“We want you to have a splurge,” my friend told me. “Something just for you. Do not do ministry with this,” she said as she handed me a little box tied with red and white string. Inside was a $100 bill.

I carried that bill for weeks.

I couldn’t justify anything. A manicure seemed a waste when I’m in the barn constantly. Maybe when I grow out the fingernail I just broke, I thought, but there was always another broken nail and another week to wait. Maybe a pedicure, I decided, but where’s the fun in a pedicure if you’re still in socks and boots?

The unexpected splurge

Finally, an idea began to dawn. It seemed crazy and not at all like a splurge, but it was. I wanted help organizing my home office and I knew someone who had a sideline doing that very task.

“What would $100 worth of organizing accomplish for me?” I asked her. 

I’m generally organized and have a plan that works well for me. Over the last few years, though, the intensity of life has completely overwhelmed me. First, I cared for my mother in my home. I was beginning to get my feet back on the ground after her death when I fractured my hand and wore a splint for months. Not long after that, Sam’s wife got sick and died. Then, I became his sole caregiver. I haven’t had much time to myself in several years.

As busy as I’ve been, I’ve still managed to write one book after another. Between research notes and copies to edit from, plus handouts for Bible studies I’ve written and taught, I’ve accumulated tons of paper, most of it stacked into what seemed like mountains. They weren’t, but they felt like it to me.

When you can’t do it yourself, call an expert.

I couldn’t seem to make any headway with my stacks. I needed an expert to help. We scheduled a date. The decluttering-organizing expert came and made short work of one stack after another. She didn’t have any trouble saying, “Do you really need 15 copies of the first page of this book?” No. I didn’t. We kept one or two and threw the rest away. On and on we went.

By the time we finished, we had three bulging garbage bags full and I had a straight and organized home office. I’m not sure I could’ve done this job by myself, but, if I had, I know it would’ve taken much, much longer.

Organizing prepares us to serve more efficiently.

After she left, I sat in my organized office and looked around at the cleared floor and the shining desktop. I pulled open my filing cabinet drawer and looked at the orange file folders, neatly labeled with the dates and titles of talks I’ve given. The red folders contained articles, stories, and Bible studies I’ve written. The drawer is full of completed books waiting to be edited and formatted for publication.

Some of my friends helped at the Salvation Army that day. It’s one of my favorite acts of service, and I was disappointed I missed it. Another young friend’s wedding was later that afternoon. I’d wanted to go, but I couldn’t do it all. I felt bad for putting my splurge before someone else’s needs and wants until I saw the files of manuscripts. My little treasure trove is safe and ready for service again.

I didn’t plan to serve yesterday, but, as it turned out, I prepared to serve as we brought order from chaos.

Treasures hidden in the chaos

The best part of the day, however, was the reminders of sweet moments with the Lord. I’ve blogged about the day God taught me the sacrifice of thanksgiving before, but, yesterday, I found the list I’d written that momentous day. It was a sacrifice of thanksgiving poured onto an index card as I sat in a parking lot waiting for my son to get out of school. It represented a pivotal point for me. My life changed dramatically because of that act of sacrificial worship.

I found a photo of my father as a young man and one of my mother as a teenager. A note from my church that had been included in a gift before I left for Jordan last time. The guest registry book for Sam’s funeral. Over and over, I found reminders of the faithfulness of God. After the last few weeks of eye problems, I needed those reminders, and I was glad I’d saved them.

Those precious reminders, however, were hidden beneath all the junk I’d accumulated. As I held each of them, I wondered why I’d allowed so much mess to crowd my home. It’s a question we’d all do well to ask.

Why hold to the worthless instead of the precious?

I don’t have an answer to that question, but I do know we can make a better choice, even without an organizing-decluttering expert.

To what are we holding that’s worthless in the big scheme of eternity? Is there a habit, an attitude, a memory that needs to go? Is there bitterness that needs to be replaced with forgiveness? Hate that needs to be replaced with love?

We can’t savor the lovely when we’re holding to the junk.

Today, why not begin to let go of the worthless and cling to the precious, instead?

“As we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18 esv

Five vital reasons to organize today:

  1. Treasures are often hidden in the chaos.
  2. Being able to easily find what we need makes us more efficient.
  3. We can’t cling to junk and treasure at the same time.
  4. We serve a God of order and we should be people of order, too.
  5. Order is less stressful.

If you can’t afford an organizing expert, offer your own skill in exchange for help from a friend. Still stymied? Here are five simple tasks you can do to get started today:

  1. Tackle one room at a time.
  2. Move all the clutter to one central place in the room.
  3. Choose a day and set a time to work. Decide in advance how long to spend.
  4. Create a fun ambiance. Turn on your favorite upbeat music and diffuse a favorite essential oil or light a candle.
  5. Have a large garbage bag handy for trash and another for recycling or donations, as well as a plan for anything you might want to save.
  6. Touch each item once and decide instantly whether to discard, recycle, donate, or file it.
  7. If you decide to file it, do it immediately.

Establishing order is nice, but it’s even better to maintain it. Here are a few more suggestions to help:

  1. Set up automatic payments for recurring bills.
  2. Scan receipts.
  3. File any information needed for taxes in the appropriate place.
  4. Touch it once.
  5. Pay bills the day they arrive.
  6. When something breaks, fix it if you can. Discard it if you can’t.
  7. Discard junk mail immediately.
  8. Establish a clean-desk policy. Keep counters, tabletops, and desktop free of clutter.