THE BLOG
08/09/2014 10:54 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

6 Gains When You Declutter and Donate

2014-08-06-BostonTerriersindrawers7.jpgI've almost completed my annual summer clean out. I'm taking it one drawer or cupboard at a time.

My home isn't messy. In fact, it's pretty neat and organized. Still, some of the well-used drawers and cupboards, closets and crawl spaces manage to get cluttered over time. I suspect this has something to do with having a growing family, busy schedules and the inevitable accumulation of stuff.

I love the feeling of an organized room. When the drawers open with pride you can feel it even when they're shut. And I've found there's a mental connection to this physical cleaning out process. A connection that I would venture to say has a vital spiritual component and contributes to one's overall well-being.

Here are (at least) six benefits I've found with the decluttering process:

1. Willingness to easily let things go that weigh you down.

2. Knowing what's necessary and what's extraneous, even frivolous.

3. Cultivating resilience.

3. Seeing life as less attached to things and more to the ideas behind them.

4. Being more generous in spirit by allowing others the pleasure of finding something useful for their lives rather than holding onto an object that is now unneeded in your own.

5. Eliminating the crowded spaces to allow for breathing room -- a space that welcomes the new.

6. Becoming less of a consumer by giving up the need to possess and focusing more on generosity of spirit.

I've taken my decluttering inspiration from a well-used spiritual guidebook: "Gladness to leave the false landmarks and joy to see them disappear -- this disposition helps to precipitate the ultimate harmony." Mary Baker Eddy also had this to say: "Willingness to become as a little child, and to leave the old for the new, renders thought receptive of the advanced idea."

As I've thought about it, false landmarks are like outgrown clothes, old memories that don't serve us well. When I am in the process of sorting through things to give away, I often ask myself, "Am I holding onto this out of guilt or the feeling that even if I don't use it, I don't want anyone else to use it because it's mine? Or do I feel I might need it someday, even if not today?" If so, I realize those are usually not good indications for keeping something.

A child can't help but give away and leave behind outgrown clothes, even toys, because their rapidly changing steps and stages of experience necessitate it. But who's to say adults can't express the same willingness so that we might also experience more harmony and progress in our lives?

My summer project at first produced half a dozen bags of give-away clothes for my local donation store. The day I made my donation, I stopped for errands on the way home. Just as I was about checked out a woman ran up to the cashier and said, "I'm so sorry, I realized I ran out with this item before paying for it..." She held it up and with hardly a thought, I asked the cashier to add the item to my basket so she wouldn't have to stand in line again.

Her item wasn't expensive, but that wasn't the point when she opened her wallet and I declined her repayment. The point was the ease at which this transaction took place -- and the gift of giving willingly without wanting anything in return. It was my gift as much as hers.

It's easy to get sidetracked into thinking the stuff we own makes up our identity, creates comfort, and brings us satisfaction. But true satisfaction comes when we place less emphasis on the things in our lives and more on the spiritual qualities that we carry with us and that make our lives lighter, happier -- and yes, healthier.