Focus on the Family Broadcast

Clearing Out Your Space and Schedule (Part 2 of 2)

Clearing Out Your Space and Schedule (Part 2 of 2)

Courtney Ellis wants to invite families to follow her example in decluttering her life, her home & her schedule. Courtney also described why too many screens & too much technology is a form of clutter — and how her kids would often see the back of her hand holding a phone instead of seeing her face.. (Part 2 of 2)
Original Air Date: August 10, 2023


Courtney Ellis: Stuff can have effects on your spirits, effects on your emotional health. And living in this cluttered place really started to get to me. And the, the stuff was part of it. My overstuffed schedule was part of it, but I began to feel like I, I almost couldn’t breathe.

Jim Daly: Wow.

Courtney: … because my life had too much in it.

End of Preview

John Fuller: Mm-hmm. That’s Courtney Ellis and she was our guest last time on Focus on the Family. She’s here again and, uh, she’ll be sharing from her heart about her journey, uh, from anxiety and too much stuff in the schedule, too much stuff in the, in the house, to, uh, a space where God could really meet her. Thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. Uh, your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly, and I’m John Fuller.

Jim: John, I so appreciated Courtney’s vulnerability last time. Just talking about things that she and her husband Daryl have changed to actually make more space for God, and that’s a good thing.

John: Mm-hmm, yeah.

Jim: And everybody resonates with the idea of, Uncluttered, right, the title of the book. How do I make more space in my life by getting rid of stuff I never used or rarely used, to my schedule, to even technology, we talked about last time. And we’re gonna continue to have this discussion. There are so many good elements in this book. I, I make fun of some of the decluttering books, but they’re good for us. And, uh, I am a clutter-free guy. I throw everything away to my demise, even phone numbers that Jean is trying to keep. I mean, I’m like, “Whoa, everything’s outta here.” And, uh, you know, I have to learn to dial it down, but I love the subject because it is a spiritual truth-

John: Yeah.

Jim: … that, uh, you know, the Lord put boundaries around his activity. I think you can make a case that, uh, keeping a clutter-free environment is a way to have God’s shalom in your life, peace. So, if you’re feeling stressed, which I think is probably gonna be everybody, this is gonna be for you.

John: Mm-hmm, yeah. And it’s much more than just stuff in our rooms, it’s a, it’s a lot more than that. And Courtney, uh, Ellis, as I said, is here again. She is a wonderful speaker, writer, podcaster. And, uh, Jim, you mentioned the book already, it’s called Uncluttered: Free Your Space, Free Your Schedule, Free Your Soul. And we’ll encourage you to get a copy of the book from us here. Uh, our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY, or stop by

Jim: Uh, John, before Courtney jumps in here, I wanna just read a scripture I think that lays the framework for us today. Matthew 6, which says this, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven-

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where you treasure is, there your heart will be also.” I mean, that, that’s right in your face, you know. So, Courtney, welcome back.

Courtney: Thanks for having me.

Jim: Yeah. What do you think of Matthew 6? Do you resonate with that? (laughs)

Courtney: I love it, I love it. It speaks to me on many, many levels.

Jim: Did you always love it, that’s the question.

Courtney: I d-

Jim: Back when, when you maybe a little more cluttered, was that as, uh, clear to you as it is today?

Courtney: It wasn’t. I really, really had to begin digging into the why. Why was I trying to keep so many things? And I realized ultimately it came down to a lack of trust.

Jim: Hmm.

Courtney: I, I needed to prepare for every possible eventuality in my life and I couldn’t trust the Lord to provide and to care. And I was, I was storing up treasures on earth, so that I would be safe no matter what.

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: And God calls us to, to live and trust and in faith. And my possessions were beginning to own me.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Yeah. And you’re leaning into something, I was gonna ask you later, but this is a good time that h- that concept of, you know, for a rainy day.

Courtney: Yes.

Jim: It’s not exactly how you said it, but it’s the same concept, you know. So, a person can rationalize, you know, I need this, uh, pair of prom dress shoes. (laughs) This is what we talked about yesterday with your husband, Daryl. I love that. I wanna meet Daryl.

Courtney: He’s great.

