Stewardship of Life

Clutter Cleanse Contagion

Posted in Just Living by Sharron R. Lucas on January 26, 2010

Beware! Purely anecdotal evidence proves that not only can a clutter cleanse be life-changing, it can also be highly contagious.

At least that’s what we’re experiencing in the Lucas household. Last night I witnessed something I never imagined seeing; my sixteen-year-old daughter cleaned out her room. I’m not talking about a few things here and a few things there because her nagging mother was standing over her threatening a weekend grounding. No. I’m talking half her wardrobe (maybe more), a bookshelf full of books, and various assorted gee-gaws and trinkets. She says her music and DVD collection are next.

Once I finished prying my jaw off of the ground, it hit me—getting rid of clutter can be contagious. She’s seen me feverishly freeing myself of superfluous stuff and paltry possessions, and she’s taken note. I think even she was amazed at how much “stuff” came out of her room. Now we’ll work on bagging it up and getting it out of the house.

Never underestimate the power of a teenager to enact change for the better. Last Friday night I found her on the phone, not talking to friends, but rather holding the line to make a $25 donation for relief efforts in Haiti. That may not sound like a lot, but in her world it was significant, about half of what she makes in an average week from her part-time work.

Teens have an amazing capacity to cut through the justifications, the rationalizations, and the little white lies we tell ourselves about our lifestyles and possessions. Yes, they listen to us, learn from us, and watch us—for good and ill—but they also have much to teach us if we’ll take the time to listen to and watch them.

What have you learned from the teens in your life? Please share. Most importantly, share with them how wonderful and special you think they are.

Thanks, Maggie, I think you’re great!

Love, Mom

Note Bene: For an inspiring example of how one teen enacted great change in the life of her family and world, check out this January 23, 2010, NY Times op-ed column by Nicholas Kristof.

4 Responses to 'Clutter Cleanse Contagion'

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  1. Angela Steele said,

    My 12-year-old hasn’t cleared out her closet yet, but even the smallest things give me some encouragement. She went last night to her school talent show, and as I dropped her off, she took $5 of her precious stash to contribute to a cancer research fundraiser running at the door thinking they were asking for a $5 minimum contribution. She learned they were only collecting in $1 increments, so she made 5 contributions instead of 1. It might not seem like much – but there was pizza and other treats for sale nearby that I’m sure looked tempting, and the $5 was all the money she had, and still she gave it all for the fundraising campaign.

    (Hopefully, clearing the clutter will be next!)

    • That’s great, Angela. It must have made you proud to witness her generous heart in action. I think if we can just remind our children and teens that they do make a difference–no matter how small the act or amount given may seem–in the way this world works, then we can encourage them to work for even greater change and possibility as adults. Thanks for sharing your story!

  2. Karin Remington said,

    Hi Sharron, and thanks for great and inspiring blog.

    This post had me thinking about the “contagious” ramifications of what we do (or fail to do), and I was thinking in particular of a concrete example that comes up every Sunday in church. While my church is anxious to sign us up for giving electronically, I have this nagging feeling that the simple act of me putting an envelop on the plate when it comes through is a visible sign of support and committment, and maybe a little bit contagious. (I guess the same is true for just showing up every week.) Do you know if there have been any studies to see whether the efforts to get automated donations really boost giving? I’m sure they make things more consistent in the church office, and that’s no small thing, but I think they might have the unintended consequence of losing the “contagion effect”, and I’m curious about whether this effect is accounted for when congregations begin campaigns that encourage electronic giving.

    Thanks again for the great posts.

    -Karin (Germantown, MD)

    • Hi, Karin.

      You raise a good question about the ramifications of automatic giving. I’ll have to do a little research to see if I can find an answer. It’s a good observation about the power of physically putting something in an offering plate, or, as we sometimes did in worship at the seminary, to walk forward with our gifts as we came to the table. I’ll get back with you via the SOLI blog with an answer. Thanks for joining the conversation!

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