biblical contentment

Want to be truly content? Memorize these 5 Bible verses.

5 Bible verses on contentmentToday I present some Bible verses on contentment just for you, my tender internet reader. You might want to bookmark (Pinterest!) this post for the days you hate everything you own and you want to set fire to the house and move to St. Thomas to live in a yacht with no screaming children.

Not that I have ever personally fantasized about this. I have no idea of where this extremely detailed dream originated.

Moving on, then. Let’s get to the verses that keep me from lighting the fuse and looking for yachts.

1 Timothy 6:6-8

Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content (NLT).

1 Timothy 6:6-8. ContentmentI love how this passage reframes our expectations for us. We worry endlessly about the future and material possessions, but after having food clothing (and a safe place to live, I would add), what do we really need? Not much.

Philippians 4:11-13

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:11. ContentmentThese particular Bible verses on contentment have been bandied around for years, right? We tend to gloss over them because we’ve heard them so many times, assuming Paul was a nut who lived so long ago his opinion hardly counts.

But Paul wasn’t some Super Christian with Super Strength. He was just a normal guy who had been totally transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit who now lives in us. He was, however, totally focused on one goal: glorifying God and spreading the good news to anyone who would listen. We could benefit from his focus, which would put our discontentment into perspective.

Hebrews 13:5

Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.”

Hebrews 13:5. ContentmentYes, Lord. Yesyesyesyes. I will try to remember. Amen.

John 14:27

“I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

John 14:27. ContentmentJesus came to bring us abundant and full lives, but we often miss it because we’ve taken our focus off of him and his provision and put it on… well… everything else. Setting our minds firmly back on Christ with these sorts of Bible verses on contentment will always lead us back to where our desires should be.

1 Chronicles 29:13-14

“O our God, we thank you and praise your glorious name! But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you? Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us!”

1 Chronicles 29:14. Gratitude and contentmentThis passage comes from King David’s prayer of praise as he surveyed the materials gathered to build the Temple. Everyone had given willingly to build this glorious place, which was still just a shadow of what God deserved. With joyful hearts everyone sacrificed to show their gratitude for who God was and what he had first done for them.

David and his people recognized God’s abundant blessings in their lives. I guarantee we’ll feel more content when we do the same.

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I could go on and on if you had hours to read this post. What ones did I miss? What Bible verses on contentment are your favorites? Let me know where you turn when you need a good reminder. I’d love to know!

 

Pray A to Z: a book to help us pray like we promise we will

pray-with-purposeWhen a friend reveals a terrible thing going on in her life, we might respond with a hug and “Oh, how hard. I’ll pray for you.”

And then we forget.

We watch the news and our retinas are burned out by the horrible things we see broadcast and we think I should pray about that more.

But we get distracted.

The church emails the really long and detailed prayer list and our eyes glaze over immediately, completely unprepared to pray for Mr. Stone’s prostate surgery on Thursday.

BECAUSE I’M NOT PREPARED TO DISCUSS MR. SMITH’S PROSTATE WITH THE ALMIGHTY, okay?

I’m just not.

Guilt ensues.

We feel guilty about how we don’t actually pray for our friends, family, and community enough, but we have no idea of how to fit that into our lives.

We want to worship and focus on God’s mighty attributes, but the children and the piles of laundry are so much louder than God most days.

Guess what. Someone saw this need coming and they wrote a book for us, and then a copy was thoughtfully provided for us for free here on the blog. It’s called Pray A to Z (***affiliate link) and Amelia Rhodes understands our messy, crazy lives. Her organized brain has categorized our concerns so we can actually pray like we want to do.

pray-a-to-z-coverFrom A (adoption, abuse, Almighty…) to P (pregnancies, Pain, Promise Keeper) to Z (zest, Zion, zeal), we can read through the simple, quick entries to direct our thoughts outward to God, seeking him.

Let’s take a peek inside Pray A to Z

Of course I turned first to the Finances entry, because that’s how my brain works. I loved how this section fits in exactly with what we talk about on this blog all the time:

Father, forgive me for where I have allowed the love of money to creep into my life. Help me remember to put my trust in You, not in a bank account, in possessions, or in what money can do for me. Let my security rest in You, not my stuff. Help me learn to be content with what I have, and not always be searching for the next great thing. Grow my desire to use money to serve You and Your kingdom… (p. 54).

I love prayers that are written out, simply because they gather my thoughts and intentions and express them so beautifully. This book is a gentle way to keep me on track and focused on the right things when I pray, instead of running my brain around like an anxious chicken.

Amelia Rhodes
Amelia Rhodes

Win a copy!

If you’d like to be more prayerful, more worshipful, and more competent to discuss Mr. Smith’s prostate with the Lord (just kidding, there’s no Prostate chapter), this book is exactly what you need. You can click the icon below to be entered into a contest to win a copy for yourself!

