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Weeds, Clutter and Cultivating a Better 2018

Saturday, January 6, 2018 13:48
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So, the kids and I bought a last-minute birthday gift at Walmart yesterday, and the first thing I noticed when we walked in was the big display of work-out clothes.  It was the same at Costco last Sunday – all the weights and treadmills and healthy-smoothie-making blenders are front and center, ready for us to buy them with great intentions as New Year’s Day rolls around again.

Do you make New Year’s Resolutions?

Do you keep them?

Or have you ever said, “This is the year!” only to watch your enthusiasm shrink and shrink until it’s completely gone by February?

You’re not alone – studies show that while 77% of people can keep up their resolutions for a week, after two years, that number is down to 14% – and this is among people who know they are going to be interviewed by psychologists about their resolutions!

New Year’s in a perfect time to step back for a moment so that we can see the broad scope of our lives – the trends and patterns, the successes and failures.

We can see what is flourishing and what needs to be weeded out.

There’s this big idea among gardeners: if you are having trouble with weeds, there’s a good chance it’s because you’re giving them too much opportunity to grow.

More specifically, if weeds are causing you trouble, you need to check and see what kind of conditions you’ve created that are allowing them to get so out of control.

Photo credit: Awkward Botany

Maybe you need to apply a nice, thick layer of bark mulch over the bare soil so the weeds won’t have a chance to reach the sunlight.  Or maybe you need to plant something nice and big and shady in their place, like a ground cover.

The most important thing for you to do is to make sure you don’t have any bare soil exposed – because that’s just what weed seeds like to germinate in.  Get rid of that bare ground, and you’ll likely get rid of your weed problem (and you might gain a lovely plant in its place!)



Photo Credit: Hawaii Horticulture

Now, if you’re really into tedious, back-breaking work, you can ignore this advice.  You can carry on weeding the old fashioned way and spend time every day hunched over your garden, pulling those darn weeds.  It will make you tired, bored and possibly sunburned, but it’ll work.

Well, kind of.  It’ll work well for as long as you can keep up with it.  And then a week will come when you are really busy with other things and you don’t have time or energy to weed – and then all those pesty little weeds will come back with a vengeance, because you’ve done nothing to take care of their root cause.



Photo Credit: weirdcombinations
I read this pretty tragic article today in the Boston Globe.  It describes how our consumeristic culture has robbed the joy from peoples’ lives – they are so busy accumulating possessions, stressing about their clutter, and running around from activity to activity that they don’t have time or space to do simple things like have a family dinner together at the table or relax in their own backyards.

And my first thought was to blame the clutter, blame the commercials and marketers, and even to blame the people (myself included) that have let themselves become inundated by that clutter.  If all those frustrated parents could just get to work donating toys, clearing unnecessary activities from their calendars, turning off the television, they’d have some healthy margin in their lives!  They’d be able to enjoy life again if they could just get rid of all those pesky, pernicious weeds.  All it would take would be hard work and constant vigilance, embracing the daily grind of saying “no” to unhealthy convenience foods or junky toys or time-wasting activities.

But wait a second – maybe what we are seeing in our culture today is not a problem that just needs to be constantly weeded away.

All the willpower in the world will only provide us with temporary respite.

We need to take a step back so we can see what underlying conditions exist that are us to fill our lives up so, so full with clutter.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been noticing some definite trends in my own day-to-day life: those times when I’m most tempted to overindulge in unhealthy things are when my basic needs aren’t being met in healthy ways.  It’s when I’m running on fumes: when I haven’t had a good night’s sleep all week, when I haven’t really connected with my spouse or a good friend in days, when I’ve been too busy to eat healthy, nourishing food.  That’s when I am most likely to try to satisfy my needs with quick fixes.

But when I am intentional about filling the “bare soil” of my body and heart with good, good things, I find that those unhealthy quick fixes aren’t even appealing anymore.

When I’ve set aside time to meet a friend for tea and a chat while our kids play, I don’t feel any need to mindlessly scroll Facebook looking for connection.

When I come home after a busy day to the smell of a delicious dinner in the crockpot, I don’t impulsively reach for the kids’ Halloween candy.

When I’m in the middle of a delightful novel or an engaging miniseries, all the clickbait and cat videos in the world can’t compete for my attention.

When my kids are totally absorbed in creating something with construction paper, glue, scissors, and googly eyes, asking to turn on a TV show is the farthest thing from their minds.

It’s not that the weeds aren’t there, it’s just that there’s not really any room left for them to take hold.  The soil of our lives has been filled up with things that are more beautiful, more desirable, and more productive.

So that’s my challenge for you as you think about this coming year – if you can see that there are some things in your life that need to go, maybe go about it in a gentler, more intentional way.  What needs are you trying to fill, and what is a healthier way to meet those needs?

I can’t wait to see what beautiful things will flourish in my family’s life this year.  What new habits or routines do you hope to grow in your life or home?



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