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When I found out that one of favorite bloggers was writing a new book that was going to be titled, “Unstuffed: Decluttering Your Home, Mind and Soul,” well, let’s just say I thought that she surely wrote the book for me and me alone. I found Ruth Soukup a few years ago when I was performing my one thousand and tenth Google search for ideas on how to tackle the overwhelming clutter that was in my home and attempting to bury me alive…again. Her website, Living Well, Spending Less (and the book she wrote of the same title) quickly became a favorite as it was chock-full of brilliant, yet actually easy and applicable ideas for tackling organizational messes, budget busters, recipes and more. Quite perfect for moms like myself, who struggle with clutter and organizational skills because of ADHD.
When Ruth announced this book, I was eager to dig in and learn some more in depth ways of conquering my clutter. I found out very quickly that the book wasn’t going to be quite what I thought it was. In fact, while Ruth does outline some basic ideas on clutter control, she is pretty clear on the fact that this was not going to be your average, run of the mill, how to organize your stuff, book. Instead, she was going to tackle the root of your clutter:
“…becoming unstuffed is much more than getting rid of the things you no longer want. Becoming unstuffed, truly unstuffed, is much more than that. It’s changing the way we look at our homes and the stuff we live with. It’s changing the way we look at our schedules and the stuff that fills our time. It’s changing the way we look at our relationships and the stuff they are made of (page 22).”
Ruth divides her book into three distinct sections: Home, Mind and Soul. There is so much great insight and information to be found in this book. My book is already well worn, and has more words highlighted in pink than were originally printed in black and white. Really. Good. Stuff. While I want you to run, really quickly, and grab this book, I want to share with you one thing from each section that really resonated deeply within me, for I feel that it will definitely encourage you in your walk or season in life as it did mine. I am actually going to skip the first section on Home for today, and jump over to Section Two, Mind, because this take away really hit close to home and I know that there are many of you struggling with the same thing.
On page 95-96, Ruth starts by setting up a scenario, in great detail, of the family who is very busy, always rushing off to one thing or the next, whether it’s work, school, sports, clubs, dance class, whatever fills up the family’s time. She makes note of the fact that family dinners consist primarily of take out and fast food in the car on the way to said event. Sound like anyone you know? After carefully constructing the scenario, Ruth goes on to say this:
“The family whose life has become just one big series of events, appointments, and obligations. The families whose evenings are spent rushing from here to there, then rushing home to finish homework, go to bed, and start all over again the next day. The family that simply doesn’t have the time to slow down.
It’s a frenzied pace, one fueled by a culture that not only embraces, this sort of go-go-go mentality but perpetuates it. The underlying message is that if our lives aren’t completely full, they don’t count. And it’s not just our lives; its our kid’s lives as well. Whereas kids used to have the freedom to be kids-to run outside, ride bikes, play and use their imagination-they now have structured activities filling up nearly every minute of their days. Between more homework and more sports, more clubs and lessons and classes and groups, kids have almost zero time to just be kids.
…the main problem is this culture of busy , this idea that we can’t slow down, can’t stop running from one thing to the next for fear that we might miss out, or worse, that our kids might fall behind, becomes a constant presence in our lives-the most important presence in our lives. Without intending it to happen, the busyness becomes our first priority, the thing we value above all else.
The busyness becomes our idol.”
Wow. I bet you never thought that your filled to the gill calendar was actually an idol in disguise. I know I sure didn’t. This thought literally stopped my reading in its proverbial tracks. The more I thought about it and the more I continued to mull this over, the more I really could see the point Ruth was trying to make.
If you take a quick scroll down any of your social media sites, you will see post after post of your friend’s kiddos in this activity or that, often times with two or more activities on one day; day after day after day. These posts are usually bookended by posts of your friend’s own activities: a run before work, a workshop during work, a dinner meeting followed a girl’s night out; all on the same day; day after day after day. Occasionally they’ll post the home cooked meal that they cooked, proud the family was having a sit down meal together for the first time in months. All of the posts are littered with a cute emoji and hastags like #lifeofamom or #itwontlastforever . Tell me that’s not what you don’t see on your feed. Tell me that’s not what you’ve been guilty of posting yourself. (Me? Guilty.) It’s pretty dang sad when we post references to our kid’s bike ride or photos running around outside acting like a care free kid, like it’s some kind of a miracle: Check my kid out! He’s outside, using his imagination in a unstructured fashion! Wow! When did this become news to share instead of simply the norm? (Again, I’ve been guilty of this as well.)
