Declutter NOW


What do you think of when you hear the word “Declutter”?

Chances are your mind turns to all the papers that are piled up on your kitchen counter, or your bookcases that are overflowing with books and magazines and toys, or your mud room with 40 pairs of shoes, some of which are probably three sizes too small for the little feet that once wore them.

This week I want to challenge you to think of decluttering in a broader way: Let’s examine the things that are unnecessarily draining our energy and our time, and instead fill our time with the things htat match our real priorities.

Today we’ll be looking at decluttering in a broad sense, but tomorrow and Thursday  we’re going to turn to our kids, because with Back to School upon us, we need to think about how we’re actually spending our time and our energy.

We only have so much of both. I’ve been overwhelmed with work lately, and been much busier than normal. But the one thing that kept me sane was that, on the whole, I don’t have a cluttered life. So when something comes along, out of the blue and temporarily, that does require more energy and time, I’m able to fit it in.

That hasn’t always been the case. I remember times when my best friend was sick and needed help with her kids, and I could not do it. I had no leeway or give in my own schedule. There were times when I desperately needed some rest, and I couldn’t find it, because there was no leeway. But over the last ten years I’ve gotten rid of things–clutter in my house, church commitments, even friends that took too much from me–and I found that I then had time for the important things.

Too often, I think, we allow our lives to carry us along, instead of standing in front of everything and deciding how we’re going to live those lives. We just simply have too much: too much stuff and so too much to clean; too many responsibilities, and so too hectic a schedule; too much debt, and so too much stress.

Declutter Now by Lindon and Sherry GareisI just finished reading Lindon and Sherry Gareis’ book Declutter NOW, and it deals with this concept: that our lives are cluttered not just with physical things, but with other stresses and commitments that keep us from being able to focus our time and our energy on what is really important. Decluttering then, is not just about organizing your home but also about freeing up space in your life. In the book they lay out eight areas of our lives that need decluttering, including, of course, our physical space, but also our schedules, our job commitments, our kids’ commitments–even our friendships.

Neither Lindon nor Sherry is perfect, and they don’t claim to be. For both of them it is a second marriage, and they had a lot of baggage from their first marriages that they needed to “declutter”. They both made mistakes parenting that they’ve realized were largely caused because they forgot how to live their lives with God’s priorities at the center, and they let other things sap their focus.

I really enjoyed it, and I want to share a few nuggets of wisdom from them, and then a few very practical things you can do right now to start decluttering.

Realize that You Are Making a Choice to Live a Cluttered Life

Too often we’re exhausted or broke or stressed, and a large part of the problem is that we feel out of control. We aren’t controlling our lives; our lives are controlling us. Yet we always have choices–choices to concentrate on our priorities. They say,

Freedom allows you to step back, catch your breath, focus, reorganize, and get control. Freedom empowers you to broaden your vision and see the bigger picture. You’ll have choices and can operate without guilt or obligation.

We don’t tend to think of this as a spiritual problem, but it is. When we try to address the issues in our spiritual life, we tend to look at the “spiritual” symptoms. Are we praying enough? Do we read our Bible enough? Do we have time for a quiet time? And yet what if the main problem is one of focus in the rest of our lives?

Have you ever felt too busy for God? Too overwhelmed, rushed, or un- focused?

If the answer is yes, it’s probably because you’re trying to do too much. And when we do that, we don’t have time for the important. I remember reading in The Purpose Driven Life that there is always time in everyday to do what God has for us that day–and if we’re not getting it done, it’s likely because we’re filling our time with the unimportant. Sometimes those unimportant things seem urgent–the soccer practice, the costumes we have to make, the meeting at the church, the huge cleaning we need to do in the living room. But those urgent things were all choices. Choices to say yes or to get involved with more things than we could handle. And so no wonder we often go to bed dissatisfied, feeling like we somehow “missed” what God had for us today.

I’ve already written a big post on ideas of what to do with physical clutter, but I’d like to share just a few practical thoughts gleaned from the multitude that are mentioned in Lincoln and Sherry’s book:

1. Decluttering Means Operating in Trust God mode, Not in Survival mode

Sherry shares how after her divorce, she was so scared of her kids going cold that she collected blankets. Tons of blankets. And do you know how much room blankets take?

