Written By Sherlyn Ang, Singapore
A year ago, before Marie Kondo made her star appearance on Netflix, two books changed my life— Goodbye, Things by Fumio Sasaki and of course, the currently-trending Spark Joy by Marie Kondo. A friend had recommended these two books to me, which inspired me and got me started on my declutter-and-live-minimally journey.
My parents can testify that I’ve been a messy person all my life. I used to have a signboard placed on my table, which read—“This mess is a desk”—for indeed, I often could not see the table top of my two-metre long desk.
Even my floor was covered all over with bags and random items. Once in a while, when I couldn’t stand the mess any longer, I’d spend an entire day packing things away and cleaning up the mess.
But lo and behold, a couple of weeks later, my table was in a mess again.
My journey started in January 2018—a week of major clean up resulted in my wardrobe, bookshelf, stationery corner, bags, shoes, being reduced to a quarter of what I originally had.
The extent of the change I had undergone and the new perspectives I held about possessions brought about a certain kind of freedom that I had not experienced before. To my surprise, it turned out to have a positive impact on my spiritual life as well.
Here are three ways decluttering changed my spiritual life:
1. I had more time on my hands and felt more rested in God
There was no need to spend time rummaging through my clothes to decide what to wear. My table was so empty that I no longer had the nagging thought at the back of my mind that I had a task undone—pack my table.
The new-found space on my table and my neatly packed cupboards inspired me to take out my art materials to embark on creative projects. My room had become a conducive space for me to return home after a day’s work to be still before the Lord, rest in Him, pray, read the Bible and journal.
2. My identity in the Lord was strengthened
Some things were more difficult to discard than others, especially things that seemed to form part of my identity. For example, books that had shaped my values, handwritten cards from my childhood friends, souvenirs bought from memorable holidays, medals won at competitions, gifts received from family and friends, my journals and art pieces. It felt as if throwing these things away meant throwing part of my memory and my identity away.
But God showed me that He was the one who had used these things to shape me, and that He is the One in whom I find my identity. I am still who I am, even without possessing these physical items. Letting go of the items was also a way of moving ahead, not to hold on too tightly to the things of the past but to be open to new ways that God might change and shape me.
Now, I no longer look out for souvenirs to buy when I’m on holidays. What matters most is the experience, the people I travel with and God’s abundant blessings.
3. It taught me that godliness with contentment is great gain
There is much joy in having less. I keep only the things that I like (i.e., those that “spark joy”) and need. In owning fewer things, I learned to treasure them more. The need for possessing more and more material goods became less important. The little I had was more than enough. Clothes were no longer bought on impulse just because they were cheap.
I stopped accepting free gifts and items that I knew would end up as clutter or that did not bring joy. I found myself becoming less envious of the possessions of others. In decluttering my physical life, it made way for me to focus on what was truly important—living a godly life and building God’s Kingdom.
Some months back, my grandfather came into my room and asked in all seriousness, “Is this a new table?”
“No, grandpa, it’s the same table!” I laughed in amusement—he must never had seen my table top all these years.
I’m proud to say that it’s the first time in my life that my room has been free from clutter for more than a year. It was a life-changing experience. Now that I’ve found the joy of living simply, I never want to go back to my days of mess and clutter.
Would I recommend Marie Kondo’s book and Netflix series to others? Yes. Learn from the good and useful bits of it, leave out the parts about speaking to inanimate objects, and you’d be good to go.
Editor’s Note: Can’t get enough of Marie Kondo and decluttering? Here’s another article for you.