Pray A to Z Amelia Rhodes
Amelia Rhodes is fabulous, and I know you’ll love to get to know her. You can find her at her website, ameliarhodes.comFollowing God into the Unknown is my favorite series on her blog, and you can read all about how her family believed God was calling them to downsize and move to a new house. It’s a story of faith, contentment, and rejection of modern culture’s expectations. You’re going to love it; check it out!

How to find contentment when your season of life is just really, really awful

How can I be content when this season of my life just totally stinks?

If you haven’t slept eight hours straight in weeks (or years!), this post is for you. If you can’t find contentment because your life is a terrible, awful mess, this post is for you.


If you have bills piled high on the counter and a lot of zeros in the checking account, this post is for you.

It’s also for anyone who is being literally smothered to death by small children, health problems, marriage struggles, or relationship issues.

If every single one of those things has landed upon you simultaneously, then let’s have a nice little chat.

I know you want to have a great attitude in the midst of the struggle. I get it. You’re not trying to mope around and spread gloom and despair. You see that Pinterest meme that says life isn’t about avoiding the storms, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.


And you want to believe that’s possible, but your life is this terrible, complicated mess and all you want to do is have three free hours to nap. And then you want to be able to afford to buy some really cute shoes.

You’re not asking for much.

You just want a little bit of quiet time and a little bit of money to go further than the basics. You’d love to find contentment, but your season of life really sucks stinks and you are sick to death of it.

I’ve been where you are. I was once a young mother with little money, a little house, and very, very little sanity. I felt stuck and crazy, and this was because I was stuck and crazy. There was no getting out of our situation unless a nanny and a trillion dollars fell from the skies.

I had no choice but to plug along, day after day, making the best decisions I could with what I had. It felt like things would never lighten up.

Contentment (and a better life!) can be sneaky

Here’s the thing– while I trudged along through the endless days, things did lighten up. The kids learned to sleep through the night and eat regular food and then they went to school. My sanity returned and eventually our finances balanced out.

I’d like to offer you a miracle cure to fast-track you through this season of life, but I can’t. I can only tell you this secret– it’s the trudging that eventually makes all the difference. Trudging along is really a thousand little choices every day that feel inconsequential all by themselves. Really, no one notices if you wipe a snotty nose a hundred times a day or restrain yourself from that $6 latte again.

You might be tempted to think those little choices don’t matter.

But, my friend, you’d be wrong. It feels like we’re going nowhere, but really every single one of those actions is digging us a little bit further out of the muck.

contentment is found one step at a time

It’s the sum total of all those steps that makes the difference.

One day you look around and realize you’re in a better, more wonderful place. But you wouldn’t have gotten there without the thousands of tiny steps each day. You’ve found contentment, inch by agonizing inch.

We pay off debt with each individual dollar that isn’t spent other places.

We love our children with a hundred hugs and a million kind words. Also, many bags of goldfish crackers and trips to the park.

Marriages are healed with many gentle responses and so, so many words bitten back.

I know it feels endless and hopeless. But don’t underestimate the value of the tiny things in this very season of life. They might be the very things that change the future.

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Creative Contentment: how to have fun instead of slowly dying from despair

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I used to think that being content meant I was so blissfully, joyfully happy with life that I lost all desire to change anything.

I didn’t know how much room for change we have, even while living a simple life. There’s so much room in there. So much variety. So much freedom and creativity involved.

Being content is all well and good, but sometimes we get a little bit sick of the way things are.

We yearn for something different. Better.

Then perhaps we mentally chastise ourselves for allowing discontentment to creep into our thoughts. Or, at least this was the way for me. But I’ve realized something important recently– it’s possible to be content while absolutely changing everything.

It’s okay to want things to be different, even while we try to live simply, being thankful for what is.

We don’t have to live in drudgery and quiet despair for the rest of our days, relabeling it contentment and then fading into the gray. We don’t have to put up with clothes that have turned into tatters, or a 2002 Corolla that was a really good deal but makes you sigh every time you look at it.

Let’s talk about how creativity can help us be content and keep some fun in our lives.

For example, we have a house that I love, but there were some things that didn’t quite feel like home in our house. I absolutely knew that I should be nothing but thankful for that place, because millions of people would gladly trade places with me. But I couldn’t escape the nagging feeling that something just wasn’t quite right.

Finally I gave myself permission to start changing things. Even though the cabinets were only a few years old (and I’d picked the dang things out myself) I started painting them. I repainted a few walls for a second or third time. I went to the nursery and bought a few excellent plants to fill in the landscaping. I framed some photos of our trip to Ireland and hung them in the kitchen, right where they make me happy ten times a day.

My goal was to be content with the house. It took a lot of work and creativity to get to that point. Sure, I could have passively accepted everything just as we found it the day we got the keys, but then we’d still be living with bare white walls and really, really ugly bathroom cabinets. Who has the time to live with that kind of hideousness?