Jim: But he’s held onto these prom shoes for quite a long time because of the sentimental value. I get that. And we all do that to a degree. But, um, when you get down to practical reality really, when are you ever gonna wear those prom shoes?

Courtney: He’s got plans.

Jim: (laughing) But that idea of rationalizing keeping more than you should because some day, some catastrophe could happen and I might need that 400 pound bag of licorice. (laughs)

Courtney: Right. And we’re all gonna fit in our, our high school jeans again, so you have to hold onto those, all of us. (laughs) So, there is…

Jim: I’m looking sad right now. I left that goal a long time ago.

Courtney: I’m like, “Okay. After I’ve had the third baby, we’re just gonna get rid of the high school, the high school jeans.”

Jim: (laughs) And you wouldn’t go to the high school 32 jean.

Courtney: Right. But there, there is something to that, to, to digging into the why. And, um, there’s a wonderful group called The Minimalists, and their rule on just in case items, is if you can get it in under 20 minutes for under $20, you have permission to get rid of it. Because we can fill our entire houses with things for the just in case moment that might never occur, but in the meantime, we’ve gotta dust it. We’ve gotta store it. We’ve gotta find space for it. And that eats away at our time and our attention. And those are two of our most precious commodities.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Here’s a funny one. I’ve got two generators, you know, gas generators, uh, in case one breaks down. (laughing)

John: And you let me borrow one.

Jim: Yes, it worked in that case.

John: And the one that you gave me was the one that worked.

Jim: Yeah.

John: It was so kind of you.

Jim: Yeah. That’s the one that wasn’t working for me, but you figured out how to get it started.

John: Yeah. (laughs)

Jim: That’s how mechanically disinclined I am. He comes over and, vroom, he starts it right up. I’ve been trying to start this thing for five years. (laughing)

Courtney: It’s a good friend to have.

Jim: That’s a true story.

John: I’ll buy it from you, Jim.

Jim: No, I know you offer.

John: Okay, all right.

Jim: I’m keeping that one, it works now.

John: Rainy day.

Jim: But, uh, in that context, yeah, you could really over-rationalize. Uh, one of the huge benefits, uh, Courtney, from your decluttering process was the ability to hear God more clearly. Uh, you compare, uh, hearing from God to something Elijah went through in the Old Testament.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: I think it was in 1 Kings, what did Elijah learn about listening to God in that context that we could all learn?

Courtney: Mm-hmm. I love this story.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Courtney: This is one of those stories that, that children love, that adults love. It speaks to all of us. But Elijah goes out to hear from God, God calls him out into the wilderness to, to listen. And he’s on the edge of this mountain and there’s a fire and God is not in the fire. There’s a great wind and God is not in the wind. There’s an earthquake and scripture says, God was not in the earthquake. And after all of this is a silence. And the still small voice of God can be heard. And so often, we are so busy and our lives are so full, we said, “God is calling us to these big things,” but we can’t hear that voice.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Courtney: And it’s like walking around with a backpack full of bricks and we’re like, “God, I wanna do great things for you, but I’m really tired. Why am I so tired?” And God’s like, “Take off the backpack. Set down the bricks.” That’s our schedule, that’s our stuff. When we overfill our lives, it becomes very difficult to hear from God. And God is often so gentle with us. God doesn’t shout us down.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Courtney: He could, but God speaks, most often we see this in scripture, in this still small voice. Are we listening?

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: Can we hear?

Jim: You also describe how God is listening to us and wants to hear from us regularly.

Courtney: Mm-hmm.

Jim: I think some of us as Christians, you know, pray without ceasing. I mean, I was just thinking about that the other morning. I, I mean, maybe I could do that in my spirit and I’m even unconscious about it-

Courtney: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … but that’s a big thing to pray unceasingly.

Courtney: Yeah.

Jim: I mean, really?

Courtney: Yeah.

Jim: I gotta clean up my mower, you know. But you know, not to be disrespectful or anything like that, but it, it does kind of point to the direction you’re trying to outline in your book here. You gotta take the bricks out, so you can do those things and talk to God regularly.

