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Getting organized: A reflection of God’s Creation

Organizing towels

Kostikova Natalia | Shutterstock

Daniel Esparza - published on 05/02/24

Creating and maintaining order is a testament to our respect for the gifts of time, abundance, and the physical world entrusted to us by God.

Just as God created the universe with order and purpose (Genesis 1, 3-10), our own pursuit of order can easily become a spiritual task – if done with intention. Numerous saints in the Catholic tradition frequently emphasize the importance of order in their writings — Thomas Aquinas, John of the Cross, Teresa de Ávila. Somewhat like IKEA, whose very foundation rests on creating functional and accessible organization, we might consider that there is spiritual significance in bringing order to our physical world.

It can be quite frustrating to miss a much-awaited phone call because your mobile is buried under a week’s worth of laundry (been there, done that). Imagine (or, better, remember) the stress of arriving late to work because you were frantically searching for your misplaced car keys amidst a chaotic jumble of bags and shoes.

It is important to recognize that disorganization, while seemingly a minor issue, can have a significant impact on our spiritual lives. Left undealt with, disorganization can grow to become a source of low-grade anxiety — which can make it more challenging to focus on prayer, work, and our relationships with others.

The benefits of organization

Now consider the benefits of a well-organized space. Imagine a designated prayer corner where your Bible awaits, its (hopefully worn) pages offering you the comfort you need. Picture a meticulously arranged entryway where your keys hang readily available, ensuring a smooth transition into your working day. Or just think of the joys of a closet in which all of your clothes are visibly at hand, so you don’t have to dive into the pile of more or less folded clothes lying on that chair. (We all have that chair, don’t we?)

In this way, order becomes a silent prayer of sorts: it is a testament to our respect for the gifts of time, abundance, and the physical world entrusted to us by God.

Well-organized kitchen drawer

Order, as Aquinas explains in his Summa Theologica, is thought to be intrinsic to goodness. A well-ordered life, like a harmonious musical composition, allows each element to fulfill its purpose and contribute to the greater whole. This is Aquinas’ revisiting of the traditional Catholic concept of stewardship, which suggests that we are responsible for caring for God’s creation.

By organizing our possessions and living spaces, we can show our respect for the gifts we have received.

Order as spiritual discipline

It might be said that creating order is not merely an aesthetic pursuit, but a spiritual discipline. Indeed, it is a matter of discernment: We must discriminate and determine the most fitting place for each belonging. This act of discernment is reminiscent of the way in which God orders creation, placing each star in its course and each creature within its ecological niche.

As we organize, we have the opportunity to engage our minds in thoughtful decision-making, a skill that can be applied to all aspects of our lives.

Well-organized tools

Fostering tranquility

Furthermore, order can also foster a sense of peace and tranquility. A well-organized home can become a sanctuary, a refuge from the external world’s noise and clutter. Such tranquility allows for deeper reflection and prayer, which in turn can foster a closer connection within the family, neighbors, yourself, and God.

Indeed, order can provide a framework for our spiritual lives. If we know where things belong, we can easily find what we need, making us more efficient and ultimately allowing us to dedicate the proper time and attention to our faith instead of wasting time looking for lost keys, screwdrivers, or socks. This also applies to your computer’s desktop, by the way!

Maintaining balance

However, it is important to ensure that order does not become a rigid system that stifles creativity or generosity. Aquinas himself understood that a balance between order and flexibility was beneficial. Like a gardener who tends to a flourishing yet ever-changing landscape, we should be open to adapting our organizational systems as our needs evolve. 

Ultimately, order serves a greater purpose: to live a life aligned with God’s love.

So, the next time you find yourself drawn to the storage solutions at IKEA, it might be helpful to remember that you are not simply decluttering your shelves but participating in a spiritual practice with a long and noble tradition. By embracing order, you are honoring God’s creation and creating a space conducive to a more respectful, thoughtful, diligent, and deeper life.

Tags:
Catholic LifestylePersonal GrowthSaints
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