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COMING OF AGE | Take time to declutter before school starts

Decluttering frees us to say “yes” to what’s most important

Summer vacation is a time for relaxation, quality time with family and friends and activities to enjoy the moment and refresh our souls. One way to renew our spirits is to dedicate time serving others and focus on developing different skills. For my family, summer “renewal” included decluttering and letting go of all the things that we accumulated during the year.

Before deciding what we needed for the new school year, my siblings and I would take stock of what we had, clean the clutter, donate what we did not need and recycle the rest. You’d be surprised at how much we collected without realizing it.

I was reminded of the importance of decluttering as I was heading to the bus stop one day. My backpack broke and I almost tripped with things falling from it. As I separated my possessions in plastic bags while the bus passed me by, I realized part of the problem.

I had not emptied my backpack before collecting more items on a trip. I was carrying needless things around and they broke the backpack. Many of the items inside were for “just in case,” things to read when I had time, things I offered to carry for others or things I could have left behind.

Most of it just added extra weight and made things harder to find. I had to take stock of what I was lugging around and declutter.

This decluttering tradition can be applied to other aspects of life. Often we accumulate stuff, thoughts, worries or useless things that are just taking up space in our rooms, homes, minds and hearts. These attachments make it harder to function to the best of our ability. The mess keeps us from being grateful for God’s gifts. Sometimes, the clutter even covers up or pushes out things we actually need.

Simplifying and taking stock of what we are carrying might seem like a daunting task, but summer is the perfect time to tackle the clutter little by little. Getting rid of what is taking up space at home can give us clarity — and make it easier to stay organized.

Less clutter gives us a realistic view of what matters most (and what really does not matter). Decluttering frees us to say “yes” to what’s most important.

Once we have cleared the unnecessary junk, we can take other steps for positive change. Although we can make an effort to be better anytime, we realize something is keeping us from being the person God wants us to be. Decluttering before the new school year gives us a better chance to grow into this person. Now is the time to make room for God in our lives.

New beginnings are opportunities to let go of the things we are attached to that are not helpful to growing closer to God (and our true self). After simplifying our possessions and letting go of our attachments, He can take up more room — if we invite Him.

“We need to ask the help of God’s spirit so that we can learn, grow and discover in the coming year,” Holy Cross Father John Jenkins told students at the University of Notre Dame at a Mass of the Holy Spirit years ago. These Masses have been long-standing traditions at many Catholic universities, where students, parents, faculty and administrators pray so the Holy Spirit enlighten, strengthen, comfort and guide them in the new academic year.

Whether you are transitioning to college, changing schools or just going to the next grade, a new school year is an opportunity to start anew. Getting rid of your mental and physical clutter this summer can make room for the new challenges and exciting opportunities God has in store for you.

Negro Chin is bilingual associate editor at Maryknoll Magazine.

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