Let’s take a look at a more challenging scenario– The Corolla. My husband loves cars. He loves them fast, he loves them quirky, he loves them sporty. The Corolla is none of those things. It’s a four door sedan with four cylinders and a radio that works only sometimes.

Creativity isn’t really going to help him much here. We could get him some fuzzy dice and maybe a pine tree air freshener, but it’s not going to help the gutless engine or the automatic transmission. I think what we need is creative financing so we can trade some vehicles around. I’m happy as a clam in The Corolla, so maybe it’s time to trade the van for something jazzy for him to drive. Or maybe we can adjust some of our financial plans so a different car is on the near horizon.

Maybe he’d like to ride this bike instead of The Corolla?

I think the man needs some hope, super bad. He’s absolutely committed to being a mature grown up about this whole vehicle situation, but I see him shudder every time he looks at The Corolla. I’m not making that up. The gray despair is swirling around his ankles, threatening to suck him under. I love this man; I can’t let him die slowly of a four-cylinder engine.

I don’t want you dying slowly of despair, either. Whatever is going on in your life, I want you to live simply and joyfully. Here’s what you do:

  1. Choose your priority. Whatever it is– staying home with the kids, getting your budget under control, running the organic blueberry farm– identify what’s very most important to you.
  2. Cheerfully make a list of all the secondary stuff that’s bothering you, and then find the antidotes to those problems. Think wide. Think long. Brainstorm with your most creative ideas. Throw out any ideas that interfere with your priorities, but just go crazy with trying new things.

I can’t wait to hear what changes for you! Please, let me know.

Home Contentment Series Part 5: Finally, now I can buy things for the house.

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You might be asking yourself if there will ever be a good time to buy things for the house. And I’m here to tell you that yes, there’s a time and a place! Let’s get right to it.

{Welcome to our home contentment series! You’ve joined us on our last day. You can read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 and catch up with us.}

Perhaps by now you’ve lost hope. We’ve been at this home contentment series for four solid days and you’re just about to send me an email to tell me I’m an idiot and you hate these ideas. You are ready for the part where we get to burn the ugly old couch and get a new one. Please don’t email me hate letters, because I do understand your frustration. I totally agree there’s a time and place to buy things for the house.

You don’t have to put up with the old, the ugly and the stinky for the rest of your life. Just a few weeks ago I took my pizza pan for a walk–straight to the trash. It was awful and we’d put up with it for five years. Could we have afforded a new pizza pan before that? Yes, but I was feeling cheap and frugal. So I put it off and put it off.

But there’s a point where cheap and frugal are just plain dumb, my friends. We cross the line from good common sense to tacky and dumb. There’s nothing wrong with buying new things when we need new things. Furniture wears out. Carpet gets stained. The fridge dies.

Except this couch, which we purchased in 1999 and it REFUSES TO DIE. I will own this couch until I'm dead. Maybe they'll bury me on it, I don't know.
Except this couch, which we purchased in 1999 and it REFUSES TO DIE. I will own this couch until I’m dead. Maybe they’ll bury me on it, I don’t know.

This is part of life and it’s okay to buy new. But there’s a difference between buying a reasonable new tool, and buying things just because you’re in the mood for something flashy and you don’t particularly care how it affects your finances.

We know new things won’t solve the deeper problems in our souls, right? So let’s consider a few questions that will help us dig deeper. Are we trying to pacify something that needs to be addressed with prayer or counseling or a smack in the head, or are we actually making a mature and reasonable decision?

Here are things to ask yourself when evaluating a purchase:

  1. Is this a tool that will serve our family well? Will it serve us better than what we already have? Maybe the new couch has a hide-a-bed, and your guests can use it. Maybe it doesn’t smell like dog or Great Aunt Myrna’s Pall Malls. Fine and excellent. No-Aunt-Myrna stink is a dang good reason.
  2. Can we actually afford it? I know, huge bummer. But the fact remains that contentment is shot to hades when the credit card bill shows up and you don’t have the money to pay for it. Do yourself and favor and wait until you have the money for it. Or go on a long and serious hunt for a version that you can afford. I’ve dedicated serious portions of my life to searching for a high-quality, inexpensive couch/house/rug/bed. It’s fun! It almost makes me understand those weirdos who sit in the woods for all of November waiting for a deer to shoot. Except I’m warm and darting in and out of resale furniture shops, not sitting in a tree stand with a weapon.

