When my students and I read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, one line—spoken by the murderous creature to Victor Frankenstein—always gives me a cold chill:
“Slave … You are my creator, but I am your master; obey!”
Each year, I tell my class, “This is such an apt personification of addiction. What starts as a small habit, seemingly under our control, quickly morphs into a monster that takes complete control of our lives.”
I speak from very painful, very personal experience.
Decades ago, when my clutter collecting craze was in full swing, I exhibited many classic signs of addiction.
- Inability to Stop. I made up elaborate budgeting spreadsheets. I put cash in envelopes. But every single time I promised myself, “I’m done buying so much stuff!” I’d see something else and make an exception, “Just this once.”
- Withdrawal Symptoms. I cut up and canceled credit cards. Then, as my anxiety level would rise and I couldn’t calm myself by running out for a quick shopping spree, I’d open new accounts.
- Social Sacrifices. The more stuff took over our home, the less space there was for people. We quit inviting friends and family over because there was no room for them to stay. Or, eventually, even sit.
- Solitude. I never shopped with friends. Going on a buying binge had one purpose: to give me my fix, for which I wanted no witnesses.
- Secrecy. I hid my purchases from my husband, and he had no idea how many credit cards “we” had. He was clueless to the extent of my possession obsession.
- Supply Maintenance. I stockpiled food, toiletries, gifts for upcoming holidays. I started numerous businesses and ordered tons of inventory. Buying these things gave me a thrill. So did storing and counting it all.
- Increasingly High Doses. Just as a drug addict needs larger and larger amounts to experience the “high,” I needed to spend more and more, purchasing bigger and better things, to feel the buying buzz.
- Risky Behavior. I “stole from Peter to pay Paul” regularly, paying bills just in the nick of time to avoid being charged late fees, having utilities shut off, defaulting on loans.
- Financial Difficulties. Our checking account balance was typically so low, I had to call the bank each day to find out how much (if anything) was available for groceries. We ultimately ended up in bankruptcy court.
- Relational Difficulties. When my husband discovered how bad things had gotten, he felt completely betrayed. The bankruptcy process was deeply humiliating for him.
If some of these sound scarily familiar, here are four things I want anyone wrestling with possession obsession to know:
1 — It’s not your fault.
Slinging blame and wallowing in guilt serve no constructive purpose. Facing the facts and taking personal responsibility do. And the most responsible thing you can do is ask for help. Starting now.
2 — You’re not alone.
Shame depends on secrecy; addiction thrives in isolation. When you reach out to those who can help and support you, shame’s power breaks and addiction’s grip loosens. You need accountability, both for individual recovery and for financial recovery.
3 — It’s not too late.
The enemy of your soul says, “You’re beyond all hope!” It’s a lie.
In Romans 7:19-25, the apostle Paul chronicles this vivid description of addiction: “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?
And reminds you of the hope that is always available to you:
Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
4 — Yes, you can.
You can address the core issues that trigger your spending sprees and clutter collections. For me, it came down to a combination of “buying to become” and “never enough” syndrome. Over time, I retrained my brain to disconnect my identity from my possessions, and to revel in gratitude for what I already have.
You can find healthy ways to settle the everyday ordinary problems that a possession obsession promises—but utterly fails—to solve. I’d turned pretty much any “negative” emotion into an excuse to spend: sadness, anger, loneliness, and boredom all lifted (albeit temporarily) with a bit of “retail therapy.”
It took time to develop new self-soothing strategies. Over several months, I built a list of my Favorite Free Ways to Feel Better Fast (which you can download at the end of this article!)
You can develop safe systems for making necessary purchases. I always take a list when heading to Safeway or Target. My husband and I pre-plan major purchases. Whenever something catches my eye, I have a pre-decided wait time (yes, even if it’s on sale.)
I write it on my wish list and set a calendar reminder for a week away. Nine times out of ten, when the alert pops up, I think to myself, “I was going to spend how much for that?!?”
If you feel trapped in possession obsession right now, please know that I understand.
And please hear the truth: Your stuff doesn’t have to morph into a monster that enslaves you.
You can do the brave work to break free. You can learn to master your spending and storing habits so that your stuff serves you, not the other way around.
Sign up to receive updates from Cheri, and receive her FREE “15 Favorite Free Ways to Feel Better Fast” PDF.
Cheri Gregory is the co-author, with Kathi Lipp, of The Cure for the Perfect Life and the upcoming Overwhelmed. Her goal is to equip women to relate and create with less drama, more delight. Connect with Cheri on Facebook and at www.CheriGregory.com.
Do you have Possession Obsession? Do you collect things? Do you get it into your head you absolutely have to HAVE something?