So often we do that–we keep things “just in case”. But those “just in case” things that we don’t normally use can quickly take over a house. So instead of operating in “survival” mode, let’s get rid of most of our “just in case” items and instead trust God that if we ever go through a hard time, He’ll bring us through it. And in the meantime, is it really worth the physical and emotional toll on you to store that thing?

One area of homes that I think goes to real disuse is the “guest room”, for those of us blessed enough to have one. How often do you really have guests? Twice a year? Four times a year? And in the meantime you don’t have a place for your sewing machine or your scrapbooking, which bring you so much pleasure, so they clutter up another area of the house. Let’s not live in “just in case” mode. Let’s live in today.

2. Look Forward, Not Backward–and Declutter those Photos!

Do you cling to photo album after photo album of pictures you never look at, or home videos you can’t even play anymore because you don’t have a machine for them? Maybe it’s time to declutter our family memories!

One of my current projects is scanning all my old family photos–and then throwing out the majority of them. I know that sounds radical, but photos fade, and that sticky stuff in albums can wreck photos after a few decades. So instead, I scan them and toss them. Most photos I don’t really want anyway. It’s hard letting go of the past, but sometimes we really need to!

If you don’t want to do this yourself, YesVideo will transfer all your photos onto a CD for you. And they’ll take all those home movies you can’t watch and put them on DVD. I’m not saying we should lose our memories. I’m just saying let’s keep them in a more practical way–and one that takes up a lot less space.

3. Declutter Toxic People

Here’s a rough one, but oh, so necessary. If people are draining your energy, it may be time to cut the strings.

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about setting boundaries with your in-laws, which caused a lot of comments and a lot of really heartbreaking emails or people saying, “what do I owe my parents if they’re really mean to us?” In Declutter NOW Lindon and Sherry take you through a process of looking hard at the friends and family in your life who eat up your emotional energy, and then give you a practical way to classify them and figure out how much time you really want to spend with them. Go through the exercise and you’ll likely find that your life would be vastly improved if you spent LESS time with some people and far MORE time with others–people who encourage you and give you energy, whom you don’t currently have time for because of the toxic people.

In the two weeks or so since I banned a number of commenters I have felt lighter than I have in years. I didn’t realize how much certain people were stealing my emotional energy. I always checked the comments with trepidation; that’s gone now.

I like their objective method of figuring out who should be most important in your life, and if you’re really struggling with friends and family who bleed you dry, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate.

4. Declutter Your Coupons

Here’s something really simple: stop using coupons if they’re not really saving you money–and for many of us they aren’t. I read recently that the biggest grocery cost to the average family in North America is food waste. We buy more than we can actually eat because we buy in bulk, or we buy stuff we don’t normally eat because “it’s a good deal”, and then it sits in our cupboards.

The Gareis’ aren’t against coupons, but there’s a right way to do them and a wrong way. And the right way is far simpler (and doesn’t clog your cupboards).

5. Replace the Space with God

Lindon and Sherry have many more practical ideas for decluttering your finances, your job, your friends, you body, your home, and more, but all of them lead to the same aim: Replace the Space with God. Get rid of the unnecessary so you have room for the necessary.
As the school year begins again, I want to encourage all of us to think and pray about these things hard. Your life isn’t automatically going to be less chaotic just because you will it; you have to actually do something differently. If you’ve been operating in a chaotic mode, you need to actively change things, not just think about them. So look at your life: where is your energy being taken? What are you spending too much time on? Where can you get some breathing room?
Over the next two days we’re going to look specifically at family time and figuring out kids’ extracurricular activities. But today, pray: God, what can I let go of so that I can leave more room for You?

Lindon and Sherry’s book Declutter NOW is available in paperback and in ebook format. And the Kindle edition is just $4.99–THIS WEEK ONLY! They put it on sale especially for our readers. So do check it out!
And they offer FREE resources – including a 40 Day Challenge video series, at Or join them on Facebook for some interactive fun and a 30 Day Declutter ‘Do’ series!


  1. Anonymous says:

    What if the toxic person is your mother?

