Kim Shippey is a regular guest blogger for Ingrid Peschke’s blog Changing Tides of Health. As an international journalist who has relocated with his family many times during his career, he offers helpful insights when he writes about reducing clutter. Although the treatment center for hoarding he mentions is not in Southern California, we all can recognize the benefits of letting go.
A noticeable effort is being made these days to improve mental health among people of all ages, cultures, and communities. For example, depression and its effect on health, on people’s well-being, and even on their physical condition, has been the focus of much research. Less well known is the attention being given to many other psychological disorders–including something called “compulsive hoarding syndrome.”
There’s even a center for its treatment in Sacramento, California, which was established by a clinical psychologist and social worker, Robin Zasio. She and her team help people who have difficulty in letting go, “helping them to begin making decisions that support both their emotional and physical wellness.”
And there is an increasing flow of books available to help people gain sound perspectives. One of the most helpful books on hoarding to have come my way in recent weeks was written not by a psychologist but by a mother of four grown children, who for more than 30 years has worked in family ministry in her church, Susan V. Vogt.
This slim book (her sixth), titled Blessed by Less: Clearing Your Life of Clutter by Living Lightly (Loyola Press, 2013), describes what a year of giving stuff away taught Vogt about life, relationships, and what’s really important. As the blurb puts it: Cluttered closets. Crowded minds. How do we begin to lighten our loads?
The book’s 122 pages are packed with practical tips and spiritual wisdom, including ways to consume and hang on to less, become more generous, let go of burdens and intangibles, waste less, save energy, worry less, laugh more, and, as you win, eliminate the “smug factor.”–
Taking a more spiritual perspective, Vogt says, can lead to abundant blessings we might otherwise miss. The search for God and a spiritual core is universal. She writes that the “deeply-rooted instinct to live more lightly upon this earth transcends any one religion and abides in conscientious people of good will.
”Vogt speaks of the role played by prayer in the culling process, and doesn’t hesitate to share passages of Scripture that have helped her worry less and have enriched her own increasingly uncluttered spiritual journey.
By happy coincidence, one of the passages she quotes (from First Corinthians, chapter 13) was key in restoring perspective, peace, and well-being to my own life when I was required not just to downsize my home, but relocate to another country thousands of miles away. I had to learn in a hurry to be less preoccupied with things and center my attention more on thinking — wise, God-inspired thinking.
I had to sort and ultimately abandon decades of hoarded material — from rusty bikes to sagging armchairs, to thousands of books I believed I could never live without! — belonging not only to me and my wife, but also to five children. Our peace of mind and even our physical health took some severe knocks until we realized fully that no matter where we lived, and how many our material possessions, what would “abide” (among many other spiritual qualities) were “faith, hope, and love.” And they would always be plentifully available.
Eventually we learned — with gratitude — the lessons that Vogt was to provide 25 years later in her book, which is a good read for anyone.