    I found this chair at an estate sale for $150. Best purchase ever.
    I found this chair at an estate sale for $150. Best purchase ever.
  3. Have I waited a reasonable amount of time before replacing the old thing? If you’ve been living with the inadequate or hideous item for long enough, you’ll know. This isn’t a hard and fast rule you can memorize, but more a level of maturity you will know by instinct. If you’ve been a grown up for a long time while you suffered, then good enough.
  4. Is it really, exceptionally beautiful? Will it make us very happy? Happiness doesn’t always follow the rules of common sense. Right now I have a painting of two old, pudgy ladies in their old-fashioned bathing suits, and they’re tiptoeing into the ocean together. There’s no practical use for that art piece (I use the term loosely). It just makes me really happy, okay? I found it at the resale shop for $20 and love it every time I see it. If a purchase makes you feel the same way, then that’s a pretty good reason. Do we really want to go through life being practical and beige and safe? No! Sometimes we want to see fat old ladies going for a swim.

    Well, here we have Exhibit A. I don't have a good explanation, I just love it. The end.
    Well, here we have Exhibit A. I don’t have a good explanation, I just love it. The end.

Now that you know I have disturbing taste in art, let’s move along.

Back to one last point. I’ve found it helpful to have a plan for what needs to be replaced. This gives you the ability to prioritize your purchases, working slowly through the list as finances and common sense allow. Your plan will depend on you. What do you hate the most? What’s in the worst shape? What doesn’t fit your family anymore? You know. You know what your family needs. Come up with your plan and work it. (The free checklist below has a place to make this list. How helpful is that!?)

One day you will look around and feel so much better about your home. I know it might feel like it’s too far away and you’re still tempted to charge all the shiny things on your credit card. Before you make that step, may I make one bold suggestion? Pray about it. Now, God is not some magic genie in the sky, waiting to drop blessings on your head when you say the magic words. But I do believe, after many years of seeking God and learning more about Jesus Christ, that he is deeply and intimately involved in the lives of those who seek him.

This is the new couch we paid cash for. The Lord did not drop it out of the sky.
This is the new couch we paid cash for. The Lord did not drop it out of the sky.

He will not drop a new Pottery Barn couch from the clouds. Your carpet will not magically roll back and reveal perfectly restored mahogany floors just because you begged God hard enough to get what you want. He’s not your grandpa in the toy aisle.

But I know that many, many times over the years he’s provided things for me that I could not have provided for myself. Usually it’s when I’m in the middle of trying very hard to have a great attitude and hunt for something that’s close enough to what I want, within our budget. But he is a God who loves us and wants to provide for his children, and I have personally experienced that many times over.

If you think (or know!) you’re one of those children, try praying about it. See what he opens up for you. He might not choose to work miracles on your material possessions, but he might work a miracle in your heart. And trust me when I say that’s even better.


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Home Contentment Series Part 4: Move furniture and rethink your artwork.

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Today we move furniture and artwork around in the house! I hope you had a hearty breakfast because you’re going to need all your energy.

{Welcome! If you’re new to this series on Home Contentment, you can catch up with previous posts: Clean it, Declutter it, and Paint it.}

Are you here because your house is awful and you hate it and you want new things to make you happy? I totally understand the desire to walk into the nearest furniture store and buy all the things. This happens to me every year, always in February, when Michigan is at its coldest, bleakest, and nastiest. While all new things would be very fun for a few moments, I also know the guilt and horror would be fierce when the Visa bill arrives in March.

So I don’t buy new things; I move around the things I already own. Sometimes I do little things, like switching the couch to face east instead of north. Maybe I move the toaster to a new section of the kitchen.

But sometimes I go a little nuts and start taking the artwork down AND I take furniture out of one room and move it to a totally new room. Eric thinks I’m crazy, but I have tons of fun and spend zero dollars.

Before you buy one little thing, I beg of you– try to move furniture and things around first. 

Step 1: Decide on a new furniture arrangement. Don’t worry if you hate it. Moving furniture is never permanent and rarely fatal. But try moving things around in at least two rooms.

Step 2: Switch a few items to a totally new room. The location of your poster of the Golden Gate Bridge is not regulated by law. It doesn’t have to stay in the hallway. You can put it someplace new! Move the photos of your kids to the kitchen. Maybe that red side table would look better next to your bed, and your nightstand could double as the microwave stand. The Furniture Police will not arrive and take you to Furniture Jail if this turns out to be a terrible idea. (I thank Myquillan Smith for reassuring me that terrible ideas are almost never life-threatening.)

Ta-da! These are leftover party supplies from my sister's wedding shower this summer. Repurposed in a blank spot in our downstairs living room, I think they look quite festive.
Ta-da! These are leftover party supplies from my sister’s wedding shower this summer. Repurposed in a blank spot in our downstairs living room, I think they look quite festive.

Step 3: Listen to The Nester, and Quiet the Room. Trust me and follow that link to her post. You’ll be able to honestly evaluate the room when you move furniture and doodads out of it. While you’re at it, buy her book (affiliate link). You’ll love it.
Step 4: Boldly cull the items you don’t love. You don’t have to keep the things you adored ten years ago, but now feel kind of blah about. You don’t have to display your wedding china or your grandmother’s bedside clock. If you think you might want to keep them, box them up and store them away for a while. Reevaluate in six months to see if you’d like to have them back out.

