When I was growing up, our church youth group had parties at each other’s houses. We would hang out, watch movies, eat snacks, and occasionally, at the fancy houses on the rich end of town, we would gather for swim parties with lots of food, laughing, and throwing each other into the pool — sometimes in swimsuits, sometimes fully clothed.
In Silicon Valley, most of the families at my church lived on the rich side of town. I loved going to their perfect, spotless houses with their manicured lawns. Even my friends’ rooms looked like they could have been featured in the magazines fanned out on their moms’ coffee tables. These houses looked like the model homes my family toured for fun on the weekends.
Not raised in a particularly religious home (I’d been invited to this church by a friend), I thought this was what it meant to be a Christian woman — that your house would always look perfect. I wasn’t a deep thinker at fifteen, obviously.
Imagine my disappointment when I got married and had kids and all those homemaking skills didn’t come with the wedding ring and the baby blanket issued at the hospital.
As a young woman, I struggled to stay on top of our house. I could never seem to get ahead of everything that needed to be done. I felt constantly overwhelmed by all the moving parts of work, home, family, and church.
I’ll never forget having a mom from a Bible study I was attending over for coffee one Tuesday morning. I had cleaned the kitchen, front bathroom, and living room to perfection for her visit. While we were having our second cup of coffee with homemade oatmeal cookies, she jumped up and said, “Show me the rest of your house!”
When I demurred, she insisted and started walking towards the master bedroom. She opened the door and saw where I’d thrown all the laundry, toys, backpacks, diaper bags, and more.
She saw my secret shame but didn’t keep it a secret. After she told the rest of the ladies in the group what a mess my house had been, I didn’t go back.
I went from living in chaos to hiding the chaos. On the outside, it looked like I’d managed my clutter issues. But I’d stuffed them where no one could see them and where they grew even worse. I avoided having people over as much as possible. And when I couldn’t avoid it any longer, I hid all the laundry, papers, school projects, and random toys in our bedroom until the guests were gone. And then I would be overwhelmed all over again.
In that season, I felt like there was no one I could talk to about my struggle. I figured I was missing some sort of spiritual gift everyone else had. I prayed about it but dealt with it in silence.
If you too struggle to stay on top of your home, I want to share with you two key points I learned in my journey:
- You are not alone. Most women I know struggle with “getting it all done,” as if being done is even possible.
- I was only able to declutter when I stopped trying to look good on the outside while drowning in all my stuff. When I stopped judging myself and instead looked at my situation with the kindness I would extend to a dear friend or my grown daughter, that’s when things started to change.
I had equated a clean house with being a godlier person. I had grown up with the illusion that because people looked clean and shiny on the outside, that’s what their inner life must have looked like.
But here is the truth: We all struggle — with our houses, with our people, with ourselves. Peace is not the absence of struggle. Peace is where we place the struggle.
Jesus says it perfectly:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)
That passage is worth reading in the Message version of the Bible:
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)
Because I never felt good enough, I gave up in so many ways. I had no peace about it, but I also had no peace with all my striving to look like I was okay.
Now that I’ve stopped trying to live to impress others, I can welcome people into my less-than-perfect but deliciously peace-filled life. I get to experience those “unforced rhythms of grace,” not as something to be obtained but as something to be enjoyed.
Is there an area of your life that is keeping you worn out? Where do you need to lean into God’s “unforced rhythms of grace”?
If the chaos of your home is wearing you out, join Kathi’s Clutter Free Academy group on Facebook to discover how to declutter your home quickly and easily without stress.
