The Life-Changing Spirituality of Tidying Up

Did you read the title of this post and laugh? Because I’m laughing right now. The semester just ended. My apartment is a mess—as much as it can be, given its size, anyway. I’m in great need of some serious tidying up, so WTAF am I doing writing about spirituality in this context? How can cleaning be a spiritual act?!7203340384_fc6110a3b1_b

I should start by owning up to the fact that I’m actually totally on board with the tidying up craze. Definitely read Marie Kondo (and hooray for the shout-out in Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, right??). I actually really liked what she had to say, on account of how her animistic view of possessions meshes well with the strange attachment I developed to material belongings as a child…

This is more fun-fact than therapy-session: for a period of several years, if I donated or disposed an item I had cared for, I would give it a hug or kiss so as not to be lonely. My husband has (unfortunately) figured out that I am highly susceptible to the assignation of emotions to inanimate objects. Saying “Awww, that stuffed cat is so sad and lonesome because you aren’t taking it home” will trigger an emotional response, and occasionally lead to unfortunate buying experiences.

All to say, when Marie Kondo talks about thanking items for what they’ve done for us, I get it. On an uncomfortably deep level.

Related to this “tidying up” craze is the capsule wardrobe craze. You might not have heard of this. Or, on the other hand, you might spend even the tiniest amount of time on Pinterest. Basically, the idea is that your wardrobe (for a particular season) consists of a small-ish number of items that all general work well together/mix-and-match. Some even go so far as to develop a “uniform.”

Now, I wouldn’t say I have a capsule wardrobe, exactly, but I do try to get and keep clothing that works with the rest of my wardrobe, and I try to limit my closet to things I like and wear regularly. I don’t thank my clothing for serving me when I take it off for the day (another Marie Kondo thing), but I do try to take good care of it and arrange it in a way that is easy to see and pleasing to the eye. I try to have a place for everything and, when I can manage, keep everything in its place.

The kicker is, I actually think this “tidying up” has pretty strong ties to spiritual wellbeing.

What?! How can cleaning be related to the life of the spirit? That sounds like a stretch…or does it? Tidying up and the capsule wardrobe craze are all about ridding life of clutter and distractions that make us anxious and unhappy. They may be fads, but they are fads built on the human desire to live more joyful and fulfilling lives, which in many ways is what Christian spirituality is all about.

It may sound strange, but I think tidying—ridding ourselves of what is superfluous and unhelpful, holding lightly to God’s good gifts that bring us joy, and living in gratitude for what we have—is nothing short of an act of prayer. We’ve just begun the new church year and are quickly approaching a new calendar year. If you are looking for a new way to pray (and wouldn’t mind having a cleaner, calmer, more organized life as a result), consider giving tidying up a try.

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Have you tried tidying up? Do you have a capsule wardrobe? What do you think of all this?

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One thought on “The Life-Changing Spirituality of Tidying Up

  1. “He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.” Col 1.17 (NLT) Wrap your head around this: since “he (God) holds all creation together” and all your/our/my stuff is part of creation, God keeps it from disappearing by holding it together, however he does that. God holds my stuff together, so somehow, if I arrange it, or rearrange it, or wear it, I must be pretty close to God who is holding it (and me) together!

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