Perseverence Personified

Today, Bobby and I went on my kind of date. We saw The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King on the big screen. And I mean BIG. The XD theater… and I loved it! I missed it when it first came to the theaters, because I was breastfeeding around the clock and taking care of three children four and under. Seeing it reminded me that I have a blog to which I haven’t posted anything since the last time I saw this movie. The photo above shows one of my favorite scenes when Sam (of my blog post title) says, “Come, Mr. Frodo! I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you!” I’ve got to read these books!

Speaking of books, this Lent I’ve been reading a couple. I’m daily plugging away with Consecration to St. Joseph and following along with videos by Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC. And I’ve begun reading a book I got for free some time ago, and have always wanted to read, called Discernment of Spirits by Fr. Timothy Gallagher, OMV. The motivation to read it now, came from my signing up (and attending) a retreat on the Theology of the Body Institute led by the author, along with Christopher West. Also, my fascination with St. Ignatius was rekindled by reading Saint Ignatius and the Company of Jesus with the girls during school.

So here I am, filled with delight and enthusiasm for embarking on a literature study of The Lord of the Rings, or a methodical education in Theology of the Body. I’m committed to learning more about Christ’s Passion on Fridays, very curious about something called the Flame of Love devotion, and thinking that learning the practice of discernment of spirits would really come in handy. Add to this a feeling of obligation to finish searching for the perfect counter stools to complete our kitchen remodel, and to find blinds and hang up holders in my newly painted bathroom. But after spending three hours and twenty minutes with the virtuous heroes of Middle Earth, online shopping feels so lame and unimportant.

There are many things I can do with my time. I am willing and able to work and I have faith that God will give me the grace to persevere. But first, I’ll need to get my priorities straight. What is God asking me to do? Obviously, I don’t have the answer at this moment. Hopefully, he’ll let me know and ask me to blog about it soon.

A Media Binge

I just wrote in my journal:

It’s good to be reminded of the beauty of surrendering, and of the futility of hanging on to my own will.

Whaaat??!! What a difference a day makes. Why, only yesterday I was…

Let me start from the beginning.

I don’t know when it started, but I know was on a media binge. I had been reading loads of articles on my phone, and I spent a large part of Wednesday afternoon watching inauguration festivities. I don’t think I’ve ever watched one before, but for some reason I thought this one might be historically significant like 9/11 or 476 AD, so I watched it live. There were beautiful buildings. I love the architecture and hope I can see it in person someday. But the events were rather dull except for the commentary, which disturbed me more and more the longer I listened to it. I went out to adoration, prayed the rosary and talked with some friends which made me feel a little better.

Later that night, I continued to “feed” on news headlines, articles, and videos. So and so calls for such and such…

Yesterday morning, I woke up and “consumed” an article recalling the events of 2020. Then I indulged in a heaping plate of anger, with a side dish of self-pity. (I’m going all the way with this eating analogy.) I let my feelings pour out with God. I had a lot of questions, and a few requests. Maybe you could call them demands. “Why?” I was whining. “Explain this to me.” I was murmuring. (Like those crazy Israelites who forgot that God just parted the Red Sea.) I was emotional. And I’m grateful that I feel my feelings today. That wasn’t always the case. But I know from experience, that holding onto anger is no good for me or anyone around me. I went to morning Mass and began to look at my part in this situation.

Throughout the day, some truth came to mind but a sadness remained. I fluctuated from thinking of what behaviors I could change, to not accepting what I cannot change. Besides the obvious fact that a media binge is a bad idea, and the fact that I continue to support businesses that I don’t think I should be supporting, I also thought of Mary. I don’t know a lot about her apparitions, but I think she always says to pray the rosary daily. I’m really inconsistent with it. I have prayed it for years, then stopped for years. I’ll do a novena (even the 54 day ones) when I’m desperate, then stop again after she comes through to help me. I’m pretty sure when she appeared in Fatima that she said to pray it daily or Russia’s errors would spread. I’ve seen this happening. Why haven’t I been praying it? It’s only 15-20 minutes of my day.

