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Last week, in Part 1 of my three part series called, “Unstuffed: Cluttering Your Heart, Mind and Soul,” based on the new book of the same name by Ruth Soukup, I shared what I learned from Ruth concerning busyness. She noted how, if we are not careful, busyness can become an idol to us. Scripture tells us, and I am paraphrasing here, that anything that we spend more time and concern with than the Lord, than that thing becomes an idol. That’s a big no-no. It stopped me in my tracks, because I certainly fill my time up with busyness: work and volunteering there, church and volunteering there, kids in many activities, running here, there and everywhere. Busy. I could definitely see the truth in Ruth’s words.
I shared last week how I was really excited to grab this book and read it because I really have a hard time with clutter in every corner of my home. The chapter I am sharing from today deals with the clutter in your home, for sure, but, even more so, it addresses the root of your clutter.
One area in my home that is super cluttered is my boy’s bedrooms. They just have so much stuff! So much, that it has exploded into every other part of our house. In part 1, chapter 3, Ruth specifically addresses the issue of kids and their never ending influx of stuff. Our kids, more than any other generation of kids before them, are bombarded everyday with things they just “have to have.” Ruth refers to it as the Culture of Consumerism and she nails it:
“Advertisers and marketers are experts at this game of making us-the consumer- want what we don’t already have and convincing us that one brand is better than another, one product superior to all the rest. Billions of dollars are spent every year to make sure the message comes through loud and clear, and these marketers know that the most receptive audience they can reach are those too young to ask questions and too immature to fight back. They want a captive audience. They want the hearts and minds of our kids.
As parents, it is our job to fight back daily against this culture of consumerism and to protect our kids from becoming inundated with propaganda about what to buy. Proverbs 4:23 wisely tells us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” It is our job to turn off the television sets, eliminate commercials, limit screen time, and be aware of the messages that are coming in. It is our job to have open and honest conversations about wants versus needs and to say that enough is enough, because our kids will certainly not do it themselves. They don’t yet have the wisdom to discern the difference between hype and reality. They need us to do it for them. And as parents, it is our job to know that it is okay to say no (pages 73 & 75).”
Oh my gosh, this is so true. Now, I am blessed in that my two boys have not yet bought in completely to the whole name brand thing. Out of necessity of sticking to budget, you won’t find a whole lot of name brand stuff hanging in our closets, and if there is a stray shirt or two with a so-called, “have to have” label on it, you can be sure it was a hand me down, a gift or a thrift store find. They don’t know Walmart or Target from Abercrombie or Under Armor. They could care less. So far. However, last year, near the end of the school year, they drove me crazy with wanting brightly covered knee socks with crazy designs. It was all the rage at school. Socks, people. SOCKS!! I laughed too, until I took them shopping for said socks and they were $12.00 a pair. Friends, do the math. If you figure they change them once a day (albeit, against the will of my youngest who thinks it’s okay to wear the same pair of socks until they’re walking around on their own), that’s $84 a week in socks. That’s literally more than my weekly grocery budget for my family of four. Needless to say, they didn’t get those socks. They were happy to compromise on an $8.00 off-brand pack of 10 brightly colored socks that they split. All was well, they were happy. But, let me tell you, I work at the school they attend and their classmates are walking around in those $12.00 socks and $200.00 fancy-smancy sneakers. Sometimes, even if you can afford those things for your kids, it doesn’t mean you always should. Anyhow, I digress to another post topic. I said no to the $12.00 socks that advertisers said were a must have.
