The headlines, the stand-up-and-take-notice headlines, greet me every single day.
I subscribed to these emails because I adore my friend who is sending them. She is crazy-gifted, super creative, and incredibly generous with her time and talent.
The whole package, really.
I love to open the emails and look at the projects she’s working on, the colors she’s chosen, and how she is growing her business.
Until one day, I didn’t want to open the email.
I felt a poke. Not a pang or twinge of envy. Just a poke of … something …
I knew it wasn’t jealousy. I don’t enjoy painting bookcases or haunting garage sales for the next perfect piece of milk glass. As the Clutter Free girl, I’m not into any of that. I didn’t covet her living room (we have very different decorating styles) or even her laundry room (which is adorable).
So what was it?
I realized that I did envy her.
I wasn’t jealous of her stuff, but I envied her life.
Why does she get to be the make- it-cute girl, while I’ve struggled with clutter my whole life?
Why does she get to have a house that is inviting and adorable, while for decades, I was the one that you needed to give a week’s notice before coming over for a cup of coffee?
And for a while? I stopped opening the emails. They made me feel less than who I was.
And then I figured out, it wasn’t the emails making me feel that way. It was me.
It was me rejecting this path that God had sent me on. The path of recovering from clutter, which taught me so much about myself, about who God is and about how to serve his people.
If you asked me if I would trade in my journey, I would tell you, “No! Not in a million years!”
But if you compared it to someone else’s journey, I start to think, “Well, maybe I could just try it on for a while …”
I was jealous of what it must feel like to have a house that people walk into and just fall in love with.
So, what did I do?
I bought a new throw pillow.
I bought a decorating book.
I bought a few decorating magazines.
(Oh, don’t you hate when old habits that you thought were dead spring back to life?)
Nothing earth-shattering. It wasn’t exactly a binge.
But it was a blip … A definite indication of something being off in my life.
Buying stuff out of discomfort is familiar territory. So now, when the pangs (or pokes) pop up, I have a plan to get me back to a place of peace and joy.
Here are the steps that get me back to where I need to be:
Identify the feelings for what they are.
Understanding that I’m feeling envy used to send me into a spiral of shame (and I would envy women who didn’t have these feelings). Now, I recognize that feeling for what it is: a dissatisfaction in my own life.
When I realize it’s not about the object of my envy, but about what is going on for me, I instantly shut down anything that comes between me and that person. It is not about our relationship, it’s about how I’m relating to the world around me.
Feast on some truth.
When I get to that place where my heart is bruised, it’s time to get some truth in front of me. My favorite verse when it comes to envy (one that I can quote you on the spot – that’s how much I need it) is 1 Corinthians 10:13:
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
Lately, I’m also loving Seeing Green: Don’t Let Envy Color Your Joy by Tilly Dillehay. She says the way the way to the jealousy-free life is not by suppressing envy, but by embracing love. Not by shaming ourselves, but by loving others.
Practice being happy that someone else has what you want.
In Seeing Green, Dillehay talks about our reactions to other people’s blessings. She asks, “What if your first response was joy?” I love that question.
In the book, she talks about how to change the direction of our first impulse, response, and reaction toward joy for others. This is where I strive to be: genuine joy for others before calibrating the event to my hopes and dreams.
And if we wrestle to love deeply even when our initial reaction is to feel our feels, what we will see is that our reactions, for ourselves and for others, moves to a place of joy.
A place our hearts long to dwell, no matter where our circumstances may take us.
Enter to Win
Enter to win a copy of the book Seeing Green by Tilly Dillehay
this fun gift box filled with green goodies!
Simply leave a comment below. One winner will be randomly selected and notified by email.
My friend Lyneta Smitth shares how to rediscover your decluttering motivation so you can live a clutter free life.
I flew home from a conference in 2016 with a signed copy of Clutter Free in my hands. By the time I landed in Nashville, I’d finished it and determined that from then on, I would give away or throw away five pieces of clutter per day.
Slowly my house turned from a haphazard dumping ground for all-the-things into an organized, functional home. My daily five, as I started to call the declutter routine, became habit. Eventually, after parting with thousands of items, it became difficult to find five each day.
