Tuesday, October 12, 2010


While recently flipping through my copy of Real Learning: Education in the Heart of the Home by Elizabeth Foss, I came across this question posed to other moms:

How does clutter and materialism affect your home?

I found some of the answers equally interesting. One mother said:

"I think it can be difficult to figure out what is essential and what isn't. It's true you can look at just about everything and find a purpose for it...but purpose doesn't equal necessity. In truth, I think having a lot of 'things' is a trick of Satan. Besides the whole materialistic aspect of it, there's the whole business of managing it all....Managing a lot of 'stuff' can keep us very busy (and very frustrated)."

Amen to that!

Here's another response for personal reflection:

"I'm trying to pray about it now that I recognize it as a moral issue. All I can think of is that the excess stuff in our house is a symptom of some bad habits of my family's. I am going to have to change some of my habits and ways of thinking before I can hope to make a real difference in the state of the house. I am going to be meditating on detachment and poverty of spirit. Perhaps the way to start would be to itemize what is really necessary as opposed to desirable. I know that when I am actually faced with something that is good and useful, but just not necessary, I have a hard time discarding it. Perhaps making a list of different categories--for example, clothing, bedding, curriculum, toys--and then figuring out what is the minimum we could get by with--would be a more positive way of approaching it."

The word "detachment" there struck a chord with me. I have been contemplating that thought (of being more detached to the items cluttering up my home). Sure, there are some special things that I believe it's completely ok to be attached to, but the bulk of items in my home are just that--bulk. In a previous post, I've shared that clothing is the category I am most likely to keep in excess. What that mom said in the first response is so true--the more we have, the more we have to manage, and the more stressful it becomes. It is very stressful for me to open one of my kids' drawers and not be able to put the laundry in neatly because the drawer is so crammed full. While I appreciate the hand-me-downs, the clearance finds and the thrift store treasures, we're at the point where it's simply too much.

When you reach your clutter breaking point, you're ready to do drastic things. Whereas part of me feels a tug to hang on to the extras to pass down to the next boy in line, the magnet is pulling more strongly toward bagging it up and dropping it off at the Salvation Army. Please don't think I'm saying donating extra stuff is drastic. But for me, the volume of what I will be culling will be drastic (at least for me).

Clutter management is, in some respects, subjective. We all have to find our tipping points. When we've gone over the edge, it's time to reevaluate and make some changes. Ruthlessly practice detachment will, I believe, result in a much lower stress-level (even if it's subconscious). Yet, detaching can be incredibly difficult, for a host of reasons--many of which are deeply personal and certainly worth praying over. I've found that for me, it boils down to trust in God's continued provision in my life. I've also come to realize that someone may have a need now for something I'm saving for later. Wouldn't it make more sense, if I'm truly trusting in the Lord, to let go of whatever it is, give it to someone who truly needs it, and then trust that my future need will be provided?

Related post:

The Seven Habits of Highly Successful Housekeepers

(Tip #4: They're ruthless when it comes to getting rid of stuff. Those who maintain consistently tidy homes would rather err on the side of getting rid of something that’s cluttering up space now—even if they have to buy it again later, instead of hanging onto it for that “maybe-someday” possibility later.)


  1. I hear you. Clutter is my nemesis that I struggle with daily. Two things that are helping is just getting rid of the "extras." We sort through any hand-me downs and donate extras (my son does not need 20 PJs in size 3!) and I've finally realized that any baby items that I part with may be replaced if an unplanned event arises. God will take care of the little one!

  2. Thanks for this... clutter is a sticking point between my husband and I and making it so that I can't have the "home/haven" that I truly want but haven't had for many years. But the sheer mammoth task of sorting thru everything and finding homes for it all is overwhelming and I suppose that is part of the reason I have not done this before now... But my brothers are threatening to come and rent a dumpster and just toss everything so it is like having a fire lit under my bottom to get this done NOW -- once and for all. Thanks for a post that offers food for thought and encouragement to step out in faith and get working on this... I do know, the more I work on it, the more I want to work and the more stuff I get rid of (like kids clothes) the easier it is to get rid of the next box. But it has been years since the place has been really truly clean and company friendly. I know it didn't get bad in a day and it will take more than a day to get it cleaned up (unless I allow my brothers to go ahead with their drastic measures, but I don't think I could handle that emotionally).... Anyway, I will sign off and go get busy with something productive!

    Saskatchewan Mother