Is decluttering a project you’ll finish? Will you experience a magical happy-ever-after when decluttering is finally complete in your home Nope. Sorry. Won’t happen. Decluttering is a habit you need to build.
I wanted to talk about the decluttering habit because there’s this rumor floating out there on decluttering (from experts and gurus) who say that “decluttering can be done once and for all.” That it’s a project you finish and check off and be done with (which is really what we all want to hear, isn’t it?).
We really want it to be something that we can achieve: “Achievement unlocked! We are now decluttered and forever and all time, moving forward. Now we have the right habits, the right house, the right organization. We won’t have to do that again!” That’s just not the way it really is in real life. Not our kind of real life anyway. Not family life. Not home life where you have a lot of people in one house actually living a full life—which means a lot of stuff—and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that.
I think there’s a lot of hope and happiness pinned even on minimalism (on eliminating as much as stuff as possible) as if I manage to do [that], get [that achievement unlocked] then I will be happy. Then I will be a good housekeeper. Then I will love my house. Then my family won’t drive me crazy. Then the lights shine brightly and angels sing, “la” and we have achieved our housekeeping, homemaking goal! Decluttered once and for all, now we can move forward and do this thing right.
And that appeals to our desire to achieve our ambition. It appeals to just wanting to be done. To figure things out and do things right. But the reality is that stuff comes into our house still and it’s just something we have to keep up with. It’s just one more thing—like dishes and the laundry and meals—that has to be continually addressed. We should declutter in order to use our space wisely, but our life changes, our needs change, sometimes our house situation changes, the ages of our children and their stages change, and we need to adjust. We will continually go through that process of figuring out, “Well, I saved this because I thought I would need it.
Decluttering Habit as Wisdom
These are just questions in wisdom and stewardship that we need to be continually asking and assessing and working through because life and our situations change and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s not because we’re doing it wrong, it’s not because if we had this thing figured out we wouldn’t have to anymore.
When the stuff is used as the measure stick it’s just wrong. It’s not going to work. It’s not true. It’s not accurate. And it focuses us on the wrong things. So, the stuff is just stuff that we do have to manage and steward. There isn’t a universal one-size fits all plan for how much stuff you ought to have, what you ought to keep, what you ought to get rid of.
So, decluttering will be put in its proper place if we think of it as a habit and not as the holy grail, the step that we need to complete in order to take the next steps of perfect homemaking.
And so, if instead of thinking of it as a project that we’re going to finish, we think of it as a habit we’re going to build, it breaks it down, we take smaller steps, we work it into our routines and our awareness in the smaller chunks of time and energy, and in the end we actually make more progress because we’re continually applying ourselves to it, we aren’t frustrated because it’s not complete yet because we’re not expecting it to be complete, and we aren’t waiting to make other steps and other changes until it’s over and complete.
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