I keep moving these items around the house, looking for just the right combination and location. Meh. Still needs some work.
I keep moving these items around the house, looking for just the right combination and location. Meh. Still needs some work.

Step 5: Swap with friends. This could be a really fun experiment. Move furniture to a new zip code if you really can’t stand it in your house anymore. Maybe your friends have things they’d like to get rid of, too! Have a little party where everyone brings a few items and then leaves with different ones. It will probably help if you don’t invite that one friend who has really… um… terrible specific taste.

move furniture
This side table belongs to my friend, Jen. I’m the table’s foster parent for now.

Step 6: Think up new ways to use things you already own. Can you frame photos you have stashed in a drawer? Use the record album covers as artwork? Take unread books and make book art out of them? A tea cozy out of that hideous sweater your mom gave you last Christmas?

I hope these steps will help. If nothing else, they’ll at least keep you busy until the burning desire for a new couch eases. But don’t worry, if that burning for new things won’t go totally away, our next installment will show us how to buy new things for the house– responsibly, thoughtfully, and with no regrets.

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Home Contentment Series Part 3: Paint away the grunge.

home-contentment-3Today we move into another level of finding contentment with our homes. We’re going to paint away all the grime and sadness and pitiful-ness (yes, that’s probably totally a word). ((If you’re a renter, stay tuned. I have thoughts for you, too!))

{Welcome to our Home Contentment Series! If you’re just joining us today, you can find Part 1 (Clean It) and Part 2 (Declutter it) by clicking the titles. I’m so glad you’ve stopped by!}

I firmly believe that taking care of our homes radically improves our contentment with them. In fact, I believe this brings more contentment than walking into the nearest home store and walking out with a whole new kitchen/landscape/furniture set. The physical act of caring for our things connects us in a deeper way to what matters. I don’t have the foggiest idea of why this is, but I know it to be true. The more I tenderly look after what God has entrusted to me, the more I’m thankful for the resources I have, and discontentment vanishes like the trends we see on Pinterest.

I just repainted the kitchen this year, and my contentment with my home soared.
I just repainted the kitchen this year, and my contentment with my home soared.

So, let’s get to it. Today I’m going to convince you to break out the paint supplies and freshen up the surfaces in your house. Obviously it helps if you already own brushes, rollers, and have leftover paint from other projects. But if you don’t have these things and have no money to spend on them, try borrowing them from friends. Or possibly even your church. I know our congregation keeps all kinds of supplies on hand, and they’re barely touched for most of the year. You can even ask friends and family if they have extra paint to share with you. Many a paint project only requires part of a gallon, and most homeowners would be glad to see their leftovers put to good use.

It never hurts to ask, is all I’m saying.

Once you’ve located your supplies, here are the things to care for:

  • Door and window trim (inside and out): The trim in our homes takes a beating every single day. Take a close look at your windows and doors and begin to repaint the most damaged areas. If you have random colors all over, I highly suggest picking one color (like a white semi-gloss) and unifying the whole house. If you have stained trim, then you might need to lightly sand it and polyurethane it.
  • Baseboards: I don’t know what’s harder on the baseboards– all those shoes getting kicked off or the marks the vacuum leaves when I get too close. But I know the baseboards in most of our rooms could really do with a nice touch up. Your house might be the same.
  • Scuffed and dirty walls: Wait! Before you bust out the drop cloth, try a Magic Eraser for the scuff marks and dirty spots. Those little miracle workers have saved me a ton of time by just erasing the grime. If the Eraser doesn’t work, then evaluate– do you have to do the entire room? You might get away with just a wall or two. However, I do suggest painting the entire wall over. Trying to touch up rarely looks right, but I’ve successfully painted a whole wall and had it blend right into the adjoining wall with no problem.
  • The doors: Again, they get pretty beaten up. A fresh coat of paint will make the whole room seem glorious.

    The upper half of these walls used to be a dark khaki color, and I hated it. So I finally took some leftover paint and just freshened it back up. So much better!
    The upper half of these walls used to be a dark khaki color, and I hated it. So I finally took some leftover paint and just freshened it back up. So much better!
  • Cabinets in the kitchen and bath: This is advanced, ninja level painting right here. But if your house is looking dumpy and sad, a fresh coat of cabinet paint might perk things right back up. (Here’s a blog post from my own kitchen.) My happiness with our house doubled as soon as I painted our kitchen, I promise you. It was totally worth a lost weekend.
  • The home’s exterior: I would enjoy painting the whole exterior of a house as much as I would enjoy being slowly eaten by sharks. I thank the Lord often for vinyl siding. Go out and really look at your house. It might be time for a paint job, and it might also be the time to call in favors from friends and family. If you have vinyl siding, you might need to rent a pressure washer and get all the mold and dirt off.