    • Hi Anonymous! Moms do not have special privilege to clutter our lives with toxicity. Unhealthy is unhealthy. While this can present a much more difficult decluttering journey, it is well worth addressing and not allowing the unhealthy fallout for you to continue. Blessings to you! -Sherry

    • My mother was so toxic in my life, that I suffered health from it. I was verbally abused and emotionally messed up by her, even suffered some physical abuse as a child. I thought I had found a way to exist with her in my life until I had children. When she started behaving badly around my children I sought counseling. The counselor told me I had every right to set boundaries. I sent her a letter, (because she would never allow me to say what I had to say verbally) pleading with her, telling her I loved her and wanted to be a family, but that there would have to be rules with my kids. (they were two and three at the time!) I told her she could no longer swear at them, or in front of them. I told her she could not break the diet rules my kids followed, due to a kidney disease with one of them. I told her that saying things like “no one loves you like I do” and “I love you more than your mom and dad do” was not allowed. She was not allowed to try and quiz my children about my personal relationship with my husband, and not allowed to drag them into marriage issues. (My hubby and I saw a counselor for a few months at that time and have now been married over 25 years.) She was not allowed to call us bad things to the children. She was not allowed to babysit them if she was in bed. (She battled depression and I often had to go care for her with my kids in tow.) She rose up like Satan in Fantasia and declared me dead to her. She drug my father off with her and they left our lives 17 or 18 years ago. Occasionally she creates chaos with the extended family and tries to hurt me through the grapevine and from a distance and believe me she is talented in how she does it. But at first I was devastated. I sobbed my heart out. I had put up with so much from her, helped her so much, I was her own child! But you know what? Growing up away from that, my kids are now the only ones in the family that are healthy and normal. They have no baggage from her. I have grown to realize that as painful as losing my mom was, it ended up being the best thing for my mental health that ever happened to me. Before you criticize that cold sounding thought, know that every step of the way we sought counseling on how to deal with each and every step we went through making sure TWO pastors agreed with each piece of advice. We wanted to walk away knowing we did each thing as right as we could. My mom is a drama queen too, and made it very difficult to keep in touch with other members of family and family friends. Our life was a struggle with no family for years. I honestly can say, even if the toxic person is your mom, it can sometimes be better to do without it. I advised my nieces when they wanted to escape the family, to move away. It is easier to stay in touch with family if they cannot damage your every day. If they cannot be too big of an influence or issue in your normal living. If you only have to deal with occasionally then you can live a somewhat healthy life and not lose them entirely. All three of them took that advice and are far away and have some semblance of a relationship with their mom long distance who is a carbon copy of my mom. It can be done either way. But we made a purposeful plan to be the last generation of abuse and neglect in our family. We have worked very hard to be very different than my parents or my husbands parents. We have succeeded, in that our children are bright, smart, loving people with jobs and plans and also serve others. Pastors and friends that have helped us on this long journey nearly 18 years, agree that we have done well. I am proud of how hard we worked, and wish we could have done even more. I just want you to know, there is life after toxic people, EVEN IF THEY ARE YOUR MOTHER. God Bless you, I hope you find a way to make that better for you.

      • That’s just wonderful! I’m so glad you made the right decision for your kids (and ultimately for you). And it sounds like you did it right–you had counselors helping you, and pastors, and you tried to let her in. She was the one who refused, not you. Thanks for that great story.

  2. This is something I very much need, but I don’t think there’s room to do it.

    I am always exhausted, busy, and generally stressed out, and I don’t even have kids yet. I’m blessed beyond measure to have a job where I work with family, but at the same time, nothing ever gets done. I never wanted to be in sales, so my job is exhausting, and I already feel like I don’t get enough sleep (even though I usually do). So that on top of a job I’d rather not have is even worse. And so nothing gets done at home. I get home, and my hubby and I do a “Biggest Loser” workout DVD because we’re trying to be healthier and lose weight, and then I cook dinner, but by that point I’m just so dead tired from everything, that the dishes pile up, the rooms are all a big mess, and the laundry slowly rises to a mountain. My hubs does help, but really all I want to do is sit on the couch and watch TV. Or watch him play video games (which I very much enjoy). I don’t have any desire for Bible study, or to read the book that my step-dad/boss wants all of us to read, or study for my life insurance license exam. None of it. I just want to relax and do nothing. Because by 6:00 PM I’m totally wiped out. But then I feel guilty because nothing gets done.

