Diagnosing Clutter | The Practical Disciple

Diagnosing Clutter

Recently, I unpacked ways that we can change our mindset to one that is more Christ-focused around mundane chores like getting organized. To read that post click here. That post came as a response, to a note from a reader. I noticed in her note that she commented. “I can’t seem to find the motivation to work on it b/c it seems so daunting. We’ve just left this space – it’s like we had no energy for it once we got settled into the house.” It reminded me that not all clutter is equal. In Angie’s case, they went through a tremendous amount of change and did what they need to do to respond. Afterwards, they were expended. That’s a very understandable and normative response and therefore not a cause for concern.
However, clutter can be symptomatic of other issues, some of which are distinctly spiritual. There are at least 4 forms of clutter that I have run into.

Slob Clutter

Let’s face it some people are slobs. Whether by  nature, nurture or neglect they do not keep their world in any semblance of order. They aren’t bothered by it.  They don’t care.  They might change if the consequences of disorder get extreme enough, but don’t count on it.

“Uniquely Organized” clutter

A number of years ago I was notorious for having an office that looked like an utter disaster zone. We used to joke that I had everything but the kitchen sink, that’s until one day when I actually had one laying in the corner. I asked for a member of my church to serve as a reference for me and he said if anyone ask about my organizational skills he was going to tell them I was “uniquely organized.” He went on to tell me that he wasn’t being tongue in cheek about it. He recognized that the reality was I knew where every blessed scrap of paper was in that office. I could retrieve anything you possibly wanted as quickly as any type A adminstrative assistant could from her nice linear labeled files. What I later learned is that some people are right brain dominant and need things visual accessible to them all the time. They are global and linear thinkers. That was me. People like me tend to file by pile. If that is you then I highly recommend you get a book called “Organizing for the Creative Person: Right-Brain Styles for Conquering Clutter, Mastering Time, and Reaching Your Goals” It is a book of organization tools and strategies for right brain dominant people. For those right-brained “uniquely organized” people what appears to be clutter to others may not be clutter at all, but right-brain order.

Hording clutter

Some people have clutter simply because they accumulate so much stuff that they genuinely have no place to put it all.  They struggle with letting go.  This can be indicative of a serious spiritual issue of trust and control.  If you are constantly clinging to things because you have “I might need it some day” syndrome, but someday seldom comes, then you very well may have a mindset of scarcity.   This is a mindset of distrust of God.  God is not a God of scarcity.  God is a God of abundance.  The disciples were sent forth with very little, yet God provided for them.  When you are clinging to something consider these two questions.  “Is this something that I could very readily borrow?”  “Do I actually foresee a need for this or am I hanging on to it ‘just in case’ ?”  Also, consider the very real possibility that someone else who is in need is lacking because of your unwillingness to let go.  Hoarding is a spiritual problem.  Excessive hoarding can actually be signs of mental illness.

Living to fast clutter

If you are too busy to address clutter, then your life is out of balance and you are too busy.  This can be a spiritual problem in that we can pack our lives so full that we are unable to effectively serve God.  If we are going to do all things as if we do them for Christ, as scripture urges us to do so, then we can’t be so busy that we only half do everything. I have several older post related to this that I recommend you read if you feel like you are constantly rushing and feel ineffective because you haven’t got the time do things well.  Check these posts out:

Resisting change clutter

When we go through significant change we can become overwhelmed and begin shutting down.  One of the failures of many self-help gurus is that they don’t tell you that if you go through significant change there is a pain phase, even if the change is positive.  You can become so overwhelmed in this phase that you begin to shut down and neglect life’s basics. Dirty dishes pile up in the sink.  Bills go unpaid.  Fast food bags are piling up in your car.  To learn other signs that you may be resisting change read 10 signs that  you are resisting change.
Take some time and think about your clutter.  Why or how does it accumulate?  How is it problematic for you?  What is it symptomatic of?

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  • I read an interesting book on birth order called, “The New Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are” by Dr. Kevin Leman. It was interesting and talked a lot about perfectionism. He suggested that clutter or something like a messy desk could be an example of perfectionism. It is kind of like a coping mechanism or a way for a perfectionist to “prove” that he/she is not a perfectionist. He explains it more eloquently than I can. So something else to add to the list of forms of clutter. 🙂 Great blog post!

    Angie 11 years ago

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