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Decluttering: Asian Spirituality in Action

Decluttering does not only mean to keep our surroundings organized and free of useless things. It also means clearing up our heads of useless information, worries, anxieties, and the best way to do this is by awareness and meditation.


cology has become drastically important vis-à-vis the catastrophic consequences of climate change. Yet, in spite of this more “global” awareness, we often fail to take care of our most immediate environment: our homes, our rooms, our working table. We usually live and work in very limited space: the things which occupy that space have a big role in influencing our mood, thinking and lifestyle. A messy working environment is often the mirror of a messy heart.

Around ten years ago some popular books by Japanese authors like Shin Katazukejutsu and Marie Kondo have introduced many people to the art of “decluttering.” The basic idea is not to let our limited living space be engulfed with unnecessary and unused staff (a clutter), which has to get ridden of. The necessary and useful objects then have to be kept in order and tidy. 

The point is not simply to “throw away” things and live with less, but to discover the relationship we hold with the things we have. The objects we judge to have a positive value for ourselves in the present moment have to be kept in a proper place and in a proper way. While we do the physical work of decluttering, we also set the proper conditions to face the messiness of our heart and get the energy (and courage!) to face it. The outer decluttering leads to an inner decluttering. 

As a matter of fact, decluttering is not only about objects, but also about relationships. Decluttering in the area of relationships does not mean to isolate oneself from negative people (it would be impossible and not charitable). It means instead to face the emotional burden within our relational life and take a decision/action about it. It may mean to strengthen the boundaries within a certain relationship, but also to forgive someone or put full closure to the relationships that are no longer in your life. 

Finally, our thoughts need decluttering too. Once, while explaining decluttering to some students, one of them underlined that the most difficult place to keep decluttered is our head: we are constantly bombarded by so much information and different kinds of stimuli that our brain is always on the brim of being overloaded. 

In my experience, the best way to declutter our thinking is prayer, and more specifically meditation. Only the contemplative attitude of awareness of the present moment, acceptance of the reality, of trust in God and of gratitude for our life can help us to live unencumbered by unwanted baggage.  

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