Wednesday June 18, 2008

“How Organized are Your Closets?”
by Nancy Wilson at

Where do we get this notion that being organized is next to godliness? I’m pretty sure we get it from magazines and ads in those magazines. And though they really may be great magazines full of super recipes and ideas that inspire us, they can also set us up to start laying guilt trips on ourselves. Something like this: “If I was really together, my closets would look like those featured in Martha’s Living, where stacks of sheets are tied with color-coded ribbons.” Just a little reminder here: Martha has fleets of housekeepers who wash and iron those sheets and keep them tied up with ribbons. You, on the other hand, do not.

Now I do not begrudge her. My hat’s off to her for all she has done to restore the honor due to the fine arts of domesticity. She obviously has a gift of organization, I really appreciate her creativity, and I read her magazine. But I’m just saying that my closets are not photogenic, and I don’t think I need to feel too crummy about it. Do you? Now, I do regularly try to rearrange them and tidy them up by making a run to Goodwill. But I feel pretty fantastic if all the sheets are washed and back on the beds. Ribbons? Hardly.

Christian women tend to be pretty hard on themselves in these areas of organization. I sometimes slip back into thinking that if only I could be more organized, then I would truly be holy (or rather, I would feel pretty holy). I remember telling my husband something like this years ago, and he replied with profundity: “What makes you think I would want to be married to you if you were more organized?” Now this made me think.

Typically, those women with an over-zealous organizational streak can make life pretty miserable for everyone else. Maybe that is what he was hinting at. Either way, it did make me feel a little more comfortable with my “disorganization.” And I don’t want to be a fusser. A fusser is always fussing around about stuff and fussing at everyone else about the stuff. Nipping at their heels. (Lewis somewhere mentions the woman who lives for others, and you can tell who they are by that hunted expression.) So if we can be organized and not be fussers, then that is good. But if by being organized we become tyrannical, then it would be better to send all our tidy little bins to the bad place.

Now I am not advocating bedlam in our homes. Certainly not. But I think we tend to be either too easy on ourselves or too hard on ourselves. The women with closets that won’t shut unless they run at them with their shoulder down are probably too easy on themselves. But maybe not. It depends on what else they are doing. The women who have things pretty well together, but not perfectly together, are probably too hard on themselves. We all know over-achievers who make the rest of us look like slouches. Well that’s okay. Let them! It is their gift. Some women are better homemakers than others. Some are way ahead on the learning scale; some are playing catchup. But the goal is never perfection (remember the ribbons). The goal is joy overflowing, even into our closets and out our drawers and cupboards.

So the item of first importance is doing the duties God has given us with a cheerful, hardworking spirit that does not look sideways and feel disheartened, is neither lazy nor driven, but strikes a joyful balance.

When the kids were little, I baked bread weekly and loved every minute of it. When I began teaching part-time, the bread baking fell behind. If you are a homeschooling mom, you can’t do everything. If you are a non-homeschooling mom, you can’t do everything. If you are not a mom, you can’t do everything. Important announcement: You are not omnipotent. Rejoice in that!

So, we do what is set before us cheerfully unto the Lord. That pleases Him. And if the closets get discombobulated from time to time, so much the better for our souls. We don’t want to become fussers. If the snapshots are not yet organized into albums, don’t beat yourself up about it. There may come a day (probably a rainy one) when you delight in organizing them all, and then you won’t be the proud owner of guilt-motivated scrapbooks.

A house that has every cubby organized and every square inch gleaming probably has no one living in it. “Where no oxen are, the crib is clean; but much increase is by the strength of the ox” (Prov. 14:4). I think God prefers a happy, productive untidiness to a joyless organization. Though I love getting my house cleaned up, that is no great achievement. When I really attain to godliness, I will take joy in seeing it get messed up. When I get there, I will be sure to whoop loudly!

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