overwhelming spaces...

I am a self-proclaimed decluttering fanatic. Years ago, I was introduced to the art of decluttering by an exceptional audiobook. To go into “a little too much detail”, I was listening to the book during my pumping sessions at work. And not in a tidy, clean room, but in a storage closet FULL of unused items, shoved in arbitrarily, into this small space. As my manager showed me to the room, I felt like my eyeballs probably grew double their size as I stood there. I was mortified that they felt it was acceptable to send me into this overwhelming space, with no designated sitting area or side table to set my pumping machine on. Was I supposed to hold my pump in my hands and stand during my session for 20-30 minutes twice a day while trying not to make contact with any of the dusty surfaces as I handled my baby’s food? It was somewhat ironic that my first pumping session was accompanied by Marie Kondo’s “The Life-changing Effect of Tidying up” audiobook. Since then, I have found that the beautiful process of editing one’s belongings has brought me the intentional and joy-filled life that I had so longed for.

Through this process, I have slowly realized that the gifts, abilities and joy that the Lord had given me at a very young age were DROWNING in a sea of stuff that had sort of “shown up” over time – almost slyly – and overstayed their welcome. As I began to clear my stuff, one category at a time, I felt a lightness, peace and joy filled my heart. Over time, I have maintained the practice of regularly reviewing items in my home, and I even keep an area of my house designated for “donations” and make regular trips to a local donation drop-off site so that I can keep our household relatively clear of clutter. 

helping friends...

It wasn’t until recently, though, that the Lord really reminded me of what it felt like before I had taken on this way of living. Over the past couple of months, I have helped two of my friends prepare for BIG moves. Each of these women were needing to declutter quickly to prepare to move into a new space. Even though these women came from two very different life scenarios, there were many commonalities between them. Both women wanted to only bring a minimal and essential amount of things into their new space. They didn’t want to bring things that were linked to past traumas in their lives. And they were both actually very decisive when it came to crafting the life they wanted on the other side of their moves.

it's a mess...

The process of decluttering is always a mess. Things look messier during the decluttering process (especially when also packing to move), but the after-effect is so beautiful and so worth it. One of my friends, after moving, told me, “Beth, I just feel so light. And looking back, I can honestly say that I don’t desire to have any of that stuff back that I let go of. I just feel so good.” This fresh reminder spurred me to write this article and introduce the idea that if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, anxious, stuck, or depressed, it could be that you are holding on to too much. It’s difficult to see clearly where you are going when you are surrounded by reminders of the past. Releasing the physical clutter can greatly improve your mental and emotional state of being. And you can partner with God in the process! He can help you make decisions about what to keep and what to let go of. 

In addition to this, I want to say that if you have tried to declutter in the past and seem to get lost in the middle of the process, you may need a helper. With both of these ladies I helped recently, they both mentioned that they would not have gotten through the process as swiftly or effectively if it hadn’t been for their choice to ask for and receive the help they needed. Even as a decisive person who loves a decluttered space, I myself need help with certain categories of decluttering. As I reflect on my first major declutter, I remember being COMPLETELY stuck in one particular area of my life: BOOKS!  I love books, especially children’s books, and have built up quite a collection. For a short stint of my life, I had even worked as a consultant for Usborne Books and had “bought” into the “more is better” philosophy that most sales businesses promote. I needed hand-holding when it came to this, so I asked my husband to help me make decisions. One by one, we sorted through our massive collection of books and reduced the total by about 60%. 

It's hard. We spend so much time and money accumulating things in this life, but sometimes those decisions weren’t the best ones. Or maybe the reasons we had for having certain items have met their end goal and we are left with the aftermath. Holding onto the items seems resourceful and economically wise, but in reality, if we are holding onto items that are not being used or are not serving us extremely well, I don’t believe we are truly being the best stewards of the resources we have. 

On the other hand, if we choose to let go of items,  whether it be by selling them, giving them away, or throwing them away, we free up space in our home, mind and heart to receive new opportunities. Meanwhile, those belongings have the opportunity to meet the needs of others who can actively use them. And isn’t that a great thing?

the fears...

The fears. We must verbalize what fears are at play when we face our belongings. There are actual REASONS we keep things in our lives and in our homes, and sometimes those reasons are great and other times they may be rooted in fear. It’s important to become aware of why it is that we hold onto items from the past that are not serving us well (or at all). If there was a break-up in a relationship and you are holding onto something because you have unresolved trauma from that relationship, that item will continue to remind you of that unresolved trauma until it is dealt with. When you let that item go, you can say, “I forgive myself and I forgive that person,” while letting go of the item and the physical reminder in your life.

How about expensive items? If you spent a LOT of time and/or money acquiring something that no longer serves you well, is it worth keeping? My thought is the same with any item that doesn’t serve a good purpose. It needs to go – one way or another. If you can sell it and make a profit, great! But don’t hold onto the item for too long. If it’s not selling, consider reducing the price dramatically or view the donation as an offering to the Lord. We are called to be generous givers and that can mean creating a steal of a deal, or even giving it away for free. God delights in a cheerful giver!

jumpstart your decluttering...

For more information and resources on decluttering, I recommend listening to/reading the audiobook by Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I also highly recommend the YouTube channel The Minimal Mom. These resources are so helpful to both jumpstart your decluttering as well as inspire you to keep going!

I hope the experiences and resources I’ve shared can help inspire you to view your home differently and that you might consider how decluttering can help you cleanse your heart and mind from the distracting stuff that accumulates over time. I pray that your heart becomes more generous, bold, and full of faith through the process of decluttering!

bethany bradford

Bethany is a wife and a homeschooling mama of three adventurous boys. Bethany and her family take every opportunity possible to enjoy the outdoors, in particular exploring and taking camping trips in their home state of Michigan. Bethany has a heart for prayer, speaks boldly for Christ, and is passionate about encouraging people to live whole, healthy lives - physically (she's a doctor of Physical Therapy as well), spiritually and mentally.

Photos by Carly Kristin Photography.

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