During those two years, I started buying less and making do with what I had. I put a moratorium on scented candles because we have enough to burn until 2025, and created a strict makeup policy in which I could only buy more if I threw some away.
Needless to say, Kathi’s Clutter Free system has worked great. We were at a happy equilibrium, or so I thought.
Until the other night while I was cooking dinner.
The Hidden Decluttering Project
I had two spice-heavy recipes going at the same time. Each needed six or seven different spices and I was trying to measure them all without burning something.
My biggest problem was finding the spices I needed. I kept them in a storage tote in the pantry, which meant I had to pick each one up to see it. What should have taken five minutes took me fifteen.
I must have sighed a little too loudly or slammed the bin lid on a little too hard, because my husband came downstairs from our office and stood just outside the kitchen with only his head poking through the large arch door. “Is everything okay?”
“Yep. Great.” I might have pushed the pantry door closed with unnecessary force.
At this point, he was probably regretting asking his hranky (hungry and cranky—like hangry only with exhaustion added in) wife any sort of question, let alone implying that she might not be okay. But he bravely forged on like a man whose evening (and more importantly, dinner) was on the line.
“Everything sure smells good.”
I nudged the refrigerator door closed with my foot and carried an armful of salad veggies to the counter. “The spice bin is not working for me. It’s really dysfunctional. I need a real spice rack.”
Still hiding behind the wall to the side of the arch, he said, “Okay, let’s get one. You decide what you want, and I’ll build it for you.”
In case you’re wondering, I do realize I have a nicer husband than I deserve.
He was rewarded for his valiant effort with a little smile. And a big dinner.
The next day, after a good night’s sleep, I researched spice racks and ordered one from Amazon. Then I sorted through my bin to see what I could toss out before the big move. (Goodbye, mostly-full jar of coriander, dated 2012.)
I always joke that Clutter Free is the best marriage book I’ve ever read. But truly, learning to cull unneeded items and keep the ones I don’t need in cute containers has saved a lot of stress and frustration in our household.
Just like marriage, decluttering isn’t one and done. It’s a continual process of growth and tweaking. No matter where you are in your decluttering process, there’s always a next step.
How to Find Your Decluttering Motivation & Your Next Step
If you’re in a lull, or just don’t know how to figure out your next decluttering project, here’s a few questions to guide you.
What’s your biggest pain point?
Sometimes we get so busy, we don’t realize clutter is causing us extra stress. It’s become part of our home, like the furniture. As an empty nester, cooking isn’t as high of a priority for me, so I hadn’t realized how out of hand my spice situation was.
But when an urgent situation hits (like being late because you can’t find your keys or not finding that special, essential fall decoration in the attic) you realize it’s time to do something about a certain area.
Where do you waste the most time?
If it’s trying to find school-appropriate clothes in dressers jam-packed with swimsuits and tank tops, you already know your morning routine has way too much stress. Fifteen minutes a day (or one drawer at a time) can fast track getting your kids ready for school.
Or perhaps you’re like me, and you waste too much time searching for things in the kitchen, and spend too much money buying things you already have, but are hidden in the refrigerator or pantry. Tossing out all the outdated or unusable things (like the soy flour from your gluten-free phase six months ago) will save you time and cash.
Which area do you avoid?
Many of us have sewing rooms or other hobby areas we can’t create in because clutter is taking up too much space. Does your church’s preschool program need that can of buttons or leftover bag of pomp poms? Do you know a sewing 4-H leader who could use yards of practice fabric? It’s a win-win. You get more room to create something special, and bless others with your excess.
Another trouble spot is the garage. I can’t count how many times we’ve gone to buy a new sprinkler at the beginning of summer because we can’t find the one from last year. Same for bike tire pumps, canning jars and garden tools. When you realize you’re avoiding an area because clutter has made it dysfunctional, the decision about where to declutter next is easy.
Now That You’ve Figured Out Your Next Step…
What project are you going to tackle next? Let us know in the comments!
Today my friend and coauthor Cheri Gregory shares how Perfectionism is a lot like her Dog.
“Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.” — Mark Twain
When our first book released, Kathi and I discovered that women tended to have opposite reactions to it.
Some insisted, “Oh, I don’t need this book! I’m not a Perfectionist!”
Others demanded, “Why would I need this book? Are you implying there’s something wrong with Perfection?”
