Ah, January! The long-awaited, longest month of the year, famous for inspiring millions to make resolutions of forward progress and to clear out the old to make room for the new.

Also (in case you hadn’t noticed) we have officially entered 2021! Although it has already swooped in with some pretty sticky messes, we will, and must, keep pressing onward with our sights set on Jesus. Always.

All things considered though, I think we can all appreciate the beginning of a new year and the opportunity for a fresh start. Personally, I find the beginning of each new year to be an especially helpful motivator to declutter my home. Anyone else relate? Webster’s dictionary describes clutter this way: 1) n. a crowded or confused mass or collection; 2) adj. to fill or cover with scattered or disordered things that impede movement or reduce effectiveness.

I don’t know about you, but I do not like clutter impeding my movements or reducing my effectiveness. I often don’t even know where the clutter in my house comes from, but oh boy, does it come! I also know that once it lands here it immediately becomes my responsibility to figure out what on earth to do with it. Whether the clutter needs to be thrown out or “re-homed,” it generally falls to me to make those decisions around our home and to remove the excess of things no longer serving myself and my family.

It can take a lot of time and energy to clear out our physical clutter, but in the end, it is always hugely rewarding. Clearing out spaces in our homes that help us to be more efficient and effective in our daily lives is totally worth the effort!

But there’s more than just one type of clutter that comes at us and can impede our lives. The type of clutter I want to talk about isn’t any of the things I just listed. In fact, it’s not anything you can hold in your hands at all: it’s what I call emotional clutter.

I’m going to guess that all or most of us are familiar with the idea of emotional baggage. This is a term I’ve heard tossed around for years, generally in relation to unresolved pain and memories from the past which we can often end up hauling around with us (not by choice) that can interfere and weigh us down from living the beautiful life we were born to live.

When severe enough, emotional baggage can hold people hostage from living any life at all! I won’t dive too deeply into that level of emotional baggage here, but I hope you know that if you find yourself needing to unpack a significant amount of baggage, this ministry would love to point you toward safe and appropriate resources.

What I do want to address here is the smaller, often less noticeable collected moments of emotionally negative “clutter.”

Emotional clutter can show up in a variety of shapes and sizes and can genuinely impede our effectiveness on a daily basis. It could look like a lot of things: like being in a nasty funk all day after getting stuck in traffic that morning; not being present with our family because we’re actively worrying about things we can’t control; it might look like not trusting an authority or other important figure in our life because we’re focusing on a time when someone else close to us betrayed our trust in a hurtful way; it could look like finding someone to blame for that thing that went wrong at work and gossiping about that person behind their back, or criticizing our partner for the one thing they forgot that day instead of thanking them for the things they did well.

We can have all types of clutter gathering dust in our hearts at any given time, muddying the waters of our mind and spirit. If we’re not making time for self-reflection and introspection on a regular basis, we can often remain unaware of how much that clutter is impeding our movement in the world and reducing our effectiveness. Once that clutter begins to gather dust for long enough, it attracts more clutter, and more, and before we know it we are packing yet another suitcase of “baggage.”

In order for this not to happen, it’s crucial that we begin to learn sustainable ways of partnering with God to clear the clutter from our hearts and minds. It might take some time and energy but trust me – just like cleaning out that closet, it’s going to be so worth it!

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Romans 12:2

When we examine our thoughts and take stock of our emotional clutter, it allows God to help us discern what His perfect will is for us. We are able to see ourselves, the people around us and our circumstances from His eternal perspective, instead of our limited view.

I encourage you to take some time this week to pray and ask God what kinds of emotional clutter might be collecting in your own heart. What types of emotions are weighing on you right now? Is there a conflict happening with someone in your life? Are you struggling to make a difficult decision but you don’t want to disappoint people?

Try to name the first things that God brings to your mind without judging yourself or others for it. Ask God to help you sit with some of the clutter that He shows you and take a deep breath. These things aren’t too hard for God to handle! He understands, and He loves you, and He wants to carry your burdens for you. He’s that good!

Remember that your clutter doesn’t define you, but it can sometimes impede your movements and reduce your effectiveness, just like physical clutter. It can limit our perspective and wisdom to what’s right in front of us, instead of being able to hear God’s gentle guidance and see His perfect provision. When we allow emotional clutter to accumulate, we can miss out on the fullness of all of the blessing and goodness God has for us.

2020 might not have been my favorite year, but it taught me (along with a host of other lessons) that no matter what craziness life throws my way, my hope does not and cannot rely on the circumstances of this world. Instead, I am compelled to reaffirm my faith and trust in the One who never changes, who never becomes weak or weary – the One who hung the stars in the sky and causes the seasons to change – the One who put you and me on this earth for such a time as this. He is the solid rock in shifting sand on which we would do well to build our house. (Matt. 7:24)

To an uncluttered New Year in Christ!