Spring Cleaning for the Soul

We hang onto things that don’t matter–even when God says “Why don’t you get rid of that?” 

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Stacks of books. Photo: Thinkstock.

My name is Michelle, and I’m a bookaholic. Yes, I’m addicted to books. From the minute I learned to read, I fell in love with stories, those that could transport me to places I’d never seen or ones that could make me laugh or cry.

That love affair has lasted a lifetime. Reading has always been my favorite hobby, and now that I’m a writer myself, I (of course!) have to buy books from all of my author pals. I mean, what kind of friend would I be if I didn’t do that? I’m obligated.  

There’s something about the feel of a book in my hands that just makes me happy. I like all of the genres–fiction, nonfiction, how-to, and inspiration–and I try to never be without something to read. Shucks, a day without a book in hand should probably be designated as a national disaster!

I remember many years ago when we were stuck in the house for numerous days due to a blizzard, I ran out of books and had to resort to reading our junk mail and the text on the cereal boxes. I made sure that never happened again.   

Besides buying books written by my friends, I often buy books to help me improve my writing or for my devotional times. And what’s really cool is that my author friends often send me free copies of their books, which is awesome! It’s like having a party in the mailbox when I open the door and discover a padded envelope holding one of those treasures. I try not to do the happy dance too often since I need to maintain my dignity.

When my family members ask for ideas for my Christmas, birthday and Mother’s Day gifts, the first item on the list is always gift cards to my favorite bookstores. Ah, yes, guilt-free book buying.

When my grandfather and my mother passed away, I inherited dozens of boxes of books with cherished old editions by C.S. Lewis, Catherine Marshall and many others.

And then there are the oh-so-fabulous trade shows where the publishers give away free copies of books. I’ve brought home literally hundreds (and probably thousands) of free copies over the years.

All of that is beyond wonderful…except it led to a problem because the books started taking over my house. The shelves in my office are filled. Bookshelves throughout the house are crammed with books.

I even took over one of the bedrooms after my son got married and turned it into a library. That was great until the bookshelves were full, and then the books piled up on the desk and the table in that room, in stacks so high that my husband kept telling me that the furniture was going to collapse.

Once there was nowhere left to stack them, I began putting books in boxes, boxes that multiplied at an alarming rate. It reached the point where I worried that I’d get lost in my library and wouldn’t be found until days later.

Okay, I might exaggerate just a little bit. But you get the picture. From time to time, my husband would say, “Why don’t you take some of the books to Goodwill?” I felt like he was asking me to get rid of my children!

This went on for several years, with new additions carted to my library every week–until one day I finally acknowledged that something had to be done before I became a candidate for one of the shows like Hoarders. Hmm, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a show on there where it was all books.

So I grabbed some empty boxes and trudged to my library room. I decided my criteria would be that I’d keep everything from my favorite authors, books that would help me with my writing, and some of the old books from my grandfather’s collection. For the rest, I’d ask this question, “Would I care enough to pack these books to take with me if I was moving to another house?”

I now have about 27 big boxes of books to take to Goodwill. I’m still going through the shelves, boxes, and stacks and I know I’ll fill many more boxes before I’m through. You see, I’ve learned something–all of those books that I thought were so important to me, really weren’t. They were just collecting dust. I was hanging onto things that didn’t matter.

It’s the same with our spiritual lives. We hang onto things that don’t matter–even when God says “Why don’t you get rid of that?” But we shut our minds off and refuse to acknowledge that we have a problem.

Is there something in your life that God’s been whispering about to you? Sometimes we just need to take a good look at what’s going on and make the decision that we’re going to do something about it.

None of us will go to heaven with a U-Haul carrying our possessions. Now would be a great time for all of us to think about the things that really count. Do we need to do some spiritual spring cleaning?  

Are we hanging onto something that doesn’t matter…or would we be willing to let God show us what’s really important so that when we move to our new home for eternity, we’ve packed the things that will truly matter?

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)

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