Bobby and I have been doing our annual (in January) Lord of the Rings movie marathon. As I was vacuuming, I imagined that I felt like Sam in The Return of the King (SPOILER ALERT) when he knows Gollum is up to something, and he accuses Gollum of taking the bread. Then Gollum twists it around by accusing Sam of taking it, and with lies, tricks Frodo into believing him. Sam gets really angry, but when Frodo says, “No Sam, it’s you.” and “Go home.” Sam cries. So I guess I felt like that. Like crying.

While I was mopping the floor, I listened to some of this Taylor Marshall podcast. He talked a bit about God chastising us. He said that a good father does this to discipline his children. I’ll admit that I’ve thought of this idea before. I haven’t concluded that this is what is happening, but it’s a good possibility. It reminded me of Chapter 4 from Uniformity with God’s Will. I love the whole thing, but especially this chapter. (Audio here)

Here is the wording on chastisements:

Even chastisements come to us, not to crush us, but to make us mend our ways and save our souls: “Let us believe that these scourges of the Lord have happened for our amendment and not for our destruction.”

So that may have helped get me off the pity pot. “God wills our good” always helps. And I may have let a tear(s) fall (SPOILER ALERT) when Frodo said good-bye to Sam at the harbor.

Sam is a model of perseverence. I want to be like Sam. Frodo wouldn’t have gotten far without Sam. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.) So last night I deleted my facebook account. And this morning, when the alarm went off at 6:00 a.m. I got out of bed. And I prayed, journaled, and did some spiritual reading. The girls and I attended morning Mass. And during my lunch break I read and journaled until I was at the place I was at the beginning of this post. I think it’s natural to feel angry or sad. But I don’t want to feel bad for myself. Having a temper tantrum will not do anyone any good. I want to be brave, like Sam, and to not give up when life seems scary or difficult. And I want to mend my ways. So I surrender. I know cannot do anything without God’s help. And I don’t want to think I know what’s best.

A Media Fast

It was just one day without reading, scrolling, watching, or listening to the media.

I woke up at 6:00 a.m. to the sound of the alarm. I pressed snooze, so I could take my comfort for nine more minutes. I rationalized that I could pray lying on my back under the warm covers and I started my prayers over and over as I went back and forth between waking and sleeping. When the alarm went off the second time, I made my way into my (War Room) closet. I remembered my media fast and right away I noticed that I was feeling lighter… more free… as if I had permission to slow down and enjoy the present moment. I journaled a bit, then read the above quote and wondered if the things I’ve been thinking about recently meet these standards.

The first one, “whatever is true”, has been really hard to know these days. There is so much contradictory information out there on the Internet, that logically, cannot all be true. There cannot be evidence of election fraud and no evidence of election fraud. The vaccines cannot be both lifesaving and dangerous at the same time. Those are two examples, but there are many more. For me, it’s tempting to research the heck out of things. In some cases, I can confidently judge something based on what I’ve seen, heard, or experienced. But I often feel like it’s a he-said-she-said situation. And that usually happens because someone is lying. Or maybe he or she is in denial. (Don’t Even kNow I Am Lying) But in either case, the deceiver (even if well-intentioned) is manipulating to get his or her own way. So which narrative do we believe?

I think people are just believing the sources of information that they trust more. But are there any sources that are trustworthy?

To me, some are obviously not. As for the others, time will tell. I tend to trust what people do, more than what they say or what others say about them. In my opinion, censorship is a red flag. I know I cannot trust people or organizations that are taking away the rights of others to have a voice and to share information. They are also taking away my freedom to make informed decisions by weighing information from all sources. I want to hear arguments from all sides. Let me decide what witnesses are credible. Thinking for myself is an important part of my humanity. I don’t want it to be stifled. And expressing myself freely leads to intimacy in relationships. It’s sad that I’m already at the point where it feels like a big risk to share my thoughts, ideas, or opinions with anyone outside of my own household. Maybe I lack courage. I’m afraid of confrontation. Or I need the approval of others. I imagine that “most people” will reject me if I were to be honest. It seems we have become so full of fear that hearing an opposing view brings our anger to the surface in an instant. I tell myself that I’m being loving and kind by staying silent, so as not to upset or offend anyone. Sometimes I wonder if I may be one of a silent majority.

