De-Cluttering Our Hearts
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We all understand that material things are not as important as relationships. So, what lies behind the clutter of our lives? Kathi Lipp offers tips and perspectives to de-clutter our hearts.
De-Cluttering Our Hearts
Dave: So what’s the most cluttered room in our house?
Ann: Oh, no doubt!—our attic.
Ann: There’s a lost city in our attic.
Dave: I’m surprised it hasn’t fallen into our garage; there’s so much weight up there!
You know, you just keep adding—
Ann: And it’s all your fault.
Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.
Our house wouldn’t be cluttered at all—if I didn’t have kids, if I didn’t have a dog, without a husband—I’d be lonely, but it would be clean—clean and lonely.
Dave: It is my fault.
Ann: No, it’s not.
Dave: And I can’t even find anything up there. We were up there the other day, and I needed to find that booster seat. I looked for an hour; I finally said, “It’s not up there; we got rid of it.” She goes up and finds it in 30 seconds! [Laughter] And it was right at the top of the steps!
Ann: As I said, it is the lost city.
Ann: And our grandkids came to visit us at Christmas, and the first thing they wanted to do was—they said, “Our dad told us all about your attic!” [Laughter] It was the best part of Christmas that they had! [Laughter] See?
Dave: Yes, I guess there’s some use for it!
Hey, today we’ve got Ron Deal on the show. Ron is from our FamilyLife Blended® ministry; it’s an amazing ministry. Ron’s an amazing guy; I love having you here!
Ann: Ron, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Ron: Thank you; it’s always good to be here.
Dave: So why are we talking about cluttered?
Ron: Well, Kathi Lipp has done a lot of work in helping people declutter their physical space/their home and declutter their life.
Dave: Can she come to our house? [Laughter]
Ron: Now, that I don’t know!
Dave: Is that what she does?
Ron: If the price is right, I’m sure she could! [Laughter]
Ann: But it’s been fun already, hearing her talk about what that looks like—
Ron: Yes, yes.
Ann: —decluttering our homes.
But then, when she gets into the decluttering of our lives, that’s when it gets a little sticky.
Ron: And it’s one thing to declutter personally; that’s a little bit of what we talked about in the previous program. But today/now, we’ve got to talk a little bit about decluttering in connection with others—spouses, children—“What if you have different opinions about what needs to stay/what needs to go?”
Ann: —or “What’s clutter?!”
Ron: Right! Even defining clutter; that can be a problem.
Dave: So here is Ron Deal’s conversation with Kathi Lipp, the author of The Clutter-Free Home.
[Previous FamilyLife Blended®Podcast]
Ron: Okay, another principle you talk about decluttering: “Don’t argue over stuff; negotiate space.”
Kathi: Yes, so I think part of it is: “Kids, you have your room,” or “…your portion of the room,”—and—“Yes, you get to do with it what you want; but you’re still part of a larger unit/the family that has to work together, so your stuff needs to be contained to your area.”
But when we had our kids in the living room, with their computers and stuff, I’m like, “Okay, this is not the fantasy room that I wanted. This is not what I wanted it to be, but this is what we need right now. This is your space; but I still get to say, ‘I need it to look like humans live here. [Laughter] I need it to look like we are all working together.’”
We would have times, where they would be working on their individual space; but also, times where we had to come together, as a family, and pull together. Some of that was common spaces, some of that was big chores, and things like that.
Can I just tell you?—I’ve made every mistake in the book. I’ve done everything wrong as a stepparent. I love that God gives us grace and, sometimes, a covering in all of that:—
Kathi: —because we have kids, who like to work hard and like to have spaces that are neat and pulled together, but they also know how to work with other human beings. That makes me super proud, even in all of my failings.
Ron: You know, the word, “negotiate,” in all of that is so important. It’s: “Everybody gets a voice. We listen to one another, and we try to figure out how to meet in the middle. Sometimes, I give a lot; sometimes, I just compromise a little.”
Ron: And over the course of time in a family, we all hopefully do a little of that.
I think, with kids, negotiating space is really metaphorical: “It’s not just my bedroom; now, I’m sharing a bedroom with another half-sibling;”—or—“stepsibling, so what’s mine?
Ron: “Have I lost control of everything in my life/in my world? I don’t even get a closet, or a space, or a drawer?” They need something that is theirs.
Ron: That speaks to their belonging—that they matter/that they haven’t lost control of everything in their world—it’s not just about space. It is about more of that sense of control and belonging.
Kathi: Right; and also, if we want to grow responsible kids, they need to have something that is theirs to care for—yes, it’s all of that together—and it’s that identity to say: “Yes, I’m part of this family, that even I don’t understand sometimes; but who I am in that matters.
