De-Cluttering Our Homes
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Kathi LippKathi Lipp loves gives real help and how-tos to move people forward in every area of their lives. With humor and wisdom, Kathi offers hope paired with practical steps to live with meaning. Kathi is the bestselling author of 17 books including Clutter Free, The Get Yourself Organized Project, The Husband Project, and Overwhelmed. She is the host of Clutter Free Academy the Podcast, runs the Facebook group Clutter Free Academy where 8,000 women (and a few brave men) learn to l...more
God values making someone feel at home, and on today’s program, Kathi Lipp gives insight on how we can better prepare a place for our families and those who enter our homes.
De-Cluttering Our Homes
Dave: Alright; do you know what one of the best days of the pandemic were for me?
Ann: I have no idea.
Dave: I walked in my closet; and I said, “Today’s the day. I’m clearing out all of the stuff I don’t need.” Because I was wearing the same sweatpants every day anyway so—
Ann: I am so happy you did that.
Welcome to FamilyLife Today,where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.
Dave: You remember—I came downstairs with bags of clothes—and then the argument was: “Do we give them to Salvation Army, or do we throw them in the trash?” But it was just such a freeing moment; it’s like: “I have time to do this, and I’m going to do this.”
Ann: And I like it when you do it, because you have a tendency to hold onto things—
Dave: [Laughter] I’m not a hoarder.
Ann: —because of memories. No; you’re not a hoarder, but you like to collect things.
Today, we’ve got Ron Deal from FamilyLife Blended® with us.
Ann: Ron, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Ron: Thank you; it’s always good to be with you guys.
Ann: You’re always one of our favorites—you’re a hero; you’re wise—and we love that you lead the FamilyLife Blended podcast. I think we have so many people that have benefited from listening to you and your wisdom over the years.
Ron: Thank you; I appreciate that.
Dave: And you talk to somebody on this episode that’s a de-clutterer.
Ron: Let me tell you—Kathi Lipp is a riot. [Laughter] She is a speaker/an author—17books—she writes prolifically about decluttering your life, just dealing with life.
Ann: So Ron, I’m thinking, “You’re talking to blended families; you’re helping us; why this book?”
Ron: Yes; well, because it’s also a metaphor; right? It’s: “We don’t just declutter our physical space, we declutter our heart.” We try to declutter spiritually what’s going on with us and get that stuff out of the way so we can function well and live beautifully.
I went into this conversation, thinking, “No, there’s nothing here for me.” [Laughter] I was wrong! She had so much to say that I needed to hear—everything from “Where do I put my books from graduate school that my wife hates?”
Ann: Oh, Ron.
Ron: As you listen, be thinking about your own life, and your own physical spaces, and how you steward that well. And then, we’re going to enter into that spiritual realm and apply the same principles to the rest of our lives.
[Previous FamilyLife Blended®Podcast]
Ron: Kathi, in your book, The Clutter-Free Home, you say that your home should be beautiful; because you live in it, not because someone else might see it. [Laughter] I thought, “That is so practical, and direct, and helpful.” But let’s unpack that for a minute: “What’s behind that?”
Kathi: Well, I think that—for many of us, and I know I lived this way for years and years—is that my house got really cute when I knew somebody was coming. I wanted people to feel comfortable in my home, but I realized I wasn’t making myself or my family necessarily a priority in our own home. It was always about if somebody else is coming.
Let’s just talk about when the in-laws were coming: that’s when the stash-and-dash happened; right? [Laughter] We went from a clutter castle to home beautiful in an hour-and-a-half. The problem was you had to live with the aftermath of that: what a burden to put on your family; what a burden to put on yourself.
Ron: And it kind of sends a message to the family, too, like, “You’re not worth cleanliness,”—I don’t know—something like that.
Kathi: Right; right. You know, everybody has a certain amount of chaos in their house. If you/you know, especially if you’re a blended family, can we just all get an extra little pass? [Laughter] When you’re trying to blend two different family styles—and trying to blend all these people, who are not necessarily always having a Kum ba yah moment—let’s just say: “You know, when you pull in a blended family, that’s going to cause even more chaos.”
But I also know this: “The more intentional we are about, not having a perfect house, but having a house that functions and serves the people who are living there, it makes all the difference in setting the tone for the family and how they operate.”
Ron: Now I like that part that you just said, “…serves the people living there.” How are we serving them by decluttering?
Kathi: I was just speaking at a big conference a week ago. When I ask people, “What is the heart reason behind decluttering?” I spoke [at] several different sessions; at each session, one woman said, “I have a child, who struggles with…”—either they are on the [autistic] spectrum or they have some kind of emotional need or physical challenge. By decluttering the home, they’re able to make life just a little less chaotic/just a little bit more purposeful for that child, who just needs a little bit more order in their lives.
