Every wife, mother, or whoever happens to have the responsibility knows that there are two ways to clean house. One is routine and regular; the other is major and seldom. In the first, you sweep the floors, vacuum the carpets, wash the dishes, make the beds, scrub the bathrooms, and dust the furniture. The second way includes all of the above but goes a bit further. You also move the furniture in order to get at the dirt that has accumulated under and behind. You clean out the refrigerator and throw away all of the moldy food. You rearrange the pantry and put newspaper on the shelves. You straighten the closets and give away or put away the old and out-of-season clothing. Then, as time permits, you go to the attic or basement and dispose of all the needless junk that has collected there across the months.
In most parts of the country, this latter procedure is called spring-cleaning. When winter is over and the warm weather arrives, you open the doors and windows, let in the fresh air, blow away the stale odor, and get your house extra special clean.
With the passing of time, excess baggage, useless junk, and plain dirt tend to accumulate in out-of-the-way places. If you need any proof of that, go look in your hall closet. Most hall closets are alike. There was a day when they were neat, clean, and not overcrowded. Then the process began. First, it was some extra coat hangers. Then some clothes that were too tight, but you were sure you would lose enough weight to wear them next season. Next, a couple of gift boxes that you didn’t need right then but would sometime soon. Then there were a few pairs of shoes that you planned to give to the St. Vincent de Paul Society, as soon as you got together enough things to make it worth the trip.
On and on it goes; here a little, there a little; nothing big or dramatic. You never made a clear-cut decision to turn your closet into a junkyard; but nevertheless, it happened. Now you’re almost afraid to open the door, lest you get buried in an avalanche of the trash and treasure that have collected there over time.
Well, it isn’t too difficult to see a likeness between our lives and that hall closet. Both of them tend to get cluttered in ways that we never planned nor deliberately pursued. How many of us today are leading overcrowded lives and wondering when and how it happened? Do you have time to play with your children, to talk to your spouse, to enjoy your friends? How about prayer, mass, sacraments and meditation? Whatever happened to that time? There was a time when you found or made room to talk with God and think about life. Something else has filled that space. What is it, and is it more important than the things that used to be there?
Honest answers to questions such as these would probably tell us that we need a spiritual spring-cleaning. Every life has only so much space and so many hours. Let nature take its course, and the bad will crowd out the good or the good will crowd out the bad. At some point, we have to take charge of our own lives, decide what is really important, hold on to that, and throw the rest away.