We haven’t approached the idea of minimalist homeschooling in this series with rules like how many items we can own or the size of house we should live in. Instead we've been talking about getting rid of the clutter—the things we don't need or love— so we can focus on what matters most.
In our homeschools, clutter can take many different forms—whether it’s too many things, too much curriculum, or too many commitments.
Declutter means to remove unnecessary items from an untidy or overcrowded place.
Things, curriculum, commitments can all overcrowd our homeschools and schedules. But perhaps the most unnecessary, and even detrimental, items we carry around aren't physical objects or excessive commitments—maybe they are matters of the heart.
What crowds up our hearts? What can we do to clean up the clutter and make space for the things God has called us to?
Declutter Worry from Your Heart
Worry takes a lot of time and energy but doesn’t help us or our families at all. As you've heard,
Worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere.Erma Bombeck
Do you identify with that statement? Stop for just a minute and ask yourself: How many things have I worried about that never came to pass? How much time and mental energy have I spent on a concern and it hasn't changed a thing? What has worry accomplished?
The answer? None of us. Not an hour, minute, or second.
Worrying doesn’t keep bad things from happening in life and it doesn’t change what is already going on. Corrie Ten Boom reminds us,
Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.
How do we get rid of worry?
- Make a list of everything you are worried about. Be honest with yourself and God.
- Pray about whatever it is that you are worried about. Supplication means seeking, asking, entreating.
- Give thanks. Why thanksgiving? I believe it is because when we give thanks, we focus on all that God has given us. It helps us to remember His character. And it reminds us of his goodness and grace.
- Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Worry means to allow one's mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles. Jesus gives us something better to dwell on. Something better to put our energy toward.
Jesus is teaching his disciples when he urges them to do this. And right before these verses he says “O you of little faith.” We worry when we forget who is in control. We worry when we forget His character. We worry when we don’t trust Him.
Where has your mind been "stayed"? In other words, what have you been thinking about the most? I have good news. We don’t have to worry because we have a God we can trust. Let’s focus our hearts and minds on Him.
Declutter Fear from Your Heart
How often have you asked yourself one of these questions?
- What if I’m not doing enough?
- What if I’m unable to teach _____ (insert subject of choice)?
- What if my kids can’t get into college? What if they walk away from Christ if they do get into college?
- What if they are bullied, become ill, hurt, or _____?
The question “what if” is almost always based in fear.
Sometimes fear is justified, a God-given response to very real danger, pain, or threats. For example if your toddler is running for the street, you immediately react, heart pounding as you run to grab him while yelling STOP.
But unfortunately we also become fearful of the things we imagine might happen. Fear and worry go hand-in-hand.
We feel fear because we can’t control things and we don’t like the possibilities of what could happen. With the overload of instantaneous news we hear of tragedy and destruction more than ever. And then there are our own insecurities on top of that. Fear that we can't do this mom thing, wife thing, homeschooler thing...the list goes on and on.
But I have some good news!
Yes, God blesses us with real fear—the kind that helps us act, but He didn’t give us a spirit of fear. He doesn’t want us to live a life of “what ifs.” Worry, fear…they both sap us of energy. They both keep us awake at night. They both distract us from living in the now because we are imagining the possible, but often not probable, future.
So what can we do? We can clean the clutter out of our hearts and get rid of the fear.
Practical Ways to Declutter Fear
1. Pray. Meditate on Scripture. Trust. If you struggle, focus on the character of God—on His attributes. Take your eyes off the circumstance and put them on God.
2. Know when to turn off the news (or newsfeed). If hearing about all the pain and suffering, violence and destruction is overwhelming, then stop. Stop reading, watching, and listening to the things that cause that fear to grow. I'm not talking about sticking your head in the sand, but filtering the information in a way that helps you deal with it in a healthy manner.
3. Change your vocabulary. Instead of "What if I’m unable to teach _____?" you say, "I may not know how to teach _____, but I know that there are resources and people to help me."
4. Get busy. If you sit there and think about something that scares you and you replay it over and over in your mind, then fear will only grow. But if you find something productive to do, you can distract yourself from dwelling on your fears. You can take action and change your focus.
Declutter Discontent from Your Heart
So now it’s time to get rid of one of the homeschooling mom’s biggest heart-clutterers (Ok, maybe that isn’t a word, but I’m pulling a Shakespeare here and using it anyway. Side note: Did you know he invented 1700 words? #goals)
It’s time we get rid of discontent.
Contentment: a resting or satisfaction of mind without disquiet; acquiescence. (Acquiescence—A quiet assent; a silent submission)
“Contentment isn’t an excited kind of happy, it’s more like a peaceful ease of mind. It’s being satisfied with what you have, whatever that is.” (vocabulary.com)
Are you missing that in your life? A resting, a quiet assent, a silent submission. Do you feel at peace? Are you satisfied with what you have? If you can answer yes, then you are content. But if not, there is hope...
How can we get rid of discontent?
1. Learn to be content. Yes, contentment is something that is learned. How do we learn things? It's true we can learn about something, but it is experience that is the real teacher. Experience gives us the chance to put our head knowledge into action.
I love how verse 13 in the Amplified version: “I can do all things
Notice Paul says he's learned to be content in whatever situations he finds himself. Brought low or abounding. Facing plenty and hunger. Facing abundance and need.
It seems that even when our lives are "good" we can want more. When we are brought low, are hungry, or have a need...guess what? We can want more, or better, or simply out of it.
But we will never learn to be content in it if we never experience both the highs and the lows of life. Paul shares his secret of contentment with us though. He's giving us the "answer" to these pop quizzes of life.
He did all these things through the one who infused him with strength. Not in his own power, but in the Lord's.
And so can we.
At all times, in all circumstances, Christ is able and willing to provide the strength we need to be content. Contentment occurs when Christ’s strength is infused into my weak body, soul, and spirit.Linda Dillow, Calm My Anxious Heart: A Woman’s Guide to Finding Contentment
2. Recognize the difference between what you need and what you want. Yes, there is a difference.
Let's face it. Most of us have food and clothing. Our needs have been met. So maybe we should cultivate a better perspective—a perspective that recognizes the fleeting nature of the things of this world. Is it wrong to enjoy all that we have? Of course not. We should be thankful!
But a proper perspective means we know the difference between our wants and needs. It means we recognize that Jesus is our Provider. That what matters isn't stuff or a "perfect" life (which isn't even possible).
Godliness + Contentment = Great Gain
Great gain isn't in what we have. Great gain comes through obedience to our Father—motivated by love and reverence—trusting that He provides for our needs and knowing He infuses us with strength. It's in knowing His grace is enough.
3. Stop comparing. I know. It's never been easier to compare our lives with others. But comparison has never led to contentment either. You don't have to live a "social media worthy" life. The life God gives you is worthy enough.
Get Out Your Cleaning Supplies
No, I'm not talking about a mop, cleaning solution, or rags. If we want to clean up the clutter in our hearts we need something more powerful—God's Word.
If you've missed a part of this series, Minimalist Homeschooling, check out:
Kay Chance homeschooled her two boys for fifteen years. While teaching them, she discovered a passion for writing and developing curriculum resources. She loves sharing natural learning methods and creative lesson ideas with other homeschooling parents in her column Learning Naturally.
Kay is the co-executive editor of Homeschooling Today magazine, author of the older extensions for the Trail Guide to Learning series, and a freelance writer and content creator. She makes her home in Texas with her husband Brian.