But what if you’re a renter?

Are you doomed to scuffed and gross walls? No! Of course, I don’t know your landlord, and that relationship will be up to you to evaluate. But I have been a landlord before, and I will straight up tell you that if our tenant had called and asked to paint to keep things looking nice, I would have cheerfully purchased all the paint and supplies for her. I would have gone over there and worked with her!

This is exactly the face I would have made if my tenant had asked to paint a wall a decent color.
This is exactly the face I would have made if my tenant had asked to paint a wall a decent color.

Being a landlord is a horrible, awful, merciless job. Knowing a renter is taking the initiative to care for our property is a HUGE bonus, and you might be surprised how delighted your landlord is about this idea. You will probably have to live with a neutral paint or agree to paint it back when you move out, but it never hurts to ask.

If you’re pretty sure your landlord is from the fiery land below, then you might need to use a little subterfuge. Go ahead and paint, (blogger not responsible if this backfires) but do your best to match the colors in the rental already. If the colors are mustard yellow and hot pink, combined with some festive wallpaper from 1980, then I highly suggest you go blind or find a new rental. Or threaten to find one if your landlord won’t let you repaint to something less hideous.

May the painting fairies be with you. May your brush bring joy and gladness as the new paint chases away your sadness.

And may you join us for our next installment in the Home Contentment Series. We’re going to move the furniture!

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Home Contentment Series Part 2: Declutter.

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Let’s declutter our places and learn to breathe comfortably in our own homes again, shall we?

In Part 1 of our Home Contentment Series, we gave a nice and thorough list of things that might benefit from a good cleaning around your house. My experience is that a clean house feels more comfortable, and therefore I feel more content in it. Today we go to the next step of finding contentment in our homes, and we declutter.

Well, honestly.

If you can dump all the clutter in your house in one day, you’re either a miracle worker or you own a dumpster and a very large bulldozer. Let’s find a more reasonable option, shall we? Let’s break things up into manageable bites.

declutter the coffee table
Welcome to my real life. This is how my coffee table looks most days.

Ask yourself this: Do we use this item regularly?

If yes, then keep it. If no, clarify with this question: on the rare occasions we need this, is this very important to have? (I’m thinking tents, holiday decorations, umbrellas…use your common sense.) The no-no items get donated or dumped.

And one more note before we begin– decluttering can be a huge blessing to others who need what you have. An attitude of generosity makes this process so much easier and fun.

Ready? Here we go!

  1. Entry closet: locate all members of your family and force them to try on everything they keep in the closet. Keep only the coats, boots, and shoes that fit and that are worn frequently. Now send your family away because you are going to be getting rid of things and they’ll claim they need to keep those items. Flummery-some stuff needs to go. With a keen eye, evaluate all the stuff you have in there. Take it all out, and then only replace the things you use at least yearly. Throw out or donate the rest, and do it today.
  2. Bedroom closets: Declutter one closet each day, repeating the above steps. Remind yourself that the items you don’t keep will be a true blessing to someone else, and be brave!
  3. Linen closets: I like to keep at least two sets of sheets for every bed in the house, plus multiple extra blankets. This is because we live in Michigan and you can never have enough blankets in your house, but also because I’ve lived through multiple stomach-bug incidents in the middle of the night. One time my son was down to his sister’s sleeping bag and a throw pillow from the couch and I swore I’d keep more sheets in the house from then on. Learn my lesson and don’t skimp here. Homeless and domestic violence shelters will love to take your extra sheets and towels off your hands.
  4. Kitchen cabinets: Be ruthless. Think of how many pots and pans you actually use in one sitting, and then declutter the cabinets. There’s no reason to look like you’re running a kitchen store. Find a college ministry and donate your extra cooking implements.
  5. The refrigerator: Why do we keep all those condiments? They’re so gross, but we can’t part with them. Well, today’s the day. Open the fridge up nice and wide. The homeless shelter has no interest in your three year old bottle of Asian sauce, so please throw it away. Keep going until every item has been evaluated and every surface has been wiped down with hot, soapy water. If you have the strength, attack the freezer. Go out for dinner.
  6. Under the beds: May the Lord be with you in your time of need. I bet you’ll find some treasures under there as you declutter.
  7. Utility areas, basement, and laundry room: Sort through all your tools and painting supplies. The local Habitat for Humanity is anxiously awaiting this donation. Evaluate those half-used gallons of paint. If they’re in good shape, log onto Facebook and ask if anyone wants them. Paint might be out of some of your friends’ budgets, and they might be sick to death of their own wall colors. If there are no takers, the ReStore will be happy to help.
  8. The garage: In our house, the garage is Eric’s domain. I don’t mess with much out there, unless I put it there first. In your case you might want to seek a few marital counseling sessions and then prayerfully attack the garage as some sort of marriage-building session.
  9. Under the sinks (kitchen and bathroom): Maybe there’s a perfectly good reason we own 400 tampons in varying absorbencies, but you know who else would love to have those? The women’s shelter. I’m not sure what to do about the 3,293 plastic bags under the kitchen sink. Maybe keep 10 and take the rest to the recycling bin at the grocery store?declutter the cabinets
  10. Various places unique to your home: I’m sure there are places in your house that I can’t see, but you’re looking at them right now and adding them to your list. For us, the coffee table is an endless battle of Legos, magazines, books, and snack bowls. You might have storage sheds, kids’ bedrooms, homeschool areas, or a south wing to your mansion. By now you’re a decluttering expert, so get to it.

