1. What prompted you to write Uncluttered? Who are you trying to reach with Uncluttered?
I came to a place of feeling absolutely overwhelmed by the too muchness of my life: my stuff, my schedule, my constantly ringing-pinging-buzzing smart phone. After years of cramming more and more into my home and calendar, I’d come to a breaking point and something had to give!
As I pondered and prayed, God began to lead me—and my husband and our kids, too—down a path toward greater Christian simplicity. Uncluttered is the story of trimming back our possessions and schedules and digital lives. But even more than that, it’s a story of the deeper and more lasting joys God gave to us in return, once we finally had time and space to receive them.
The book is for anyone who has ever felt overwhelmed by the too muchness of it all. It’s for people who feel burdened by their possessions, enslaved by their schedule, or sidetracked by their social media. If you want to experience the joy and freedom of Christian simplicity, Uncluttered can help you get started.
2. Why do you think having less makes us happier? Do you think God planned this?
I love how Jesus frames it in Matthew 6—God feeds the birds and clothes the lilies, and will care for us in just as tender a way. Yet we are all tempted to hoard and cling and live in fear.
The beauty of Christian simplicity is that, as we have and do less, God begins to teach us to live with open hands. Instead of holding tightly to our possessions, our busyness, our smart phones, we begin finding our satisfaction in the one who created us, in our families and our neighbors, and in a healthy cycle of worship, work, rest, and play. That is a happy way to live.
3. Americans have been really receptive to Marie Kondo’s de-cluttering method featured on Netflix. Kondo’s method addresses the material goods in the home, but you’re also tackling the clutter in the soul–why is this so important?
Home clutter is a serious issue, for sure, and the first couple of chapters in Uncluttered focus on shelves and closets and material possessions. But the harder, deeper, more beautiful work is uncovering why we’re tempted to have and do too much and what God wants to give us instead.
When our souls are cluttered by distraction and busyness, it’s much harder to hear and follow and learn from Jesus. The good news is that Jesus is in the business of uncluttering souls!
4. In your book, you stopped asking “What do I need to get rid of?” and started asking “What do I need to keep?” How was that essential in your process?
I once heard a sermon about tithing where the pastor talked about how giving 10% of his income to God sounded like so much money until he realized he got to keep 90%! When we remember that everything we own comes from and belongs to God, suddenly giving 10% back sounds like a really good deal.
Taking a few items of clothing to the thrift store felt like I was giving away a lot, until I looked at my closet and realized I still had items in there that I never even wore.
Don’t look at what you are giving away. Look at what remains. Is it enough or is it too much? When we have more than what we need or do more than God calls us to do, it only burdens us.
5. You’re so honest and candid in your writing–have you always been this open? And how do you think that has influenced spiritual transformation in your life?
I don’t know any other way! My husband and I practice this same candor in our marriage and ministries. Generally we believe that if we live it, we want to talk about it, and if we’re talking about it, we’d better be living it!
On top of that, I come from a family where humor was our second language. That’s a really freeing way to grow up because it means the little mistakes of life are opportunities for learning and laughter. Much of my writing openness comes from growing up with two parents who loved to laugh and two sisters who have wonderfully witty senses of humor and helped me never take myself too seriously.
Jesus calls us to perfection but knows we won’t ever measure up. That’s where grace and growth come in. And when we can laugh, it’s heaps easier to heal and learn and grow.
6. For people hesitant about making changes, what would you say to them to encourage them to give uncluttering a try?
I’d say start small and see how it feels! Often if you begin by practicing one Sabbath day of rest or uncluttering one drawer or eliminating one event from your calendar, it will feel so good you’ll want to keep going and going.
Uncluttered isn’t a “How-To” book on all the changes I think you should make in your life. It’s a joyful invitation to follow Jesus more deeply into wonderfully life-giving practices of Christian simplicity. After a little taste of the joy and freedom this simpler life brings, it’s hard to stop.
Courtney Ellis is the associate pastor for Spiritual Formation and Mission at Presbyterian Church of the Master. She holds degrees from Wheaton College, Loyola University of Chicago, and Princeton Theological Seminary, and has been published in Christianity Today Women. She is a sought-after speaker for leadership and women’s retreats, MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), and young adult ministries. Courtney resides in Southern California with her family.
Uncluttered is not a formula about what “stuff” you need to give up. It’s about slowing down long enough for God to remind you of his truth and what it means to be his child.
With humor, wit, and wisdom, Courtney Ellis covers topics like:
- Stuff: Why more is not always better
- Technology: How to ‘turn off’
- Schedule: How to say no
- The Secret of Simplicity
- Sabbath: Receiving the gift of rest
- Uncluttered Kids: Simple, soulful parenting
Uncluttered ushers you towards a lifestyle of holiness and joy in the Lord. Author Courtney Ellis’ sharp wit, clever humor, and profound insights will not only take you on an exciting journey through her walk with the Lord, but will also lead you to uniquely experience yours. Find out what happens when you simply put God first.