I don’t think that these things are bad in and of themselves, of course not. But, I think Ruth’s point is that when we allow this crazy busyness to become our norm, than we have a big problem. Especially when it comes to our kids. Scripture tells us that anything we make more important than God and his Word, anything that takes priority over him, whether we intend so or not, well, than those things become exactly like idols. If we are moving at such a breakneck speed, with so many other priorities filling or time, there’s no room for God. That is, not if we are completely honest with our self. He becomes last on a long list of priorities. We are simply too busy or too tired at the end of the day and it’s too hard to fit him in our schedules. He is getting our sloppy leftovers: functionary, half hearted prayers of grace and bedtime rituals, a random Sunday (or Saturday, if that’s your church Sabbath day)morning hour when there’s nothing else scheduled on the calendar or a Christian CD stuck in the car’s stereo system.
The thing with idols, is that they always come crashing down eventually. (If you’re not sure about that, pretty much every Old Testament story will help you out there, or for future reference on idols falling, check out Revelations…Satan knows his days are numbered.) The idolatry of busyness will eventually lead to you (or your kids) becoming run down and sick, or worse case scenario, there will come a time when your kids will have a crisis in which they need a solid spiritual foundation on which to lean. Thiers will be shaky, as you may have inadvertently taught them that God wasn’t quite the top priority.
About 18 months ago, my calendar was filled for months at a time, with my kids and myself running around just as Ruth described in her book. The fact is, with my ADHD, I function much better when I am constantly on the run. Stimulation is good for me. I like busyness and I like schedules that tell me what to do and when. I want my kids to be well rounded and have lots of experiences. (Two pots of strong coffee a day also helps) I was so busy, that I literally ran myself to the ground. I have health issues that I pushed past and I ended up pretty sick, missed a lot of work and even had to have a couple of procedures done. I was forced to reevaluate and say no, and I was forced to rest. So were my kids. God has shown me over and over again recently, just how important rest is. He reminded me once again through this book. Ruth reminded me that there is purpose in rest. God created us to rest. Check out what Ruth has to say on page 104:
“What is balance? The problem with striving for balance in a DIY culture that is constantly reminding us to do more, have more, and be more is that we think achieving balance is something we can DO. Instead, I think balance happens in the margin. Balance doesn’t happen from the things we are doing; it is what happens when we stop doing. Learning to say no is the first step to a more balanced life. Remembering to rest is the second. And guess what? There is no third step. Balance comes from rest…and it has been with us from the very beginning: “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done (Genesis 2:2-3).”
Ladies, he set aside an ENTIRE day for resting!! A day in which we are commanded later in Exodus 20, verse 11, to honor and keep holy. Holy pertains to God. In a nutshell, we should be setting aside twenty four hours of our week, in order to rest and to worship God. Not worship that is half hearted, or worship that is done with what is left of us after a busy day, week or month, but worship that is full and joyful and done with rested hearts, bodies and minds. With crazy, filled up schedules, how many of us can say we do that? I know that I don’t. I fall so very short, and in doing so, I am modeling that example to my kids.
I am much better than I was before I came to a forced stop a year and a half ago. I have many empty days on my calendar, my kids are involved in a lot less things, (they are in all honesty, much happier and have survived doing things occasionally and one at a time) and I have learned to say no without second guessing myself or feeling too guilty. I also have a long way to go on this. This section in Ruth’s wonderful book wouldn’t have resonated so deeply with me had it not been true. The awesome thing about our God and his Word, is that we are always learning something new about him, as so long as we are always striving consistently to do so.
I pray that these words I have shared from Ruth’s book have encouraged you to take a long, hard look at your schedule. Is busyness becoming an idol as it was for me? I pray that you were reminded to remember to find balance in your schedule through resting and worship through God and God alone. I pray that you teach your children the same.
I pray that you always remember, He’s got your back.
You can order Unstuffed by clicking here.