What the mice taught me…

Confession time: I struggle with clutter. Even living in a tiny RV, there is so much stuff and clutter.

A while ago I was sitting on my couch, comfortably watching TV, when I saw a movement out of the corner of my eye. I thought to myself “it’s just a clump of dog hair I missed when sweeping.” But then, it moved across the wall, going the other direction. No, please, no. Not a mouse. I can handle almost anything, except mice and roaches. It was way too big for a roach.

I kept watching TV, hoping it had just been my imagination. It wasn’t. The mouse ran across the next wall, right into the kitchen. Rrrgh!

So, I sighed, turned off the TV and walked over to investigate. I didn’t see anything at first. After all, I had just cleaned the kitchen and nothing was out of sorts. But then, I looked closer. I saw dog food on the floor. There are three dogs living in this house that don’t let anything sit on the floor for very long. I pulled out the fridge and there was mouse poo all over the floor. It was disgusting. Then, in my OCD-ness of a clean kitchen, I opened a drawer. BIG mistake! Mouse poo. Another drawer, more poo. The utensil drawer. Oh, my goodness!

I washed the items in that drawer in water so hot my hands were pink for hours.

Once I cleaned all the utensils, I moved back to the first drawer. It was my ‘junk’ drawer. I started to analyze all the items I had in that drawer and began to look at each one individually. What is it? Why did I have it? What was its purpose? Did I need to keep it? Was it supposed to be in this drawer? Did it belong in the kitchen? And once I decided to keep it, and to keep it there, the obvious question. Could I drop it into a pail of hot, soapy water? When the drawers and cabinets were clean, I turned around to stare at the pantry.

I walked towards the door and visions of mice all over my food swept through my mind. But thankfully, mice are nocturnal creatures and my pantry was not infested. At the moment. Although, there were signs that the mouse, or mice, had been there. The shelves in the pantry are wire, so they couldn’t climb too far up. On the floor of the pantry I keep vinegar, lunch boxes, potatoes, and onions. Those creatures had climbed all over the lunch boxes, using them to get to the lowest shelf where I kept a bowl of Kisses, baking supplies, and a basket of packaged chips. They didn’t touch the potatoes, onions, chips, flour, or other sundries. Those little stinkers had eaten my Kisses!! They would sneak them out of the bowl, take them behind the basket and eat through the foil to the chocolate underneath. I pulled out the basket and a collection of hollowed out Kiss foils were sitting neatly on the shelf.

Why so much stuff? Start clearing the clutter…

Purging and clearing the clutter
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As I pulled out each lunch box and cleaned them, I realized that for a family of four, we had too many lunch boxes. Ten, to be exact. Then I went through the baking supplies. I had four bags of half used flour, an expired can of baking soda, an empty bag of chocolate chips, and three bags of almond slivers. Why so much waste? Why so much unused food?

It really got me to thinking. Why so much stuff? Why so much clutter? If I had a drawer of stuff in the kitchen I didn’t even know what half of it was, what else was I clinging to in this house? I opened drawers, cabinets, closets, looked under beds, sorted through shelves… and purged. I moved through the house over the following days. As each nook and cranny was cleaned and inspected, I ran through the list of questions. By the end of the month, I had cleaned and purged the entire house, top to bottom; throwing away numerous bags of trash, filled up boxes and boxes to donate, and one small box of items to sell. More important than any of the stuff that left the house, was an immeasurable sense of lightness.

That day I realized we had spent too many years collecting. But for me, it went so much deeper. As I worked my way through the house, I started to notice a pattern. The questions evolved from complex to simple. ‘What is it?’ became ‘Do I use it?’ ‘Why did I have it?’ became ‘Do I need it?’ ‘What was its purpose?’ became ‘Do I love it?’

Time to stop collecting

I remember one day, opening the storage totes where I stored my keepsakes, as I called them. Things that I felt were important to keep. Memorabilia from my childhood. Toys, pictures, pamphlets, and all sorts of junk. Some of it was familiar, some of it I had no idea why it was in there. Things I hadn’t thought about in years came flooding over me. The memories became so overwhelming, I had to stop repeatedly to catch my breath.

Mom, why are you always CLEANING?
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After one of my emotional time-outs, I returned to the office to get back to the cleaning process. As I walked in, I saw my daughter standing there, staring at the mess I had created. It was then that I realized I had emptied the box similar to the way the mouse had emptied the bowl of Kisses. I had strewn the empty pieces of my life across the floor of the office for her to find. That’s just what they had become, empty pieces of my life. She questioned what all of it was. Why had I chosen to lock myself in the office going through dusty boxes? Why was I always cleaning?

She and her brother were bored and wanted me to spend time with them.

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In my frustration, I snapped at her, telling her there would be plenty of time to spend with them, later. But then I saw the hurt in her eyes, the feeling that my stuff was more important than she. And that truth broke my heart. I had wasted so much time cleaning so much stuff and clutter in the house over the years, and, especially, the past month, I had neglected my children. My belongings had taken the place of my kids. I had gotten lost in all the memories of who I was, lost in the misplaced responsibility that things needed me more, I had forgotten that I was created to love. The stuff was getting in the way of building relationships with those around me.

Wisdom In A Whisper

As I cleaned and cleared away those items, God’s word washed through me. Jesus tells the rich, young man to sell everything and give to the poor in order to have riches in heaven. The young man goes away sad because he just can’t give up his belongings. In Mark 10:25, Jesus says “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

Giving up worldly possessions, so much stuff and clutter, gives me more time to build up relationships, and lets me store up heavenly treasures, too. So the purge continues, it has become a regular part of my cleaning process. I have learned that while cleaning is important, stuff is not. However, cleaning shouldn’t overrun my life.

The mice taught me that having less stuff to clean means more time to devote to those I love. So much stuff and so much clutter made life hard, now there is peace.

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