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.