It’s OK to live a cluttered life (there are many things worse).

I have just emerged from the basement, where I am making a valiant effort to de-clutter.  I almost drowned in a sea of game pieces, puzzle pieces, stuffed animals, dress-up clothes, wooden blocks, trains, dolls, legos, and everything in between. I have lived to tell the tale, but the clutter is not conquered. I would say I made a dent in it.

Minimalism. We see it talked about all over the place. And hey, I get it. Materialism has taken over America. Americans seem to live to get more things, and then need time to take care of those things, and then need time to get rid of things, and then end up wanting more things, and working on getting them…. Like I said, I get it. Life is about much more than material goods.musicAs a concept, minimalism is quite attractive to me. I’m not against it, necessarily.  But is it true that we should all be striving constantly towards the goal of living an uncluttered life? Is it true that minimalism is the key to living life to the fullest and richest extent? Should my children play with only one decorative basket of handmade toys every day? Should my walls should be decorated with a single burlap pennant banner that says “Simplify”? Should my kitchen have open shelving with a total of six plates and one ornamental pitcher stored there? I mean, we’ve all seen the pictures, right?

There are only so many goals we can strive towards at once in life, and I’m just not sure that living with less clutter makes it anywhere near the top of my true priority list right now.crayon shelfThere are ten of us under one roof in this household at the present time. And the truth is, people = clutter.

People need clothes, they need food, they need blankets, they need diapers, they need cosmetics, they need coats/hats/gloves/boots, they need sleds for winter and bathing suits for summer, they need things to occupy them (toys), they need to be educated (books/papers/pencils), they need shoes, they need little treasures gotten from here or there, they need gifts, they need their artwork displayed on the refrigerator, they need sports equipment, they need cardboard boxes to cut up and make playhouses out of– lots and lots of things. (Of course I am using the word “need” to include things that are not actually life-and-death essentials.) Organize all that stuff and call it what you will, but it’s still clutter.

{Only the somewhat picturesque clutter at our house is pictured here. I doubt you want to see pics of our ugly clutter. And I’m not sure “picturesque clutter” is even a thing.}booksWe work hard to keep things tidy and organized.  We fight the clutter war valiantly. We take bags to the Goodwill. We throw away plenty of junk, as our faithful trash men would testify. (A few weeks ago the trash men literally picked up a dresser– a cheap one that was broken beyond repair. I was doubtful they would pick it up, but they actually did.) But, in spite of all that, life is just cluttered right now. There is no way around it if we plan to actually live life here in our house.

I love a tidy, organized, and uncluttered environment as much as the next person. As homemakers we desire to keep our nest in order. But the problem I have (and I suspect I am not alone in this) is that any clean and uncluttered environment cannot and will not survive when my crew descends upon it. From the littlest to the biggest, this is one active crew! Coming and going, creating, learning, playing, eating and sleeping, all under this roof, from sun-up to sun-down and beyond.shoesI looked up the definition of clutter. “A collection of things lying about in an untidy mass.” I read it to Steve.

“Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Pretty much defines our daily life,” I groaned.

After a moment he replied, “Yup. And another word that defines our daily life would be clatter.” Clutter and clatter– definitely the stage we are in. The two C’s!

So I am here to tell us all, today, that it is ok. Clutter is ok! Living a cluttered life is not a sign that you are somehow not all that you should be. 

Not that I’m really an authority on the matter, mind you, but to be fair, neither is the next blogger who wants to tell me Ten Things I should do Every Evening to Eliminate Clutter and Reduce Stress the next morning. Ten things? You mean in addition to brushing teeth, and putting pajamas on toddlers, and chasing kids to bed, and rocking babies, and hopefully remembering to thaw the ground beef, and talking to my husband about the day? Yikes. (I did recently see an article that was giving the advice of de-cluttering your home at the pace of one thing per day. I think I might be able to handle that. Might.)scissorsHere are some things that are worse than living a cluttered life–

Losing our peace because of clutter. No doubt I am a work-in-progress in this department. But the truth is, my inner peace (if it’s real, true peace) must come from a much deeper source than the state of my environment.

Losing our joy because of clutter. [See the point above.]

Valuing an uncluttered environment more than we value people. People are more important than things. People are more important than me constantly stressing out about all the clutter. Enjoy the people, invest in the people, clutter or no clutter. Some of the most dynamic people I have known, truthfully, have lived in cluttered homes and worked in cluttered offices.  Not necessarily dynamic in the sense of getting the most stuff checked off their list every day. I mean dynamic as in connecting with people, impacting people’s lives.

One of the great things about children is that they don’t mind clutter one little bit. They don’t even notice it. Funny thing though, they do seem to notice if mom is stressed out and unhappy.

Needing to control everything. There are many things we can’t control, and many things we actually don’t need to control. Relax. It’s completely fine if things are less than perfect, less than what they could be. Totally ok! I say this as someone who can be pretty controlling by nature. God has taught me some big lessons along the way, and one of those lessons has been stop trying to control everything.

Not being willing to sacrifice what we prefer for the good of others. Fulfilling this calling of motherhood/wifehood/homemaker-hood means that I can’t always have things the way I want them. Giving up what I want for the good of others basically sums up the Christian life in general. Making sacrifices isn’t always about the “big” stuff. Sometimes it’s little stuff. Sometimes it’s as simple as keeping a good attitude while I trip over everybody’s stuff, clean out stuff, or just ignore the stuff and go rake a leaf pile with the kids. And then coming inside to the cluttered house, peeling off the hats and coats, enjoying hot chocolate, chocolatey smiles, and making memories of happy times in the home.

My wishes to you for an abundantly blessed holiday season spent with those you love, along with whatever clutter and clatter that may entail for you! God Bless! leaves1

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6 thoughts on “It’s OK to live a cluttered life (there are many things worse).

  1. “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean”. My version: “Where there are no creative or diligent, hard working people, the house is clean and uncluttered.” Great work Jennifer! Love those beautiful, smiling faces of those beautiful children!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Here I am, about to make my first comment on your blog . . . and your dear mama has already said it! Years ago, I sat down in the midst of my “what-in-the-world-happened-over-the-weekend” clutter on a Monday morning and wrote down some thoughts, referencing that very proverb about the oxen. I have no idea what happened to my scribblings, but the lesson that the Lord lay on my heart endured. Yes, people . . . especially the people with whom the Lord has entrusted us . . . are more important than things.

    I have enjoyed reading the words of wisdom that you are sharing here in this space, just as I enjoyed reading the wisdom of The Mother’s Companion all of those years ago. Blessings on this endeavor!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I loved every bit of this. 😊I have been thinking a lot about this very topic a lot lately. I’d take the clutter and children any day. Someday, OUR children won’t live with us anymore. Our house will seem huge and lonely and I know that I’ll miss the little shoes, the piles of books and coats. Thanks for reminding us mama’s that these things really don’t matter. Our true treasures are our children and they won’t remember all the clutter but they will remember a stressed out mama. Our house is always full of clatter,chatter and clutter. We are blessed!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love this! I too have been pondering this minimalist lifestyle lately, and I’ve come to realize it’s not meant to be, at least not right now. Our home is cluttered as well, and you nailed it when you said that “people = clutter” (and we are down to only 3 of us with one being away at college!) I would much rather spend my time enjoying my family, than stressing out over my cluttered kitchen counter top. Thank you for sharing this, it’s a nice reminder for us moms to not be so hard on ourselves and just enjoy what matters!

    Liked by 1 person

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