Either way, they took Perfectionism very, very seriously.
We agree that it’s a weighty problem. But we also know that humor can lighten our hearts when we’re dealing with heavy issues. Sometimes, what you need most is a serious dose of silly.
So here, for your edification and entertainment, are a dozen characteristics that the four Bullies of Try-Harder Living — Perfectionism and his three accomplices People-Pleasing, Performancism, and Procrastination — have in common with my dog, Shatzi:
Shatzi spends half her day inching into the kitchen so she can lick the floor. The bullies, too, are watching—always watching—so they can sneak somewhere they don’t belong.
When I get distracted, Shatzi dashes upstairs and eats all the cat food. The bullies are experts at seizing one moment of vulnerability to strike fast and strike hard.
Once a reinforcement error has occurred (see #2), it takes days, weeks, even months to re-train Shatzi. The bullies also assume that if you’ve given them free rein once, you’ll let them have it again; they just need to keep trying.
They leave messes for me to clean up.
I know I’m biased, but I think Shatzi is beautiful. And when she’s groomed all gorgeous, I forget about the piles she leaves all over the back yard that I have to shovel. When the bullies are on their best behavior, they look lovely, too: Perfectionism looks like excellence; People-Pleasing looks like service; Performancism looks like productivity; Procrastination looks like peace. Only when we look behind them do we see the mountains of mess they’ve left for us.
They make me lose my mind.
When Shatzi goes on a barking jag, I lose my mind. She knows that all she has to do is stand in the middle of the yard and bark at nothing, and I’ll open the door to let her inside. Same goes for the bullies. When they start yelling inside my head, I’ll do anything — ANYTHING — to quiet them down.
They shed like crazy.
Shatzi has three layers of fur; she doesn’t “shed” so much as disintegrate. Daily. Her hair is everywhere. We’ve opened brand-new cartons of ice cream only to find Shatzi fur already inside. Even when she’s nowhere in sight, she leaves evidence of her presence. Ditto with the bullies — they just shed fear, frustration, and futility instead of fur.
They love distractions.
Shatzi has zero attention span. She’s like the dog on UP: “Squirrel!” She’s here. She’s there. She’s anywhere but here and now. The bullies run back to the past, “Why on earth did you…?!?” and dash ahead to the future, “What will you do if…?!?” never wanting you to focus on the only thing that’s real: this present moment.
They bark more than they bite.
Shatzi barks ferociously at any unknown source of danger…as long as it keeps its distance. But as soon as anyone comes close, she tucks her tail between her legs. The bullies look and sound all big and bad until you approach them with the truth; then, they cower and whine.
They take me for a walk.
I had to quit jogging with Shatzi because I hate any form of exercise she’s a yanker. We don’t refer to “walking the dog” in our family; we talk about “being walked by the dog.” The bullies love to take the lead in our lives; to drag us along at their pace where they want to go.
When Shatzi lays across my lap, she acts all warm and cuddly. But after a while, when I need to get things done? She becomes dead weight and won’t let me go. The bullies give me an initial feeling of comfort but r-e-s-i-s-t when I try to leave them behind.
Shatzi has cost me more time and money than I will admit. So have the bullies. But unlike my loyal furry family member, they aren’t worth a second of my time or a single dime.
The next time Perfectionism, People-Pleasing, Performancism, or Procrastination show up looking adorable and holding a leash in their mouth?
Recognize that they plan to use it on you.
Tell them, “Bad bully! No biscuit!”
And always remember:
“A merry heart does good, like a medicine”
Proverbs 17:22a (NKJV)
P.S. While I no longer have Shatzi, the lessons she taught me remain.
Break Through a Perfectionist Personality With Our New Book Club!
Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory have a new book available for pre-order now. You Don’t Have to Try So Hard will enable you to break free from the bullies of perfectionism, performancism, people-pleasing, and procrastination.
Click HERE to find out more and to sign up for the Book Club so you can find freedom from a perfectionist personality.
3 Ways to Stop Screen Time from Ruining Your Mood–and Your Marriage!
A few years ago I found myself, on pretty much a weekly basis, pondering, “How can life be so cruel?”
I’d fixate on how deplorable our culture was. I’d bemoan how awful so many men were to so many women. I’d stumble to the bathroom and brush my teeth, and drag myself to the bed and crawl under the covers, hoping to disappear.