    How on earth do you do this “Married Adult” thing?! It’s great for all the stay at home moms, or housewives, but that just isn’t an option. We can’t afford it. And I can hear the cries of “Stop paying for TV!” “Get a cheaper phone plan!”, etc, but again, not an option. It would cost us hundreds of dollars to get out of those things, each.

    And I feel like I don’t have a right to complain, because I’m not a mom. I’m just a wife. No kids to try and organize and get ready in the morning. No sticky fingers or dirty diapers. And every post on every blog is all about handling everything with kiddos. And it doesn’t help that My hubby and I are (literally) the ONLY married couple in our church without kids. And younger than 30. So we don’t have anyone that we’re friends with (save our college friends who live 7 hours away) that we can connect with that are in the same time of life we are.

    I’d love it if maybe at the end of this series there was a section for stressed-out “Not-Moms”. Because I know that I personally feel like I’m totally failing at life because I’m not even a parent and I can’t keep things straight, and I don’t think I’m the only one….

    • Hi Katie! Boy, I really feel your heart and your pain. There is SO much I want to say, but will hit the key points. Being a wife isn’t ‘JUST’ being a wife, and sometimes just doing life can be overwhelming, with or without kids, so don’t minimize your unique challenges and stressors. They count just as much as someone with kids! :) Your lack of energy concerns me, so if you haven’t had a routine physical recently, maybe it’s time to get one? Perhaps levels are out of whack and some good vitamin / mineral supplements would help? As far as your routine / schedule, sometimes it’s beneficial to declutter and other times it’s a matter of just reorganizing and restructuring. If you write me at, I’d be glad to give you some ideas specific to your situation. More than anything, I don’t want you feeling discouraged. In just the little bit you’ve shared, it’s clear you’ve got so much going for you! Don’t despair. There is ALWAYS (ALWAYS!!!!!) a way to make things better! I’ll leave you with Phil 4:6 for now. Blessings to you! -Sherry
      Sherry Gareis recently posted…‘No Agenda’ Kind of DayMy Profile

    • Katie!
      I 2nd everything Sherry said! I would get a physical to see if you have an imbalance somewhere.
      I’d also seek God and ask Him what type of job he wants you to be in- maybe your current job is not what He has planned for you. if sales is not where you should be, then it is time to find a different job!
      Becky recently posted…Faith-based e-booksMy Profile

      • Thanks! It’s not that I’m exhausted 100% of the time. I just feel like I need maybe one more hour of sleep, and then I’d be fine (which is how it happens on Saturdays). I appreciate the concern though and I’ll look into maybe some vitamins. I think I need to up my B-complex levels.

        The thing I’ve felt called to for awhile now is being an at-home Mom, but given that I don’t have kiddos (and don’t feel ready for them just yet), means that that’s not really an option. And honestly, I couldn’t ask for a better place to work. I have both my parents and my (might as well be) adopted sister, and we might hire a couple more people from church. Basically it’s the ideal work environment since I’ve always been really close to family. But getting yelled at by angry people isn’t what I want to be doing, and with sales that’s just part of it. Gets frustrating over time. I have been praying more to find what I’m supposed to be doing in God’s Kingdom. Where I fit, what ministry would be right for me, that kind of thing. Maybe finding that would help me have more motivation.

        But I feel like the prayers I’ve gotten have helped me so far, because I have been motivated to do the dishes in the 20 minutes I have after getting ready in the morning but before I leave for work! So yay for that!

  3. Sheila, Thank you SO much for the opportunity to partner with you on our decluttering journey. LOVED your post! I especially applaud your willingness to attack the difficult topics head on….specifically dealing with treasured photos and stressful relationships. You are a true gem and Action Plan Ministries appreciates all the good work you do! Blessings to you! -Sherry
    Sherry Gareis recently posted…‘No Agenda’ Kind of DayMy Profile

  4. Such good sound advice Sherry. Thank you. As I begin homeschooling with one child and having recently started a blog I do worry that I’ll feel overwhelmed. But I also realize that I make choices everyday on how to spend my time. And I have to decide if it was time well spent or not. Good stuff!

