De-cluttering as spiritual practice: Pruning the “perfectly good” for the health of the organism

Photo courtesy of Lucy Nieto Flickr

Photo courtesy of Lucy Nieto

Are you a clutterbug? Do you hate to part with things that are “perfectly good” in case you need them later? 

In Mapping The Soulscape Of Spiritual Practice: How Contemplating Apples, Living In A Cave, And Befriending A Dying Woman Revived My Life, Michael Yankoski writes about how spiritual practices re-balanced his out-of-kilter life.

He consulted a spiritual adviser who recommended the spiritual practice of de-cluttering. Yankoski began to tackle the extraneous items in his house, sifting through them and deciding which to keep and which to recycle or donate elsewhere. Between bouts of de-cluttering, he worked in his plot at a community garden where he nurtured tomato plants and other vegetables. Near his plot, another more experienced gardener watched his efforts and worried that Yankoski’s tomato plants were getting a little unwieldy. The wise gardener recommended pruning to produce a higher yield of higher quality vegetables. Yankoski hesitated. He hated to heartlessly lop off “perfectly good” stems from his plants. How could removing potential fruit-producing branches help his plant?

He conducted an experiment. He pruned some tomato plants according to the wise gardener’s instructions, and he left the rest to grow at will. At harvest time, the pruned plants bloomed with a hearty crop of luscious tomatoes.The other plants produced much fewer fruit of lower quality.

When he applied the same principle to the de-cluttering of his house, he felt the same surge of energy the luscious tomatoes on the pruned vines felt. Without clutter to clog up his thoughts and his movements, he took better care of what was there and appreciated it more. Like his tomato plant, without extraneous branches to deplete energy and resources, he had more nutrients to nourish the rest.

Sometimes it feels wrong to get rid of the “perfectly good.” What if it could be useful someday? But pruning off branches and composting them to feed other plants is like pruning our “perfectly good” clothing, furniture or other household items and delivering them to others who really need them. The pruning serves both us and the recipient.

Do your belongings nourish you or deplete you? Maybe a little pruning is in order. It might hurt a little, it might feel counter-intuitive, but expect to feel a surge of energy at the end of the day.


The Sacred Year by Michael Yankoski

Photo courtesy of Vilseskogen Flickr

Suffering tomatoes! Photo courtesy of Vilseskogen


About Arlene Somerton Smith

Writer, laughing thinker, miner of inspirational insights, sports fan, and community volunteer

Posted on January 13, 2015, in Arlene Smith, Arlene Somerton Smith, good faith, Gratitude, How do you define success?, Inspiration, Living life to the fullest, modern faith, progressive christianity, reading and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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