Not many will read this. So I’ll voice it here. I call being spoon fed the so-called truth from organizations that are afraid I’ll believe the “lies” of others – propaganda. And I’ll go even further to say that this propaganda, the censorship, and the sensationalism of the media, are causing me (and likely most of society) confusion, anger, and anxiety. And I’ll even say (in my timid, understated sort of way) that confusion and anxiety do not come from a loving source.

There is a source that is trustworthy. He is honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise. He is the Truth. He is the Light in the darkness. He is also a person, with whom I need to spend more time in order to have peace. He will give me direction and clarity. He has done it before. He never fails me.

When I take a break from the noise, I see that I am a truth seeker, but maybe I’ve been looking for truth in the wrong places. My fears make me forget what I know is true. My God loved me first, He loves me now and He will always love me. He knows everything. He has a plan for me, for my good, to give me a future full of hope. I do not need to worry or to be afraid. I know very little. He knows what I need and He gives me everything I need. He gives me ideas of things that will nourish my soul.

  • prayer and meditation
  • reading verses from Scripture
  • taking my own inventory (examen)
  • journaling
  • praying the rosary
  • devotion to Mary
  • the sacraments and adoration
  • serving others
  • talking with people about things that matter to me
  • listening to the experiences of others
  • silence, solitude
  • spiritual reading
  • sleep, good food, exercise (not caring for my body affects my soul)
  • simplicity
  • slowing down, rest
  • leisure, taking time for important things
  • enjoying the present moment
  • time outside, appreciating nature
  • beauty, truth, and goodness
  • Psalm 98 (a reminder)
  • media fasts

My Dear Jesus, please help me to trust in You. I really want to do your will. Please enlighten my mind and strengthen my will, and let me know when to speak and when to be silent.

Experiment #3: Pray and Listen


Recently, I’ve become more aware of my pride, resentment, self-reliance, fears, perfectionism, and do I really need to go on?

One day, during mental prayer, some ideas were passing through my mind. I decided that I will try to put these ideas into action. I don’t know if they will be helpful, but I don’t think they would harm me in any way.

Experiment #2

For one week, seven consecutive days, pray the Litany of Humility each morning, listen to the audiobook, Uniformity with God’s Will (St. Alphonsus Ligouri) each afternoon, and pray three Hail Mary’s each night.

Results to follow.

Book Notes: The Intellectual Life, Chapter 5

My favorite quote from this chapter, called “The Field of Work”:

“We are not much, but we are part of a whole and we have the honor of being a part.” (121)

And this is a very specific estimate of how long it would take to study theology that caught my interest:

“If you devote four hours a week to it for the five or six years needed to form the mind, that will be quite enough; afterwards you will only have to keep up what you know.

But beware above everything else of trusting false teachers. Go straight to Thomas of Acquin. Study the Summa…” (111)

Book Notes: The Intellectual Life, Chapter 4

I’m spending about six weeks on each chapter of this book.  There is so much to think about! I reread this one many times, including once last week at the beach, on vacation.  I wondered what to focus on in this post. I certainly cannot quote everything I’ve underlined.

First of all, can this be true?  I’ve never tried this.  Here is what is written about the prayer called Prime (and also Compline):

“… there are no prayers more beautiful, more efficacious, more inspiring. The majority of liturgical prayers are masterpieces; but these are full and sweet like the rising and setting of a star. Try: you will never be able to say any other prayers. All true life is in them, all nature, and to prepare your work with them is like going out on a journey through a wide-open door flooded with sunshine.” (89)

You will never be able to say any other prayers?  Baby say whaaat?!  I’ve got to try these!

Chapter 4 is called “The Time of Work” and it includes detailed sections for the continuity of work, the work of night, mornings and evenings, and the moments of plenitude. Each section is full of beautiful ideas and practical advice. (The morning one inspired me to write a morning prayer!)  But the evening is the section that had me questioning my current practices, and thinking that some changes may be helpful.

