Minimalism is a popular movement, and you’ve probably de-cluttered your own home at some point.
But have you ever considered de-cluttering your soul?
What does that even mean?
I heard about this concept on Emily P. Freeman’s podcast, The Next Right Thing.
As Emily states, “Joshua [Becker] pointed out that we all have regular, seasonal input of stuff into our homes, Christmas gifts, school papers, various decorations depending on the celebration, but we don’t often have regular output. As a result, the clutter builds up inside our houses.
Just like my home, my soul receives frequent input with infrequent output.
Input [is] everywhere. In the midst of this highly stimulating exterior world, I made a discovery about my interior world, the input is automatic. So where is the output? How am I regularly getting rid of the soul clutter I no longer need?
All the things that come in, the difficult conversations, the suspicious glance that someone might give us, the thing we said we wish we could take back. All those things are constantly happening every day all day. Where is the output? Those things are sticky and they stick in our souls. How are we letting them go?”
Now, obviously we can’t de-clutter our souls in the same way that we can eliminate unnecessary items from our homes. I can’t throw an unpleasant emotion in the trash or pluck a few unwanted thoughts out of my brain and drop them off at Goodwill.
This begs the question: how is it even possible to “de-clutter” our souls?
In today’s world of social media, digital screens everywhere, and constant demands for our attention, the amount of “input” we experience on a daily basis is certainly excessive.
I don’t believe that there is a way to actually eliminate soul clutter – there is no “output”. Instead, I would argue that the best solution is to reduce the number of inputs for a while.
How do we do this? Here are five ideas!
Do a Digital Detox
We receive so many inputs from screens (computers, iPhones, TV’s) all day long. Did you know that the average adult checks her phone 150 times each day?
Let that sink in for a minute.
If you did a digital detox, you could drastically reduce the number of inputs you receive in a given day. Try something small, like giving up Facebook for a few days, or something more ambitious, like unplugging from technology completely while you go camping for a week.
I tend to get addicted to social media, so I sometimes ban myself from Facebook or Instagram for a couple weeks (or a few months) at a time.
Go for a walk outside.
Walking on a treadmill at the gym likely won’t have the same effect because, as Emily describes on her podcast, there are inputs everywhere at the gym.
When I work out, I can hear people next to me chatting, the TV screen on the treadmill next to me blaring news, a runner breathing hard, a guy grunting while he lifts heavy weights, and loud music coming from the exercise class nearby.
Input is everywhere.
To de-clutter your soul, go for a walk outside…ideally in a quiet, peaceful location. My favorite time to go for walks is early in the morning before everyone else is awake and it gets too busy and loud.
If you can find a pretty location to walk, even better. Take in the beautiful scenery and simply enjoy it. Leave the headphones at home – you can listen to music or a podcast later.
This isn’t the time for that.
One of my favorite ways to enjoy stillness is to go to a yoga class. Yoga forces you to slow down, focus on your breath, and get comfortable being uncomfortable.
These are all useful skills that can be applied to many areas of life.
Take a Break
Whether it’s a ten minute meditation, a one hour massage, a weekend camping trip, a leisurely month long vacation, or a six month sabbatical, find a way to get some sort of break. This looks different on everyone and will largely depend on your current season of life.
What’s important is that you find some time (no matter how long or short) for your soul to rest.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30
I have a Type A personality and I have this constant urge to fill all of my free time with productive tasks. I love checking things off my to-do lists and feeling like I’m accomplishing something.
That being said, sometimes I need to remind myself of the importance of simply being present.
I feel happiest and most at peace when I’m appreciating the small, quiet moments…like watching my adorable puppy play with a toy while she sits in my lap.
God tells us to pray about everything and be anxious about nothing.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” -Phillipians 4:6-7
When we pray, we can “de-clutter” our souls by telling God about all of our fears, worries, and concerns.
We don’t need to hold on to these things or carry that burden alone. We can surrender control to God and feel an incredible sense of peace.
Is it really possible to be a “soul minimalist”?
As Emily points out on her podcast, humans are inherently complex creatures and that’s okay.
We’ll never achieve perfect simplicity and there is no true way to “output” the thousands of inputs our souls receive on a daily basis.
That being said, we can reduce the number of inputs for a while.
To “de-clutter” your soul, try doing a digital detox, going for a walk outside, checking out a yoga class, taking a break, being still, or praying.
“Make space for your soul to breathe,” as Emily says.