My friend Jennifer, who I sing with in church, just told me that she does this: At the start of the new year, she sets aside time every day for 50 days to get rid of 50 things.
I do spring clean. I go through drawers, closets, the basement, even my car’s trunk and my pocketbook, both of which I turn into depositories all year long. Like most of you, I keep very busy, so it is usually summer by the time I’m done. I always recycle what is in good condition.
Seems that setting aside time to do something every day could encourage habit-forming behavior. Doing things methodically and purposefully can create habit, maybe even create a lifestyle change.
It’s Lent, the season interpreted by Christians as a time for prayer, penance, repentance, giving to charity, and self-denial. We were taught to give up something we liked when I was a Catholic school girl. Like many kids, I gave up chocolate more than once. Maybe it’s the way a child’s mind works, but there seemed to be a great deal of focus on the denying part.
A few years ago I decided to change the focus and to instead fast from the negative and feast on the positive as suggested by one of the more modern interpretations of faith in action during the 40 days of Lent. It is not that I haven’t given up things since being that little girl in Brooklyn, later Queens, or that I think self-sacrifice is a bad thing given our culture of instant satisfaction and I’ve-got-to-keep-accumulating things.
I do think one of the season’s gifts is a reminder to live simply, prayerfully, mindfully, in communion with others, and as I’ve said before, in service of others. Surely, you don’t have to be a member of a religious congregation to live this way. Either way, it’s a challenge in today’s world.
In a piece in the March issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, Donna Brazile recounts how the passing of her father and her older sister within a few months of each other taught her that when you love something you should let it go. After sorting through her family’s things, she went home to D.C. to sort through her things. She decided to give away some things to family and to get rid of others, her vast music collection included. She digitized the tunes, so she could give her collection to the New Orleans Public Library which lost many records during Hurricane Katrina. What shakes her soul, she would share now, adding that she’s too busy getting rid of things to accumulate any more.
So to my Lenten offering this year, I’ll add fasting from buying more things to fill the space I will create on my 50-for-50 quest. My things fill several closets in my small house. My poor husband has three-quarters of only one closet. I should have no trouble getting to that number.