A Lenten Purge

This Lent, my family is embarking on a different type of sacrifice. I had heard of the 40 bags in 40 days challenge last year, but quickly dismissed it. In fact, I read about it again this year on Fat Tuesday and dismissed it again. Anyway who knows me or has visited my house knows that housekeeping is not my strong point. Neither is neatness. I had the desk in elementary school that was overflowing with papers. My locker in high school was a health hazard. I once had to explain to a boss that even though my desk looked like a tornado hit it, I knew where everything was and did, in fact, have every task under control. Anyone else see a theme here? My house is much the same. It’s not that I don’t like neat places. In fact, when I go to clean, neat houses, I feel a small pang of jealousy. Truly, though, I don’t know how to live that way. I need visual reminders of what I need to do. If it is out of my sight, it is truly out of my mind. My husband and two children are much the same. We all have the messy gene. Therefore, we coexist rather peacefully. However, the simple truth is that we have too much stuff and some of it needs to go.

The point of 40 bags in 40 days is to get rid of 40 bags of stuff out of your house during Lent. Of course, donated items count as well. As I was looking around my house on Ash Wednesday, I had the sudden feeling that this was something I desperately needed to do. I grabbed a couple of trash bags and explained the concept to my children. I expected a great deal of resistance, especially from my older son who likes to keep everything that crosses his path. Amazingly, they got into the project. That first day, we cleared two bags of items out of their playroom. I was so excited! The project was off to a great start. The next day, I started tackling the kitchen, and my husband started on our bedroom closet (despite the fact that he hates disposing of items as well).

The beauty of doing one bag a day is that it is doable. One of the things that paralyzes me when facing the clutter is that there is so much of it. I can’t do it all at one time, not even one room. Yet, I can do one bag. When I have filled up one bag, I feel like I have accomplished my goal for the day. I cross it off on my things to do list and up the total of bags completed.

Truly, I don’t know if we will be able to fill 40 bags or not. As of this writing, we are at seven. Still, I am excited and happy with the progress so far. Admittedly, most of the items cleaned out so far have been in cabinets and closets. Looking around my house, no one would see much of a difference. Still, I know that it is getting done. I’m giving away as much as I can so that I am helping others as well as cleaning my home.

Lent calls us to strip away all that is keeping us from God. Too much stuff can definitely be part of the problem. Lent is a good time to physically remove some of the things that we don’t need anymore. I’m embracing this Lenten project with enthusiasm and wonder where removing 40 bags of excess will leave me. Like so many other things in my life, it is a work in progress.


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