Kathi and Erin get behind our need to buy things or collect items. Sometimes we are prone to feel like our life is lacking. This lacking may lead us to shop, whether it be walking around our favorite store or shopping online. Erin and Kathi wrestle with the reasons behind their impulse to buy and the rules you can put into place to understand and count the cost of your possession obsession.
Kathi talks with Erin MacPherson about what is behind the “need” to buy or keep possessions. Listen in as they share their strategies for reserving time, money and space for what really matters and ultimately placing value in relationships over stuff.
Is your calendar too full? Do you get stressed about meal planning? Does social media become a time suck?
Living Clutter Free does not mean just dealing with the physical clutter, but also the emotional and spiritual.
Author Alex Kuykendall embarked on a nine month experiment to see how she could better her home life.
Listen as she tells us about the little changes she made, because small changes are more likely to get done and more likely to be sustainable,yet they created a BIG impact on her life.
by Amberly of Kathi’s Clutter Free Academy Team
If you are wasting “thyme” because your kitchen cabinets are “peppered” with too many spices, it is time to declutter. Spices are expensive, and having too many or not having an organized system can be costly. (I’ve been known to buy a spice twice if I can’t find it!)
Follow these eight simple steps for decluttering your cabinets:
1) Resolve to simplify and succeed.
2) Clean your countertops so that all items can be removed and cleaned.
3) Label three boxes: Put Away (items that will stay in the kitchen), Other Room (items that will go somewhere else in the house including the garage), Give Away (think of newlyweds or community organizations that might be able to benefit from your purge. You’ll also want a trash bag and a recycling bag.
4) Remove all items from cabinets. Sort them into the appropriate boxes and bags (see above). Throw away items in an opaque trash bag to avoid decluttering regrets and dumpster diving in your own garbage!
5) Throw all old spices away. They are no longer valuable and take up unnecessary space. Make a mental note of those you infrequently use so you do not rush out to replace them with something new.
6) Before putting items back into them, clean your cabinets and shelves so that your slate is clean.
7) Organize spices in “families”: those you use all the time, those used for specific purposes, those rarely used, etc. and group them in the cabinet for quick access.
8) Once your cabinets are organized, avoid buying bargain spices and/or warehouse-sized spices. Although it may seem to save a few pennies, it will cost you space and sanity.
Decluttering those cabinets can help alleviate stress and expedite your cooking time which is quite a “sage” decision!
Do you want more Clutter Free? Take the 5 Day Clutter Free Challenge!
Click here to sign up >>>
by Bethany of Kathi’s Clutter Free Academy Team
Although my kitchen is now clutter free, I can still find plenty to feel insecure about. After sixteen years of marriage, my dishes are showing some wear, and our silverware has morphed into a hodgepodge of unrelated utensils. I have become proficient in the kitchen, but not exactly stellar.
It’s so easy to focus on all the things we want to make just a bit better before we invite anyone over for dinner. But this habit can lead so quickly to perfectionism: an unwillingness to do anything we can’t do just right.
Magic happens when people gather around a table to eat and chat together. If we fret about the details and try to cover up the shortcomings that are obvious to us, we’ll miss out on the beauty of communing.
Here are five reminders to help us kick perfectionism out of our kitchens:
- Dinner is not a photo shoot for a magazine.
- A cooking show isn’t filming in your kitchen as you cook.
- A professional organizer will not be present to evaluate your progress in your clutter free journey.
- Your food, service, and decor will not be rated by Zagat.
- It’s all about the welcome, the hospitality, and the food.
Think about the around-the-table moments you treasure in your heart—moments threaded together with conversation while forks clinked on plates. You likely remember these snapshots because those occasions were special and you felt cared for. You don’t treasure these memories because you sat in the midst of perfection; you treasure them because despite imperfect people, the burned chicken, and a wobbly chair, you felt included. This is our aim when we welcome people into our kitchen: to make them feel like they belong.
If this is all true—if hospitality really isn’t about being perfect—then we are all capable of hosting a fantastic dinner party. We are all more than qualified to love on people by inviting them over for conversation and a bite to eat.
So be brave! Go ahead and invite friends over, despite the fact that imperfection resides in your kitchen. Don’t let the goal of perfection warp your idea of what it means to be hospitable: don’t allow it to taint the food you serve. Confidently invite friends and family into your home and decline to feel shame about the imperfect. (After all, every home has it.)
Show perfectionism the door, and make room to welcome people at your table.
Kick Perfectionism to the curb in every area of your life! Check out my book, The Cure for the Perfect Life, where we deal with the 4 P’s:
Embrace your imperfect self and go change the world!
by Sharon Jaynes
Kathi Lipp is the queen of showing us how to de-clutter our lives. And if there was ever an area I needed to de-clutter in my heart, it was in the area of shame. I wonder if you can relate.
