One year for Lent, I gave up Pop-Tarts.
Yeah, it seems stupid. Scratch that, it definitely was stupid. But at the time, it was a big sacrifice for me, the high schooler who ate two frosted brown sugar cinnamon toaster pastries and a big glass of milk every morning for breakfast. (I have since stopped eating both of those things thankfully.)
Giving up something for Lent, the season before Easter in the Church Year, is a common practice, sometimes known as fasting. People give up something that's a sacrifice for them:
- Soda (Pop? Coke? Let’s not get into this now.)
- Social media
Other people take an additive approach to Lent and change up their daily schedule by reading a special devotion, spending fifteen minutes in dedicated prayer, or memorizing a Bible verse.
Now, of course, you don't have to give up or do anything for Lent. And even if you do, it doesn't make you more pious or worthy or holy. But intentionally participating in a Lenten practice can strengthen your faith, especially in understanding the depth of your sin.
Bottom line: The point of giving up something for Lent is to make more space in your life for God or make you more aware of your dependency on Him.
This year, what if instead of giving up something for Lent, we gave stuff away too?
Conveniently, Lent lines up with spring cleaning, where, if you're anything like my mom, you spend a weekend scrubbing walls and baseboards (one habit I didn't inherit from her) and cleaning out closets.
Do double duty this year and clean out your house and deepen your faith, all in one fell swoop. But before you fully dive in, let's go into it with the right mind-set.
Before you do anything else, you need to identify areas of your life where you need to get rid of excess. These should be areas where you can stand to get rid of quite a few items.
Maybe you're in a busy season of life and are only able to tackle one area—that's okay! No matter what, pick areas that are especially cluttered or will require sacrifice. (So don't just pick the easiest place!)
After you've picked an area (or a few) to go through, take a few moments to think about or journal why you chose those areas.
Is it because you ran out of hangers in your closet? Because your kitchen junk drawer just won't close anymore, no matter how much you shake the contents around? Because you spend more time choosing what to wear than you do reading your Bible?
Your reasoning for picking your decluttering areas might have been practical, but it should also have a spiritual component (after all, it is Lent).
That's not to say that these areas of your life are inherently sinful, or that you'll automatically conquer your sin by throwing out an old sweater. But you should seek to find the root sin that is breeding excess in your life. Here's an example of how to work through finding a root sin, using the example of clothes.
Okay, I have too many clothes. I like dressing fashionably. That's not inherently a sin, but I am putting a lot of stock into how I look and how people perceive me. Why do I care so much about what people think about me? I guess it's because I think their opinion of me is more important than God's, and I'm not confident that God is enough for me. And I keep buying new clothes. I have money in my budget, but it could be used to support a child in need or benefit a nonprofit instead. I'm putting my own wants over the needs of others. I'm selfish and greedy. I'm not content with what I have.
Root sin: Discontent
As you go through Lent, pray specifically about this sin. Search for Bible verses that will encourage you and remind you of God's will for how you should live, and post them where you'll see them every day.
Identify Future Plan
One of the greatest challenges of Lent (like any kind of detox or cleanse) is that most people immediately fall back into their old habits once Easter hits. To avoid this, come up with some kind of post-Lent action plan that will help you keep up your good habits, or stop you from falling back into your old bad habits.
If you're committed to not accumulating any more stuff, make a rule for yourself that if you buy a new sweater/book/knickknack, you have to give one away. Or set quarterly reminders in your phone to go through the stuff in your house so you're regularly getting rid of excess.
Do a seven-day decluttering!
Use this free guide to help you declutter seven different areas of your life.