Ruth Mills says
My godly mom was a stay home mom who through her routines of wash on Monday, iron on Tuesday, meal plan/ grocery shop on Wednesday, Thursday was loose end day; Friday & Sat we’re change beds, dust vacuum & clean bathrooms days. Sunday was worship & rest. I was married, working full time with 2 pups when an eye issue forced me to not bend over equaling no house cleaning for 6 month. I was astounded the earth did not shifted on it’s axis that I wasn’t cleaning every weekend. We couldn’t afford to pay someone & my husband kept us from being disgusting plus friends came in 2x & “spring cleaned” during that time. Now that I am able again the house is still not to my mom’s level but it’s not a health hazard to entertain either. The focus is on how welcoming our home is. Do people enjoy their time with us? People won’t remember if the house was spotless but how they felt in our home. There is peace in that understanding. That peace is rooted in the godly relationship with Jesus my mom also modeled in her weekly chore schedule. Thanks for sharing Kaitlyn. A gift to me to remember my precious mom & also not sweat the chores that weren’t done this weekend as I recover from possible Covid. :~) Blessings!
Kathi Lipp says
I love that you saw the best in your mom, but also realized her best and your best are different. That is grace lived out!
Ruth Mills says
Sorry! Kathi not Kaitlyn! Fat fingered that one for sure! Credit where credit is due!!!
Kathi Lipp says
A nice reminder that no one has it all together.
Kathi Lipp says
Thanks Susen. We are all just doing the best that we can!
Brenda M. Russell says
Good morning everyone, what a blessing this message is for me today. I am very concerned about my hiding clutter, clothes (clean but no extra space to put in drawers or in the closets). I knew it was something that others struggled with but I have had this struggle off and on for 42 years. Maybe this is part of not feeling upbeat more often. Even when I was in grammar school, my sweet Grandmother, who was a seamstress, didn’t have extra space to keep the garments she made. I tried to stay out of the way. You know, I notice that my mother has always been much better at tidiness than I am. See, I grew up at my Grandmother’s house until I got married. Now, my children are grownups and I notice they are working hard for financial matters (rent, car notes, gas, groceries and etc.) so cleaning is on the back burner. I do remind them gently that it’s okay to share extra items with others who are less fortunate. I know, we like the things we purchase and we want to keep them.
I am 63 years wise and if I had the bubble gum money, I would hire a helper to get things in order in my storage room and then in my extra bedroom. That would be wonderful.
God is so patient with us, why can’t we learn from our Heavenly Father in practical every day living.
Enjoy your day.
Kathi Lipp says
I love what you say: God is so patient with us. AMEN!
Debra Sears says
Kathi my heart hurts for you that anyone would treat you that way. I wish I has been around to give you a hug! When we were young we purchased a fixer upper. Most of the couples in our small group purchased new homes with perfect kitchens and their personally selected wallpaper. We had committed to hosting our small group while our kitchen was in the DIY mode – no cabinet doors on the cabinets and the drawers all in the garage waiting to be painted. At the last minute the director of the class invited all the leadership to our small group. Everyone got to see everything stored in my not particularly beautiful or organized cabinets. Most of the group probably thought we were nuts! But I learned humility and that the gift of hospitality is not in perfection but in our willingness to allow others to honestly see into our lives. Since then we have hosted in good times and bad, valuing transparency over a facade of perfection. I pray that all of us can share the hurts and struggles in our lives in safety, whether it is struggles with a messy house or struggles with messy relationships.
Love love love this!!!!!
Kathi Lipp says
Thank you Kimmie!
Barbara K Rothman says
I wish I could give you a hug in person but sending real Christian love over the miles!
When we were young & had 3 children in 4 years it was so difficult for me to keep up with everything! My husband was the sole bread winner & wanted me to be home with our children. I was so thankful but also our monthly budget was tight. I was able to figure out cooking to fill our family up even when our 2 son’s were growing up & had hollow legs! We bought a home in a track where there were 5 models. A friend who lived across the street had the biggest model & they put a pool in. She had beautiful furniture & wall paper that also looked so wonderful! Of course her husband had a good job to be able to afford all of that & I was happy for her. As time went on she would make comments to me that she wouldn’t want to live in a home unless she had furniture to go along with it. She would brag to me about their material things & it got to a point that I started to get depressed over our very meager furniture. The Lord encouraged me thru prayer to put some space between us & that really helped.
I’ve grown much older & wiser over the years & have many young married friends. I encourage them with their relationships with their husbands & children which is God’s blessings for them! Material things are not what matters it’s our relationship with God & how we treat our family & friends.