Courtney: Absolutely. And there is a sense that, as we begin to follow God more faithfully in our lives, our lives themselves become a prayer. You can clean out your bookshelf faithfully for the Lord and that is an act of prayer. You can keep time for Sabbath in your schedule and that is an act of prayer. I think I was raised to believe that praying was always many, many words, but it isn’t. Prayer can be through action. Prayer can be through silence.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Courtney: Elijah is communing with God in prayer in that time of silence. And so, the more I uncluttered my schedule, the more I uncluttered my shelves, the more space there was where I could really begin to hear from God through scripture, through conversations with my husband, through the work in my church in a deeper way.

Jim: Yeah. And, and you know what, I guess the art of that, if I could say it’s an art, it’s how to slow down-

Courtney: Yes.

Jim: … and be able to listen and see, and see what God is doing. Again, sometimes we’re at such a pace with our schedule, whatever it might be, we don’t, we’re like breezing by. It’s like going through a town and you never saw an off ramp, you know.

Courtney: Yeah. The, the most surprising thing to me in writing the book was, I was writing it to get myself out of this panic. It was, I was writing it for me and it was going to be about less. But the more I wrote, the more it was about more.

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: That what God wants is us to live with open hands and stop clinging to our stuff and our busyness, so that God can fill us with more of himself, of the freedom, of the hospitality, of the love of Sabbath. All of these beautiful deep things that you cannot buy and you cannot schedule.

Jim: Yeah. Uh, moving into hospitality, it’s funny you mention that ’cause that was the next topic I wanted to cover with you. Um, I wouldn’t have connected the idea of decluttering to move you toward better hospitality or margin for hospitality. So, why do you believe that connection exists?

Courtney: My biggest hurdle and I think it’s true of many parents of young children, my biggest hurdle to hospitality was the house was a mess. And the more stuff you have, the easier it is for the house to be a mess.

Jim: And for the listeners and viewers that’s, your kids are 10, 7 and 4. So, you’re living the dream of mess.

Courtney: We are, we are Legotopia right now. Ouch, yeah, for sure. We don’t have a burglar alarm. We just have LEGOs.

John: Yeah, (laughs) it’s c-

Courtney: It’s the same thing.

Jim: This is like, just the thing, when you say LEGO, I go ouch-

John: Yeah.

Jim: … ’cause I stepped on so many of those things-

Courtney: Yeah.

Jim: … and they hurt my feet.

Courtney: It’s the clear ones. The clear ones are a crime against humanity.

Jim: Yeah. (laughs) I can’t see the colored ones.

Courtney: (laughs) Yeah, for sure. But the biggest hurdle was, the house was a mess. And I was like, “Okay, we can have people over, but I need to get home an hour early and we need to do this-

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Courtney: … and I need to get the kids, the kids. And we have to do…” And when we began to let go of possessions, suddenly that tidying was a, a lot easier. But also, God had to reframe the whole idea of hospitality. It’s not about beautiful Martha Stewart dinner party. It’s about inviting in the weary traveler or the next door neighbor-

John: Mm-hmm.

Courtney: … who’s had a really harried week. It’s not about impressing. It’s about loving and caring for.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: How do you, how did you, uh, I, and I’m thinking for the wives, the moms who, you know, so often this is a reflection of them. So, and I get that. It, it, I’m not critical of that. But to not have the house just right for that couple coming over for dinner tonight, it reflects upon me and my lack of ability to keep it together, whatever voice she’s hearing inside her head. How, how did you get to the point to actually relax and say, you know, “Tidy is good enough,” it doesn’t have to be spic and span? And I think a lot of, a lot of women particularly struggle with that concept that clean enough is clean enough.

Courtney: Mm-hmm. One of the phrases you’ll most often hear, if you come to our house unexpected, is the laundry is on the couch, but it’s clean. (laughs) That’s the bar. The laundry is on the couch, but it’s clean. No, I, I had to realize that the hospitality piece is about loving the other person. It’s not about how do I look in this situation. And I had to lower the bar a little bit. And what I’ve discovered is, when you invite friends in and your house is not perfect, it is a grace to them.

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: There are the few people who will be a little judgy, but that’s about them, not about you.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Courtney: But mostly, people read that as, “Oh, I have…”

Jim: You’re just like me. (laughs)

Courtney: Yes, you’re not perfect. I can have you over now.

