I have really appreciated the Counting the Cost newsletter since subscribing last year, and I was thrilled when the creator, Nancy Twigg, asked me to review her latest book, From Clutter to Clarity.
Unlike some other books I've read about simplicity, I felt this one was more in line with my understanding of simplicity. The sub-title of the book is "simplifying from the inside out," and I truly think it lives up to that premise. There are four main sections: "An Issue of the Heart," "From Cluttered Thoughts and Attitudes to Inner Clarity," "From Cluttered Lifestyle to Inner Clarity," and "From Cluttered Money Matters to Financial Clarity."
We often think of clutter in outward and tangible terms, like piles of toys or papers. But Twigg defines clutter as "any possession, habit, thought pattern, attitude or activity that 1) you don't need or use anymore, 2) doesn't fit or work for you like it used to, or 3) doesn't add value and meaning to your life as it once did."
Some of the "cluttery" thought patterns she mentions are worry and discontentment, two areas of mental clutter I'm familiar with. Regarding worry, Twigg writes, "Guard your mind against worry. Be aggressive in not allowing your mind to wander down the path to worry . . . when worry tries to sneak back in after you've let it go, be ruthless." This is something I really need to tackle. I'm especially prone in the middle of the night after getting up (thanks, little baby!) as my mind switches into "go" mode and doesn't shut off very easily. I run over the same situation in my head dozens of times, wasting precious sleep and energy. I need to fight my worrying more aggressively, and want to use Philippians 4:6-8 as a focal point.
In a chapter called "Finding Contentment in a Discontented World," Twigg says that "True contentment is not having everything you want, but learning to appreciate everything you have." Love that! She also reminds us that contentment grows as we nurture it with gratitude.
Another topic that really spoke to me right now as I'm juggling more duties than normal were boundaries and overcommitment. How many of us can relate to the following paragraph?!
"Do you ever feel guilty for not being able to juggle all the plates in your life without dropping a few? If so, that's exactly how Satan wants you to feel. He loves to seduce you into saying yes to too many things and then make you feel guilty for not doing them all well. He knows that you, as a woman, are likely to have difficulty setting boundaries. He also knows that many women take pride and pleasure in being the one who cares for everyone else."
I alluded to that tension in a recent post, as I really desire to use my time wisely. I've struggled more than usual with this these past several weeks after adding a part-time (temporary) job to my "stack of plates."
Another quote on this subject that really made me stop and think: "Is it possible to be too busy for God? Our adversary loves to make us think so. Keeping us too occupied to connect with God is one of his favorite tricks. It doesn't matter to him what we busy ourselves with, but . . . he particularly enjoys using things we think we're doing for God to keep us from spending quality time with God." (emphasis mine) Twigg goes on to write that we complicate our lives when we fail to make time for God because we're too focused on our own abilities, and what we think we can accomplish by ourselves.
To help us make our time with God a priority, Twigg encourages us to commit to change, find the time that works best for you, be inventive and set yourself up for success. I think that last one is especially important, because I too often set big goals for myself that aren't easily attainable, and I need to remember that small steps are usually easier to adjust to. "The problem," Twigg says, "is not that we don't see the need for God's presence in our lives; we simply aren't disciplined enough to make it happen on a regular basis." Until summer, I'd been very faithful in my monthly retreats, and I have yet to get back in the swing of things. I did, however, take some retreat time over the weekend, which was very refreshing.
If you're reading this post, especially if you have your own blog, the chapter on technology is certainly relevant and challenging. Twigg gives a three-part test to help us determine how much technology is too much in our lives: 1) Does the technology I use draw me closer to or pull me further away from God and my loved ones? 2) Does the technology I use truly enrich my life or only add to clutter? 3) Does using this technology give me more or less time for what is most important in my life? Those questions give us much to ponder, don't they?
I of course appreciated the chapters on financial stewardship, and particularly liked this statement: "Stewardship is just as much about living as it is about giving. Good stewardship is about being faithful in using all your resources--not only your money and possessions but your time and talent as well."
This book is written in an easy to read format. There are questions to challenge you on each topic, and I also enjoyed the personal testimonies at the end of each chapter, including one by my blogging friend Anne Marie!