After reading today's Gospel this morning, I felt compelled to write this post that I have been putting off for lack of time. But now, as all the children are either napping or otherwise happily occupied, I think I will tackle it.
Recently there has been a buzz about the blogging world about living with simplicity and being detached from our material possessions. While I am sure she is not the first person to ever blog on this topic, a lovely Catholic mommy blogger recently created a most noteworthy entry. I was truly amazed at her ability to live with such simplicity and beauty. Our world tells us to want, want, want, buy, buy, buy, shop, shop, shop. And what Kristen has demonstrated is that we don't have to live this way. We can live with just a little and do it with style and grace.
The other wonderful thing is the effect that her entry has had on others in the blogsphere. What an opportunity to remember that we can use our blogs for good or evil, to build up or tear down. What would our Lord want? I think we all know the answer and I am grateful for Kristen for using hers for goodness, beauty and encouragement. I know I have felt inspired by what she showed us and I know others have felt this as well. I know my home and my clothing or toy choices will not be exactly like Kristen's. They don't have to be. But it has led me to want to have less. To do without. To clean out, declutter and simplify. We can all do with less. Think about how little many a nun possesses in her humble cell. So while we can reap earthly benefits from this simple living and detachment (peace, cleanliness, order), we must remember that our motivation should be as Kristen noted, that of having our hearts in the right place and storing up our treasure in Heaven.
Before I move on to a little more of my own ideas, I would also lie to draw your attention to her question and answer post for today. In this, she does a lovely job of answering some hard questions. She provides answers that show great thoughtfulness, charity and consideration. Great job again!
I think if you polled those who know me well, I tend already towards living a pretty organized and uncluttered lifestyle. Not to pat myself on the back. Often my need to be free of clutter and stuff and mess is a burden and a detriment. It can keep me from the important things in life - the people, especially the little ones that cause most of the disorder. But even though I may be organized, I still know we have way too much stuff. I think one can have order and organization, but still have too many things! Even lots of stuff can be organized and neat!
My husband got a little scared when I said I wanted to get rid of more stuff. I already throw out stuff and purge periodically. I believe we are still living in this 1900 square foot house with 4 kids because I have thrown out and donated over the years. (And that would be 1900 square feet and no basement - none of those here in Houston.) But even he sees the reality of this need. Not because we are running out of space (maybe just a tad) but because it is better for us spiritually. Stuff gets us nowhere. So I have been thinking a lot the past couple of days about where to begin this process of simplification. And I think that is what it is - simplifying. I already do the throwing out and organizing. But the types of questions I have to ask myself now are things like "Do I really need 10 oven mitts?" Yes, I think I really do have 10! Gifts, ones I've held onto for years, hand-me-acrosses. But they are excess. I always use the same two really good ones anyway. This is the kind of work I'm looking at here.
Now, before I progress, I must state that this sort of thinking in NO WAY applies to books. You can never have too many - of the really good kinds, that is. I do clean out books, but only to make room for more! There. I feel better now!
Since we are planning a garage sale in July, I have been saving the bags of stuff I cleaned out last month. This was mostly crafty stuff I haven't used in a long time. In the next couple of weeks I am going to start seriously cleaning out everything else - every cabinet, drawer, etc. Whatever isn't sold, we will donate to the local thrift/resale shop.
One of the things that struck me about Kristen's post was her take on clothing. I admire her for how she does it, but I'm not sure I am there yet. Not sure I ever will be. But what I do want is to hold on to less and make an effort to reduce the amount the children have. I have held on to all the children's clothing. We received most of our little girl clothes as beautiful hand me downs. It would have cost me a fortune to buy all those things. And I cannot financially justify getting rid of most of the clothing since as far as I know I am nowhere near the end of my childbearing years. Most of what we have is in great shape and works for all the seasons. With Jacob born in December and Andrew born in July, there were often things I couldn't reuse for both.
Most of the little girl and baby girl clothes are packed far up in a closet and since I am not going to be getting them down any time soon, I think we'll go through those at a later date. But as I trudge through all the boy clothes for a third time, I plan to rid ourselves of the excess as we pull out each box of sizes. For me, it is more practical at this time for the children to have a decent selection of clothes. With four very small children, I cannot physically keep up with doing laundry as often. And my boys are messy!!!! I cannot bear to allow them to wear the nicer clothes anywhere near food. Or the outdoors. Or markers. Or much of anywhere. Just today Andrew needed 3 changes of clothes. So I will be reducing the number of outfits, but I still need a good stock.
Of course, I will once again purge toys. I do a pretty good job keeping on top of this, but we could still use to cut back even more. A couple of weeks ago, I revamped my toy rotation system so that they have fewer buckets of toys to choose from on a weekly basis. It is funny because all the other buckets are easily accessible upstairs, but since no one likes to play up stairs by themselves, nobody is dragging them out! Under this new system, I have been able to observe well what is really getting played with as we rotate toys in and out. As with the clothing we have, I feel in a bind about toys too. Like many families, we have both boy and girl and baby toys which adds to the sheer number and variety. I can't get rid of every baby toy - there could still be more babies. I do my best to donate what doesn't get played with or extras of things, but sometimes it still feels like a lot. On a free day, I will go through once again and see where I can simplify. There is always room for less.
Another big project will be the kitchen. We have everyday dishes, nice dishes (actually a set of old Depression Glass dishes I collected for many years), crystal and serving pieces. I love dishes, especially old kitchen utensils and antique glassware, etc. from the 30s, 40s and 50s. What I will be looking for here are those things (like oven mitts) that I have too many of and those things I haven't used in YEARS or ever! Without even opening a cabinet, I could name an awful lot of things to get rid of.
Other than just going through all the odd closets and drawers in the house, the only other big grouping I need to work on is my clothing and, Brian, his. It is so easy to do when I stand there and ask myself, "How long has it been since I've worn this??????" Well, being as I have just finished pregnancy a short four months ago, there is actually a lot I haven't worn. :))) But I will. Still, there is plenty that can go. Toss. Toss. Toss.
I am thoroughly looking forward to working on all this. I am an organizer and purger at the very core. I take delight in organizing just about anything. If I ever needed that extra income, I think I would love to organize other people's stuff.
But I am so thankful to Kristen for making me think about it differently. Not just an efficiency and space issue, but as a spiritual issue. I have to dig deep and ask God to help me see what place my stuff truly has in my life. It has to be put in proper perspective and I have to be able to teach my children it's proper place as well. My job as a mother and wife is to help my family get to Heaven. This is one of many ways I can try to do that.
help me to let go,
give me the courage to go without,
and grace me with contentment in the process.
Give the words and example to teach my children
to love you above all things.