box of decluttered food items for lent

What I learned when I decluttered 40 items for Lent

Have you ever given up something for Lent? Lynda Wylie of Tidy Rooms has been participating in a reverse advent calendar for Lent this year, decluttering her own food cupboards to give an item a day to her local foodbank. In this blog post, Lynda explains where the idea came from, how she has managed the challenge, and what she learned through the process.

Decluttering for Lent

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, the day after we’ve used up all our sweet treats in pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. Christians use Lent to reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice when he fasted in the desert, and to prepare for Easter. Traditionally people give up sweets, chocolate or other favourite things for the 40 days of Lent, but increasingly some are choosing to add a new challenge to their lives instead. These include reading a special book, writing a letter a day, or sponsoring a child. Search the internet and you’ll find hundreds of creative ideas for marking Lent, from giving up essentials rather than luxuries (such as shoes, cutlery or your pillow), to volunteering or praying.

According to Twitter, chocolate was the number one thing to give up for Lent last year. It was hotly followed by social media and alcohol. No surprises there perhaps, so I wondered if I could do something a bit different this year.

I signed up for an ADLENT calendar from my local Trussell Trust foodbank in Kingston. The idea is that you take an item out of your cupboard each day until you’ve made a box of goodies to donate to people in crisis.

Of course, decluttering during Lent isn’t a new idea. The #40bagsin40days challenge on Instagram has been around for a little while and you’ll find plenty of other sites offering 40-day decluttering guides. If you are looking for some tips to get started organising your cupboards, APDO member Zoe Short gives some tips in her post “Behind Closed Doors“.

I liked the neatness of The ADLENT calendar. It sounded achievable, with a clearly defined goal for each day. Having a tangible gift to present at the end of it all really appealed to me, and the idea of combining my Christian faith with my decluttering brain gave a higher purpose to my clearing efforts.

decluttered organised kitchen

What I learned

I’m now about half way through the challenge. I’ve already learned a number of things about myself and how I might use this experience to support my clients when I work alongside them.’

  1. Creating space feels good – removing items from my cupboard created pockets of space that allowed me to spread out what remained. I could now see everything clearly, and it has become easier to plan meals and tackle the food shopping.
  2. Generosity is easier in small chunks – if I’d been asked to do a 40-item food shop at the start of Lent and take it to the food bank, I might have struggled to engage my generous side more than I have in donating an item a day.
  3. We tend to keep more than we need – I was surprised how much I had in my cupboards that I could take out without noticing it had gone into the food box. Yet I was also encouraged that I didn’t have some of the items listed and needed to buy them especially. It felt like my cupboards weren’t exploding with non-essential items and that I had another opportunity to be generous at the shops.
  4. SMART goals work – This challenge follows the SMART goals rule and it really works! It’s a Specific challenge, focusing on one item a day for 40 days; it’s Measurable, there’s a clear start and end; it’s Achievable – if everyone else can manage to give things up for Lent, so can I; it’s Relevant – foodbank usage continues to rise with over a million 3-day emergency food supplies given out to people in crisis during 2016/17 according to The Trussell Trust; and it’s Time Limited – there’s a clear end to the challenge.
  5. Helping others feels good – every day I was thinking about how I was helping someone else and it felt good to shift the focus away from my own day to that of others.

In a few weeks’ time I’ll be able to deliver the box to my local foodbank and I’m really excited about handing over the goods. It’s going to be a great feeling. What’s more, I’ll have completed a memorable 40-day challenge that’s helped me loosen my grip on the things I have in my home.

If you would like some professional help decluttering, you can find an organiser in our directory of APDO members.

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