My Spiritual Work of Letting Go

family, holiday, tradition, generation and people concept - close up of family having christmas dinner and holding hands at home

I love my Christmas dinnerware!

For 20 years I’ve served many wonderful feasts on it. Family and friends have gathered around my festive table year after year to pray, eat, celebrate, and share stories. Our sons have grown up with my Christmas dishes, and now my granddaughter looks for them.

As I was putting my treasured dishes away at the end of this last Christmas season, I wondered if our sons would use them after us.

In a perfect world one of them would use them in his home, telling wonderful stories of Christmases past and then passing them on to one of my grandchildren.

It’s a beautiful and comforting scene but not very realistic; my sons and their families have their own tastes and will create their own traditions. The same was probably true for most of the things I had stored from their baby years and their childhoods.

I am not sure why we store these sorts of things long after they have outlived their usefulness. Perhaps we document our life with them. Maybe letting go of them reminds us of our own mortality.
Jesus warns us against storing up treasures on earth.
There is a reason:

I find the more I keep unnecessary items, the more difficult it is to be at peace and in solidarity with Christ’s teachings.

I realised it was time to be courageous and bid farewell to the things of the past. My first order of business was to eliminate my tendency to procrastinate by setting a non-negotiable date.
Then I spoke with my adult children. If they were serious about their childhood items, it was time for them to store them. I reminded them of how any donations they made would benefit others and called with a reminder the day before the deadline.

I began my de-cluttering day with a prayer of gratitude and asked for assistance in ‘letting go’. The most difficult moments involved items from my children’s early years.

At the day’s end, I had experienced a small death as well as a sense of freedom.

For me, sharing possessions is as important as sharing money and serves as a reminder that all we have comes from our loving Creator. My heart needs to be first and foremost grounded in God.
I have made a resolution to continue to de-clutter my life each Spring and Fall as a response to my baptismal call to both let go spiritually and be a good steward of what has been entrusted to me.

As for my Christmas dinnerware, that tradition will continue as long as I can prepare the feast and set the table. After that, I hope they find a home with someone who will enjoy them as much as I have. It will be another small death, but God has promised that his disciples will be ongoing guests at the banquet to end all banquets. It’s a heavenly treasure, to say the least.

About Mary Ann

Mary Ann Otto is the Stewardship and Special Projects Director for the Diocese of Green Bay. She has a Master’s Degree in Theological Studies and with her husband Jeff has five adult children and one granddaughter.

This article appeared in the January 2012 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 77, No.1, page 55), under the title The Spiritual Discipline of Decluttering. Reprinted with permission.
See the whole article here

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