The trouble all started the day we moved into our new house. As the movers carried in what seemed to be endless boxes, I had to direct them where to put each box. Some to our bedroom, others to the attic, the basement, or the garage.
As the hours trudged along, my stomach growled with hunger, and the kids began to fuss. It felt as though this would never end. “How do we have so much stuff?” I asked myself for the tenth time that day.
Eventually, the movers finished their job, but mine was just beginning. I had to unpack all those boxes and put away All The Things. And I asked myself for the hundredth time that week, “How do we have so much stuff?”.
As I began to unpack and we gradually settled into our new home, it soon became clear- I was in over my head with this new place. It’s the biggest house we’ve ever lived in and I became quickly overwhelmed.
I struggled to keep up with the cleaning. And trying to complete the laundry in this place is a daunting task because I have to bring clothes from the second-floor bedrooms all the way down to the basement where the washer and dryer are located, dodging baby gates along the way.
After a round of kid’s birthdays and Christmas, the too-much-stuff problem got even worse. We’re blessed to have families who love us so much, but being so loved equaled so much more stuff.
Now, I was not just in over my head, I was drowning. I was drowning in too much stuff.
I was going under and I didn’t know how to save myself. I tried different cleaning schedules. I tried donating stuff we didn’t need. I put toys that weren’t being played with up in the attic. I tried to quit buying so much. All of these things helped, but I was still out there treading water. I knew at some point I would slip back under.
And that’s why when I came across the book Unstuffed: Decluttering Your Home, Mind, and Soul by Ruth Soukup, I knew I had been thrown a life-preserver.
This book came to my rescue to show me that it’s not about all the stuff, it’s about so much more!
It’s About Your Home
A famous quote by William Morris says: “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”. Unstuffed is packed full of practical tips and suggestions on how to apply that principle. You can start with baby steps or you can follow her detailed hour-by-hour plan for how to complete a mega purge over a few days time.
Right now, I’m taking those baby steps, but plan to complete the mega purge before our next move.
One piece of advice the author, Ruth, gives that I love is to “create a vision”. Think about how you want your home to feel. And be realistic about the people you share your home with and how you use your home.
This resonated with me and I realized, it’s not realistic for my home to be “Pinterest-perfect” when I have two small kids who share my home. Part of my vision is that my kids feel free and comfortable to use our home to play and be creative.
Unstuffed also includes some simple suggestions on how to help your kids fight against the culture of consumerism, how to teach them that money equals work, to give to others, and to be content with what they have. In fact, these are great lessons for all of us.
It’s About Your Mind
In a culture that seems to equate busy with important“, I love that in Unstuffed Ruth reminds us that “A busy life is not the same as a meaningful one”.
Every time we say YES to one thing, we’re saying NO to something else. We have to learn how to say NO even when it’s hard so we can say YES to what we want most of all.
Unstuffed gives us practical step-by-step instructions on how to help our families make those choices and how to decide what’s most important to each individual family member so we can say YES to only those things and NO to everything else.
Ruth also emphasizes the importance of rest, which is a Biblical concept. She puts it this way- “If God could take a day off without the world falling apart, so can we”.
The book even includes a list of red flags to watch for so you will know whether or not you get enough rest.
Other problematic issues that clutter up our minds are paperwork (think junk mail and kid’s artwork) and digital clutter (think junk emails and the thousands of pictures on your phone).
One suggestion to combat this that Ruth gives is pure genius! She suggests you create a “junk account”. This email account would be the one you give to stores, charities you donate to, or when you sign up for a freebie. You can access this account any time you need it, but don’t have to check it on a regular basis. Super helpful, right?!?
Unstuffed also points out that often it’s other people’s stuff that weighs us down. Perhaps you have items that belonged to a family member that has passed away or were gifted to you. These can be especially hard to get rid of because we often feel guilty about it.
Thankfully Ruth provides some tips on how to separate our memories from the stuff and also how to graciously decline gifts (yes, it can be done!).
It’s About Your Soul
Although it may seem odd, relationships can become clutter too if we aren’t careful. Although taking the time to cultivate deep friendships is important, we must also be careful to set boundaries on superficial and toxic relationships. Thankfully, Ruth comes to the rescue as she provides advice on how to do both.
My favorite advice she gives on how to cultivate real relationships is to not let bitterness take root because you feel as though a friend has neglected you.
Because as it turns out,” Ruth says, “that friend you think may have forgotten all about you is feeling just as busy, overwhelmed, or neglected as you are. The reality is that we all tend to get wrapped up in our own little worlds and forget to nurture our friendships the way we should”.
It’s About Finding Balance
Whether it’s in your relationships or your schedule, it’s essential to find balance. Some basic concepts that we all know are good for us can help us achieve this: reduce our stress, get plenty of sleep, exercise, and incorporate downtime.
Don’t live with what Ruth calls “FOMO”- the Fear Of Missing Out phenomenon. Keep your weekends free and don’t let social media mislead you into thinking every moment of the day has to be special.
Stay home, relax, have nothing scheduled. Trust me. You’ll be so glad you did!
It’s About Examining Our Motives and Discovering What Got Us to This Point
All the clutter and all the things on our to-do list can weigh so heavy on us. But it isn’t just about the stuff- it’s so much more! When we’re sinking, it’s only God who can save us.
Through this process of unstuffing, our idols might be revealed to us, those things we have placed the highest value on. For some of us it might be our kids, our house, our careers, pleasing others, or feeling good about ourselves.
Near the end of the book, Ruth says,
We live in a do-it-yourself world, one that tells us again and again that if we can just try a little harder, do a little more, be a little better, we might just save ourselves. It is the same mentality that compels us to fill up our homes with stuff in the first place, because that stuff becomes the status symbol for the life we think we want. It is the same mentality that drives us to fill up our schedules, causing us to confuse busyness with meaning. We’ve stuffed ourselves to overflowing with the pressure to achieve. But it doesn’t have to be that way”.
God and His amazing grace have already filled that void if we allow Him.
My house still gets messy. My laundry still piles up. But I’m not drowning anymore. I don’t have anything to prove. There’s nothing I have to do, it’s already been done. I’ve already been saved.
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