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: And it doesn’t, you know, when I visit a friend’s house to drop a kid off for a play date and that friend is in a bathrobe, I read that as trust and love, you know.

John: Mm-hmm, yeah.

Courtney: You know, you trust me enough to meet me here.

Jim: That is so good. I love that. I think it’s great. Um, in fact, you say, you know, the biblical hospitality is being with-

Courtney: Yes.

Jim: … not doing for.

Courtney: Yes.

Jim: And that’s a great concept. It fits right there.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Um, you know, you’re not, you’re not having to perform for the person to show them biblical hospitality.

Courtney: Yes. And hospitality doesn’t always have to take place in your home. When we were in that tiny condo, we couldn’t host many people at a time. You can go to the park. You can go to the restaurant. It is about the being with and the caring for-

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: … and the reaching out, more than the space in which you’re hosting.

Jim: In fact, you and Daryl keep a photograph of two ships kinda leaning in, in a dry harbor, I think. I can imagine what that looks like, but why does that have any significance for you?

Courtney: That points back to that marriage mission we talked about, where one of the things we feel God is continually calling us to is to be a port in the storm, for people who have been through church hurt-

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Courtney: … for people who are new to the faith and coming out of really battered backgrounds, but to say, “You’re, you’re safe here.”

Jim: Huh.

Courtney: And you’re seen here, and you’re loved here. And the ships are not clean and pristine and beautiful, they’re really battered, but they’re leaning on each other.

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: And I think there’s a gospel metaphor there.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: I like that. I’ve never heard that term, church hurt-

Courtney: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … but I get it. Yeah, I understand it.

John: Mm-hmm. Well, this is Focus on the Family with Jim Daily, and our guest today is Courtney Ellis. And she has a terrific book. I know you can hear her heart and there’s so much, uh, good stuff in this book. It’s called, Uncluttered: Free Your Space, Free Your Schedule, Free Your Soul. And, uh, we invite you to get a copy, uh, make a generous donation as you can when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY, uh, or stop by

Jim: Courtney, uh, the chapter on Uncluttered Kids, I mean, I think I’ve, was somewhat mindful in that way. Maybe not as much as I should have been to help teach them these principles. But in that regard, when they’re really little, I mean they’re just coming in, you’re having your firstborn, all of a sudden you’ve got a lot of stuff. You got the crib and you got all the electrical socket blockers (laughs) and you got the cupboard holders. I had to put all that stuff in. I mean, day one, right?

John: You gotta be safe.

Courtney: Mm-hmm.

Jim: All of a sudden I’m getting all of this stuff, and of course you’re getting the diapers and everything and, yeah, how do you, it, it’s a season.

Courtney: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And that’s gonna happen. And those are probably must haves. You wanna make sure your home is safe and all that. But as time progresses, how can that get out of control? And how do you maintain a, uh, teaching your child, uh, uncluttered environment?

Courtney: It’s cumulative, the kid’s stuff, right? It, it adds and adds and adds.

Jim: Oh.

Courtney: So, part of it is to go through things every six months or every year and say, “We’re out of this phase now.” I don’t need the baby bathtub anymore, you know. The babies all bathe themselves now, even the four-year-old likes it. She does itself. Um, so to go through things phase by phase and rarely is the, is the kid thing for a tiny kid that wears out. So, there’s likely someone in your community, someone is your church who could use that really nice stroller that you’re not gonna use anymore, the baby bathtub. If you might have more kids, you can do a loan. Like, you can have this. If we have another kid, we’ll take it back.

Jim: Yeah. That’s a great way.

Courtney: And then it’s out of your house and it blesses someone else. We don’t need, we all don’t need our own individual baby bathtub, if there are two years between our kids and your kids. And, um, so that’s one of the things. But in terms of instilling the principles for our kids, what we’re learning and research bears this out, is our kids are so over-scheduled and over-stimulated and so hungry for breathing room in their lives to just play, that we try to really foster and encourage that with our own kids.

Jim: Sh-

Courtney: They each do one activity-

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: … or one sport.

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: And then they play.

Jim: I was gonna say, how did you back into that schedule and, uh, and help your kids minimize being over-committed?

