The Spirituality of Decluttering

by the Rev. Paul McLain


“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: . . . a time to seek, and a time to lose: a time to keep, and a time to throw away.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 6)


As we enter this season in which we reflect upon stewardship, it is a good time to think about ways to simplify our lives. Decluttering is one of those ways. It is more than just giving away, recycling, or getting rid of clothes, household items, and papers no longer needed. It is also more than uncovering long forgotten and highly valued hidden treasures. Decluttering is a spiritual practice that brings our mind and heart into greater focus without the distractions of things that catch our eye and demand our attention even if we take no action concerning them. It is a practice that frees us, helps us distill what really matters in our lives, and gives us space that we can devote to God.


Not only are we hampered by physical clutter but mental clutter, and the two are often related. I have learned that the greatest gift I can give someone is my focused attention on the person in front of me. I so often fail in that regard and am easily distracted by my cell phone, to-do list, television, a random thought unrelated to the conversation in which I am engaged, or eyeing a shiny piece of clutter in my peripheral vision. When I really think about it, my focused attention on someone else is a gift to me as much or more than it is to another. I get to be transported into the unique manner in which another human being is thinking about and seeing the world. I wonder if we not only see Jesus in the eyes of someone else, but also through the eyes of someone else.


Graham Greene wrote of his main character in The Heart of the Matter: “Other persons slowly build up the sense of home by accumulation – a new picture, more and more books, an odd-shaped paperweight, the ashtray bought for a forgotten reason on a forgotten holiday; Scobie built his home by a process of reduction.” He learned that true home is found in the persons who live and visit there, and in the things that are life-giving, useful, or really and truly matter. True home is found in making room for God.

10 thoughts on “The Spirituality of Decluttering”

  1. Paul, I am a magnet for clutter apparently. I view decluttering is a constant challenge but also a spiritual exercise for me. Thank you for this bit of inspiration.

  2. Thank you, Paul, for this gentle reminder– particularly with the holidays fast approaching, the temptation to consume is even more powerful.

  3. Loved this, Paul! I felt like it was meant for me! I am trying to declutter. My cousin said “we spend the first part of our lives accumulating and the second part getting rid of stuff.” Thank you for your great reflection!!!

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