There’s a Rat in My House
by Dianne Barker
A familiar rumbling interrupted my lazy morning as I sipped coffee while reading yesterday’s newspaper. Since my husband prefers the pages intact, I wait until morning to read so I can clip articles and recipes.
Oh, no! It’s Wednesday! The garbage truck!
This was not a new thing. Wednesday had been garbage pickup in our community for years. Forgetting to take the trash to the street also was not a new thing.
Not to worry…those fellows always start at the bottom of the hill and back all the way up the street, emptying cans along the way.
Knowing their mode of operation had saved me time and again. I could roll the container to the end of the driveway before they reached my house.
Thank goodness my son left his old loafers right by the door! I slipped into his size tens, flung open the door, and gasped. The truck was nearly out of sight! Those guys had backed up the street and emptied cans on the way down. Of all times to begin a new routine!
“Wait! Wait!” I clomped through the dewy grass, waving wildly.
The truck stopped. The driver, wearing orange coveralls, gulped from an orange soft-drink can as he looked at me, bemused. Another orange-clad worker dangled from a rear corner of the monster truck.
“Can you wait one minute? I’ll have the trash here in one minute!”
“Sorry, ma’am.” The driver obviously enjoyed this.
Picture begging teary-eyed woman in fuzzy blue bathrobe and over-sized shabby brown loafers.
The hint of a smile faded as the burly driver snarled, “We’ll be coming up the other street in a few minutes. If you’ll take your trash to the corner, we’ll pick it up.”
The corner? That seventy-five feet stretched five miles! The whole neighborhood would see. Should I protect my pride or empty the trash? An image of the overflowing can in seven more days made the decision.
As discreetly as I could lug a bulging trash can along a gravel driveway and down the paved street, I hurried to the corner. I don’t know what the neighbors thought…no one ever mentioned it. But I made a decision that summer morning.
I won’t chase the garbage truck down the street in my bathrobe anymore.
~ ~ ~
There’s a rat in my house! Somebody set a trap!
If only the solution were that simple. It’s a pack rat and I’m it. Admitting this usually brings smiles and confessions from friends who also save stuff. Then we discuss our struggle to organize clutter and comfort each other, feeling relieved that someone understands.
I’ve never met an organized pack rat. Like the rodent stuffing its cheek pouches with food, we fill every nook and cranny with stuff, compounding the chaos of disorganization. I suspected my hoarding tendency could be a spiritual issue as the words of Jesus began to nag. “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20).
Jesus wasn’t encumbered with stuff. He didn’t carry with him any creature comforts, not even necessities. He traveled light and expected others to do so. When he sent the twelve disciples on mission, he said, “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic” (Luke 9:3). Sounds like they had only the clothes on their backs. That’s stripping to essentials.
The Lord had strong words about keeping stuff. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).
After leaving a successful journalism career to be a stay-at-home mom, I continued writing and speaking for women’s events while giving my family priority. Trying to balance simultaneous roles—wife, mother, mentor to young wives, writer, and conference speaker—I found myself being swept along by life, grasping for a rope, and crying for help to survive the swirling current. I craved organization and prayed for it, throwing my need at Jesus’ feet. Lord, you promised, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” If you help me get organized, it would be a great and unsearchable thing (see Jeremiah 33:3).
Even more than I wanted a peaceful and orderly home for my family, I wanted my life to have an eternal impact. That meant I’d have to stop wasting it on the trivial and invest it in the significant. The Lord honored my desperate prayer, teaching me how to organize for the maximum life and giving me opportunities through my speaking and mentoring ministry to teach other women.
Surveying seventy-five friends in seventeen states (Pennsylvania to Hawaii) confirmed my suspicion that some people were organized at birth. These successful women—single, married, widowed—range in age from young adults to grandmothers. My friends, who represent diverse backgrounds (education, finance, medicine, psychology, environment, industry, religion, technology, family life) share one struggle—staying organized. From their responses I’ve identified four degrees of organization.
Category 1: Born that way and sailing smoothly.
Category 2: Learned to stay afloat in the riptide.
Category 3: Struggling to keep my head above water.
Category 4: Help! I’m drowning! Throw me a rope!
If these categories seem to parallel hurricane ratings, that’s appropriate. For drowning category fours like me, life and home resemble a hurricane aftermath.
Getting God’s perspective led to life change. “God is not a God of disorder but of peace…everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way…” (1 Corinthians 14:33, 40).
Besides conquering clutter, organizing for the maximum life requires wrestling two thieves (slothfulness and procrastination), learning strategies to manage time and family chaos, purging interior garbage (inferiority and low esteem), and submitting fully to Christ—gateway to balance and abundant living.
Whether organizational skills came by birth or diligent pursuit, all of us have to work to maintain order. I’ll never be a category one—I wasn’t born organized. But by the power of Christ, I’m a category two…staying afloat in the riptide. My giant step was learning to think like an organized person: simplify, purge, throw away, give away. If you’re drowning in disorganization, start there. Organization is addictive. If you taste it, you’ll crave it.
(Adapted from I Don’t Chase the Garbage Truck down the Street in My Bathrobe Anymore! Organizing for the Maximum Life)
*Scripture references from NIV
Dianne Barker is a best-selling author, speaker, journalist, and radio host. Her books include Cabbages and Kings—Reflections on Living Abundantly in Christ, Twice Pardoned (with Harold Morris), and Living Proof (with Clebe McClary). She’s a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association and Christian Authors Network. www.diannebarker.com I Don’t Chase the Garbage Truck down the Street in my Bathrobe Anymore! Organizing for the Maximum Life throws a rope to the desperate who are drowning in disorganization, giving practical strategies to organize space, time, and family chaos.
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