Kathi: “It matters, not just to my parent of origin, but also to my other person,”—that, in some ways, they can feel like they’ve been forced to live with—but there’s a way to honor that and to say: “Everybody in this matters; we also work together as a team, but we also respect each other as individuals.”
Ron: Let’s talk about one more principle you talk about in your book, The Clutter-Free Home: “Things are not relationships.”
Kathi: When we’re talking about blended families, I know that—for years, when it came to Christmas and birthdays—I was making up for them being in a blended family. We were overbuying, overspending, over-celebrating. It was my own need to be loved and accepted by these very important people in my life, who I felt so much rejection from.
Roger and I kept on telling each other: “Five years.” We’ve heard from other families that five years can really make a difference. We got to a point—where my stepson would not participate in our wedding; he refused to; he didn’t want to be there; he wouldn’t come to our wedding unless his mom came; it’s a whole bunch of mess!—to the place, where he’s called me for advice; to the place, where he’s gotten off the phone with his dad, to talk to me to find out how I’m doing. I never thought we would get to that place. I had to calm down with the stuff and just understand that it takes some time to build into that place.
Ron: Well, you have really hit on something I think is huge. The anxiety that we feel about how fast the family is coming together tends to just make adults try to push for more togetherness, and that tends to make children pull back from the togetherness; and now, we’re working on opposite agendas/we’re clashing and creating conflict.
Relaxing, and not letting your anxiety or fear about the family not blending get the best of you—that’s the first step towards saying—“You know, it’s going to take time. I’ve got to rest into this; and I’ve just got to do what I can do today and trust that, eventually, the relationships can progress.”
Kathi: It’s so true. I was giving my step-kids way too much control over how my day was going.
Kathi: What they needed from me was safety and stability. They just needed to know that dinner was going to be on the table at six o’clock. They just needed to know that, when I said I was going to pick them up from hockey practice, that I was going to be there. That’s what they needed from me in those first years. When I could just calm down, and not give them the responsibility of how my day was going, things got a lot better.
Ron: Yes, that’s great.
Okay, let me turn a corner and ask another question: “For you, as a stepmom, you were the one who kind of kept the clutter, at least, in the beginning of your blended family. What if we’ve got somebody listening right now, and they are a stepparent—stepdad or stepmom—and they are the only ones who want the house decluttered. What do they do?”
Kathi: Yes, so this is really important to understand the distinction. Are you doing that because you want your house to be beautiful?—or do you want it to be functional? Because beautiful, I think, is a great goal; but that doesn’t always translate to everybody else in your family.
If you can approach it from: “We need to function as a family; and when there’s a lot of chaos, we can’t function as a family.” Simple things that are not going to be forcing your stepchild to get rid of their stuffed animal—let’s just be clear—none of that am I advocating or okay with.
But things like, when I would drive the kids home from school, one of the things I learned to do is I would have a garbage and recycling bag in our minivan. I’d say:
“Okay, guys, I want you to unpack your backpacks. If there’s any garbage in there, throw it in the garbage bag. If there’s anything that needs to be recycled, put it in the recycling bag. If you need me to sign a permission slip, if you need me to sign a test that didn’t go so well—whatever it is—make me a stack. I’m going to take those things; I’m going to get into the house, and I’m going to sign and do what we need to: attach the check,”—I don’t even know if people use checks anymore—[Laughter]—“and we’re going to put it back into your backpack to put it back into play.”
I really believe—if you’re the one who’s arguing for being more clutter-free—one, you have to set the example. You can’t just be upset with everybody else’s stuff; because everybody else’s stuff looks like junk, and our stuff looks necessary.
Ron: Oh, now, you’ve gone to meddling. [Laughter]
Kathi: Exactly. [Laughter]
Ron: “My stuff is not junk! It is my stuff.” [Laughter]
Kathi: Right! Because you know exactly what everything’s for, and what you’re going to use, and all of that.
Ron: Yes; right!
Kathi: I totally get it! But also, understand there is a certain amount of clutter that just comes with life and, especially, with kids.
Kathi: So know that this is for a certain time/a certain place.
Also, I got to the point, in a small bit, that I said, “I’m not going to have this chaos forever.” You know what?—“I kind of want to enjoy—while my kids are here, while we get to spend some time together—I want to be able to enjoy this and not be frustrated all the time.”
I could have standards for the rest of my family that were aspirational. I would only lose my top about really one thing: when I would find clean folded laundry in the hamper. [Laughter] Let’s just say/yes, it wasn’t pretty.
Ron: It wasn’t pretty.
Kathi: It wasn’t pretty.
Ann: You’ve been listening to FamilyLife Today. We’ve been listening to Ron Deal with Kathi Lipp, about decluttering our homes. As she was just finishing that, talking about how frustrated she was, what were her words, guys?
Ron: “It wasn’t pretty!”
