We’re drowning in clutter.

Does it feel like your life is filled with clutter? If it does, you’re not alone. In fact, according to recent statistics on clutter, our obsession with stuff is costing Americans time and money — resources that most of us would rather spend on other things.

  • We wear 20 percent of our clothing 80 percent of the time
  • Twenty-five percent of two-car garages don’t have room to park cars in them
  • There is a direct correlation between cortisol (stress) levels and the density of objects in our houses
  • Approximately 10 percent of American households rent a storage unit for their overflow possessions, at a cost of $1,000 or more a year
  • Eliminating clutter would reduce the amount of time you spend cleaning your home by 40 percent
  • Nearly a third of Americans report that cleaning their closets is more satisfying than sex

You can probably identify at least a half dozen areas of your life that need decluttering right now. Like it or not, none of us are immune from clutter and the longer you ignore it, the more the stuff you own will feel like it’s starting to own you.

Decluttering is a spiritual necessity

Clutter is an unavoidable side effect of consumer culture. When we declutter, we make a conscious decision to turn over a new leaf and reject the misguided notion that things could ever lead to happiness or personal fulfillment.

But material things aren’t the only source of clutter in our lives. Non-material sources of clutter are often more spiritually damaging than the boxes of clothes stacked in your spare room or the piles of plastic toys taking up space in your garage. Donating or discarding unused possessions is a good start, but don’t stop there. Use it as a catalyst to begin the more difficult process of decluttering your soul.

  • Regrets — A lot of us go through life carrying a bag full of regrets. Whether it’s things we did or things we didn’t do, regrets weigh us down — just like the clutter in our houses. Worse yet, they hold us back from trying new things or becoming better versions of ourselves.
  • Unhealthy Goals — There’s nothing wrong with having goals. But sometimes our goals can become unhealthy, especially if our ambitions drive us to achieve things that don’t line up with our spiritual values. For example, when the desire to earn a living morphs into an obsession to become filthy rich, it’s time to clean house.
  • Relationships — Purging relationships from your life gets dicey. I’m not talking about cleaning up your friends list on Facebook. I’m talking about distancing yourself from friends or even family members that are no longer supportive or represent a positive influence in your life. Sometimes you have to walk away from those relationships to move forward, especially if the relationship has turned toxic.

How to declutter your soul

If it’s any consolation, Jesus was a big fan of decluttering. In Matthew 10, he sent the disciples out without any money or spare clothes; in Luke 14, he told his followers that taking up the Cross might require them to “declutter” their relationships and leave behind family members.

Although you probably won’t have to do anything that radical, there are several things you can do to declutter your soul and improve your spiritual health.

  1. Take inventory. Spend a few minutes each day in prayer and meditation, evaluating the material and non-material clutter in your life. If it isn’t useful anymore or if it’s weighing you down and holding you back, add it to the list of things that are ripe for removal.
  2. Create a plan. Create a plan to eliminate each area or piece of clutter from your life. If you can, donate material possessions to a local charity. For non-material clutter, consider practical steps you can take to change unhealthy behaviors, relationships or obsessions.
  3. Don’t replace old clutter with new clutter. Avoid replacing unhealthy goals or relationships with new ones, at least not right away. Over time, you may discover removing negative things from your life has created space for positive ones. But for now, focus on enjoying the freedom of living your life without unnecessary burdens or distractions.