“Evening! how little, usually, people know about making it holy and quiet, about using it to prepare for really restorative sleep!” (91)

I’ll admit it. My evenings are far from holy and quiet.  Just while writing this, I stopped to help someone with her homework, to tell people (again) to turn out the light and go to sleep, and to teach someone how to put away the iron and the ironing board.  Many of my evenings are spent on the couch, next to my husband, watching a movie and eating unhealthy snacks. Then, tiredly crawling into bed after quick prayers, and staying up too late scrolling on our phones.  And before Covid 19, I was often out of the house in the evening.

“When the evening comes, they lay down the reins and throw off thought, giving their minds up to the dissipation which is supposed to refresh them, dining, smoking, playing cards, talking noisily, frequenting the theatres, or the music halls, gaping at the cinema, and going to bed with minds ‘relaxed.’

Yes, indeed, relaxed; but like a violin with all its strings completely slackened. What a labor next day to tune them all up again!” (91)

Do you know what dissipation means? It’s defined as the squandering of money, energy or resources. I found the slackened violin strings to be a good description of how I feel many mornings when I roll out of bed and shuffle to the bathroom.  The author describes a different scenario for the intellectual, which may not be entirely possible for a wife and mother, but maybe sometimes.

“… evening should be a time of stillness, his supper a light refection, his play the simple task of setting the day’s work in order and preparing the morrow’s.” (92)

I can imagine how using the evening to prepare for the next day would make life simpler. I have often said when I enter my kitchen in the morning, “It looks like we had a party last night.” But besides having a tidier home, it would be lovely to begin the next day physically and spiritually refreshed.

“In spite of the passionate and self-interested illusion of those who maintain that a part of man must be set aside for the life of pleasure, dissipation is not rest, it is exhaustion.  Rest cannot be found in scattering one’s energies.  Rest means giving up all effort and withdrawing towards the fount of life;  it means restoring our strength, not expending it foolishly.”  (92) 

He admits that there is a time for recreation, but that it’s not the normal function of the evening.  The evening is for resting in God, through prayer, and for resting our bodies, which leads up to a more complete rest that we’ll get at night.  It’s when we should follow routines and do things out of habit.

“…it is a restoration of organic life and of holy life in us by easing off happily, by prayer, silence, and sleep.” (93)

Goodnight!

I’m not really going to end there. I want to leave myself some tips from Section IV, for the times when I am actually going to work on some heavy duty studying.

  1. Be prepared.  Know what you want to do and how you want to do it.  Gather your materials. (notes, books, supplies)  Avoid having to interrupt your work to find things. (95)
  2. Set the time aside.  Start promptly.  Eat lightly beforehand. Avoid pointless conversation or calls.  Limit texting to what is strictly necessary.  Stay off social media and news sites!  (95)
  3. Avoid half-work more than anything.  Do not imitate those people who sit long at their desks but let their minds wander.  It is better to shorten the time and use it intensely, to increase its value which is all that counts…  Do ardently whatever you decide to do; do it with all your might…  Half-work, which is half-rest, is good neither for rest nor for work. (96)
  4. Invite inspiration.  Renew the “spirit of prayer.”  (96)
  5. Keep a Cerebus at your door.  That one is just to make you smile.

Room Tours: The Schoolroom

I deep clean our schoolroom annually in August. It feels good to start a new school year in a clean room. Every year, I rearrange the furniture to suit our current needs. This year is quite different than the rest. I have two children homeschooling, one who goes to a local Catholic high school, one who is attending college remotely, one who is working and living at home; and my oldest son lives in his own apartment. The room has now become a schoolroom-bedroom-gameroom-library-family room. Let me show you around.

When you first come in, the left side (shown above) is the area where we work at tables. Here we do schoolwork, arts and crafts, play board games, cards, and ping pong, draw, and paint nails.

On the right side, you can see the area where we watch movies, TV shows, or a Latin lesson. We play games, read books, go to Zoom meetings, listen to music, hang out and talk, and sometimes nap.

