Decluttering as Spiritual Practice

I’ve been more intentional these days about solitude and silence, and integrating these spiritual practices into my daily rhythms. While I was on pilgrimage I became more intensely aware of my need for solitude, and often snuck away to be alone. Life in urban missions and living in an intentional community can make you crowded on the inside, and I needed to do some de-cluttering.

Flylady is an online house management coach, and one of her home management techniques is the 15 minute tidy. Pick an area of your house that needs attention, be it de cluttering or cleaning, set a timer for 15 minutes, and go to it!

I have found this technique really helpful for attending to the needs of my home, but also attending to the needs of my soul. When I get up in the morning, I make a beeline for my prayer chair. There sits my journal, waiting for me. I spend 15 minutes (roughly three pages worth), journaling whatever is going on in my little brain. In a popular course on creativity, the Artists Way, Julia Cameron calls this type of journaling the morning pages and emphasizes their importance in “find(ing) our own quiet centre, the place where we hear the still small voice that is at once our creator’s and our own.”. Daily journaling helps me to attend to what the deep places of my heart wants to say. And to what God wants to say to me.

After my morning pages, I put my journal down, light a candle, and turn off the lights. Ruth Haley Barton, in her book Invitation to Solitude and Silence, says “for me, lighting a candle is a powerful symbol of the reality of the Holy Spirit present with me in my times of solitude. Ever since the Holy Spirit rested on the heads of the apostles as tongues of fire in Acts 2, the flame has been a Christian symbol of Christ’s ongoing presence with us through the Spirit.”

In the quiet and in the flickering shadows spun by candlelight, I pick a simple phrase that feels like a deeply honest thing to say to God. Sometimes it’s “Come, Lord Jesus”. Right now I’m lingering on the phrase “Christ as a light, illumine and guide me.. I spend 15 minutes just breathing, just looking at the flame, invoking the presence of Jesus in my prayer, and resting in that space. 15 minutes may not feel like much, but consistency is more important than extended times and over the long haul will her much fruit.

When I’m done, I feel like my soul has been de-cluttered, space made for the Divine Presence, and then I can step into the rigours of my daily responsibilities.

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