You’ve heard the adage “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” It’s usually coupled with parental urgings to clean your room or counsel to keep a clean kitchen. Cleaning is good, and spring is the season when warmer weather prompts many to clean out the stuff that’s been collecting dust over the winter.
But there’s a spiritual dimension to spring cleaning, too. It has to do not only with cleaning, but also with having fewer things to clean — simplifying our lives so that we aren’t consumed with our stuff or distracted by clutter.
Simplifying our lives allows us to remember what’s really important — how we treat other people, being at peace with ourselves. This is how Jesus counsels us to live, not fretting about “‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ … Indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all
these things will be given to you as well” (Mt 6:31-33, NRSV).
So how can we live a simpler life, cleaning out our homes, our minds and our souls, in order to focus more on the essentials? Following are ways to start:
Move out of the procrastination phase of “some day, one day.” Decide that you will do one thing today to simplify your life. Then pick something from the remaining possibilities.
1. Clean out Your Home
It’s usually the easiest place to start because it’s practical and tangible. Choose at least one piece of clothing that you are willing to give away to someone who needs it more than you do.
Choose at least one kitchen item or household tool that someone else needs more than you do.
Choose a drawer, shelf, closet or room to clean. In addition to getting something clean, you might find another item to give away.
Put whatever you’ve decided to give away near your front door so you will almost trip over it when you leave. This will eventually bother you enough to take it to St. Vincent de Paul, Goodwill, etc.
2. Clean out Your Mind
This is a little harder because it means letting go of attitudes. Let someone else have his or her
way today — perhaps a spouse, a friend or the driver who’s trying to break into your lane of traffic.
Let go of a prejudice. OK, presumably you aren’t racist, but do you look down upon the poor, the rich, those who have different opinions from you, the “other” political party?
Let go of being right. Self-righteousness, even about being virtuous and living more simply than your neighbor, can poison the simple way. Hold on to your values, but don’t judge others for what seems to you to be lesser values.
3. Clean out Your Soul
Here’s the most personal and vulnerable part of simplifying one’s life.
Let go of a grudge. Who annoyed you today? Let it go. Which relative, acquaintance, coworker continues to get on your nerves? Let it go. At least for a day, forgive.
Develop an attitude of gratitude for what you do have. Thank God for something small today.
Receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Accept forgiveness for not being perfect.
Cinnamon Biscuit Twists
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbs. granulated sugar
1 Tbs. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ cup (1 stick) butter
½ cup milk
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 to 2 TBS. ground cinnamon
½ cup powdered sugar
2 to 3 tsp. milk
½ tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a medium-size bowl, stir flour, sugar, baking powder and salt until thoroughly mixed. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter until mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Beat egg together with milk in a separate bowl, then add to dry mixture. Stir until dough clings together, then beat for about 1 minute by hand.
On a floured surface, pat dough into a rectangle 8×15 inches. Brush dough with melted butter; sprinkle on brown sugar and cinnamon (add more cinnamon to taste). Fold dough in half lengthwise, making a 4×15-inch rectangle. Using a rotary pizza cutter, cut into 1-inch strips (you may also use a sharp knife, but wipe the blade clean between cuts to keep it from sticking). Twist strips two or three times, then place on a lightly greased, 12×15-inch baking sheet. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned.
Combine powdered sugar with milk and vanilla and stir until smooth. Place in microwave on high for 30 seconds. Brush as a glaze on top of twists; serve twists warm.
This recipe is courtesy of Benedictine Father Dominic Garramone.