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Cluttered Home, Cluttered Mind

I used to hear the phrase 'throw away culture' and lament at how wasteful we've become. But now, I have different ideas about it. Quite literally, we have to be a 'throw away' culture today because, over time, we'll end up with so much stuff in the house there'll be no room for the humans that live in it! Our deen doesn't tolerate many obsessions, but one which it does is cleanliness and simplicity of life. Cluttered homes breed cluttered minds. The origin of the message---the desert---is an amazing example of simplicity. One of the first things that fascinated me about the deen was the idea of the zaahid: that early Muslim that owned three possessions: thawb, sword and wudu pot. Amazing. When I went on my first purge, it was so liberating. Empty space makes you relaxed. In contrast, "A team of UCLA researchers observed that stress hormones spike during when people spend time dealing with their belongings."

And clutter isn't just physical. Schedules, work projects, social circles,social media accounts, food, even beliefs, and life-goals. In everything, you might think that more is better, but our physical and emotional responses are actually the opposite. We are more at peace with less than with more. Ironically, simplifying things is a lot harder than piling them up. It's easy to say yes. It takes more guts to say no. In fact, the act of simplifying and decluttering is a spiritual and intellectual exercise. You have to ask: what really is my purpose in this? That's spiritual. And then once you answer that, you ask: what's the best method to achieve it (intellectual). People who do this with their work projects excel. They cut the fat and eliminate time-wasters.

Our world today is so complex in both material and non-material things. So it actually takes a concerted effort on a daily basis to keep things simple. I think that for us, we're always reminded of the most austere form of simplicity given our faith's roots in the desert, a place so harsh, it forces simplicity on its inhabitants. But it's for the better. Life is a lot more relaxing and enjoyable when both our beliefs, goals and physical environments are clean, straightforward and manageable.


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