One of my husband’s favorite sayings is, “I feel like a mosquito in a nudist colony. I know what to do, I just don’t know where to start!”
That’s how I feel when I look around our home. There is clutter EVERYWHERE—on the kitchen counter, shoved in drawers, overflowing from closets, stacked in the garage—pretty much everywhere. You might not see it if we know you’re coming over, but believe me it’s lurking just beneath the surface. And while I may know what to do, the magnitude of the job overwhelms me. I end up not doing anything because I don’t know where to start.
Now, I feel like I should give you some background info. Y’all have to understand, Jeff and I come by it honestly!
Growing up in a military family, I never lived anywhere longer than three years, usually less. So I developed a habit of keeping everything because I knew I would go through it when it came time to move. It’s easy to throw things out when you have a deadline and can only take what fits inside one box! Being a middle child, I was extremely attached to my friends. Therefore, the things I kept all had sentimental value— tons of photos, special t-shirts, and a handful of mementos tied to specific memories. The items were few, but they were extremely special to me. In many cases, they were the only way for me to hold onto friendships from my past.
Jeff lost his mom very suddenly when he was ten, so he also has a tendency to hold onto things for sentimental reasons. Being an only child, all his stuff was valuable and “special;” and since he lived in the same house until he went to college, he never really had a reason to get rid of it!
Fast forward a few decades, and here we are, surrounded by stuff.
We have lived in our current house for almost 13 years. Y’all, by the time I turned 13, I had already lived in 5 states (one of them twice), plus Germany! I used to dream of living in the same place my whole life. Now, here we are— our children don’t remember any home but this one. That is a blessing I don’t take for granted!
A lot of excess “stuff” can be accumulated in thirteen years. And while we have purged things again and again over the years, it’s not the same as having to keep only what you can fit in a box. Add to that four children, homeschooling, various ministries, a basement full of “inherited items,” and Jeff’s home office, and you can imagine why we are drowning in stuff!
As I look around me, I know what to do— I just don’t know where to start that will actually make a difference.
Every year, we decide THIS is the year we will clean out our house. I make a plan and get to work, but after about two rooms, I give up. It’s just too much! I come across a box of books I can’t part with or some craft supplies I’m not sure what to do with, and it paralyzes me. I get stuck, and I just can’t seem to move forward. It’s too daunting, too much, too hard. Stuff comes pouring in faster than I can get rid of it, and I end up waving the white flag and giving up.
So this year, I knew I needed to approach it differently. I don’t just want to declutter our home or clean up our space, I want it to be transformed into something different. I don’t just want it to look different, but feel different, too. I want it to be different.
But how? That’s the question.
I decided to use a few things as a filter. First, as I mentioned in my last blog post, God has been changing the way I think, and that applies to our home as well. So, as I look around me, I am keeping this perspective:
- Less, but better
- (Keep) what matters most
- Pray first
Second, I keep reminding myself that this is a process. True transformation doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, usually way more than we expect. This is no exception! So I am focusing on taking really small steps consistently over time, trusting that God will use them to make a dramatic difference. And I am using the “Tools for Transformation” that I mentioned a couple weeks ago as a guide (you can read about those HERE).
Here’s what that looks like:
First, I took some time to think about our home. What do I like about it? What annoys me? How do I want people to feel when they come over? How do I want it to feel to our family? What do I want our kids to remember about our home? (Seriously, don’t skip this step. It makes all the difference!)
I love that we really live in our home, and that people feel like part of our family when they are here. I don’t like feeling like we are drowning in clutter. And I don’t like using most of our “free time” cleaning it and organizing all our stuff. I want it to be a refuge of peace and joy, not a source of chaos and stress.
After thinking through those questions, I made a list of all of the “spaces” I could think of within our home. Since I know from experience that even going room by room overwhelms me, I decided to go even smaller. I broke down rooms into drawers, cabinets, items— whatever makes the most sense for that space.
I need my tasks to be manageable, and I rarely have more than about 20 minutes at a time. So I thought in terms of 10, 20, and 30-minute projects, and made my list accordingly. I didn’t think of everything, but that’s okay! When I notice additional tasks, I just add them to my list. My goal is to work on three areas each week, and I actually schedule them in my planner. If I get extra motivated, I can choose to do more, but if I cross off three things, I feel accomplished. (Also, there are no rules, so I can change my 3 things halfway through the week if I want… and I have!)
Once I decide on my three tasks for the week, the first thing I do in each space is REMOVE anything that is not essential. (Actually, the first thing I do is pray… God, please help me know what I need to keep and what I can let go of. Show me what matters and what doesn’t. Help me cling to You instead of my stuff, and remind me that this is an opportunity to be generous with others.) THEN I start removing stuff.
The more I can get rid of, the better. I have been re-organizing and rearranging my clutter long enough! My goal is to get rid of at least one-third of what I currently have (“less, but better!”), so I aim for either throwing away or donating 50%. That way, if I can’t quite do it, I’ve still reached my goal. And if I am able to get rid of that much, it’s even better! I will likely need to revisit this step multiple times, and that’s okay. I just have to start somewhere.
Once I’ve removed all the excess from a given space, I begin to organize what remains. This part is actually turning out to be pretty easy once all the stuff I don’t need is gone. Go figure!
This is where I get to add stuff in. In the “home” area, I am being very cautious about this one. I don’t want to get in the habit of replacing my clutter with new clutter, so anything I purchase needs to have a purpose. I like the idea of removing something for every item brought in.
Now, for the purpose of my blog, I am hoping to give a “Transformation Update” each Tuesday, focusing on a specific area. (They will usually be a lot shorter than this one… you’re welcome!) This week’s transformation update is a Home Edition!
Here’s where I made progress in January:
- Kitchen pantry (in 3 steps)… it was making me crazy, so it was first priority!
- Essential oils (1 step)
- My closet (6 steps… drawers x2, shelves, hanging clothes, bins, and memorabilia boxes)
That’s a lot, right? But as I look around our house, I am tempted to feel discouraged. It doesn’t look like I’ve accomplished anything at all! Yet transformation comes in small steps, taken one at a time. And my closet makes me happy now! So if you need me, that’s where I’m doing all my zoom meetings and phone calls this month! Lol!
What I’m learning in this area is that it’s important to focus, use the tools, and just start. Take small steps and be patient. Monitor my progress, so I can remind myself it is actually happening. In time, the transformation will happen. And in the meantime, I am able to bless others with my excess… bagfuls of it!
So, friends, where do you want to start? Do you need to make a list of tasks? What do you need to let go of? What are three small steps you can take this week towards transforming your space? Let’s do this together!