I met a lady recently whose sister had twenty cats. Yes—twenty cats living in her home at one time. Sometimes I feel like that with kids though; it’s amazing the amount of mess that they cause, things that they break, and stuff that they accumulate in their little, young years.
I feel like Twenty–Cat Lady a LOT—it’s just in the dimension of children. Four children may as well be twenty for the amount of stuff that we have and mess that we seem to struggle with.
I’m actually in the middle of cleaning out everything in my house right now because we are getting ready to move. We don’t know where we’re going yet; our landlord just recently informed us that he is selling our house. And so my huge family purge started about two months ago.
Drawer by drawer, container by container…I’m taking back the land.
The progress was definitely slow at first. I didn’t know where to start in the myriad of clutter and it took a while to see any quantitative difference. I just knew that I felt oversaturated—there was TOO MUCH of everything, everywhere. Too many toys. Too many trinkets. Too many containers, baskets, and drawers full of STUFF. Stuff I didn’t remember was there. Stuff that we never used. Stuff that I hated when it somehow ended up all over the floors.
Like evidence of an ongoing kid–frat party.
I knew there was a total parallel between the spiritual and natural realms. I knew that too much physical clutter translated into too much spiritual clutter. And I eventually came to the conclusion that clutter was my new enemy. But it took me a while to realize that this cluttered enemy couldn’t be defeated in just ONE family purge.
And when it was almost all said and done, I knew going forward that our family’s recently de-cluttered borders would need to be maintained on a daily basis.
I had MAJORLY purged after our last move three years ago. I got rid of so much. And then I had drilled down on not letting extended family members dump their donations onto us. But I knew that now I needed to up my de-cluttering game even more. Now I ALSO needed to hold my children and husband accountable for their daily crap-keeping regimens.
Because each of them had contributed to the problem and I was tired of being the de-cluttering patsy, bearing the consequences for each of their hoarding tendencies.
So I became determined to go through everything in our home before we moved, because I was unwilling to move a bunch of junk that we didn’t need. We had filled up the largest U-Haul truck two or three times the last time we moved. And I never wanted to do that again.
It was torture.
Besides, I knew something else this time around. I had realized this time that the purging of stuff wasn’t just to help the awkwardness of the clutter—it was actually about sanctifying a new atmosphere in our home. I knew it wasn’t just about me and my type-A preferences, this was actually about changing patterns and future generations.
This was about me shifting the home environment and entire family system. And I was dogmatic in my intention—I wasn’t willing to settle for our old norms.
A perfect illustration of how our spiritual problems had outworked into tangible clutter was when I realized that we owned three digital weight scales. Why three? Well…we’d originally bought one, then we were given a second from a friend that moved, and then my husband bought yet a third because he was positive the other two weren’t accurate.
So why the heck DID we keep the other two?
I realized over time that it was our belief-system bungee cords that kept yanking us back into that place of bondage. It was our mindsets that perpetuated the behaviors. Because when I actually discovered the excess scales and went to donate the other two, my husband spoke up and questioned whether we shouldn’t keep them because they still worked.
I was horrified.
First because the spiritual scales fell off my eyes in that moment and I saw the problem so clearly for what it was. I caught myself and realized that my initial response to his words had almost been agreement. Sure, let’s just stuff the extra scales in our garage for that hypothetical day when we will NEED them—along with all the other crap we have stored but never use.
It was right then that I realized I had been a huge part of the problem in NOT saying no. Even if I didn’t foster the hoarding to begin with, I had definitely partnered with it to at least some degree.
And each item by passive item that I didn’t negate had added up over time.
And second, because any societal value that would dictate the need for more than one scale per family was highly offensive to me. I was trying to raise teenagers who were more concerned with integrity than obsessive looks presentation.
I knew at that moment of realization that I would soon be praying through a generational repentance type of prayer, asking God to cleanse both sides of our family lines from the poverty and Great-Depression mentalities that we had continued to perpetuate.
I knew both sides had partnered with lack to varying degrees, including the need to hoard and save everything.
I saw the mindset saturation everywhere as I scrolled through family memories. And it had a wide scope—ranging everywhere from “Let’s save every ziplock bag and empty container… to let’s shop at yard sales for what we need.”
And I knew that even though we hadn’t partnered with the poverty mentality to quite the same degree that we were still culpable and drinking from the same generational cistern of perceived lack.
There was definitely a difference between thrifty wise and thrifty obsessive.
I was done with the latter. And once I realized that the problem hadn’t gone away after our last huge move and purge, I knew that we’d need to cut the spiritual ties to the past. I also knew that we’d need to do the even harder work of replacing old mindsets with new ones. We would have to be intentional.
Because that stuff had snowballed again since our last clean-through despite my BEST intentions.
Needless to say, both extra scales got donated. And I was proud of myself, because I was starting to be brave and call our previous mindsets out onto the carpet. I was trying desperately to integrate more righteous perspectives and attitudes. Because that scale scenario was representative of MANY other multiples that I found within our home.
Like who needed four popsicle sets? How did we end up with ten vases when we barely ever bought flowers? Why did I still have two crib-bedding sets and misc toddler cutlery? And how did we accumulate five cake holders, three sandwich cutters, four pasta drainers, and three thermometers?
I couldn’t donate stuff fast enough.
And now at the almost end-of-it-all, I’ve come to the conclusion that clutter is like a demon—it’s tormenting to one’s ENTIRE well-being: spirit, soul and body. I’ve also realized that I don’t ever want to FEEL like Twenty–Cat Lady with Four Kids again.
So even though it’s taken me a while to get here, I’ve definitely come a long way from where I started. Changing mindsets is the biggest battle. Once those start to shift, the behaviors follow suit. It’s not easy to change already-established family patterns, but I’m not giving up.
Never give up. Never surrender.
Little by little, I’m taking back our land.
“Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land” (Deuteronomy 23:30).