Courtney: Yeah. We look for sports that are Saturdays and not Sundays, which is tricky. Um, Sunday sports can be really difficult because then you’re choosing between-

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: … sports and church. And then your kids resent church because it took me away and I didn’t get to play in the game. So, you can find those leagues, we want that meets on Saturdays.

John: Yeah, we did the same.

Courtney: Um, yeah. But to find something that clicks with your kids season by season and let them choose one thing at a time, and then have some afternoons where they, they’re bored.

Jim: Don’t schedule.

Courtney: Go to the park.

Jim: Yeah, sp-

Courtney: Give them a box and hammer and nails and some wood.

Jim: D-

Courtney: That’s my middle kid.

John: Yeah. (laughs)

Courtney: Build just something.

Jim: And you need to emphasize that because being bored is not bad.

Courtney: Being bored is, is the soil for creativity-

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: … and innovation. And the tricky thing as a parent is the minute your kids are bored, they start to get into trouble and they start to fight. But what I tell parents is, if you can wait that out for 10 or 15 minutes, it usually will disperse-

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: … into genuine play. And if you can’t wait it out, give them a chore and tell them on the other side of that chore, they can go back to playing. And guess what?

John: Hmm.

Courtney: They’re excited to play on the other side-

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: … of putting that laundry away.

Jim: No, it’s so true. You know, Jean, again, she did a fantastic job with that. And she was really worried about, uh, television.

Courtney: Yeah.

Jim: So, we cut the cable. We had no TV transmission for like, eight years when the kids were growing up. And they got bored. (laughs)

Courtney: Yeah, yeah.

Jim: But it was good, they were down in the basement, building LEGOs and doing marble building. You know, the marble thing that goes through everything. And all kinds of stuff that they did. Dressed up, pretend stuff, being a pirate.

Courtney: Yeah.

Jim: But that, it forces them to, uh, get out of sitting in, in front of a screen.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Right?

Courtney: Yeah.

Jim: So, you wanna try to m- I think, try to minimize that as much as possible. Um, describe how you and Daryl were trying to find that balance between minimizing the stuff for your kids and making sure you’re not being so miserly, they’re not having a, a fun childhood. And there is that balance.

Courtney: There is, for sure. And I grew up with a family that didn’t allow their kids Christmas presents because Christmas is about Jesus. And I thought, I don’t think I would wanna worship that Jesus because I really wanted Christmas presents, right?

Jim: He’s taking my toys.

Courtney: I was like, I-

Jim: I get the sentiment of it though.

Courtney: That feels a little extreme. I absolutely-

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: … understand and respect that decision. But as a kid, that felt terrible to me. So, we wanna walk that balance. What we tell relatives when they ask what they can get our children for, for holidays, for gifts, is we say, “Experiences and consumables.” So, our youngest child loves art supplies. And the thing about markers is eventually you use them up. You won’t have those same markers on your shelf 10 years from now.

Jim: Right.

Courtney: Um, cookie decorating kit, or take them to the science museum, or things like this. And those don’t end up sitting on your shelves.

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: A few gifts are great, a few toys are great. We are Legotopia after all. Um, but to push toward those two things and it frees up your shelves and it often gives kids a wonderful experience with a loved one.

Jim: I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but the boys, you know, now that they’re older, they were thinking, “Hey, we could cash in on these LEGOs.” So, they devised a plan. They, they put so many on a scale to see what it would weigh. Then they counted how many LEGOs they had. We were like, in the 20,000 piece LEGO arena.

John: I remember this.

Jim: I mean, you don’t know what these things go to anymore.

Courtney: Right.

Jim: They were all bought as a kid.

Courtney: Yeah.

Jim: But these are all the individual tiles.

Courtney: Yeah.

Jim: 20,000.

Courtney: Totally.

Jim: I, I have, I had to buy bins to fill them with LEGO pieces right across the wall of the basement.

Courtney: Yeah.

Jim: I mean, that’s not good, right?

Courtney: I mean, but they’re great if you can pass them on, right?

Jim: Yeah, okay.

Courtney: Or you can resell them.

Jim: We haven’t done that part yet. That’s the goal.