Ann: “It wasn’t pretty!” [Laughter]
Dave: Why were you laughing at that?
Ann: Because that drives me crazy—when you have folded, clean laundry at the bottom of the hamper—and that has happened.
Dave: It never happened in our home.
Dave: Not one time!
Ron: Now, we have denial. [Laughter]
And I’m telling you—I think that that’s true—what she’s talking about; like, “Okay; what’s my part? What can I do, and not get frustrated with everyone else; because they’re not doing what I perceive their part as being?” If that makes sense.
Ron: I loved Kathi’s principles of: “Hey, you’re in charge of you,” and “You’re working this out with other people.” As a parent, you have standards for your kids; but every once in a while, you need to let something slide. You know, there’s a fine line in there; there’s balance to be sought. That’s something we all have to do, because there will be moments when it’s not pretty.
Ann: And it’s interesting—like when we have our grandkids over—I’m totally laid-back about them; because I know now: “They’re going to leave, and it’s all going to be different,” and “I’m going to enjoy the moment.” I think, when our kids were little, it took me a while to learn that.
Dave: Yes; because you hated the clutter, and you thought you had to clean it up right away. You realized, “When they go to bed, I can clean it up.”
So here’s the question, Ron, as we listen to the next part: “Does she apply this to our lives?—to our spiritual lives?”
Ron: Yes; and you know, we have so much to declutter, spiritually speaking. Sometimes, it’s about resentment or pain, or something in the relationship that just needs to go. That’s the next part of our conversation.
[Previous FamilyLife Blended Podcast]
Ron: Let’s talk about decluttering our heart for a second. When you’ve got resentment built up towards somebody in your home; or maybe, a stepmom has a lot of clutter on her heart towards what we like to call her “ex-wife-in-law”/her husband’s former wife—
Ron: —that stuff gets in the way of you figuring out how to do life together.
Kathi: I will say this: my stepson was just miserable with me. In his brain, his parents were getting back together, even though everybody in that equation made it very clear that that was never going to happen. I was the roadblock. I have to say, I was really, really frustrated with him for a long time. One of the things I did—and it’s going to sound bad at first, but it actually has led to a great deal of healing—is I have three amazing friends [to whom] I just said, “Guys, I need a safe place to process this without gossiping, knowing that I love my stepson greatly; but I really don’t like him right now.”
I felt so awful, because I was the only blended family person in that whole group. But then they all came out; they’re like: “This one kid is great; they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing. My other kid is making me crazy.” We called ourselves “The Bad Mom’s Club,” [Laughter] because we felt like bad moms; but also, we were putting guidelines and we were putting boundaries in place. We were learning how to do the mom-thing well.
You know what? It was great; because with these people—I said, “You have to hold me to the standard that I’m growing in love for my stepson; because, if not, none of this is worth it,”—I didn’t always feel that way; let’s be super clear. But they would pray for me; they would ask me how things were going; they would hold me accountable when I’d say: “I need to reach out to Jeremy more; because right now, things are not going well,” “I need to encourage his dad to go on walks with him,” “I need to do…”—all the things.
When it came to the ex-wife-in-law—I love that so much! I need to write that down—it was tough. I’m just going to be really honest; at one point, we had so much conflict, I told my husband, “I need a year off.” He said, “I support that.” He goes, “I will go to the things.” I still spent plenty of time with my stepkids, but I just didn’t show up where she was showing up. But you can’t take a year off without doing the work on yourself, and I went to counseling.
We now have a good relationship. When things are going on, and her kids are frustrated with her, I’m actually defending her in some ways. To get to that place, it was worth taking the year off and saying, “I need to spend some time to figure this out.” It helped tremendously; it helped everybody.
Ron: There are so many takeaways in that. Thank you so much for sharing that.
It, obviously, paid off—
Kathi: It did pay off.
Ron: —and you decluttered your heart.
Ron: I’ve got one more question for you.
Kathi: Yes, sir.
Ron: You talk in the book about putting a sign in each room of your house to kind of communicate a purpose and to claim it for a given reason.
Ron: Let’s talk about it. Give us some examples/some practical examples in terms of home. But also, what are some signs you could put in each room of your heart as it relates to your family?
Kathi: Yes, yes. You know, at some point, I claimed a verse for each of my stepkids. That verse has changed over the years, according to what they need. My stepkids are now grown. My stepdaughter is married; I have an amazing son-in-law that God is knitting together their family, and we get to see that.
My stepson, who has some learning challenges and things like that—who has perseverance like no other human being I’ve met—the signs that I can put on them/the Bible verses about perseverance, and loving well, and God knitting their hearts together—it focuses your relationship to be able to do that and to say: “I wish so much for these people that God has entrusted me with in a small way.” I’m just a small part of the many people who love my stepkids.
