Last week I took full advantage of free time and an empty house and dove into a project I’d been contemplating for quite some time. Some people might call it “spring cleaning” and in many respects it was that. But my sorting and donating, streamlining and simplifying enjoyed a spiritual impetus: I long for increased quality time in my life; time that includes self-expression and moments devoted to meaningful communication with family members, friends and God.
I want to stop allowing the tedious and utterly boring tasks in my life to weary me, cause frustration and rob me of my natural enthusiasm and creativity. Time is short. It’s time to live well.
For years I’ve accepted as fact the notion that time spent with God will positively influence the way I approach problems and increase my joy. Time spent with God also helps place order and reason, compassion and hope into our daily experiences.
And yet, to spend more time with God — thinking about him, quietly communicating with him and seeking him as I go about my business each day — I must have fewer items and issues cluttering my thoughts and clamoring for my attention. I think best when there is order around me. I imagine you do as well.
I don’t want to be hand washing pots at 9:30 in the evening. I don’t want to have to move a pile of unopened mail off my kitchen table and over to an available spot on a kitchen counter in order to accommodate a sit-down family meal. I don’t want to head out the door, anticipating a fun and impromptu adventure, only to discover the car gas tank is registering empty. And I certainly don’t want to greet a friend at the front door and worry that he will see a pile of dirty cloths that caught air and landed at the bottom of the stairs. These kinds of real-life situations lead to frustration. Feelings of inadequacy. Irritability. Conflict.
This week, faithful living is practical and sensible so we can make better connections with the real yet unseen.
Use what’s there
If you enjoy hobbies, I bet you have supplies piled somewhere. Put a halt to all future purchases until you have sorted, compiled and tossed all unusable items. You can even apply this methodology to your pantry, refrigerator or freezer. Clear it, sort it, organize it, clean it, use it, gift it or toss it. Declare a “Clean Out the Refrigerator Night” and eat up all the odds and ends fresh enough for healthy consumption. Then plan a week’s worth of meals, grab coupons if you’re so inclined, and shop with a list in hand and a stomach that’s full. You’ll spend less.
Don’t let it pile up
Don’t allow things to get out of hand. This means dirty dishes go directly into the dishwasher and not into the sink unless it’s filled with hot, soapy water and you’ve got a minute to quickly do some hand washing. Apply this same concept to other areas of your life. Sort the mail daily. Fold and put away clothes as soon as they come out of the dryer. Sort your e-mail inbox. Daily attention to small build-ups trump infrequently attended mountains of mess.
Assign a place for everything
Everything and everybody needs a place to call home and managing all the stuff we so easily accumulate is much easier if there are identifiable locations in your home and office. Two of my best purchases are a label maker and shredder. I also watch for container sales. Create a zone and be certain everybody in your household is well-informed.
One task, one day at a time
If you are like me and can easily feel overwhelmed, stop worrying about the big picture and take a look at one project in one room and no further. Decide how much time you’ll allot to a task, set the timer and dig in. Turn off the TV if you’re easily distracted. Shorter, intense spurts of attention will help you work through your list, however long.
List and sort
If I have a lot of things to do I write everything down as it comes to me. Then I sort the tasks. If, for example, they involve trips into town I put my stops into a logical order and treat myself with a coffee when I’m finished. I also listen to a favorite radio program and take my chihuahua buddy to keep me amused.
I can’t quite believe it myself, but there are more great ideas I’d love to share with you. Good thing we’ve got more space next week. In the meantime, choose a strategy and give it a try. Your enthusiasm will overflow onto those around you. You may even find a peaceful stretch of time to give God some of your time.
Joan Bay Klope is a freelance writer and speaker who makes her home on Whidbey Island. Her award-winning column has run for 12 years in Western Washington newspapers. E-mail comments and speaking requests to firstname.lastname@example.org.