How Organized Are Your Closets?

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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28 thoughts on “How Organized Are Your Closets?

  1. Thank you , Nancy, this was right up my ally. It is such a difficult balance to strike, but so freeing to realize that God delights in us joyfully accomplishing the tasks he gives us to the best of our ability, which may mean leaving dirty dishes in the sink until the next morning. I am one of those who holds things together pretty-sorta well, but FAR from perfectly. In fact, I shudder to think what a true super-housekeeper would think if they walked into my kitchen right now! After preparing nearly three separate meals in the space of 4 hours, my kitchen is downright nasty…I have definitely not mastered the art of cleaning as I cook! But that is okay, because I am on my way to tackle the mess, while it wouldn’t be okay if I just left it there indefinitely. Thanks for reminding me of this.

  2. What a great reminder. I always find that the happiest days are the ones that I play with the kids the most, do laundry and dishes during their rest time, and let everything else wait until after bedtime. They are only little for a little while!

  3. Yay! Thank you for such an encouraging post! My sin tends towards all or nothing – if I can’t tie the ribbons around the sheets, heck, why even fold them? I need reminders like this frequently.

  4. I LOVE your husband’s response–it makes me giggle a bit as I remember a conversation between my husband and I when he was my fiancee. I had just listened to an audio series of yours and was woeful because I fell so short (still fall short, but hopefully not as much so) of the teaching you give for wives. David said to me, “I didn’t ask Nancy Wilson to marry me! I asked you!” Such wise men we are blessed with! πŸ™‚

  5. Fussy….who’s fussy! πŸ™‚ Oh what a great counsel!
    I’m telling you, my kids think I am crazy! I am laughing out loud at the pictures popping up in my head while I read this post.
    I like things clean but I have those boxes (and boxes), of pictures stuffed here and there in my house. Even my wedding pictures sit in a box somewhere and the pretty scrapbook I made to put them in, the one that perfectly matches my wedding colors… (can you hear the soft music?), well it is on a book shelf empty.
    I tell my children that when I am a granny, their children will help me put all our old memories in those hoped for scrapbooks. And I look forward to it. But for now, they sit in boxes or files on the computer until time or a fire happens, which ever one comes first. (I do hope it’s time. πŸ™‚

    This has been a great reminder! I will join you in all that whooping when I have obtained such a joy for serving that my soul is at peace and I love to see my floors receiving the marks of joyful life under my roof. Bring on the whooping!!

  6. Bless you, Nancy! Your counsel is more comforting than chocolate…

    Maybe, to paraphrase from Matt. 15 and Matt. 23:
    Not what is in a woman’s closet defiles her, but those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a woman.
    If our closets were perfect at the expense of the weightier things like justice, mercy, and faith, wouldn’t we be Pharisees?

  7. That was really a test – to not spew the 72% cocoa extra dark chocolate melting on my tongue when I read the above comment.

    But I agree. And I had to laugh – I mean, my sheets are almost never in the closet. Our mattresses get aired as the sheets are washing. Once dry, back on they go!

    Ribbons – Yeah Right!

    Off to encourage more joy and less fuss!

  8. I’m 12 weeks pregnant with # 6 – and let’s just say that 6 weeks of fatigue and nausea have left my house..hmmm….slightly unorganized?!?! However, thanks for this BLESSED reminder, to be joyful!

  9. We take walks through the neighborhood during the summer and I always feel sorry for the people who have their garage doors open and you can see a spotless, nearly empty garage. I like it better when I see a garage full of bicycles, snowboards and skis, balls of every shape and size, shelves stacked with tools, camping gear, craft supplies, etc. Living life to the fullest requires a little “mess”.

  10. Oh thank you for this post! I was just talking with a lady from church who is my mother’s age. She was telling me how she spent the day cleaning out her fridge – with a toothbrush. I immediately thought of my messy fridge and felt guilty. It’s hard not to compare myself with others and wonder if they secretly think I’m a slob, and then feel condemned. Your article was just what I needed to hear.

