In With the New, Part 1

By Anne Gagliano

It’s always a challenge to find room for your new purchases.  Each and every grocery run means rearranging your fridge and pantry as you add the new in with the old.  But to make room for new, fresh veggies, you have to throw the old rotten ones into the trash.  The same is true with closets, drawers, garages, and sheds—new stuff keeps going in, but eventually there’s no more room and you can’t close them, so old stuff must be purged.  As the piles grow, it gets harder and harder to find anything, and you end up wasting precious time frantically searching for needed items.  Chaos!  If you let it go too far, you can end up living in a Collyer’s mansion, walking trails cut through piles of clutter; firefighters will have to dig to find your corpse when the stench hits the streets.

To avoid this horrible demise, we must purge.  When a new shirt comes in, throw an old one out.  New slippers in, old slippers out. Why wear the old when you can wear the new? Make it a goal this year to have a place for everything so you can cut down on wasted time searching.  Clean out a drawer this week, a closet next, and a cupboard after that.  Small steps over time make it less overwhelming.  Life becomes so much more productive when you can find what you want right away.  Less clutter means less stress.

Purging physical items is tough, even when we know we’re running out of room, but the visual reality is often enough to inspire us to do so.  Purging things we can’t actually see, such as bad habits, is a whole different ball game.  How do we break bad habits, such as smoking, drinking or eating too much, or lounging on the couch too much?  The same concept can and does apply here; we will only feel inspired to purge the old when we have something new to replace it with, something just as desirable if not more so.  There must be something to reach for if we are to let go of that which gave us comfort before.  We are creatures of habit; we will return to our old ways if new ways are not established.  Thought, effort, planning, and even soul-searching are required if we really want to change, for if we don’t, bad habits can spiral out of control and become all-consuming addictions.

Sometimes it helps to know the underlying source of bad habits and addictions.  In better knowing their origins, we can better fight them. 

G.K. Chesterton believes they begin with discontent:  “Discontent (then) leads to the loss of wonder.  The world becomes stale, and all other problems follow.  The effect of this staleness is the same everywhere; it is seen in all drug-taking and dram-drinking and every form of the tendency to increase the dose.  Men seek stranger sins or more startling obscenities as stimulants to their jaded sense…. They stab their nerves to life…. They are walking in their sleep and try to wake themselves with night mares.”

Discontent leads to dissatisfaction, dissatisfaction leads to boredom, and boredom leads to a thirst for more.  This thirst can take us down many dark paths.  To change or stop these futile searches, we must first acknowledge that they exist.  We must choose to start being appreciative for what we already have, right here in front of us.  Gratitude leads to contentment, and contentment leads to joy.  If we choose to look for the wonder in life, or for that which is good and wholesome and beautiful, we won’t seek escape; we will live in the moment and enjoy it more.

With this attitude in place, it is then easier to find healthy habits to replace unhealthy ones.  Learn to have just one cookie–savor it, eat it slowly—then you’ll be less likely to eat a whole dozen.  Chew gum instead of tobacco.  Only drink in the presence of friends or family and focus on having a nice conversation with them, then you’ll be less likely to drink too much.  Even better, replace that bottle or can of beer that you love to feel in your hand with the same shape bottle or can of your favorite soda.  Half the enjoyment is in the perception of the experience, not the reality of it.

Put a treadmill in front of the TV; that way you can still watch your favorite shows, but you can exercise while doing so!  Experts say it takes 30 days to form a habit, so don’t give up too quickly.  And remember, change begins with an attitude of gratitude and is accomplished by having a new habit to replace the old one.

Unforgiveness is another item that needs to be purged this year, especially if it exists in your marriage. 

“Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.”— C.S. Lewis. 

Forgiving is easier said than done, especially when we have to do it again and again and again.  What do we do with our hurt feelings, anger, disappointment and dashed expectations?  The answer, quite simply, is we have to let them go—throw them out.  We have to choose to forget them, for we can’t help but remember them unless we make a concerted effort not to.

Diane Sollee of the Coalition for Marriage and Family reports a powerful fact concerning conflict in marriage: Couples who are happy and stay married have the same number of disagreements and conflicts as couples who are unhappy and get divorced.  The difference in the two lies within their ability to forgive one another.  The unsuccessful couples choose to hang onto their negative feelings and let them grow unrestrained until they simply cannot get along anymore.  The successful couples choose to let go, or forget past grievances, and never mention them again. 

Next time you need to forgive your spouse and you’re struggling to do so, consider how good it feels to be forgiven yourself for the lousy things you’ve done. 

We get a lesson on how to do this from God Himself, as He says in Jeremiah 31:34: “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

Forgiveness simply means to choose to forget about it; the slate is wiped clean.  What a wonderful habit to add to your relationship this year!


Anne Gagliano has been married to Captain Mike Gagliano of the Seattle (WA) Fire Department for 26 years. She and her husband lecture together on building and maintaining a strong marriage.

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