One morning I sat on my back porch, wrapped in my fuzzy worn robe—the one that’s twenty years old but I just can’t seem to get rid of. The birch tree leaves shivered in the cool morning crispness and the gerbera daisies that had been sleeping beneath the soil through the winter months, stretched their faces to the sun . . . just a bit higher than the day before.
Then I heard him. The rooster.
ER-er-ER-er-ERRRR. I’m not sure where he lives, but it’s within earshot.
ER-er-ER-er-ERRRR. I thought of Peter. I thought of me. I thought of you.
You know the story. At the dinner table, on the night before Jesus went to the cross, He had a chat with his friend Peter. He referred to Peter in his pre-disciple-days name—Simon.
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”
Don’t you know Jesus thought…sure you are, buddy?
“I tell you, Peter,” Jesus said, “before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”
A few hours later, Peter did just that. Denied that he even knew Jesus. Three times. And then the rooster crowed. ER-er-ER-er ERRRR.
And Peter went outside and wept bitterly. He cried and cried and cried.
The next morning, the rooster crowed. And Peter remembered his failure.
And the next morning the rooster crowed. And Peter remembered his failure.
And the next, and the next, and the next.
With every cock-a-doodle-doo came a fresh reminder. First thing in the morning.
Have you ever been there? I have.
I have failed. I have cried and cried and cried. I have remembered.
Shame has poked drain holes in my Spirit-filled confidence and I have hidden behind the wall with Peter…behind the bush with Eve.
And even though I had asked God to forgive me, and I knew that He had, the rooster still crowed in my heart, and I remembered my failure all over again.
Like a trapeze artist who takes hold of the second bar, but refuses to let go of the first, I have hung—dangling over “life to the full.”
Not quite letting go of the life that’s “less than” in order to soar fully and free as God intended.
And God calls to me…Let go. Move forward. Live bold. It’s the only way.
And Paul tells me how… Here’s what I do… I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Forgetting what lies behind and reaching for what lies ahead… (Philippians 3:12,13)
And I see it clearly. For me and for you.
When we finally take hold of, grasp, and make our own all that Jesus has already taken hold of for us and placed in us, we begin to experience life to the full—the faith we’ve always longed for.
But taking hold is not enough. We’ve got to let go.
Let go of shame-filled ponderings and and take hold of grace-filled pardon.
Let go of crippling bitterness and take hold of radical forgiveness
Let go of weak-kneed worry and take hold of sure-footed confidence.
Let go of insecurity and take hold of your true identity as a child of God.
Let go of preoccupation with self-doubt and take hold of God’s power-filled promises.
Let go of comparison and take hold of your God-fashioned uniqueness.
Let go of the lies that hold you hostage and take hold of the truth that sets you free.
Let go of paralyzing doubt and take hold of fleet-footed faith that’s ready to dance to the daring rhythm of God’s drum.
I get excited thinking about it and I’m ready. God has placed lavish promises in the safety deposit box of my heart and fashioned a cross-shaped key just for me…just for you. And letting go of shame and taking hold of grace is where it all begins.
What did Jesus have to say about Peter’s failure? Three strikes, you’re out? Not hardly.
After his resurrection, Jesus pulled Peter aside…
“Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “You know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
“Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”
Jesus removed the shroud of shame hanging from Peter’s guilt weary shoulders, and called him to get back to the ministry to which he was called. And He does the same for me and for you.
Take hold of grace.
But the rooster still crows.
The question is, what will we remember when it does?
Not the sin…but the grace.
Oh friend, don’t let the enemy accuse you of what God has already forgiven you of?
Don’t let him fool you into thinking that the cross was not enough.
Don’t let him clutter your heart with shame and condemnation that God wants to sweep out the door.
Take hold of what Jesus has already taken hold of for you.
And He asks…
“Daughter, do you love me?”
“Yes, Lord, you know that I do.”
Feed my sheep.
Is God calling you to de-clutter your heart and let go of something in your life? If so, leave a comment and we’ll pick 5 and give away 5 free copies of Sharon’s book, Take Hold of the Faith You Long For.
Sharon Jaynes has penned a passel of books and loves linking arms with women all around the world through the written and spoken word. In her brand new book, Take Hold of the Faith You Long For: Let Go, Move Forward, Live Bold, she reveals the most common reasons we get stuck in a mediocre faith. By sitting fireside with Moses at the burning bush and looking at his four arguments with God, you’ll discover how to let go of all that holds you hostage to a life that’s less than what God intended, move forward into life to the full that Jesus promised, and live bold with mountain moving faith that is filled with expectancy. To learn more about Sharon’s ministry visit www.sharonjaynes.com. To learn more about Take Hold of the Faith You Long For: Let Go, Move Forward, Live Bold, visit www.takeholdthebook.com.