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Ruth Soukup: Unstuffed

New York Times bestselling Author, Ruth Soukup, shares her personal story on how she took back her life. Read Transcript

Clutter-- it can destroy your home, even your life.

Do you own too much stuff, and maybe it's more

like all your stuff owns you?

Take a look.

NARRATOR: Have you noticed it yet?

Take a look around-- your home, your car, your purse.

Clutter, lurking in corners and closets,

spilling onto counters and tables-- it's everywhere.

"New York Times" bestselling author Ruth Soukup says clutter

can be physical, mental, or even spiritual.

After going through a two-year bout with depression,

she knows how difficult dealing with internal and external

clutter can get.

When will enough be enough?

Why is there never room for the things that actually matter?

But more importantly, how do we change the pattern?

NARRATOR: In her new book, "Unstuffed,"

she shares how to declutter your home, your mind, and your soul,

and get rid of the stuff once and for all.

Well, joining us now is the author

of "Unstuffed," Ruth Soukup.

Ruth, it's so good to have you here.

Thank you much for having me.

How did this become something you knew needed

dealing with in your life?

I think it was the stress, really--

that it just felt like there was this constant weight

on my shoulders that I couldn't always place why it was there.

And I would spend a lot of time moving stuff around

and thinking that my problem was an organization problem--

like if I could just find the right system,

if I could just find the right box, or the right bin,

or the right basket, I'd get it in there

and everything would be fixed.

And my life would make sense, and I would be less stressed,

and I wouldn't be so overwhelmed.

And it never worked.

It doesn't ever work.


You know, even when you find the right container or bin

for the one thing you're looking for,

something else shows up that needs a place.


It's really quite crazy.

Talk a little bit about the value of being uncluttered,

and even how you begin that process.

So a different way of thinking, isn't it?

It's a different way of thinking, yeah.

I think the physical stuff in our lives

is so similar to the mental stuff in our lives too.

And it's all sort of at this manifestation

of the same problem, which is that we're

filling our lives with all of this stuff,

whether it's a busy schedule or clutter filling up our homes,

all the physical stuff that's cluttering up our homes--

or even the way that we, you know, fill

our lives with superficial friendships

that don't really, like, get to our souls.

And allow them to demand time from--


--what they'd really like to be doing.

So all these demands on our time, all these demands

on our attention, and all sort of for the same purpose, where

we're trying to fix something and we're

trying to solve a problem that we know is there,

but we can't quite place.

And we're trying-- we think something

is going to be the solution to this problem,

and none of that stuff ever works.

So where do you begin?

You talk about having a vision for your home.

That was really thought provoking for me.

I sat, as I read your book, and thought, well, how do

I want people to see my home?

And that was a change for you too.

Definitely a huge change.

You know, we did a remodel a few years back,

about six years ago.

And I had this vision.

I had been collecting magazines for years of what I wanted

and what I thought that I wanted for my home,

and I gave absolutely no thought to the actual state

of my home and the fact that I had two little kids at home

and a dog.

And so we bought new furniture, and my toddler destroyed it.

And what my toddler didn't destroy, the dog destroyed.

And I was totally unrealistic.

I had this vision.

So I was buying stuff to fit the vision,

but I wasn't buying stuff to actually fit my home.

And it was a real eye-opening experience, and a painful,

kind of expensive lesson.

But also, I realized that in the end, how I want my home

to feel when I walk in is so much more

important than some sort of vision of-- that's

totally unrealistic and totally unattainable.

So in a way, you had to give yourself permission

to be free of what you thought others expected of you or even

what you expected of yourself.

Yes, absolutely.

The freedom to be honest with yourself

about how you use your home is really the most important step,

and the first step in getting rid

of stuff, because then you realize what I need

and what I don't need.

And you realize that those throw pillows

that look so cute at Target are actually just ending up

on the floor, and they don't look so cute on the floor.

