Review: The Organized Heart by Staci Eastin

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The Organized Heart: A Woman's Guide to Conquering ChaosThe Organized Heart: A Woman’s Guide to Conquering Chaos by Staci Eastin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Originally read and written in 2011.

In this book, Staci Eastin attempts to diagnose why we have a hard time maintaining order — not by looking for techniques, but by examining our hearts. This is the right place to look, but also a tricky place to go.

While most books on household organization or cleaning presume that it is a lack of skill or knowledge that causes clutter and chaos, this book looks toward motivation. Instead of focussing on the doing, it provides a call to examine our hearts. She probes different sinful motivations: pride, fear, envy, self-indulgence.

The author takes a dangerous road and is bold enough to call our problem sin. While it is easy to agree that yes, we are sinful, it is much more difficult to actually see and admit that sin is actually affecting our daily lives.

After all, once we admit a particular thing is sin, we have to deal with it. And that’s hard. She does hedge her bets and give disclaimers about those who are in difficult circumstances, but I believe she is correct that many of us don’t examine ourselves honestly enough, and we cut ourselves slack where we don’t need it. At least, I certainly do.

She very clearly points out, however, that the way we address sin is not through rules or self-help, but through repentance. Once you find out where your idolatry is, where you are placing your trust, you can repent and receive grace. I believe it was Calvin who said both that our hearts are idol factories and that the Christian life is one characterized by repentance. If we agree theoretically that our hearts are idol factories but aren’t willing to expose potential idols to the light, then we are hardening ourselves in our sin.

And, until we identify sin, we cannot repent — and cannot turn from it.

Personally, I am very much the type prone to self-justification and covering over my sins, saying, “Oh, really, that’s not so bad.” But I am finally beginning to learn this lesson myself, through this book and through other avenues (doesn’t God often work through synchronicity?)

But identifying sin does not lead to despair when approached rightly. It results in admitting weakness and the need for God, the need for grace, the need for repentance. I am in the midst of learning what Mrs. Eastin writes about herself: “My attempts to get organized always failed because I tried to change my habits without letting the Holy Spirit change my heart.” Bad habits founded upon sinful, selfish motivations can only be broken through honest confession and repentance. Then we can be restored and rest — a rest in our hearts, while our hands work with joy. Once we are walking in the light and not hiding our pet sins, we are able walk in joy and peace, because we are walking in the Holy Spirit, who gives us His fruit.

Our goals need to be determined by Scripture — God appoints our tasks and we are to walk in them, working heartily for Him — not by comparisons or ideals. The work we have to do is a means of sanctification, not an end in itself. We need to look through the work itself to God at work through it in us, allowing Him to address our sin in this daily walk.

This book drives a hard point. Personally, as one who tends more toward the hard heart than the sensitive conscious, it was a breath of fresh air as well as a sledgehammer. I would not, however, recommend this book to a guilt-prone or sensitive spirit, despite the author’s caveats that make room for such types.

Favorite Quotes:

Pages of practical suggestions will be of little help if your heart is flailing about in despair. By first reminding yourself to trust God, you can then move forward, knowing that He is in control.

“One of the quickest routes to discontentment and discouragement is to compare your situation with that of others.”

“A habit of procrastination indicates a worship problem: an unwillingness to do the work that God has appointed for us, or an inability to discern what He has given us and what He has not. The procrastinator loves to hoard her time for herself rather than work diligently in it on the errands and tasks God gives her.”

“When we ignore the tasks we know we should do (which means that we understand that these tasks are assigned to us by God), we are essentially saying that our comfort and pleasure are more iportant than the needs of our families. When we do our chores sloppily and halfheartedly, we operate on the belief that God doesn’t really know what’s best for us. When we eschew our chores for our own hobbies, we show that God does not seem trustworthy to give us the rest we need, so we must take it for ourselves.”

“Commit to change, and prayerfully seek the Lord’s stregnth as you do so, but be prepared for discouraging days. Conquering sin takes time and effort, but the peace that you have aterwards is always worth it.”

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