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How to Stop Being a Control Freak at Home and Get Back Your Joy

  • Veronica Neffinger

    Veronica Neffinger wrote her first poem at age seven and went on to study English in college, focusing on 18th century literature. When she is not listening to baseball games, enjoying the…

  • 2017 Nov 14

I remember my first experience having a living space without my parents. It was my second year of college and I had moved off campus with two roommates. Although our apartment was much more suited to practicality than to homeyness, it seemed like a whole new world of exciting possibilities to me to be able to manage this whole house with only two friends helping.

I can’t help but smile when I think back on that time in my life. Although I had regularly done chores and household tasks before then, that was my first experience truly being in charge of a household, including the tasks of laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning the bathroom, and a myriad of other everyday tasks. I smile when I think of this new experience because what was so new then quickly became mundane and routine.

Now, when I think of the household tasks that need to be done, even in the small apartment where my husband and I live, the list is long and it often feels like I am racing the clock to fit them all in every week.

It often feels like, what with work, social events, church activities, and other life commitments, I can barely keep up with loading the dishes into the dishwasher and sweeping the floors.

Jenna Fleming addresses this feeling of being overwhelmed and stressed due to household tasks in her article for Revive Our Hearts titled “Home: A Place to Manage, Not Master.”

Fleming starts off by sharing a typical scenario in her home life: her alarm rings at six a.m. and from there she is catapulted without feeling ready into a whirlwind of making breakfast, getting ready, cleaning the kitchen, and attempting to get her energetic kids ready for school.

She then contrasts this chaotic (but very relatable) scene with how she would ideally like for her mornings to go:

“I get a head start in the mornings before the kids, always one step ahead. Quiet time, coffee, a load of laundry, and a shower would have already been checked off the list. I would be refreshed and cheerful, ready to start the new day and cook a fine breakfast for the family, other than the usual popping a waffle in the toaster. ...Ah, sheer serenity,” she writes.

Perhaps this is the kind of scenario you feel like you are always striving for as well. I know I often feel like I am just trying to get that one step ahead. But reading Fleming’s story made me realize something: since I can even feel overwhelmed and stressed by all I think I need to accomplish in the home, and I don’t even have any children yet and my husband is very helpful with housework, then it will likely only get “worse.”

What, then, is the solution?

As Fleming has come to realize, we don’t need to strive for perfection. Instead, we are free to do what we can and be content with the reality of life’s messiness.

The reality is that God has called most of us to simple, everyday tasks (as I write about here), and we have an opportunity to glorify Him even in these seemingly thankless and never-ending things on our to-do lists.

He has called us to work as unto Him and not for our own glory, but He also promises to be with us, even (especially!) on those difficult mornings.

As Fleming reminds us, “Home is a place to manage, not master...Manage is not control.”

She goes on to say that, what God may be requiring of us is simply to let go of holding so tightly to our to-do lists and to make our homes a place of respect and kindness, to make sure our children feel valued and noticed.

This is truly a better mark of a well-managed household than spotless floors or folded laundry. And perhaps, if you’re like me, this is something of which you need to remind yourself often.

“Glorifying God through loving those in our care is at the heart of managing the home, though it's often messy and full of mistakes. I think this is what Paul meant [in 1 Timothy 5:15 and Titus 2:4-5]. We don't direct our family like chess pieces but serve them as gifts from God to be treasured and loved,” concluded Fleming.

Do you struggle with striving for perfection and needing control when it comes to the running of your household? How can you surrender this tendency to Jesus today?


Photo courtesy: Unsplash/NeONBRAND

Publication date: November 14, 2017

Veronica Neffinger is the editor of