Lent: 39 days of 20-minute de-cluttering tasks

I occasionally give myself a mental treat and read a blog post or two, and one of my favorite blogs to read is 5 Kids is a Lot of Kids. I feel pretty sure that Beth Woolsey–who writes the blog, and has 5 kids–and I would have a pretty good time together if we ever had the chance to sit down for coffee and conversation together. This isn’t likely to happen, but you never know.

Here’s something that Beth and I would agree on: that junk, clutter, and stuff can suck the life out of you pretty quickly. Also, that when you have a multitude of kids, that the potential for how quickly stuff can pile up around you is really, really astonishing. One more thing: that it’s worth a bit of time and effort to clear it all out.

But what’s a busy mama who already has too many irons in the fire, to do? There’s barely a moment to spare, most days, between schoolwork and dental appointments and music practice and the dishwasher is broken again?ing and whatnot. And you know, it does take time to clear out clutter. Obviously. C’mon, if it was an easy, quick thing to do, I wouldn’t be sitting here surrounded with so much STUFF. Would I?

True story: For the past few weeks, I’ve been running the house in a minimal fashion, because of putting on a play, “The Fireman’s Flame,” which I still haven’t written a decent post about, though our show ended a week and a half ago. Boom. Guilty. I’m guilty of getting through an intensely busy time, like the few weeks before a show, the week of the show, and then turning my face to the sunshine afterwards (if there is any, which, it must be noted, there hasn’t been), taking a deep breath, flinging my arms out willy-nilly and saying “Wow, that’s done, now back to life!” and not taking time to put things away, and return props to my parents (sorry Mom) and tying up loose ends and clearing away the detritus left from the production, before throwing myself headlong into The Next Big Thing.

We call in the pros for hair and make-up, and they do a great job.

We call in the pros for hair and make-up: alumni and our own drama students, and they do a great job.

The costumes which were flung on the stairs, which ought to be carried up the attic and put away, may just stay there for a week or two, until somebody needs to get up to the attic for something, for example. But things that have to be taken care of (like overdue library books and overdue bills and mysterious moldy things in the refrig’, and of course feeding the pets and also the chickens and of course the fam) will probably be taken care of, as soon as possible. There’s an urgency there, you see. I don’t want a big fine on my library card; I don’t want to pay late fees on my bills, either; and I don’t want my pets or chickens or children to die miserable deaths of deprivation.

Back to Lent. I was telling Amalia this morning, as we drove to her cello lesson, that I grew up a Lutheran, but that I didn’t remember much about observing Lent in the church I grew up in. Maybe it wasn’t a big deal at Salem Lutheran Church, or maybe it just wasn’t on my radar. I think in general that Lutherans do observe Lent, although how they observe it is probably as varied as the believers themselves. Amalia and I talked about what Lent might mean to us, and what we’ve observed our friends doing with it.

Google says (and so it must be true) “Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection.”  It seems to be a different experience for everybody, although the one trend that I notice among those who practice Lent around me, is that most people give up something that is precious to them, to prove that it’s not too precious to them, that it–whatever it is–hasn’t been elevated to the status of an idol. Throughout the Bible, there is one theme that is patently clear, it seems to me: God is pretty much down on idols, in any form. Amalia and I chewed on this as we drove along. “What would you give up?” I asked her. “Sugar? Chocolate? Movies?”

Amalia shuddered. “No. How about exercise? Math? Liver and onions? I could give those things up.” I think she kinda missed the point. Pretty much entirely.

When we got home, still thinking about the Lent season, I sat down to do a little reading, and I happened onto Beth Woolsey’s post on Lent, and I started getting really excited. Excited by the possibility of drawing closer to God during this Lent season, not by depriving myself of coffee or chocolate, but by clearing away some of the STUFF that takes way too much of my time and attention.

Really. Can’t STUFF be an idol? How much time every day do you spend shuffling through piles of stuff? Can’t find a bill that you need to pay because of the clutter on your desk? Can’t find little Mack’s boots? Or socks? Or what about that library book that’s lost? Sigh.

When you have too much STUFF, you’ve got to spend time polishing it, sifting through it, organizing it, filing it, dusting it, fixing it, moving it, what else? Yup. STUFF definitely can be a problem at our place. What about at yours?

“Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection,” is what Beth observes.

I like what Beth says in her post:

“The truth is, Jesusy people in America freestyle when it comes to Lent. We like to participate for loads of reasons. Sometimes to feel closer to God, sometimes as a spiritual discipline, sometimes to draw attention to a cause, and sometimes because our best friends in the whole entire world, Caffeine and Chocolate, come to us in our dreams dressed in red riding hood cloaks with cloven hooves and horns on their heads and tell us with maniacal grins that they own our souls, and we wake up screaming and sweating and longing for big cups o’ Joe and entire bags of Hershey’s nuggets. Lent – it’s a high church synonym for Caffeine and Chocolate Rehab.”

“At its center, though, Lent, like other cultural and religious observances, pulls us into community with each other and ties us with thick cords to our historical roots. It makes us stop for a season to reconsider who we are at our core. It forces us away from the insignificant things that entangle us and turns our eyes to examine what’s relevant, what drives us.”

