• Ross Moughtin

The battle over Dr Spock - which naturally, I lost.

The battle of Dr Spock’s Baby and Child Care. As you would expect, I lost. I did explain to Jacqui: “But you haven’t even held it, let alone read it, for at least 25 years!” However, she patiently explained that the book represented too many memories just to be taken to the charity shop. So it stays (for now). But I persevere as we downsize in preparation for our move next spring. For downsizing can be a challenge, especially to those of you who hoard. “You’ll never know when I may need it!” In reality most of us live our lives following the Pareto 20:80 Principle. This means, for example, that we wear just 20% of our clothes for 80% of the time. There’s ample room for getting rid of stuff, even giving it to someone who may actually need it. Myself, I am in the minimalist category. I have already got rid of nearly all my books. Most to family, others to friends; the balance to Book Aid and charity shops. And other paraphernalia. Even my faithful Adidas Tokyo spikes which I last wore in 1975 had to go, sold to a collector in London for £39. The strategy is straight-forward. You begin in the rooms farthest from the heart of your home. That’s where there are more items that are simply being stored rather than used. So I have already tackled my daughters on all the memorabilia they have dumped over the years on our top floor. I quote to them Anne Valley Fox: “You can’t have enough of what you didn’t want in the first place.” But people do find getting rid of things extraordinary difficult. They need professional help. In fact, only last year I bumped into an old friend to discover his wife has a new job. She is a professional declutterer. In fact, you may not even know that there is a professional body, the APDO. That is, the Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers. I wonder if there is a HELP line. Jesus, of course, didn’t have much time for clutter. He calls us as we follow him to travel light. So he sends the twelve out on their mission: “Do not get any gold, silver or copper to take with you in your belts. Do not take a bag for the journey. Do not take extra clothes or sandals or walking sticks.” (Matthew 10:9) After all, as his disciples Jesus teaches us to sit light to things to ensure that our possessions do not possess us. He reserves the right to say to us at any time as he said to the rich young ruler: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21) But there’s more to clutter than jumble in the attic. As novelist Eleanor Brown observes: “Clutter is not just physical stuff, it’s old ideas, toxic relationships and bad habits.” And here again we may well need a professional declutterer – the Holy Spirit himself. First, our time. We can so easily fill our time with all kinds of junk. Not necessarily wrong in itself: it just means we do not have enough time to do what God wants us to do. What the apostle Paul calls ‘redeeming the time.’ He write: “Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busywork, the barren pursuits of darkness.” (Ephesians 5:16) That does not necessarily mean, of course, that we do not watch MOTD – which would be a blessing the way Everton are playing this season. But it does mean a certain introspection as we submit our lives afresh to Christ each morning. Sometimes it may mean a determination to do nothing rather than to fill our time with meaningless activity. Being still gives the Holy Spirit the space to direct us. And then the way we think. The Victorian designer and social activist William Morris once said, "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." He could have been talking about our minds. Again the apostle Paul challenges us: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8) Very simply if it’s good, it’s beautiful. And we hold onto it. But such decluttering is difficult. And it needs the same level of discipline, ruthlessness even, as when we downsize. All that junk – old ways of thinking we know to be wrong and yet strangely persist. All of it, we give to the Lord as we open our minds to his scripture. Again, each morning. . No wonder the New Testament repeatedly emphasises the renewal of our minds, an alternative mindset, as we encourage each other to think Christianly. Here I dare to quote Dr Spock himself: “The main source of good discipline is growing up in a loving family, being loved and learning to love in return.” (Baby and Child Care page 679) The family of God, of course.

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