When a Bad Thing Isn’t Such a Bad Thing

I have good news and bad news about clutter. And ultimately, the bad news is also the good news.

In 2009, I started decluttering my home. I’d decluttered many times before, but this was different because I was desperate. Desperate to get my house under control and exhausted from constantly digging through the stuff I’d collected over the years.

As I ruthlessly purged things from my home, I realized a lot about myself. I saw my struggle with clutter, with an excess of stuff, was directly related to how I’m wired. How my brain works.

This meant my clutter struggles were directly related to how God made me.

As I forced myself to be truthful about my home, as I banished excuses and purged the stuff, I saw how many of the things in my home were there because of my creative brain.

I loved being prepared. I’m not even talking about preparing for some tragic world event, I’m talking about having everything I might need for the skit we might do during VBS in the summer of 2029. My brain comes up with future scenarios for any and every situation that might (ever) happen. “Preparing” for those scenarios felt like a good use of my creativity in the moment when I was gathering treasures, but it was hard to live in my house.

I wore frugality like a badge of honor. Being frugal is a good thing, right? I call it stewardship when I’m feeling churchy. But my extreme cheapness caused me to do things like… keep a third ironing board. The fact that I rarely ironed was the reason I should keep them all. What if God eventually called me to a lifestyle that required regular ironing? Then I would decide which ironing board worked best to get the ironing-for-God done. I wouldn’t have to spend a dime, and all the years of maneuvering around these large household items would be worth it.

I saw myself as crafty. Or potentially crafty. I wasn’t a painter or a sculptor, but the idea of doing upcycle projects made me giddy. Every broken tile or legless end table was a possibility. I looked beyond the flaws and believed in the beauty of what could be. And then those broken tiles cluttered my house.

All of these core parts of my God-created self were easy to celebrate as long as I wasn’t actually inside my home when the celebrating needed to happen. Inside the home I’d always assumed would be a haven for preparedness, frugality and craftiness, I was suffocating.

As I decluttered, I had an identity crisis. I kept waiting for God to reveal one spiritual truth that would change my brain forever and make the clutter go away painlessly. I begged Him to change me. To fix my brain and make me… organized.

But what God showed me wasn’t what I assumed He’d show me. As is often pretty much always the case.

He didn’t make a mistake when He designed my mind. He knew what He was doing when He gave me a brain that can tackle a project and break it down into actionable steps to check off a list, but doesn’t notice when I place a screwdriver in the pantry instead of back in the toolbox.

As I decluttered, as I found ways to make progress even though I felt overwhelmed, God revealed that this weakness, this tendency to gather clutter more than the average person, was part of how He made me. It was directly related to the creativity He’d given me.  And that wasn’t a bad thing.

2 Corinthians 12:7b-9 NIV

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’

Weakness isn’t fun, but there’s amazing beauty in it. I only wanted the parts of me that made me feel good. The parts where I felt worthy and in control.

But in the moments when I feel overwhelmed, I’m reminded that my worthiness only comes from God. He gives me worth freely and lavishly, but the reason it’s actual worthiness is that it isn’t from me.

Only He is truly worthy.

My weakness is a gift. Just like the creativity. I celebrate the creativity, but in my weakness I sit in awe that God loves me enough to build in a safeguard against my own pride. I thank Him for the constant reminder that self-reliance is exhausting and ultimately turns me away from Him.

So how does this gift of weakness play out in my home? It plays out day by day, with progress happening through much hard work and many moments of frustration. God let me create (<-that thing I love to do) strategies that help me work through the very real feeling of being overwhelmed by stuff (<-that feeling I despise).

Don’t worry. I have other weaknesses (have you tried Lemon Oreos??), but deciding to view this never-ending one as a consistent reminder of my identity in Christ rather than a failure helps me see the beauty in God’s creation. In His creation of me.

So, the good news is there are ways to work through the feeling of being overwhelmed by clutter, but the bad news (at least for me) is the feeling of being overwhelmed may never completely go away. But that’s also the good news.

Original devotional written for Faith.Full by Dana K. White, author of Decluttering at the Speed of Life.

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Your Turn

All of us have things about ourselves that we wish God would presto-change-o make different in an instant. We have weaknesses and flaws that drive us to our knees. And that’s a good thing!.. Those weaknesses kept us tethered tightly to Jesus! Come share with us one area of your own heart that you realize is a bad thing but also keeps you leaning fully on Jesus. We want to hear from you! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full

Dana K. White

Dana K. White is a blogger, podcaster, speaker, and (much to her own surprise) a decluttering expert. She taught both English and theatre arts before leaving her job to make her family her life's work. In an attempt to get her home under control, Dana started blogging as “Nony” (short for anonymous) at A Slob Comes Clean. Dana soon realized she was not alone in her housekeeping struggles and in her feelings of shame. Today, Dana shares realistic home management strategies and a message of hope for the hopelessly messy through her blog, weekly podcasts, and videos. Dana lives with her husband and three kids just outside of Dallas, Texas. Oh, and she’s funny.

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