“At its best, Lent isn’t about deprivation. At its best, Lent allows us to work in concert with Love to refill our souls.”

Clutter, detritus, stuff is a serious problem in our home right now. We’ve been very busy, and when we’re very busy, we tend to shove problems to the side. You know how easy it is to get more than you need–we love garage sales, we get freebie magazines in the mail, we dote on shopping at thrift stores–and we bring home lots and lots of stuff, without dealing with the too-much stuff that we already have.

But let’s not beat ourselves up over it. I think we’ve all probably done enough of that already. I tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to borrow Beth’s idea and spent a bit of time every day that I can handle it, I’m going to say 20 minutes, cleaning up something and dealing with some bit of clutter, during the Lent season. I have 40 days, well, actually only 39. I’d better get to cracking.

39 days of 20 minutes each day (hopefully!) = whoa, nearly 800 minutes, right? That really sounds like something impressive. I think I can do something fairly impressive in 800 minutes.

I’m starting today. I’m going to do what Beth suggested and take 20 minutes to clean off one small area that is bugging me. And I’m going to take a before picture (honest) and an after picture. You’ll see the after picture tomorrow, fair enough? While I do it, I’m going to talk with God about how this STUFF has gotten between Him and me, more than I’d like to admit, and I’m going to ask for His help to do away with a bunch of it. I’m hoping, Gentle Reader, that you’ll join me, and that you won’t be disgusted and annoyed by my honesty. Honestly. There are some really bad, neglected areas in our home, and they are all full of STUFF.

I’d love to have some company in this pursuit. I hope I’m not the only one drowning in clutter. Surely not! Please tell me you (at least occasionally) struggle with clutter, too?

Today’s assignment: Go clean off your desk. Or a table. Some horizontal surface. Or something that just is really bugging you. Set your timer for 20 minutes and when it goes off, stop. Or keep going, if you feel so inspired. Be sure to have a trash bag handy. You’re probably going to need it. 🙂 And hey, leave me a comment if you want to.

We’re all in this together, after all, aren’t we, Gentle Reader?

Here’s my “before” picture of my desk that I’m going to clean off. I bought a new desk a couple of months ago and I really like it, but it doesn’t have the storage drawer space that my old one had. No matter, thought I at the time, that just means that I’ll get rid of the STUFF that is inside those drawers. But instead, I just piled it all onto my new desk, to take care of later. It’s a mess. I know that I can’t get it all cleared away in one 20-minute session, but I know that I can make a dent in it. And that’s what I’m doing to do today.

I believe this is proof that I'm a "vulnerable blogger."

I believe this is proof that I’m a “vulnerable blogger.”

Tra-laaa, Gentle Readers! I’ll check in tomorrow!

Meanwhile . . . maybe you should pop in with me over at The Prairie Homestead’s weekly Blog Hop. It’s great!


14 thoughts on “Lent: 39 days of 20-minute de-cluttering tasks

  1. rita

    What an excellent idea!! Yes, too much stuff. Yes, I don’t deal with tidying as I go enough. Yes, it weighs me down. Yes, I’d feel so much happier if I went through with your resolution. Can I? I will try. Thank you!!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Come back and tell me how you’re doing with it–do a 20 minute session today, if you can, and then maybe another one tomorrow. Let me know how it goes!

      1. rita

        ha ha! I got off the computer shortly after writing you and got going with all the things I had planned to do and here it is 4:05. I’m about to start dinner. I’m not ready for my class tonight for which I leave at 6:30 and I’ve not done the 20 minutes yet. It’s not entirely too late but close. I may need to warm up to this but I do want to do it.

        Actually, I did think about what to do after I got off the computer and got stuck on deciding what to tackle. I thought it might be good to start with 20 minutes that actually finished something, instead of leaving it half done (which equals it being worse than it was).

        My desk is at least as bad as yours. Maybe I’ll start there too.

        1. dramamamafive Post author

          Surprise yourself! See how much you get done in 20 minutes if you keep at it! And if you have any littles to help, it can go even faster.

  2. Chef William

    I think you just about hit it on the head with “Could STUFF be the devil’s way of keeping me from getting closer to God?” that is one of his ways. I do not observe Lent per say but I do believe in drawing closer to God daily, year round. Your idea of 20 minutes per day for 39 days is a wonderful goal, and will free a part of your life that is cluttered at the moment. Just like that desk, we tend to get our mind cluttered and we need to take a moment here and there and re-stack some of the stuff in our minds into neater piles so we can think clearly. Not saying you are one of those people, but I am. I get so many things going at once, my mind does not know how to relax. And that’s where “Me Time” comes in, take a few moments with just you and God and you will find your mind clearing up just like that desk will get cleared. Oh, one suggestion. Do not read anything as your cleaning. If you pick up one paper and read it, your 20 minutes will be gone but the mess won’t.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      I appreciate your bit of advice! I agree that it’s very easy to get distracted, that’s why I keep the timing ticking and continually remind myself that I’m “on the clock.” Thanks for your comment!

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