Contemplative Decluttering



Once you face your belongings, confront your fears, unclutter your space, and discover your personal desires and truths, you will have more energy, feel more inspired, access more creativity and find refuge, renewal and splendor within your own four walls.

— Xorin Balbes, SoulSpace: Transform Your Home, Transform Your Life

Evelyn Underhill suggested that artists, with their devotion to beauty, are naturally kin to mystics with their devotion to God. With this principle in mind, I find Xorin Balbes’ SoulSpace, a lovely and insightful book on the spirituality of interior design, to be a primer on how to create a habitat that reflects and supports your life — including the contemplative life.

Balbes offers an eight-step process for transforming your living space — no matter how messy, cluttered, or uninspiring it might currently be — to create an environment resonant with your deepest values, your sense of style and beauty, and your spiritual aspirations. From learning to truly see what works (and doesn’t work) in your current space, to releasing those things which no longer serve you or nurture your soul, to cleansing, dreaming, discovering and creating what is uniquely right for you — the SoulSpace process invites you into a visionary relationship with your home, affirming the possibility of combining functionality, beauty, and celebration of what is unique about you to design not merely a house, but an inhabitable work of art.

The implications for contemplatives are pretty obvious. A danger of the contemplative life is getting stuck in one’s head — blissing out on the Mind of Christ while the dishes pile up and the litterbox starts to stink. The SoulSpace process is a wonderful corrective to that pitfall, reminding us that how we live is truly a reflection of our inner dynamics. Contemplation invites us to “declutter” our minds and hearts — which, naturally, points to decluttering our physical environment as well. Imagine what your ideal contemplative living space would look like: for me, it’s filled with light, clean and clear, simple, with a sense of comfort and openness. I’m not there yet! I myself struggle with clutter-holicism, so I know creating the ideal living space is easier said than done. But this is why I find SoulSpace to be a wonderful and useful book — built around a practical process, filled with common sense and inspiring stories, it’s a guide to creating integrity between the Divine beauty we find in our soul — and the earthly beauty we can create in our lives.

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  1. Thank You Carl. You wrote this article for me. I’ve been chewing on this for a while.

    As a grower, i see things seasonally in an ebb and flow of life. There’s a time to gather and a time to declutter. I’m presently in a season of decluttering.

    On the other hand, as I write everyday, the papers are piling up;-)

    I love Xorin’s idea’s on Soul Space.

    Passing this one on!

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