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Home Contentment Series Part 1: Clean house!

home-contentment-1What if I told you that contentment and happiness with your home is possible with just a few simple steps? What if I told you a clean house is a happy house?

You’d think I was nuts, probably. Right? Because how are you supposed to be content and happy with this pile of junk that’s supposed to be your house? Nothing matches, the carpet looks like the apocalypse happened on it, and there are possibly crushed Cheerios in all the corners of all the rooms.

Plus, maybe something smells a wee bit horrific.

There’s no contentment to be found, you’d tell me. Look at this place.

Trust me, I have absolutely experienced what you’re experiencing now. We’ve lived in ugly apartments with avocado appliances and terrible wallpaper. We’ve had unspeakable carpet and no budget to replace it. We’ve had ugly bathrooms and floorpans that made no sense, and through it all we had friends and children running rampant. My very soul felt like it had been sucked out of me and crushed into the filthy carpet pretty much every day.

I had to fight my way out of my despair bit by bit, and now I am here to help you out of your despair. We can do it, I promise. You can find a new joy and contentment with your home, even if you have no extra money, no ability to replace anything, and no magic genie waiting in his bottle.

Our five-part series begins right now. And it begins with a clean house!

I can feel your un-enthusiasm from here. I can tell you’d rather have your dentist drill all your teeth out. Trust me. I’m not wrong. I believe there are a few people in the world who don’t mind grime, crumbs, or stickiness. But I don’t believe those people would actually read a blog post about home contentment, either. Their central nervous systems literally register contentment in any home situation as they crunch across crushed crackers all over the floor.

The rest of us will feel better, happier, and more content in a clean house. Let me help you get there.

First, the obvious things:

  • Vacuum the carpets. (You may have to pick up and/or throw out a lot of things first, like magazines and toys.) ((May the Good Lord be with you.))
  • Sweep the hard floors.
  • Mop the floors that can take the water (vinyl and tile). Gently spot clean the floors that can’t get drenched (laminate and hardwoods).
  • Open the windows to let in fresh air. Even if it’s winter. Especially if it’s winter. A clean house needs to smell clean, which means you might need a lot of old air to get sucked out.
  • Start a few loads of laundry. Don’t forget the towels, the throw rugs, and the blankets you keep in the living room.
  • Clean the toilets, bathtubs, showers, and bathroom sinks. Pay careful attention to the floor around the toilet. And use the wand on your vacuum to go around the perimeter of the room, where all the hair collects. Don’t forget to clean the bathroom mirror and counter around the sink.
  • Attack the kitchen. Here’s a blog post with a lot of instructions if this is going to be an all day job.
  • Dust. I know, it’s the worst chore ever. But maybe our homes would feel less like mausoleums if we dusted once in a while.

That should give you a good head start on feeling better about your home. But maybe you’re  in need of an advanced cleaning suggestions because something still doesn’t feel right.

Advanced options

  • Choose your favorite cleaner (Windex, Mrs. Meyers, or simple white vinegar), get a rag, and start scrubbing. I often miss things like my windows, the hand rail on the stairs, and all that grime that accumulates around the light switches and door handles. If you have short people living in your house, get down at their level and scrub those tiny handprints off.
  • Use the wand on your vacuum (or just get really good at using your cleaning rag and solution) and pay close attention to all your baseboards. They’re probably dusty and sticky and covered in hair.
  • Ditto for your ceiling fans and light fixtures. Get the dust and the spider webs.
  • Vacuum under the furniture, behind the furniture, and under the cushions. (My friend Josie just did this and found her wedding ring! It had been missing for a year!)
  • The windows should still be open to let in that fresh air.

clean house

Super-Advanced Ninja Cleaning Options: for when you’re really, really about to lose your mind:

These suggestions are not for everyone. They may be a little controversial. But I’ve found them to be helpful in my own home, so use them at your own discretion.