The other thing is: “Let’s not discount what we, as parents, need.” When we come home, at the end of a long day, or we’ve been in our homes for a long day, to be able to put our eyes on some peace or a clear spot; it makes all the difference in the world.
Ron: Okay; with all of those great reasons why decluttering is helpful, let’s back up a step.
Ron: Why do we clutter ourselves? [Laughter] What’s that about?!
Kathi: I have finally figured out exactly what clutter is: “Clutter is just decisions.” We are so tired, at the end of the day especially, about making one more decision. Let’s think about all of the decisions we have to make during a day. If you’re a blended family, you are doubling those decisions; and not all of the people you’re making decisions for are rising up and calling you blessed all the time.
Ron: So it’s decisions—like maybe you’re tired/your exhausted—whatever it is, you have to make a decision about this thing and you get stuck. I know, in your book, you pointed out/you said “Fear, guilt, and shame—
Ron: —how does that get in the way of decisions?
Kathi: Okay; fear is the idea of: “What if I need it someday? I’m going to keep it just in case.” We have a house that’s filled with things for a potential life that we’re not living. I probably hung onto my scrapbooking stuff for ten years longer than I needed to when I made the decision: “I’m not scrapbooking anymore; that’s just not who my family is.” Fear is: “…just in case,” or “What if I need it someday?” The paralysis of: “I can’t spend money on it again,” will keep us spending thousands of dollars in storage units and storage boxes to store things that we don’t even care about. That’s fear.
Guilt is: “So-and-so gave it to me.” Because my kid made something for me in third grade, I’ve got to keep it for the rest of my life to prove my love, which is ridiculous!
Ron: You do know that kid’s going to grow up. When they’re 35, and they’re going to ask you if you have that thing they made for you in third grade; right? [Laughter] Because all of our kids/we all—I did that to my—wait! I never did that to my parents.
Kathi: —never did that!—never did that! You know what?—our kids/our adult kids don’t want stuff.
Ron: Right; right.
Kathi: When you carefully curated their lives into little folders—and you kept the handprint, and you kept the “A” that they got on that test they really studied for—and when they move out of the house, [you] say, “I have all your things.” They’re like, “Yeah, I don’t want that.” You’re thinking, “Somebody has to take it”; so you keep it. But if they don’t care enough about it to take it, why do you care more than they do about their own lives?
Then finally—there’s fear; there’s guilt—and then there’s shame: “I spent so much money on it.” We think that—I don’t know—by keeping that pair of shoes that is killing our feet every time we wear them—so we’ve worn them exactly once—we think by keeping them, somehow, we’re earning back the value. Whereas I would much rather see those be donated; so somebody, who doesn’t feel like they’re being tortured every time they wear those shoes, can actually enjoy them.
Ron: Okay; let me ask you another question; it’s kind of a two-parter. Have you always been a clutter-free person?—and if not, how did you start making the decisions you needed to make in order to become a clutter-free person?
Kathi: My dad was really and truly a hoarder—he [his habit] was controlled by my mom—but his mom was very creative and kept everything. He never learned how to make those decisions. I’ll never say I was as bad as my dad. But when I started my own family, a lot of those fear things that he had were passed down to me. Because I’d never thought of another way to live, I embraced them.
I had this poverty mentality: “If I buy this once, I never have to buy it again; so I’m going to keep it for the rest of my life.” The problem was: I couldn’t find that thing when I needed it: so there may have been seven can openers in my house at one time; there may have been six hole punches in my house at one time. The more stuff you bring in, it lowers the chances of you ever being able to find it and actually use it.
What really started to change things for me was actually when we became a blended family. We could go one way or another: we could either just give up all control and live in chaos, or we could start to make decisions: “We’re putting two stepbrothers in the same room,”—decisions had to be made—“ We were putting two stepsisters in the same room.” My husband and I were combining lives.
I would love to say it all rained down on me—I got a revelation—and everything was great from there. But really, it was a process of years, of saying: “I’m going to ask myself, ‘Why am I holding onto this?’ when there’s not a rational reason to do it.” When I could figure out—“Okay, I’m afraid that we are not going to have money again; and I can never buy this item again,” or “I’m afraid that my mom’s going to come and see that I didn’t put out this knick-knack that she gave me,” or “We spent money on this when we are struggling to save money; I have to keep it for the rest of my life,”—when I could start to identify them, I could start to see my own faulty thinking—and not only help myself make decisions—but help my kids and my husband make decisions.
Dave: Well, you’re listening to FamilyLife Today. I’ve got to tell you: Kathi’s getting a little too close to home right there.
Ann: I was thinking, “I’ve never put together/associating fear, guilt, and shame to the objects in my home and why I’m saving them; but as she’s speaking, I’m thinking, ‘Yes, that’s exactly why I’m holding on to those things!’” [Laughter]
Dave: Ann, we need to declutter.
