Every summer we decide we should clean out our storeroom. People with houses have basements, attics, and garages; we have this room. A couple years ago, we did actually make a pretty good stab at it. We took out all the boxes and assorted things we'd put in there over the years and deposited them in the center of our loft, which we usually keep empty.
It was amazing how much space that roomful of stuff took up. Soon we were hauling things down to the dumpster on the street, putting aside items for donations, and stacking boxes back in the storeroom (but neatly this time). We breathed a huge sigh of relief when the remaining things were put away. We realized how much we need an empty area in our living space as a physical reminder of openness.
Every year, one or two book titles strike us as particularly clever. One of our all-time favorites is It's Hard to Make a Difference When You Can't Find Your Keys by Marilyn Paul. We still smile thinking of all the things we could do if we could get everything organized. And we know we are not the only ones who struggle with stuff. One of the liveliest conversations ever held by our church's women's group was on the question "How do you deal with clutter?"
Gregg and Linda Krech of the Todo Institute in Vermont recommend an exercise to help you assess which things are really important to you. Select a small area of your kitchen or bedroom or even just a single drawer and clear everything out of it. Clean it completely. Then before you put any item back in the space, ask yourself if keeping it will raise the quality of your life in some way. If not, get rid of it. Make sure that you leave some empty space around the things you keep.
The most important part of this simple practice is the leaving of empty space. This is not just about drawers and closets. Many of us live lives that are way too cluttered with things, activities, obligations. We tend to fill everything up, including our calendars.
A friend of ours schedules blocks of time on his calendar for "Whatever Comes Up" (WCU). Even at the office, he leaves several hours a week open, knowing he'll need it for unplanned conversations with coworkers, phone calls, or a project that takes longer than he thought it would. Something will always come up, and unless we allow for such contingencies, the time to handle them will be taken out of our family time, our reading time, our exercise time, or our prayer time.
We need openness in our lives, breathing space, unfilled time. These function as reminders of new possibilities, signalling that we have room to grow, and that we can indeed grow.
In many religions, a weekly Sabbath is an uncluttered time when we can step out of our busy schedules and stop doing what we do the rest of the week. It is a day of rest, certainly, but also a sacred time when we open ourselves anew to the Divine Presence.
The same exercise you did for a drawer will work for this day. Start by imagining a completely open day. Then put back into that day only those activities that truly improve the quality of your spiritual life in some way.
Your Sabbath activities might include participating in a worship service, attending a small group meeting, having a special dinner with the family, calling friends, going for a walk, reading the Scriptures, listening to some sacred music, sitting alone in silent prayer. Remember, too, to leave some empty space on your Sabbath calendar for What Comes Up. Because when you devote a special day to your spiritual growth, something always will.