by Father Mark Goldasich
If you’re ever in the mood to have your stomach lurch, tune into A&E and watch about five minutes or so of the show, “Hoarders.”
The gist of the series is this: A TV crew heads out with a professional organizer to visit the homes of tortured souls who are literally buried under “stuff.” Now, I’m not talking about just a little run-of-the-mill stuff. The people featured here have a real sickness. Their homes, and I use the word loosely, are literally stuffed; so much so, that in many cases, they are uninhabitable. In fact, one place was so bad that the family moved outside and was living in a tent in the backyard. Incredible. The featured homes are strewn with garbage (fast-food containers, pizza boxes, outdated yogurt!), pets are not properly cared for, areas are filthy, and rooms are piled with box upon box.
It’s so painful to see that just a few minutes of the program is all I can stand. “Hoarders” is probably one of my major motivators to change my ways before I sink to the lows that these folks find themselves trapped in. I’m sure that their “collections” started little by little. Sadly, over time — unchecked — things spiraled totally out of control.
Thank goodness, this coming Monday, Jan. 11, is National Clean Off Your Desk Day. That’s where I’m going to start. I think it’s a great idea. My only dilemma now is: Which desk will I choose to clean off? Will it be the one(s) at The Leaven, at the parish, or in my bedroom? Or maybe I should concentrate on my computer desk or the table functioning as a desk in my home office or maybe the kitchen table, which is actually the place where I end up doing the most work.
And therein lies the problem: Too many desks=lack of focus, lack of efficiency, lack of patience . . . and potentially the beginning of a slow slide into total chaos.
Let me give you an example: The other day I was at the kitchen table (naturally) writing some thank you notes. I’d been up and down several times already, to retrieve things like note cards, address labels, stamps, stickers, return address labels, etc., from various scattered points in the house. At one point, however, I’d actually written one whole note, sealed the envelope, and affixed a 39-cent stamp on it (as I’d unearthed a whole sheet of these old stamps). I reached for a fivecent stamp to add to the 39-cent one . . . and could not for the life of me find it. I’d just had it in my hand, mind you, but suddenly it was gone.
Being stubborn, I upended every pile that surrounded me on the kitchen table, all to no avail. I even looked under the table. Ultimately, I did what any mature person would do: I blamed the cats for eating it, stalked off in a huff, and left the thank you note only partially completed. What should have taken only a short amount of time, if I’d been organized, now became an “issue.” The note took its place as part of yet another pile.
Those little things so often derail even the best of intentions, causing us to do so much less than we are capable of. A misplaced stamp or car keys or an important document — all the minutes “lost” in looking for these items not only add up over the years, but also produce huge amounts of unnecessary stress, which always seems to spread to those around us.
And time wasted on these items robs you of devoting your life to the things that truly are important: prayer, family and friends, reflection and planning, hobbies and relaxation, volunteering.
One of my resolutions for the new year is to pursue simplicity of life: doing little things consistently to not let things pile up, to bring order out of chaos. Much as I hate to admit it, I do believe that a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind and heart.
Join me in making this Monday the start of something new. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather see the surface of my desk again, than have an A&E TV crew pulling up outside my door.
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