Ron: I told you this stuff will really get to you fast.
Ann: It does.
Dave: Yes; so what were you thinking when you were hearing this, Ron?
Ron: Well, again, I’m thinking about my own possessions—and how I manage things in my life, and whether I prioritize them or not, and whether I need to—it seems to me the bigger reflection here is how we think about our possessions and how much faith we put in our possessions.
You know, Jesus said—in Luke, Chapter 12, verse 15—“Take care, and be on guard against covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” We need to understand the motive behind our possessions. Sometimes that motive is fear, guilt, and what other people are going to think of us. And sometimes, it’s about: “No, I just really want that; because it somehow makes my life better,”—and now, that’s my idol.
Ann: —or becomes my security; yes, an idol.
Ron: Right! So we’ve got to reflect on this. We’ve got to ask these questions, and wonder what we do with our possessions, so we steward them; they don’t steward us.
Dave: Oh! Boom! So you’re telling me I shouldn’t hang five guitars on my wall?
Ron: [Laughter] I think we need to go back to Kathi; maybe she’ll tell you that.
Dave: She will.
[Previous FamilyLife Blended Interview]
Ron: Okay, so I want to wrap back around to decisions just for a minute. Let’s dial down. One of the things you say in The Clutter-Free Home is you need to ask yourself three questions about your stuff: “Do you love it?” “Do you use it?” “Would you buy it again?” Does that help you make a decision about whether you get rid of something?
Kathi: It really, really does; because here’s what I think most of us do. We go through, and we start to declutter; but what we don’t do is actually declutter—we just move clutter—we buy a storage box, and we put it in there. What it is: is just a delayed decision. All storage is, for the most part, is delayed decisions.
If I’m able to go in there and say, “Do I love it?”—if I love it, I get to keep it. Here’s the thing: if it’s in a box in your garage, I question your love; I don’t think you probably love it. Maybe it has some sentimental attachment—great—take a picture of it and upload that to your computer so you can look at it. But if you don’t love it—if you don’t have it out in your house every single day—then it’s probably not worth keeping.
When my brother and I were little, my parents had got a coffee grinder for a wedding gift. Now, my parents didn’t drink coffee. My brother and I would sneak it off the shelf; and we would grind up dry dog food in it, which was fine until my parents had company come over. [Laughter] They got to sit down to some Alpo®-flavored coffee at one point.
Ron: [Laughing] Oh, no; that has not made it into Starbucks yet.
Kathi: It has not. That has not been a featured flavor. I love that coffee grinder; because it reminds me of the best part of my brother, where we were kids; and we loved to have fun. I love that coffee grinder. There are other things that I have in my house that I use that I don’t love. I think about the technology and stuff like that—I don’t necessarily love my microphone/my headphone—but I use them.
Then: “Would I buy it again?” I think about emergency preparedness supplies: flashlights—“Do I love it?”—no. “Do I use it?”—not really. “But I would buy it again, if it wasn’t there, because I need to be prepared.” Those are the questions I ask; it can sort a lot. If you ask yourself: “Do I love it?” “Do I use it?” “Would I buy it again?”—and you’re not answering, “Yes,”—but you still can’t get rid of it—there are a couple of thoughts: one, it may be the fear, guilt, or shame that you’re really dealing with; so you have to go down a different level.
Or you may just be stuck and need some help; you may need to have a good friend come over, somebody who is not judgmental. If you’re in a blended family, I wouldn’t necessarily have steps involved in this; because it can bring up stuff that you don’t really need to bring up with them. Have somebody come, lovingly, along and help you out.
Ron: Those are all really good suggestions. I’m going to do something dangerous here.
Kathi: Go for it.
Ron: I’m going to ask you a question I think my wife would ask you if she was talking to you about me. [Laughter]
Kathi: Nice; I love it!
Ron: I think she would say, “Does my husband, Ron, really need to keep all his books from graduate school?” [Laughter]
Kathi: Okay, I have an answer for that!
Ron: Oh, no.
Kathi: No; and you’re going to think the answer is “No,” and that’s not necessarily true.
Kathi: My best solution for: “Do you really need to keep that?”—and here’s the thing—I lost my best example; because my husband/when he was leading a youth group, played guitar. We’d been married for 15 years; I’d never seen that thing come out. Then one day, somebody asked, “Whose guitar is that?” I said, “That’s Roger’s.” They said, “Can he play us something?” I rolled my eyes, and there he goes; he’s pulling out the John Denver. I’m like, “Okay; fine. [Laughter] I can never win a clutter argument again.”
Here’s what I would say: “Is that”—what’s your wife’s name?
Kathi: Nan, okay. I feel like Nan gets a space in your house, where you don’t get to comment on any of the crazy she’s keeping.