I still struggle with keeping up with our home & my husband & I work together with this. We choose to spend time helping our grown children along with getting together with friends. At the moment we’re going thru the rooms & decluttering them & getting our home better organized. We keep those doors closed when company comes. This is our home & our choice on where guests can roam.
Lord bless you Kathi right where you are! God is blessing others thru you & I pray that today along with each day following will be a wonderful blessing for you! Thank you for this devotional!!!
Kathi Lipp says
Thank you Barbara! I love that you are sowing into the lives of the younger generation. What a blessing you are!
BC from BC says
What a beautiful post. My heart goes out to you and all that have been judged. I get it. I have been blessed in my life to have been surrounded by people willing to help me with my “stuff” and realizing I was cleaning not only my home but my heart and God Blessed me and continues to bless me as I struggle to organize and purge, and gives me the strength to keep on keepin on and know the reward at the end of the tunnel. His peace, joy and grace that is so rewarding and not to look back, but look forward to getting rid of the weight “stuff” has on my life.
Becky Keife says
That Matthew 11 passage is one of my favorites and reading it in The Message version was such a gift this morning! Thank you, Kathi, for your vulnerability and encouragement. We all need it!
Kathi Lipp says
The unforced rhythms of grace is a phrase I come back to over and over again. So grateful for God’s word.
For many years our house was a cluttered mess. Health and other issues kept us from doing anything about it. I used to say I can’t let anyone in except Jesus because He already knew how it looked. God used me getting MRSA following back surgery 4 years ago to change my heart and my husband’s to allow my closest girlfriend in to help us. I broke down in tears in the hospital when they told me I would need nurses coming to the house a couple times a week. “You don’t understand,” I sobbed. “My house is a mess and I can’t let anyone in.” After a tearful conversation asking my husband to let my friend come and help, he agreed. She has been a tremendous blessing in our lives and now we can open the door to others. It’s not perfect by any means and we’re still a work in progress, but we’ve been able to shed a lot of the stuff we didn’t need (or even remember we had) and it’s given us much more peace.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Kathi thank you for sharing your story from your heart. To to do with feeling you had to have everything like so called perfect in your home for visitors. I know that was not nice woman to tell people what your other rooms in the house were like it was not nice of her to want to see them. Go on and on until you showed her. Then tell people about the rooms in your house that were not tidy. My heart would have went out to you that all thoes years ago. I wouldn’t do that if someone invited me to their house. The rooms I could see that were tidy. I not say anything. If they were not tidy I still say nothing. It wouldn’t bother me at all. As I look at the person who invited me to her house. I say to myself it is very kind of them to invite me to their house. I look at them as person. Not on how tidy or not tidy their home was and enjoy the time with them. I was not brought up in religious home either. As my late Mum and my Dad were not saved. I don’t know if my Mum gave her life to the Lord before she died. But I did pray for her. You couldn’t tell my Mum about get saved. As she say keep your thoughts on that to yourself. You knew then to say nothing more if she did say that. So I just lived my life for Jesus in front of her. My Dad is the same. My biggest wish is to see him saved before he leaves earth when he time up. Now that he 81. I pray for him. But both my parents sent me and my two sisters to Sunday School. Even though not religious. I now that I am big very thankful for that. As some of Sunday School songs I find very good even though for kids. Still very good for me as an Adult today. I learnt so much in my life as Followers of Jesus. That to expect people for who they are and love them no matter what they look like. Or what home they live in. If in their home. Not to look at it tidy or not tidy. To be thankful on to God they invited you to their home. We are not to judge them if house not as what you think it should be like. We are not to gossip to anyone about it. Be thankful on to God especially if saved they were kind enough to invite you over to their house. It is also reminds me of song I learnt when small at Sunday School. In fact too songs. The first one is. “Jesus loves all the people of the world red and yellow black and white” we are to do the same no matter what. “Be careful little eyes what you say there is a Father up above who is watch.” In the other verse of that song you