Courtney: They can have another life.

John: Or have little kids over.

Jim: We might be able to pay for college.

Courtney: Totally. Give them to the church nursery.

John: Yeah.

Courtney: Not for the tiny babies. They will eat them. For the bigger kids.

John: (laughs) Pay for college.

Jim: It’s an investment. Um, your decluttering journey certainly led to a sweet story about your son, Lincoln, and an opportunity he had to give away some toys. And this goes back to that Christmas idea as well.

Courtney: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Um, what happened with Lincoln and him giving away some things that were kind of, you know, close to him? And how old was he?

Courtney: He was about three.

Jim: (laughs) Oh.

Courtney: And the Matchbox cars were making more Matchbox cars in the middle of the night. And we realized, they have kind of gotten out of control and there was a new family that have moved into the neighborhood. And a little boy who really liked Lincoln’s cars, but didn’t have any cars of his own. And they played together out on the sidewalk. And I said, “Lincoln, if, if you want to give some of these cars away to your new friend, I will give you one jellybean for every car you put in the giveaway bag. And let’s make sure they’re the nice ones, not any ones that are broken or the paint has chipped. The n- The nice ones. You don’t have to, but if you do, you get a jellybean per car.” He put 42 cars. And that he was buzzing like a hummingbird. He had so much sugar. I was like, “My plan has backfired.” But then we walked him over to the neighbor, I had asked the mom’s permission. Also, please ask the parents’ permission.

John: Mm-hmm.

Courtney: Don’t just drop off your stuff you don’t want anymore at someone’s house.

John: Yes.

Courtney: That is a burden that you’re offloading.

Jim: Yes, here’s, here’s my stuff.

Courtney: Right? Folks do that to us. We’re like, “No, thank you.” Um, but he knocked on the door and said, “Hey, you know, I know you like some cars. Would you like some of my cars?” And it bonded the two of them together. And it was a, an example of how to be generous and how to be kind. And he’s never forgotten it. It was a long time ago.

Jim: Yeah, but what a great, um, example for him. And you learn things at a young age that you tend to apply when you get older, so that’s good. I think it’s really good. Uh, you believe that worship is the ultimate uncluttered act. Connect the dots for me. How does that fit together?

Courtney: When we worship God, we come before God with open hands. We come before God without our bag of stuff, without our busy schedule and we say, “Here I am.” And the beautiful thing about worship is it reorients our priorities. It reminds us that God is God and we are us. It reminds us of the mission the God has called us too, to love him, to love our neighbor. And what that specifically looks like for us, um, worship is, is everything.

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: It’s everything.

Jim: That’s good. And having time to do it. So, if we were to peel back the proverbial curtain on your home now-

Courtney: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … you’ve been at it, you’ve written a book about it, this is always the toughest question, how great a parent are you? (laughing)

Courtney: Ooh.

Jim: But when you look at this uncluttered theme-

Courtney: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … and you’re saying the fruit of all of you and your husband, Daryl’s labor, what does it look like now when you pull it back? Do you have the margin in time and schedule? Do you control the technology adequately? Um, is your house always tidy and-

Courtney: Always…

Jim: … in good shape?

Courtney: Always. No.

Jim: ‘Cause you have so much time to clean. (laughs)

Courtney: Yes, that’s my hobby.

Jim: I mean, I guess it’s the perfection question.

Courtney: Yes.

Jim: What are you aiming for? How has it worked for you? What does your home look like today?

Courtney: Yeah, I love that question because all writing is aspirational. And we’re all on a journey. And different clutter comes in at different times. Different schedule clutter is a pressure at different times. I have a new book that just came out and there’s a lot of schedule clutter that comes with launching a book that you have to say yes, to more than you might normally. And so, the call is ongoing. And that’s a beautiful thing because that forces us to stay connected with God.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Courtney: If we had it all figured out and perfect, we could walk away and be like, “I’m amazing. I have this figured out.” But the fact is, every day is a new day.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Courtney: And every day, our new request to put on the schedule, and every day is the temptation in the line at store to be like, “Maybe we do need another, fill in the blank.” So, the call of God is ongoing. We have not arrived by any means. And within our house, the five of us each struggle with different pieces of it.