Ron: That’s fair.
Kathi: Yes; you also get a space. But here’s the thing—it’s not unlimited space—it’s a gorilla rack in the garage, or it’s a couple of shelves in a closet that you get to decide on. If you want to keep all your books from graduate school, go crazy. But if it’s more than that space, then you need to start making decisions.
If you have graduate school books, and you have golf clubs that you’ve never used, and you have at-home archery set that has never seen the light of day—and all these things that you’re like, “But maybe someday….”—no; it has to be contained to the agreed-upon space.
Ron: That’s good.
Kathi: But you’re not allowed to comment on Nan’s craziness. We all get a little bit of crazy, where we don’t have to justify.
Ron: I love that we give each other grace with the crazy, because we’ve all got a little bit of that.
Here’s what I want to do now. Now, we’re going to continue to talk about clutter-free homes; but we’re also going to draw some parallels to clutter-free blended families; alright?
Ron: Here’s what I want to do; I’m going to stretch you a little bit.
Ron: We’re going to pull out some of the principles from your book, The Clutter-Free Home. Then I want us to just wonder, out loud together: “How might that apply in terms of the relationships going on with a blended family?” One of the principles you have in the book—ten principles for a Clutter-Free Home—we don’t have time to go through all of them, but let me just hit a couple of them. The first one is: “Make clutter management a daily habit.” Alright; so talk about that one for a second.
Kathi: Okay; as it applies to clutter, clutter is not one and done. You don’t spend a weekend decluttering and, then, you don’t have to do it again for a year. Clutter is a daily habit. In the book, I really suggest—Monday through Saturday—each day, you take one of six areas; and you just do fifteen minutes of decluttering in it every day. At first, it doesn’t look like it’s making a difference. But over time, you can start to see where that daily habit is making a huge difference in your home.
Ron: I could see how that would apply. You make a choice, minute to minute, in the kitchen with this thing, right here right now.
Ron: I make a decision; “And if: ‘I don’t need it,’ ‘I don’t love it,’ ‘I’m not going to use it,’ ‘I’m not going to buy it again,’ then I’m just going to toss it.”
Kathi: Right; every day, you are working on it. It becomes a part of your day, and you start to feel freedom in that.
Ron: Okay; so I can hear the metaphor, already, for a blended family and relationships:—
Ron: “You work on it every day. You don’t just go on one family vacation, and you’ve kind of fixed everything going on in life.”
Kathi: No; you know, one of the things that this really brings up for me is: we decide to do a big, huge family vacation for my husband’s 50th birthday. We told the kids: “We’re not just shelling out money for you guys to come. This is something that we’re going to all work towards and save towards together.”
We had regular meetings about this vacation, which sounds so over-the-top; but some of the things we talked about—we’re saving money for this vacation—and we talked about it every day. They would tell me: “I’m packing my lunch so that I can put more money towards our Disney World vacation.”
But then the other thing we said is: “You need to be responsible for whether you have a good time or not. You guys are young adults at this point/you’re teenagers and young adults, and you can decide whether it’s going to be a good day at Disney; or you’re going to annoy everybody around you, and you may need to take a day off.”
But we have these conversations, not necessarily daily, but several times a week. Can I just tell you?—it’s the best family vacation we’ve ever been on, because people were invested. They’ve been invested over a long time, daily and weekly, to make this a great time together.
Ron: I think that is wonderful; what a great idea. Conversation—but helping to put them in charge—empowering them to be part of the solution. You don’t just have to sit back. Of course, that has to be age-appropriate for children/developmental considerations there. But the older they are, the more of a voice they need. Teenagers, in particular—young adults—they need to be able to have some say and influence over what happens; right?
Kathi: Yes, and this is why we had Excel spreadsheets for our very fun trip to Disney World. They wanted to go to certain places at certain times, so we got everybody’s input. The further in advance you can have those conversations, the more leeway you have to really get to a place, where not necessarily everybody’s happy, but everybody’s heard.
Bob: The Bible has a lot to say about how we deal with stuff and where we think meaning and value is. That’s been the focus of the conversation we listened to today as Dave and Ann Wilson, together with Ron Deal, have been interacting with Kathi Lipp.
Kathi has written a helpful book on this subject called The Clutter-Free Home: Making Room for Your Life. We’ve got copies of Kathi’s book available in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order it from us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Again, that’s FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to get a copy. The website, again, for Kathi Lipp’s book, The Clutter-Free Home, is FamilyLifeToday.com; or call to request your copy. The number is 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
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Now, tomorrow, we’re going to spend some time thinking about how getting rid of things that have sentimental value can be sometimes traumatic, especially in a child’s life in a blended family. Kathi Lipp is with us, again, to talk about that, along with Ron Deal. I hope you can tune in to that as well.
On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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