Balancing the urge to acquire possessions against the desire to live simply is part of an eternal, never-ending debate. These days, has materialism become the dominant ‘religion’?
Covid-19 has offered us the time and opportunity to de-clutter. The question is: Have we used it well?
During the pandemic last year, I found I could not clear out my possessions, because the thrift shopswere overloaded with the clutter of thousands of other people.
Yet here we are in the summer of 2023 with shops opened up again for quite some time and consumers tempted to ramp up buying. Consumption, you might say, is taking off again. (And might be closing again?)
What is it in human beings that causes us to be so attached to acquiring stuff and surrounding ourselves with it? I once had a neighbor who told me he collected all sorts of things in his house and built a kind of circular wall around himself: It made him feel secure. Yet it seems more like a kind of illness to depend on material possessions to feel good – or safe.
Could this be the result of spiritual poverty in the human soul?
When we see the soul as living energy that operates in and through matter, and understand that the soul has many beautiful qualities, we can identify one quality that is closely connected with the impulse to acquire clutter, or to de-clutter. This is purity.
So if we are tempted to collect and possess material goods, what we are really doing is trying to satisfy limited needs. This, in turn, allows our purity to decrease.
Conversely, if we turn to spirituality we begin to strengthen our inner resources again – and then we start to de-clutter.
De-cluttering needs to happen on two interconnected levels, the physical and the spiritual.
Physical clutter happens:
- In our body, as we put on weight and/or accumulate fat around the internal organs, waste on many levels
- As we produce waste (e.g. plastic in the oceans, pollution in the air, satellites and debris in space)
- When we produce, sell and buy material goods
Non-physical clutter includes:
- The waste and negative thoughts we create, and convictions we cling to
- Words, especially those that are meaningless or negative
- Actions that give rise to problems; criminal actions, pollutional actions etcetc
- Relationships and connections that are superficial in nature, and do not maintain harmony and love between us. Social media have brought about an explosion in communication without safeguarding its quality
- Our dreams! Yes, even our dreams can be filled with nonsense. The more the soul accumulates positivity and purity, the purer and less frequent my dreams become.
De-cluttering in all these areas is the challenge of the age.
On the physical level:
Marie Kondo, a Japanese ‘guru’ in the art of de-cluttering, has studied, and taken, the practice to a high level. Some of the principles she has adopted will contribute to leading a more spiritual life: It is notable that the act of physical de-cluttering is a way to build our virtues and qualities. It is, in fact, a very spiritual process.
One approach is to focus on the things we would like to keep when there is a connection with the heart. The way to do this is to take any item we propose to discard, hold it in our hands, feel its presence and then ask ourselves: Does this spark joy? Does it make me happy? When we are truly connected with ourselves, we can quickly make the decision to keep it or not. If we decide to say goodbye to it, then we do so respectfully, thanking it for having served us well, and finding a way to sell, give to charity or recycle whatever it is we no longer wish to keep.
Another powerful and attractive way to de-clutter is to sort possessions into categories, thereby bringing order into the whole process. Again, the KonMari method is a helpful guide to ordering the sequence we follow, beginning with the easiest category:
- Assorted possessions
- Items of sentimental value
The approach is thorough and persuasive – it takes us along with it, through repeated rounds of de-cluttering until everything falls into place. The more we do it, the easier it becomes, so that eventually we make our decisions quickly and easily.
All of the above is about material objects, but it can also be applied to the body including diet, colon cleansing, breathing techniques, sport. There are so many possibilities.
On the non-physical level:
There are so many aspects to this, including meditation, mindfulness, mind over matter. One form of meditation, whichfocuses on increasing the purity of the soul, is Raja Yoga Meditation taught by the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University.
“…. Taking time to reflect each day on how closely connected the human family is with the natural world will make it clear that the awareness we hold and the actions we take as a result of that vision ripple across the planet, touching all of its inhabitants……’’
DadiJanki advocated living a simple life and stated that de-cluttering would improve our relationship with God*; in this she anticipated Marie Kondo.
Utrecht, June 2023
Brahma Kumaris The Netherlands