Jim: Oh, yeah.

Courtney: Which is one of the reason God calls us into a family.

Jim: Right, yeah.

Courtney: Is, so we can lean on each other’s strengths.

Jim: We haven’t talked about personality overlay on this, you know.

Courtney: Yeah.

Jim: Extrovert, introvert, all those things play into clutter.

Courtney: Yes.

Jim: So, that’s, that’s true. L- For the last question here as we’re wrapping up, I’m just thinking of, uh, particularly the mom and the wife who’s, you know, moving through life. And it’s a hectic pace. Kinda right where you are at now, with littles, you know. They’re not self-contained, nice behaving teenagers that do everything you want (laughs) them to do.

Courtney: Can’t wait for that. I’m very excited.

Jim: But it’s a phase and all that, but describe how that process of decluttering has helped you notice God more. Maybe if I could break it down into your marriage-

Courtney: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … uh, into your parenting and then generally, your home.

Courtney: Yeah. It’s, it’s given me new eyes to see my kids, to notice my kids. I realized how often I was looking at them on the other side of a phone. Um, it’s given our marriage new, new hope. I think we, we now cultivate this family Sabbath. And the first few hours of that Sabbath, we’re almost shaking with the anxiety of the week. There’s still so much to do. And by the end of that Sabbath, Daryl and I have reconnected. We remembered why we fell in love in the first place. Um, and for our church, for our family, for our neighborhood, we now have time for our neighbors.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Courtney: Which we feel that that is in a way, God’s greatest call of us-

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: … is to love our actual, literal neighbors. We’re pastors, we serve a church, you know, and we have a lot of ministry time, but a lot of our neighbors don’t know Jesus, but they know us. And there’s a great opportunity there. But before, we had no time.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Courtney: We’re waving at the mailbox while we’re running to the next very important church meeting. And those are very important, but they’re not everything. So, it’s changed our lives and it continues to in part, because we try again. And we do one of the things badly, and we relearn and we keep growing. And that’s, that’s the hope of the gospel.

Jim: Yeah. What I so appreciate about what you’re saying, it’s a framework.

Courtney: Yes.

Jim: And it’s a target and you’re not always gonna hit the bullseye. But hopefully, you’re gonna be around it often enough that it does change your life. And it does give you the margin that you need to love the Lord better, love your spouse better, love your family better.

Courtney: Yeah.

Jim: That, at the end of the day, is what’s gonna matter, right? And Courtney, again, this has been so good. Thanks for being with us the last couple of days and talking about this. And sharing your deepest secrets of family and things that are working in your family. Thanks for being here.

Courtney: Thank you for having me.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And let me turn to you, I mean, if this has touched a nerve for you, uh, she said it. Courtney said it a moment ago. I mean, it’s changed her marriage, changed her attitude toward the Lord. She has ears that are wider open and eyes that are open to see God moving-

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … and to experience a, a more shalom-like God’s peace in her life. If you want that, get a hold of the book. (laughs) Why not? Start with Uncluttered, get it here from Focus on the Family. If you, uh, can support the ministry, you might as well put that into play. Don’t go to the big chains and, you know, get the resource from them ’cause they’re just putting that money into shareholders’ pockets. So, go ahead and put the proceeds into helping marriages, saving babies’ lives, helping parents do a better job, introducing people to Jesus. Uh, that’s what happens when you can make a donation here at Focus. And we’ll send you the book as our way of saying thank you for being part of the ministry.

John: Yeah. Donate today with a monthly pledge if possible, because that ongoing commitment that you make allows us to respond to the hundreds of thousands of people who will contact Focus this year for help and practical resources. So, a monthly pledge is great or a one-time gift, uh, is certainly appreciated as well. Anything you can do to benefit today’s families. Our phone number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY, 800-232-6459, or donate and get Courtney’s book at And coming up tomorrow, why sacrificial agape love is crucial for your marriage.


Dr. David Gudgel: I think we would rather be served than serve. I just believe that, you know, there’s something within all of us that struggles with giving ourselves away for the other person’s benefit, whatever that might be.

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Today's Guests

Uncluttered: Free Your Space, Free Your Schedule, Free Your Soul

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