My husband would find me like that and try to talk me out of it. He’d want me to open up and explain what was going on in my head. He’d offer to help me make a list of good things that I could focus on instead.
And I would lie there and fume. “Why can’t he just let me have my mood? Why can’t he just leave me alone instead of trying to fix me? He’s always doing that. Every week, he tries to make me see the bright side when I just need to FEEL. Every week. In fact, every Thursday he does this.”
“What’s wrong with him that on Thursdays he always has to interfere?”
Then I thought,”Wait a minute. What’s wrong with me that every Thursday I’m depressed?”
And then I realized that every Thursday, we watched Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Every Thursday, I’d get depressed. And every Thursday, I’d take it out on my husband.
Maybe the problem was not Keith. Maybe the problem was my television preferences!
So we turned off the TV and we switched off Netflix and a couple of times a week we’d find other things to fill our time and build our relationship — things that didn’t make me grumpy and hate men.
It’s not just our homes that can get cluttered. It can be our minds, too.
What we fill our minds with affects our outlook on life. And watching TV or watching a movie doesn’t necessarily build your relationship with your husband that much. Sure, it can be fun occasionally, but many of us turn to screens by default in the evenings, when there are much better options that raise our mood, make us laugh together, and build memories.
Keith and I have focused on three different things that help us. See if you can find one that can work for your marriage, too!
1. Play a board game as a couple.
Board games aren’t just for groups! Board games can be awesome as a couple, too. And we’ve discovered some great new ones, even in the last few years. It’s not all Monopoly and Scrabble and Boggle. Here are a few others that we love:
Hive: It’s like chess, but with bugs. And octagons. Or are they hexagons? Your five pieces can move in different ways, and whoever surrounds the queen bee first wins! The great part about it? It only takes about 10 minutes to play a game all the way through.
Carcassone: Here’s one of my favorites that works great with really young kids and bigger groups, as well. You get to build a medieval French countryside together, putting down tiles that create the board. Monasteries, villages, roads, rivers, and more. You rack up points by finishing a road, city, or building, or by cultivating crops. But the best part is that the board looks different every time!
Pandemic: Another game that works well in groups, but also works well just for couples! It’s a cooperative game, so you can play it with a super competitive husband and no one will get grumpy. (Although you may get killed by a wicked virus. Sometimes stuff happens.) Four viruses are spreading in the world, and you need to use the skills of scientists, researchers, medics, and more to stop the spread. It’s great strategy, and you’ll learn geography, too!
A few years ago, my husband and I watched the movie The Big Year, all about competitive bird watching (yes, there is such a thing). It was such a great movie, and right after that, we went out and bought two sets of awesome binoculars, a bird book, and started ourselves. We live near one of the best bird migration sites in North America, and it didn’t take long to start getting quite the list!
Keith’s way more into birdwatching that I am, but I still love it. We get outside. We get fresh air. We get to talk. And hey–the birds are pretty!
We also love ballroom dancing, and periodically take classes to learn more steps. We’re to the point that we can actually impress people now at weddings.
If you were to say to your beloved, “Honey, can we talk tonight?“, chances are he’d panic. But if you were to say, “Honey, how about a walk after dinner?“, he wouldn’t get his back up, and he may even agree.
When women talk to each other, we tend to like to do it face to face, gazing into our friends’ eyes. But when men talk, they tend to do it side-by-side, when they’re doing something together.
One of the best things we can do for our marriage, then, is to do something that puts you side by side with your husband. And for that, nothing beats getting outside, whether it’s just taking that walk, or taking a bike ride, or even just gardening!
When we get outside, the screen isn’t trying to pull us in so much with its promise of Netflix and movies. We’re able to be fully present and fully available. And that’s going to make you feel far closer to your husband, too!
I had to declutter my mind to see clearly that my husband is a good guy, and he can be a lot of fun. And when we added some fun things that had nothing to do with screens, we increased the laughter. (And I stopped dwelling on horrible sex crimes, too.)
Maybe, as the new school year starts up, it’s time to develop a new routine of your own. After all, no one wants to be grumpy every Thursday!
Learn how to break free from the pressure to perform.