I just put a bunch of them in a large black garbage

bag in my storage area.

Throw pillows?

I love throw pillows.

They are the bane of my husband's existence,

I will be totally honest.

I think every man feels that way, actually.


Talk a little bit, if you will, about the depression

that she went through in your life,

and how you felt at that time, and how

that impacted the cluttering of your mind and your heart.

Well, I went through a really serious depression in my early


My senior year of college, I ended up attempting suicide

several times.

I was hospitalized for almost two and a half years

off and on.

And it was just-- you know, at the end of that,

I had lost everything.

I had filed for bankruptcy.

I was married at the time-- I ended up divorced.

I had lost my friends.

I was dropped out of school.

I had literally nothing.

And I sort of had to learn how to build my life up from there.

But also, I lost my faith at that same time.

And I had grown up in a Christian home

and was going to a Christian college.

And because I was-- you know, I was

memory-- I was having these memories of sexual abuse

when I was a kid, I sort of gave up on God,

and said I don't want to have anything to do with that.

And a life with the absence of God was so overwhelming for me

that that's why I became suicidal.

And so it took me-- so I began to recover from the depression,

but it took me a lot longer to find my faith again.

And I like to say that I gave up on God,

but God never gave up on me.


Absolutely not.

And so it was the sort of journey, then,

through my adult life of always trying

to fill this hole inside me.

And I've-- you know, I've written about this before.

And my blog is called Living Well, Spending Less, which

I started because-- not because I'm a money saving expert,

but just the opposite-- because I'm

kind of a disaster with money, and I was spending,

and I was shopping, and I was always trying to fill up

my life with stuff to try to fill this hole that was inside

of me, and that could only be filled with one thing, which

was grace.

You know, I'm smiling at your story,

because I'm just thinking of Romans 8:28-- you know,

that all things work together for good

to those that love God.

So true.

This cluttering, and this-- this emptiness,

and desire for more, God has now turned around and given you

restoration in your own life, and then

a message that really does hit home.

As I read your book, I mean, there's

so much in here for all of us to really contemplate and think


How are our souls cluttered sometimes?

I think our souls are cluttered with this idea

that we are responsible for our own salvation.

And we live in a very do-it-yourself culture.

And so this message-- you know, along with this message

that stuff is going to solve our problems,

is this message that you need to pull yourself up

by your bootstraps.

And even in the Christian world, the message

is that you have to pray the right prayers,

and you have to read the right Bible studies,

and you have to say the right things,

and that yes, you have to listen to the right radio stations.

And so you can go to church, and you

can have this moment on mountaintop,

and you have to continually be achieving that mountaintop

moment all the time, and that's how you save yourself.

But we don't save ourselves.

Christ saves us, and the gift has already been given.

And so learning to accept grace and understand

that we don't do it-- God loves us

and wants us to live unstuffed lives not because

of what we do, but because of what He's already done for us.


I think of how scripture says he came to set the captive free.

And that's one thing that's evident in the book,

is how encaptured we are by things, by schedule,

by people around us.

But you're saying the takeaway message

for this book is you can be set free.


TERRY MEEUWSEN: You can have a new start.


TERRY MEEUWSEN: How has it changed your life?

It's just freedom.

It's this freedom from the guilt of constantly--

TERRY MEEUWSEN: Performance, really.

Yes, performance--


--of the expectation that I am supposed to be something,

some vision of what everybody else thinks I'm supposed to be,

or the vision of success, or the vision of happiness,

or the vision of a beautiful home and the perfect mom.

I don't need to have any of that stuff because I'm not.

I'm not that stuff.

They did a really great job with my hair and makeup,

but for the most part, I am a mess.

And I am a flawed person who needs grace every single day.


Ruth, thank you so much for being here.

If you want to learn more, Ruth's book

is called "Unstuffed-- Decluttering Your Home, Mind,

and Soul," and it's available wherever books are sold.


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