    • Melanie, Absolutely! You are so right. Sounds like you have great insight and awareness, and while there may be challenges along the way, I’m confident you will end up successful! :) Blessings on your endeavors! -Sherry

  5. Really needed to hear this today. Thank you.

    • Kim, isn’t God’s timing SO awesome? It’s crazy good when he sends those little love notes we need when we need them! Blessings to you for being open to listening! -Sherry

  6. I’m big on decluttering! My MIL tells everyone how peaceful and organized my home is haha. Something not mentioned in the post (but maybe in the book? I’ll check it out :) ) is decluttering traditions of things that no longer serve us. I think this kind of goes along with the friends and family issue. DH and I have totally overhauled our thinking when it comes to how we celebrate things. We tend to like very intimate, quiet and frugal celebrations, which goes against the grain with almost everyone we know, so we have fought our way to some firm compromises on things like Christmas with the family. We also decided to have our wedding alcohol free and pretty much told certain complaining relatives that they were more than welcome to spend the day at the bar if the booze was that important to them. Our day, our way. It makes me sad that so many people give up their happiness on things that are really important to them just to please everyone else. I don’t mean to say everything is always your way, but there has to be give and take.

    • Woo Hoo Angie, I like your thinking! Actually, we talk in the book about the harm in saying YES out of obligation! It’s very destructive and counter productive. We also believe it it’s NOT ‘Un-Christian’ to say NO! Why do we have so much guilt about such things? Are we selfish if we don’t people please? Nope. Not at all. We can still have hearts that love and hands that serve while bring true to ourselves and to God. Best wishes for a life long honeymoon….and well done on the wedding! Blessings to you and your husband! -Sherry P.S. I really think you will love our book. One of our other big points is that ‘Less is More’. Seems you already subscribe to that theory! :)

  7. Thank you for this post! It is very easy for me to forget to declutter my life occasionally!
    Becky recently posted…Faith-based e-booksMy Profile

  8. purplecandy says:

    Right timing for me too. Though I’ve been seriously decluttering physical things… I am now facing deeper decluttering issues, I had to cut strings with a few friends when I realized things were going just one way, even had to cut strings with my father because of all the drama he was bringing to my life… But I’m still not there yet. I totally relate to that picture. Everyday I feel like I’m on the edge of a bottomless pit and about to fall. My life isn’t that terrible, it’s actually quite nice, but something’s not right. My life is a never ending to-do list. And once I’m done with it, there is no room for what I really want to do; I’ve cut off as much as I could, but with two kids, a full time job, and a husband who doesn’t help… well, life is busy. I wanted to get another degree and it all started out quite nicely but I am now exhausted and can’t go on, and I resent everything in my life for having to give up something so important to me for what ? To have time to cook diner, do laundry, keep up with work and save some time for my husband.
    I don’t find joy in anything anymore and I’m starting to see my family as a burden.

    there’s definitely something wrong… I pray god opens my eyes and helps me make a decision and be happy and content about it…

    • purplecandy, You are not alone! So many people, me included, can get overwhelmed and disheartened ‘just’ with normal life, which isn’t so ‘just’! It sounds like you have some amazing things going on, but even ‘good’ stress is harmful. God designed our bodies for rest, and when we go, go, go…there is no recovery time. So even if you are doing great things, if there is no downtime in the mix, you can burn out. And if your personal needs / desires don’t feel met, like you said, resentment grows. Try dealing with that while you are exhausted and you have one unhappy camper. BUT the good news is that honestly, this can be remedied! Might take a little work, but definitely not hopeless. Not by a long shot. Contact me at lifecoaching@actionplanministries and perhaps I can make a few suggestions specific to your situation? God bless and don’t despair. For now, I’ll leave you with Psalm 37:5. Oh, and kudos for dealing with the difficult relationships in your life. Those are exceptionally hard to manage and even harder to make uncomfortable choices, but you did and should be proud of yourself. None of us can afford to be drained by the negative and unhealthy, so well done! Blessings! -Sherry
      Sherry Gareis recently posted…Declutter Now with Sheila Wray Gregoire!My Profile

  9. Tiffany Campbell Fehr says:

    This is great!!! Thank you!!

  10. I can’t wait to get this book and read it! Thank for sharing

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  1. […] issue if you want to have a peaceful family life! Yesterday we looked at the broad topic of decluttering. Today I want to look at how much time families actually have together for meaningful […]

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