your countertops haven’t seen daylight and the couch is hidden under a pile … OK, I know that’s an exaggeration, but my point is, many people feel uncomfortable inviting people over when their house isn’t up to the standard they would like it to be. So this book will help us with the ministry of hospitality and help us as the church to open our homes to others more as we tame the chaos.

I know minimalism is in vogue these days, but I assure you Angie isn’t preaching privation and asceticism. She simply offers a better way to contentment as you organize the space you occupy, free up a lot more of your time, and experience more joy than you ever will when your inner and outer life are cluttered. The consequences of a cluttered life simply aren’t worth it, and Angie will show you clearly that clutter is not a burden we were designed to carry.

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