But, as the mountains of stuff protruding from every nook and cranny of their rooms can attest to, I usually have a very hard time saying no when it comes to them obtaining more and more stuff. And, truth be told, a lot of it is stuff they “have to have” because they saw it on some advertisement. Video games, Legos, Star Wars action figures, Matchbox cars, baseball cards, Pokémon cards, board games, rubber band bracelet maker (“If I get one, I’ll make bracelets for Operation Christmas Child, Mommy.” Two finished bracelets for OCC. Two thousand rubber bands found elsewhere. To be fair, they did make quite a few and wear them.), and a literal closetful of Nerf guns in every shape and size. A full arsenal that every gun loving American would be proud of. Then there’s the stupid, money zapping, located at the check out, impulse buys and dollar bin junk: little marble people, bouncy balls, gooey booger like junk stuffed in an egg, wooden puzzle airplanes, plastic army men, funky pencils, and 37 1/2 Pez dispensers, because we can’t throw away R2D2, even if he’s missing a leg. Then there’s the treasures: 25,000 rocks found with a speck of fool’s gold, 1800 book marks from each and every trip to the library over the last 13 years, the “I’m the special helper” stickers from kindergarten and Mom, Dad and Gramp’s grade school trophies. (Notice that I am not listing books. Contrary to what my husband may tell you, you can never have too many books. End of Story. Sorry, Ruth!). Now, to be fair, (and clearly, not to make excuses) all this stuff wasn’t just purchased by myself. It includes gifts from family and friends and prizes from various programs. I also, as hard as it may be to believe after reading the above list, do say no a lot. Just not nearly enough. The bottom line is, I have trouble saying no to my kids when I should. They want for nothing. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not entirely a good thing either. I have established such a routine of providing not just what they need, but what they want, that they are now having some trouble distinguishing between the two. Thank goodness, it’s not too late for me, or for them. Check out what Ruth says on page 69:
“In the end, just like with my own clutter, it comes down to getting FREE of clutter: Fighting the flow, Ruthlessly purging, Establishing limits, and Emphasizing quality over quantity. Additionally, fighting the battle of stuff alongside our kids, rather than only for them, will also help them learn vitally important life lessons about the value of money, the reality of hard work (which includes caring fo stuff!), and the responsibility of stewarding our resources wisely. It’s a big job, I admit-one that wears me out sometimes. Let’s face it, parenting is hard work. But the alternative-entitled, spoiled kids who can’t fend for themselves and who are drowning in a sea of stuff they don’t need-isn’t something I’m willing to settle for.”
After reading this section, I tackled my youngest son’s room first. He’s 10, so I had him help me some. I had him choose what things he really wanted, and things to give away. We talked about letting go of some of the stickers and rocks, and he reluctantly did so, but without a fight. I admit, I also did some of that ruthless purging when he was in school. In the end, we gave away three bags of clothing and toted two bags of nicer items to a consignment shop. We also gave two boxes of stuff to a local thrift shop and threw away two big bags of stuff. Just from one kid’s room. Sigh. But, I can honestly say, with so much less stuff, he’s much more happy to just hang out in his room. He’s not overwhelmed with choices, can easily see what he has, and the simplicity of his room suits him. He’s proud of the hard work he did, and is actually keeping it clean, without me hounding him to do so.
I have also always been hit or miss with chores. Honestly, and I know I am not the only one, it is sometimes just easier to do it yourself. However, all this always saying yes business, without earning it, has started to catch up with me. I have had several instances in the past couple of months where I just want to strangle them both, because they are acting like that kid. The entitled, never satisfied, always wants more kid. The one Ruth alluded to above. It’s not pretty at all, and made me take a good, long, hard look at my part in it.
One thing I decided to do was to take a look at our chore policy. I re-evaluated it, and put together a whole new system. One where they can earn allowance by helping out. I even made up a whole pay-stub, paycheck system, where they can see what they earned and why they earned it, in black and white. My oldest, a rule-following 13 year old, understands it better than my younger, you can bet I am going to test all the boundaries that you give me, kid; my oldest enjoyed the fruit of his labor and understands that the more he completes his assigned chores and pitches in, the better his pay while my youngest was very unhappy that his two week paycheck only yielded him a few dollars, which came from cleaning his room and feeding the cats; things that he doesn’t mind doing. It’s a work in process.
This chapter on kids and their stuff is an eye opener. It will force you to dig deep inside yourself, pull up those big Mommy pants, and toss aside the old pair, which, once were comfortable were now worn out, with not much keeping them up anymore, and change the way you do things. Change is tough but change is good and usually necessary for growth of any kind.
Grab this book and let Ruth help you out, but most of all, remember to turn to the Lord for help on this whole parenting gig, because He’s the one who always has your back.
To read Part 1 in this series on Ruth’s new book, please click here.
To order Ruth’s book, please click here.