Recently my six-year-old daughter gave me a perfect illustration of “too much.” Yesterday I was putting a few things away in her room and made the mistake of opening her bedside table drawer. It actually clattered with all of the random pieces of junk rolling around in it. So I took the opportunity to…ahem….take care of some things. I pulled everything out, laid it on her bed, sorted the important (a few books and her precious blanket) from the not important (broken crayons, dried up markers, ancient party favors, dozens of scraps of paper….); dumped the trash and put back what remained. I always wonder, when I tackle a job like that, what the response will be: Mom! This looks great! Or Mom! Where’s all my stuff!?!
I got my answer that night as I put her to bed. As she danced around the room getting ready, she looked at me with slightly accusing eyes and demanded, “I want to know who did THAT,” as she pointed to her drawer.
“What?” I asked, as though I had no idea what she was talking about.
“THAT!” she responded. “That drawer was full of stuff, and now it’s almost empty. It used to have all this stuff in it, and look,” she pulled it open, “now it only has books and my blanket.”
“Well…..what used to be in there?”
“Lots of stuff!” she cried.
I started to become slightly concerned….after all, maybe there was a treasure in there that she was truly looking for. It was okay, the stuff hadn’t gone far; it was still retrievable, so I asked her, “What are you missing, sweet girl?”
I’ll never forget the look on her face as she froze, mouth slightly open in an “o,” eyes round and wide. A pause. “Nothing!” she finally said, bursting into a smile.
I explained that I’d tried to leave her important things for her, and cleared out all the junk, and she responded joyfully that I had left what was most important (the most important thing in the world is her blanket), and that she didn’t know what else was in there anyway. She then went back to dancing around her room as she got ready for bed.
That is the kind of uncluttering I’m talking about. The kind where we’re so buried by stuff we don’t even know what we have; the kind where if it were gone, we wouldn’t even miss it. The kind that drowns the things that are truly important to us and rattles and clatters around our lives and homes, getting moved from here to there because it has no home, because it doesn’t belong. The stuff that we don’t even miss when it goes away. The stuff that makes us want to dance when it’s gone. That is what I want to expel from my life. That is what I want to encourage others to expel from theirs.