Lia Kent, raised with what she calls a "Depression mentality," always found it hard to throw things away. Her North Potomac, Md., home was filled with clothes that no longer fit, piles of magazines she never read and gifts from relatives she never used.
But a few years ago, Kent began rising earlier than her four children and husband to have quiet time for spiritual reflection. And something clicked.
"I saw a house full of stuff.... I saw my house and how cluttered it was," Kent said. "I just realized I had too much excess and that [it was] getting in the way."
Kent threw out hoarded magazines and gave away old clothes. She "worked on not acquiring so much," she said, by no longer shopping yard sales and making major purchases only after deliberating about them.
"The catalyst for this was my faith," said Kent, a Greek Orthodox Christian. "My consumption of things was my greed, me wanting more than my fair share."
Kent's experience illustrates what religious leaders and lifestyle experts describe as a growing appreciation by many Americans that an overabundance of material goods can be a drag on spiritual development. Increasingly, de-cluttering and downsizing are being viewed in a spiritual context, as ways to remove distractions to inner growth.
People "are beginning to see that their possessions become a weight and a barrier to their spiritual life and to their happiness," said the Rev. Elizabeth Braxton, pastor of Burke, Va., Presbyterian Church.
Kristin van Ogtrop, managing editor of Real Simple, a New York-based secular magazine that promotes simplicity as a lifestyle, said readers had made it clear that they experienced inner rewards from uncluttering.
"They feel a greater sense of peace when ... they're not overwhelmed by their physical surroundings," she said.