put in the words Mouth and Hands were it says eyes for the next verses. In thoes to song that kids are taught in Sunday School. They apply to use who are saved as Adults to. We are to as the first one says love people of all walk of life and not judge them. Then be careful in the second song what we see with our eyes and say with our mouth etc. Remember we got a Father up there who watches everything we do and say. So we have to careful that everything we do pleases our Father. As he see it all. Not like that women who told about your home. She didn’t stop to stay would God want me to say about to others. If not don’t say it. I have Friend who is in glory now. This saying of her’s speaks to me. Even to the day that she is not here. It is Bidden or not Bidden God is watching. How true that is. This lady was a brilliant follower off Jesus. She taught me so much. She said one other thing if nothing good to say about anyone. Don’t say anything as God is watching. Pray for them. How true all this is. I try in my day to day life do this as a follower of Jesus. Love you Kathi so much. Thank you again for sharing your heart. It spoke to me. I love you all incourage. I keep you all in prayer. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little xx God bless
Deanna Day Young says
I feel like I am right in the midst of this chaos as I read! Some areas clean and other areas needing major attention. Thank you, as always, for your wise words and reminding me that my peace is found in Jesus. Great words and scripture. Thank you for being vulnerable to tell your story. 🙂
Love this!!! So very true – staying focused on Gods approval is very challenging in our ‘pointer’ society. Everyone wants to point out what’s not great about anyone else. I am super blessed with a big ole’ house that we scraped and worked to build…. I host stuff for charities and whatnot all of the time …. so that God lets us continue to live here!! (yeah yeah I know that’s crazy… but I’m sure He has a better intent for this blessing than our family calling it home). So anyway, I always leave a lot of real-life around – lightbulbs out, kids stuff around, etc, bc we are all JUST CHILDREN OF THE SAME GOD. We are all the same in our messes, our craziness, our heartbreak- we are all the same. So i purpose to make sure others don’t walk into this house and feel overwhelmed because they see our sameness … and I would NEVER open your bedroom door bc I too hide stuff behind closed doors! That gal was RUDE!
Kathy T says
I feel all that pain and shame and the overwhelming feeling with all my clutter. I’ve lived in this house for 22 years, raised my children here, and have so much stuff. I’ve recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, and the thought of having anyone come in my house causes me anxiety. I know what I have to do, but I’m too tired to do it. But I am getting rid of stuff one day at a time, and one item at a time. I’ll get there! And I know that Jesus loves me and doesn’t care about my house
This is one area, Social Media has made our society Worse. The perfect picture: showing a perfectly displayed meal; the perfectly clean & styled home, inside & outside; &/or the People in perfect physical shape, dressed in designer outfits!
This just isn’t reality. Who did you have to hire, or how many hours do have to put into it to get it to look like that? Even after it “looks” perfect, we don’t see the toll it took on your mental & spiritual health, to get it to that supposed perfection!
Jesus doesn’t call us to a constantly stressed/overwhelmed/oppressed life. Living in fear of others judgement/condemnation, is to live in bondage to Fear. I’ve put the Scripture you quoted in your Devotion many times, when I realized I’ve slipped back into this bondage. Another Scripture I stand on is 2 Timothy 1:7: ” God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear; but of power, & of love, & of a sound mind.”
Beth Williams says
I come over to see & spend time with you-not to look at a “perfectly clean” house. You never know what someone has been through that week. There is no condemnation within me. I know how easy it is for life to get busy & stressful. There are times when we just simply need to take a rest. Women, especially, stay super busy with work, child rearing, shopping, cooking, etc. They need to relax & spend time with God. Even Jesus took time out from His busy schedule to spend time with the Father. Praying we can all make white space in our daily lives for Jesus.
Mary Carver says
When I finally learned to say, “It’s okay. We live here,” as a simple truth and not in defensiveness, I grew so much more peaceful about having people into my not-perfect home.
Rita Perrello says
I struggle with papers. I never seem to be able to get things done because the “back burner” stuff ( I call it, )can’t get done because new “stuff” comes in.
How do I walk with God?
I put all my trust in God, but I don’t know how especially as you call it. walk with Him.