Free yourself from clutter


When we pack for a vacation, or maybe for a child’s summer camp, we usually consider what we need and what we want and will use. This is easy enough as we focus on one particular activity. 

However, if we broaden this to our lives in general, it’s a great deal more complex to make decisions about whether we really need all those albums, pictures, paper files, sets of china, books, kitchen gadgets, etc. that are cluttering up our homes and our lives. 

Of course, you could just stow everything in the basement, or the garage, or a storage space, and that would spare you from those tough and sometimes emotional decisions. However, if you decide to face the temporary discomfort and soul searching involved in decluttering, it can bring clarity about what is really important to you and speaks to your values – as well as freeing up space. 

This process of discarding things helps us focus on what’s most important, and when we declutter our space, we also declutter our mind. It gives us freedom. It’s also a very Jewish thing to do.

An article in, “A Jewish Take on Decluttering,” by Ken Bresler, begins with this statement: “For Jews, decluttering is not a fad. It’s a tradition starting with God, the first organizer. There’s even a Jewish prayer for getting rid of stuff.”

Bresler continues, “God was the first organizer. When ‘the earth was without form and void’ – tovu v’vohu – as the Torah’s second sentence says, God organized the universe.

 “ ‘The more possessions, the more worry,’ Hillel teaches in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of Our Fathers) 2:7.

 “In Mussar, the Jewish self-improvement practice, order is one of the middot, traits to strive for.

“ ‘A season is set for everything, a time for every experience under heaven,’ Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) teaches us, including ‘A time for keeping and a time for discarding.’ (Ecclesiastes 3:6).”

Here are a few questions and answers to help you begin the process:

  • What do l love using or seeing in my home? What evokes a great memory or puts a smile on my face? Those stay.
  • What is one of a kind or irreplaceable? For me, it’s articles I’ve written and other things that I’ve created. But I don’t necessarily need to keep the originals – scans or photos will often work as well, and take up much less space.
  • What do I love but has some negative or painful memories attached to it? Those I give to someone who also loves it – but without the same bad memories.

PATRICIA RASKIN, owner of Raskin Resources Productions, is a media host, coach and award-winning radio producer and business owner. She is on the board of directors of Temple Emanu-El, in Providence. She is a recipient of the Providence Business News 2020 Leaders and Achievers award.