Sitting at Kathi’s kitchen table, I unfold and refold a napkin a dozen times before making the announcement that’s been brewing for weeks.
“I’m resigning as the hardest-working speaker you know.”
Kathi looks up from pouring coffee. “Cheri, when I say ‘you’re the hardest-working speaker I know,’ I mean it as a compliment!”
“Oh, I know you do. And for all these years, I’ve considered it the highest possible praise. But now I’m realizing that you’ve been praising me for – and I’ve even been feeling good about – achieving a goal I don’t even value.”
“Huh?” Kathi hands me a mug and gives me a quizzical eye.
I sigh into my mocha. “I’ve never wanted to be the hardest-working anything you know. I’d far rather be the most creative…the funniest…the quirkiest…pretty much anything other than the hardest-working!”
Kathi knits her brow. “Then why do you work so hard?”
“It’s all I know how to do. I get started and keep working and never know when to stop. I don’t know how to tell if I’ve done enough. So I just keep working harder and harder.”
“Even though you don’t really want to?”
“Wow. I thought you really liked working really hard.”
Kathi stirs her coffee. “You know, in all the years we’ve known each other, I’ve been feeling guilty that I don’t work as hard as you.”
I mimic a teenage eye-roll. “Oh, don’t! It’s so not worth it!”
“I had no idea you were working so hard out of fear, not joy.” She reaches out and puts her hand over mine.
My mocha becomes blurry. “Neither did I. Neither did I.”
Breaking the Pressure to Perform
After Kathi and I had this conversation six years ago, I was overwhelmed by one powerful emotion: regret.
Regret that I’d followed Performancism’s orders to “just work harder.” Regret that I was so late in recognizing Performancism as the slave driver he is.
All the time I’d invested on “perfect” projects? Wasted. It’s not fair.
All the times I’d gone over-and-above expectations at work? Meaningless. It’s not fair.
All the time I hadn’t spent with family and friends? Gone. It’s not fair.
I didn’t know any better.
If only I could go back and do it all over again …
When you’re weighed down by decades of regret, it’s hard to breathe, let alone move.
But even amidst all the regret, something else was stirring.
I’d start to round up the usual anxiety for a new project and suddenly remember: I don’t have to work that way any more.
I’d start to mock myself for all the mistakes I’d made in a conversation and suddenly recall: I don’t have to impress anyone any more.
I’d start to fret about the many friendships I’d ruined and suddenly realize: I don’t have to keep doing what I’ve always done.
Relief motivated me to make new choices.
I told an authority figure “no.”
I said “yes” to something fun.
I didn’t fret when the something fun turned out to be no fun after all.
I added to my gratitude journal each day.
And I made one more seemingly small choice with enormous ramifications.
Re-reading the Gospels
I read through Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John again, slowly, lingering as long as I liked in each chapter before moving on to the next. Without Performancism breathing down my neck, I saw Jesus in a whole new light.
I spent months reading and re-reading the stories of Jesus’ encounters with women, seeing how Jesus responded to women, how Jesus made women feel.
I discovered that Jesus used the word “wise” to describe women who said “no.” (Matthew 25:1-13 NIV)
I stayed in John 21 for a full year, awed by the safety Peter — despite all his failures — found in Christ and Christ alone.
Looking back over the last six years, I am thank-full. I can see how small changes combined into big changes that have accelerated into huge changes. God is restoring the years that Performancism consumed (Joel 2:25 KJV).
And as I look forward, I am hope-full. God is “doing a new thing” and “making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:19 NLT).
Perhaps you, too, hear the incessant inner voice telling you to “Just work harder!” Maybe you, too, feel that your identity is based on your productivity.
If so, I want you to know that you can break free from Performancism.
In the process, you will feel some regret.
But as God does His “new thing” in your life, you’ll feel even greater relief which will lead to new choices.
And one day you’ll realize that although you’re still working hard, it’s no longer from fear.
From now on, it’s for joy.
Break the Pressure to Perform With Our New Book Club!
Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory have a new book available for pre-order now. “You Don’t Have to Try So Hard” will enable you to break free from the bullies of perfectionism, performancism, people-pleasing, and procrastination.
Click HERE to find out more and to sign up for the Book Club so you can find freedom from the pressure to perform.