But I also feel like God has given me the most to learn from them, and they’ve learned a lot by having a relationship with me. We’ve learned how to navigate some really tricky waters that not everybody has to navigate. My kids are better prepared for that.
When I think about that, it’s like, “Okay, what verse can I be praying that I would see all of God’s fruit in this person that I care so deeply about?”
Ron: Man, that is such a neat idea—to imagine, as when a child walks in the room—that there’s almost, like hovering above their head, this little verse, or a thought, or a notion that you hold onto for a period of time to just help you get focused about that person and your relationship with them.
Kathi: And to think about their future. We have a hope that we can pin on them for something better for the future. We have a big God, and we have a lot of capacity to give. If you have stepped into the role of stepparent, even if you haven’t been able to demonstrate it recently, I know that it’s there for you.
Dave: Well, you’ve been listening to FamilyLife Today, where we’ve all gotten a chance to listen to Ron Deal’s conversation with Kathi Lipp. I tell you—that last little section there—wow! What a way to view children, and really, to view anybody in your life: an identity that brings life out of them.
Dave: That was beautiful.
Ann: I like the idea of seeing a Scripture, or a placard, or an identity name above each of our children, our friends, our husband or wife; because that’s how God sees us.
Ann: He doesn’t see the clutter/the mess. He sees how He made us and the gifts that He put in us. I wonder if Jesus has a verse over each of us? That would be sweet to think about.
Ron: You know, one of the things I’m putting into practice, as a result of my conversation with Kathi is, when my smartphone dings—
Ron: —it shouts, “Important!” I have to make a decision: “Is that really important?”
What if I put a placard over my wife’s head/over my son’s head, when he walks into the living room, and I saw the word, “Important,” over them? How would that make a difference in how I respond?—just the simple little things—the smile on my face; the way I welcome them; the way I turn my attention away from the TV, or away from the smartphone, and give them my full attention. If I see them as “important,” and act accordingly, what a difference that would make.
Dave: Yes; we tend—I know I do; I can’t speak for you—but Kathi got into it—stuff. I tend to put a “10” on stuff—
Dave: —and a “3” on people; you know? I should put a “10” on everybody’s forehead,—
Dave: —especially my wife, and my kids, and grandkids; and really, my neighbor as well. That’s what she’s challenged us to do.
So thanks, Ron! I mean, it was great to have you here!
Ann: Yes, it was fun to be with you.
Dave: I encourage people to listen to FamilyLife Blended, and to listen to your conversations like that. There are a whole bunch of them—
Ron: That’s right.
Dave: —and they are life-changing.
Bob: You know, I think any of us can look around and see messes somewhere in our home, in our lives, in our heart. Thinking about how we can de-clutter, whether it’s the physical space you’re in or the spiritual space you’re living in, that’s what Dave and Ann have been talking about today with Ron Deal and Kathi Lipp.
Kathi has written a book called The Clutter-Free Home: Making Room for Your Life. We’ve got copies of her book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Go online to get your copy; go to FamilyLifeToday.com, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to get a copy. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com to look for The Clutter-Free Home from Kathi Lipp; or order a copy when you call 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
By the way, if you’re not already subscribed to or regularly listening to Ron Deal’s podcast, FamilyLife Blended, again, go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com; there’s a link there. Sign up, subscribe, listen in. The podcast is called FamilyLife Blended with Ron Deal. It’s a great podcast; I’d encourage you to check it out.
Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever wished there was like a Home Depot® or a Lowe’s® for marriage, so that when there’s a do-it-yourself project, you could go find the supplies and get things patched up in your marriage. I think Home Depot used to have this slogan: “You can do it. We can help.” That’s how we feel about marriage. In fact, our team has put together something that we call the “Love You Better Plan.” It’s a 30-day exercise you can go through to help you tackle some of those marriage improvement projects that I think all of us need from time to time.
The “Love You Better Plan” is a free resource. Each day, there’s a tip for how to better improve your marriage. It’s got concepts and resources that can help bring you closer together. And here’s something really exciting: when you download the “Love You Better Plan” from FamilyLife—again, it’s free—you are automatically registered for an opportunity to win a cabin on the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise in 2022.
We’re heading out in February—Valentine’s week—on the 2022 Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise; and somebody, who downloads the “Love You Better Plan,” is going to get a chance to go with us. Go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com; all the information you need is available there; you can download from there. Again, you’re automatically registered at that point for an opportunity to win a cabin on the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise in 2022. The website, again: FamilyLifeToday.com.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to get a chance to connect with one of our favorite funny people. Michael Jr.’s going to be here with us, and we’re going to hear from him about the connection between living a life with purpose and doing stand-up comedy. Trust me; there is a connection. Michael joins us to talk about that tomorrow. I hope you can join us as well.
On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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