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There are two word that every older person dreads. Every time we hear them or use them, we realize that our lives are transitioning to a different stage. The words are “downsizing” and "decluttering".

Downsizing is often the prelude to moving to a smaller home, or into a retirement residence, or a nursing home. It may well be our idea, as we find our home is too large to manage, or it may the result of our children “suggesting” that it is time for us to make such a life change.

Downsizing is hard but so is “decluttering”, which often precedes downsizing (but can also be a separate activity). I came to the conclusion a long time ago that materialism is a mixture of blessing and curse. We enjoy the things we have, but we are also addicted to them and find them hard to give up. I think it was Dave Ramsay, the finance writer, who once observed that, “We buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like!” That’s materialism summed up right there. But if the pandemic has taught us anything, surely it is that we need our personal relationships more than we need more “stuff’. I didn’t miss my stuff during the lockdowns, but I did miss my family, friends, and church family! How about you?

The very act of downsizing and decluttering teach us that giving away our “stuff” is much harder to do when there are memories attached to it, and that is so true of many things we have. The china set I inherited from my parents. The dress I wore at my wedding. The pictures my children brought home from school. The photographs of my childhood, full of people whose names I don’t remember. However, much I want to “Marie Kondo” my life, it is so much easier to read her book than it is to follow her.

 I’m at the age where “downsizing and decluttering” are a necessity and the brutal truth is that there is very little I have that my children want, including their grandmother’s china set! They certainly don’t want my 1500 book library, or the “knick knacks” we have collected over the years from our travels. Honestly, I am tired of dusting things, tripping over them, or moving them around. A simpler, less cluttered lifestyle, suits this stage of my life. I’ve also learned in recent months that downsizing and decluttering can be a spiritual exercise in so many ways and should be embraced as such. Her is a prayer written by my friend and colleague Katherine Burgess, from a book of prayers we coauthored in 2019. It speaks to me. Perhaps it will become your prayer as well.

Lord, I come to you this day seeking courage. Courage to do what must be done. Courage to sort out the messes. Courage to get rid of whatever it is I do not need. Things like books I will never read again, clothes I will never wear again, dishes I will never use again, gadgets I have collected over the years that now sit unused in kitchen drawers. Objects of art that collect dust on a shelf. And let me not forget the feelings that I no longer need. Anger from a long-ago hurt. Sadness from a long-ago pain. Worry from a long-ago fright. Those are much harder to remove from my life. They surface at the strangest times, when I cannot sleep in the wee, small hours. When I am sitting quietly. When I am in the shower. When I am driving alone. Help me to put them behind me. To move into the future with a clear heart and mind so that I can start tomorrow, start afresh, and shine like the sun. 

Amen.   © Katherine Burgess. Used with permission. 

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