  • Train your kids (and their friends) to eat in the kitchen. Also train them to wash their hands before leaving the kitchen. The end. Banish snacks and sippy cups from the rest of the house. (One day I’ll tell you the story of when my mom found a cup of Pepsi in my brother’s room. The pop was so old the liquid had fermented and we had a potent stench that nearly put me off soda for life.) Be kind, but be firm and consistent. Your furniture and carpet will thank you for it. You’ll have fewer sticky fingerprints, fewer crushed crackers, and less stinky milk soaking into your textiles.
  • Consider your pet situation. I hesitate to bring this up because I know that pets are considered family in a lot of homes. However, we just had to move our cat out of the house and into the garage this very week, and I can’t believe the difference it’s made for us. The carpet is less hairy, there aren’t spots of litter all over the floor, the whole house smells better, and NOTHING HAS POOPED ON MY CARPET FOR SEVEN DAYS. I feel like I have a new house! The cat is furious, but he should have thought of that before he spent three years acting like a drunken frat boy around here.

Obviously you know your own situation better than I do, but those are two areas that might make a big difference.

Don’t despair if your house is clean but you still feel like it’s an awful pit. The next four parts of our series will get you closer, inch by inch, to loving your home without taking a bulldozer to it.home-contentment-banner

 

Home Contentment Series: The Prelude

home-contentment-series-headerContentment and happiness with our homes is important to us, right? We want to feel comfortable and safe in our places. We want them to represent who we are and what we offer to the world. But so many of our homes fall short of that ideal, leaving us cranky, anxious, and unsettled. We want something better.

I don’t think this is wrong. I think that human beings instinctually want to improve their places in the world, and that’s a very good thing (think back to the Garden of Eden, when God told Adam to go out and take care of everything he saw).

But I am furious at the standards that have assaulted us, especially recently. Home decorating has always been a thing, but the current level of TV networks, shelter magazines, and the internet have pushed our standards way, way, WAAAAAAAAAAYYYY past what most of us can afford or pull off. These unreasonable standards have to be challenged.

So sit back and let me tell you little story of many years ago when I was a young social worker in rural Michigan. One day I was assigned a home visit in a really poor area, and when I pulled up to that trailer in the wilderness I felt glued to my driver’s seat. By that time I’d been a social worker for only two years, but I’d been in about every kind of filthy, cluttered, dark, claustrophobic home you can imagine. Oh, the smells. The grime. The general air of despair and neglect.

Like this. I was in a LOT of homes like this, but instead of the desert, imagine a Michigan forest. (Photo courtesy of flickr.com/roadsidepictures)
Like this. I was in a LOT of homes like this, but instead of the desert, imagine a Michigan forest. (Photo courtesy of flickr.com/roadsidepictures)

I knew I was headed into a metal tube of despair and neglect, and I was wondering how long I could hold my breath while I conducted business like an adult. (Not long enough.)

The elderly couple greeted me at the door, I took a last snootful of fresh air, and stepped over their threshold. I blinked. I blinked faster. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was a 1960s trailer, exquisitely maintained. It could have been bought new and furnished yesterday, not forty years earlier.

Nothing was new. Not the carpet, the couch, or the paneling on the walls. I don’t know how they’d kept that carpet in such good shape for decades, but it was perfect.

I decided to breathe, just for the sake of not passing out in front of these sweet people.

BACON.

The air smelled like bacon, and exactly like my own grandmother’s house. We headed to the kitchen where (of course) the appliances were ancient. But they matched the dining set, the floor, and the cabinets. The dishes were done and the counters wiped clean. I would have eaten anything they offered me, and for a social worker, that’s saying a lot.

I’m going to guess that this homemaker probably didn’t actually choose to live in a time capsule. I’m pretty sure she was forced to keep what she had because that’s all they could afford. But her choice to lovingly care for her home has spoken loudly to me for more than fifteen years.

She loved what she had. She kept it clean, decluttered, and fresh.

Home doesn’t require trendy appliances or the perfect floor. We could bulldoze our house and start over, and still be miserable if we don’t learn to care for what we have. What we buy today will be outdated in a decade or five minutes, so we have to learn to find contentment in something other than just buying a new thing.

fiesta coffee cup
I love Fiestaware. It’s beautiful, but it’s also been in style since, oh, MY GRANDMA BOUGHT DISHES back in the day. Timeless!

This Home Contentment Series will help you do just that.

We’re going to look at five areas that will slowly increase your happiness with your home. I promise none of it will require going into debt. It will require some work on your part and a new perspective on your home, but I think we can all manage that just fine.

And when your own home discontentment creeps up on you, just close your eyes and imagine an old, metal trailer full of an elderly couple’s possessions. Imagine all the surfaces buffed to a shine, an immaculate kitchen floor, and a cozy place to nap on a funky brown couch. Think of how contentment has nothing to do with what the trend of the moment demands of us.

Let’s look for something better.

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Here’s the link you need: http://eepurl.com/cjCx6P

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