  11. Bless you Nancy! Your blog is always refreshment and encouragement for my soul. The very first line made me laugh out loud as I read it – it was just exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you Nancy. πŸ™‚

  12. What ever we do we are to do to the glory of God. If we are bent towards cleaning then do it to the glory of
    God; if we are bent towards playing with our kids and doing only survival cleaning then do it to the glory of God.
    We should not do anything because of the eyes of (wo)man (or mother-in-laws) but to glorify God and enjoy the blessings He has given us. Anything done out of guilt or preassure is wasted time and effort.
    Thank you for your post, it is something we all fall prey to, one way or the other.

  13. Whenever I think of Martha’s sheets tied with a ribbon, I also try to remember that this woman spent time in prison for a very bad business decision, and maybe not all of her decisions are worth emulating, although beautiful.

    Tell the truth, how many of us read up on her even while she was in prison? We are fascinated by her.

    She is kind of like watching an Olympic figure skater who is also a contract killer; you feel quite safe admiring her from a distance. The truth is we can be all be neat freak sociopaths (Everybody knows one.) if we want, but listen to Nancy; let’s not.

  14. But if by being organized we become tyrannical, then it would be better to send all our tidy little bins to the bad place.

    ROFLOL! Have you been eavesdropping on me in the rubbermaid aisle, Mrs. Wilson? πŸ˜€

    I keep semi-joking to my husband that if only I had enough rubbermaid bins, I would magically be organized. πŸ˜‰

  15. When I am on my death bed, I will not wish I’d kept a tidier house! Alas, I already grieve about how much of a fusser and tyrant I have been and am inclined to be.

    One minute, I long for the comfortable happy clutter depicted in Peter Spier’s picture book, Rain. The next, I’m fretting about the mess in the boys’ room which I didn’t notice until putting the little guy to bed!

    But I’ve got nearly twenty years between the oldest and the youngest, which has really challenged my neat-freak tendencies. No survival cleaning for me. This is a long-term life style with continuous sanctification opportunities, for sure!

    I often think of Elisabeth Elliot’s comment: If there’s too much on your to-do list today, it has things that God did not put there.

  16. Great post! Loved your husband’s comment

    Ò€œWhat makes you think I would want to be married to you if you were more organized?Ò€

    I’ve taken this to heart! If after 26 years he wants the house sparkling and neat…surely by now he knows he married the wrong gal! LOL!

  17. Wow, being a newly wed with no kiddos yet, I sometimes find myself feeling pathetic for not being able to keep my house clean. This article was just what I needed to hear! I think I’m going to pring this off and tuck it away somewhere for the next time I’m feeling overwhelmed and wishing I were a “super wife” like Nancy! πŸ™‚

  18. Thanks for such a wonderful post…not that I was in any danger of being overly organized, mind you. Some day when my 5 children are gone, if it is important to me, I can iron my sheets with linen water and tie them up in a pretty ribbon…but until then I will tie ribbons in the hair of my 4 precious daughters! Happy hearts are more important!

  19. I just wanted to leave a little thank you note for taking the time to write, Femina authors! I love to revisit some of these articles. This one, especially, is such a great exhortation to me. Thank you for encouraging all us ladies to delight in our duties and make our homes, most of all, joyful. πŸ™‚ Merry Christmas!

  20. I will admit my closets and cupboards are neat and tidy (I am super organized) but I have great difficulty keeping the floors neat and tidy. Pregnant with #7 and 4 blessings under 5 and keep me from cleaning up as much as I’d like. I really appreciate the post Nancy it makes me feel better about where my standards are. I pray that when I have grandchildren over later I will remember to let it go too.

  21. Oh how this post has given me the perspective I needed today! After spending just a few short moments on an organization blog, I was self-loathing over my messy house. I am so glad God reminded me that it is my heart that needs the organization first. If the toys are in their rightful spot and my heart is not, then what have I gained? Thanks so much for turning my heart back to the things of God.

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