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St. Ignatius’ rules for decluttering your home

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Before Marie Kondo, there was St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Marie Kondo, widely known as a “tidying expert,” instructs people to go through their house and ask themselves if a particular item “sparks joy” within them. If the item does not elicit a joyful response, then it is discarded or sold.

While St. Ignatius of Loyola did not have a hit Netflix show, he did provide his own rules for evaluating a person’s use of material things.

Ignatius provides his rules at the very beginning of his Spiritual Exercises, and explains how, “Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul. And the other things on the face of the earth are created for man and that they may help him in [attaining] the end for which he is created.”

This same truth is expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church in this way.

The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for. (CCC 27)

Our creation by God and for God should form our every action, and in a particular way, our use of material things.

St. Ignatius continues and instructs the reader that, “From this it follows that man is to use [material things] as much as they help him on to his end, and ought to rid himself of them so far as they hinder him as to it.”

From this point of view, St. Ignatius would advise the modern-day person to tidy their house by examining each item and questioning whether or not it helps them draw closer to God. 

While practically speaking this is often difficult to discern, on the other hand, the opposite is much easier to discover. When thinking about a specific item, there are certain things that can easily be classified as a hindrance to our salvation, or prevent us from developing an intimate relationship with Jesus.

For some people this may mean giving up many things, while for others, it may not be as much. There is no clear-cut answer for everyone, and it takes careful discernment to arrive at an appropriate decision.

The key for St. Ignatius is a particular “indifference” to created things. It requires a detachment from the things of this world, realizing that eternal life is much more important.

St. Ignatius ends with a potent reflection that should guide us in our use of created things and remind us how to order our lives.

For this it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things in all that is allowed to the choice of our free will and is not prohibited to it; so that, on our part, we do not prefer health rather than sickness, riches rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor, long rather than short life, and so in all the rest; desiring and choosing only what is most conducive for us to the end for which we are created.

Read more: Tidying up your house is part of an ancient Christian tradition

Read more: Here are St. Ignatius’ 8 rules for the discernment of spirits

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