Computer geeks tell us that, for optimal performance, we should clean up the files on our computers on a regular basis.

Dump the old emails. Disable or uninstall the programs and apps you never use. Get rid of the blurry photos. Weed out defunct contacts. The point is to dispense with anything that is no longer useful to you. Basically, it boils down to de-cluttering in the digital sphere.

It would do us good to do the same in the spiritual sphere.

I know a number of folks, including myself, whose spiritual files are a considerable mess. We have scads of prayer books and devotionals on our shelves, tucked in dresser drawers and sitting on our nights stands. That’s not a bad thing, but we haven’t touched most of them in years. We’ve subscribed to more email novenas and prayer-a-day lists than we could pray in a lifetime, much less daily.

Additionally, we tend to fall into set patterns, using the same prayers, devotions, and spiritual exercises year after year, season after season. That’s wonderful if it’s helping us to grow spiritually. But, often we do it because it’s what we’ve always done, and so we keep doing it even though it no longer nurtures our spirits. We stick to our habits because it’s comfortable and convenient and not necessarily beneficial.

I’m not talking about our tried-and-true devotions that always seem to come through for us or a a no-fail in drawing us more deeply into prayer because they’re familiar. I’m talking about the ones that, like old computer files, sit around or get in our way with no benefit.

Sometimes we need to clean out the files and give ourselves some breathing space.

In my case, the cleaning out was done for me, so I can take no credit. My husband did it for me, or more appropriately, in spite of me.

I had our prayer corner stuffed to overflowing with booklets, print outs, holy cards, and an array of odds and ends. I swore I needed all of them, that I would need all of them at some point.

But the clutter was too much for him.

One day while I was gone, he cleaned it all out. Smart guy that he is, he didn’t trash any of it. Rather, he packed it all in boxes and stored it away in the basement.

I was furious.

I also was crazy-busy and had no time to go downstairs and pilfer through everything so I could figure out what I wanted to bring back up. So, it all just sat down there.

In fact, it’s all STILL down there. A couple of years later.

I think I dug out one book from the whole mess and I replaced another that I really did need, but couldn’t find. The rest? I simply did without them.

I learned a valuable lesson in the process. I was forced to re-evaluate what I do, why, and when in terms of my spiritual life. I had to re-think which devotions were useful and meaningful and which ones were merely habit. I introduced a few new devotions and made changes in the way I approached some of the old ones. In essence, I’d done a major clean-up of my spiritual files.

I loved it.

Starting fresh gave me a new perspective and new energy in my prayers and devotions. I realized that I’d gotten myself into a spiritual rut – an overload of spiritual files, if you will – and needed to de-clutter. I dumped the old, disabled the ineffective, got rid of the obscure, weeded out the defunct, and dispensed with the useless.

As with cleaning up our computer files, the goal in cleaning up our spiritual files isn’t to recklessly dump everything, but to purposefully keep – and add – what is essential.