Behind the three book shelves, or “the library”, is Rachel’s bedroom. Rachel is fourteen now. In my Girls Room Tour, I showed the room she shared with her two younger sisters. This summer, she moved into the schoolroom temporarily, to give them all more space. It seemed to work out well for everyone, so she’s hasn’t moved back. This is her space.

Because she goes out to school early every morning, we are not bothering her when we are in here during the day, and I guess you can say that she is also not bothering us. Rachel keeps her room neat. We have been putting all of our school stuff back into the closet around three o’clock each day to keep the room tidy and available for other activities.

The cabinets and drawers (shown above) store our arts, crafts and office supplies. I posted interior pictures in 2018, when I decluttered the schoolroom. This area hasn’t changed much. I did get rid of our old computer cabinet and the two cherry cabinets, so most supplies are now stored in the schoolroom closet. The toys were moved to the closet in the girls’ room, and I also moved our games from downstairs into the schoolroom closet. The top two closet shelves still hold the the sentimental items I want to deal with before I’ll call myself a minimalist. This will require finishing up scrapbooks and much scanning.

Some of our games I put on the shelves of a new TV stand we purchased this year. When my mother was moving into her condo, she gave us a large TV she no longer wanted. Here’s the set-up.

This room is above the garage, so it can be chilly during the cold weather months. I think the fireplace insert might warm up the room. If not, it’ll make it look cozy.

I’m feeling grateful to have so much space, comfort and beauty to enjoy during this time of quarantines and social distancing. And we have no shortage of things with which to occupy our bodies and souls.


Thanks for joining me on this tour of our schoolroom. If you like room tours, check out my Room Tours category.

Experiment #2: Mrs. Sharp Revisited

5126F132-8F6C-4D6C-A09C-B178BE8B9778I recently brought an old favorite to bed with me, Mrs. Sharp’s Traditions.  I remembered how, as a newish homeschooling mother, I would read and reread the chapter called “The Art of Domestic Bliss”;  and as I did, inspiration and hope would well up inside of me and feel as if it would overflow.

Being a stay-at-home mom with young children was a challenging blessing. I would wake up hopeful most mornings, but the days were often long and loud and busy. Nursing, changing diapers, chasing toddlers, answering questions, solving problems, listening to screaming and crying, cleaning up messes, trying to teach someone to read, get someone to do their math, or their chores, trying to get everyone fed, and bathed and to sleep…

So I loved the fictional Mrs. Sharp. If the house was a wreck, (I used to say it looked like a stuff bomb went off) and the kids were wild and crazy, and I felt like I couldn’t do it anymore, I’d slip my exhausted body into a hot bath with this book.  Soon, Mrs. Sharp’s charming manners and good old-fashioned suggestions would have me convinced that I could, with a little bit of rhythm, do this mothering thing, and restore peace to my home and my soul.

Many years have passed since then.  My youngest child is now older than my oldest child was back then. I think I gave up on the idea of domestic bliss. Mealtimes have become fend for yourself, or everyone bring your plates to the living room and eat while watching our current streamed series.  Baths are a battle I don’t always pick, and keeping the house tidy is hit or miss.  I think as the children got older, and busier outside of the home, and I was spread thin, and my husband was often traveling, I just didn’t have the time or energy to enforce simple routines.

But what about now? We are all home and spending lots of time together. Summer will be ending soon, and we’ll need more structure. I say it’s time to revisit the ideas of my Victorian superhero.

“The most important aspect in the pursuit of domestic bliss is attitude.” (36)

  1. Solitude. Mrs. Sharp suggests carving out private time for yourself, at least half an hour in the early morning. Don’t all of my posts come down to this? Prayer and meditation… putting first things first…
  2. Rhythm. This foundation of harmony at home can be restored through daily rituals.  In other words, have regular mealtimes and bedtimes.
  3. Order.  Make it your priority.  As in, a place for everything and everything in its place. And work as a family to share the responsibilities around the home. Mrs. Sharp confirms, as I suspected, that children need and thrive on order, but it must at first be imposed upon them.
  4. Mealtimes. She has many ideas on this, but I’ll focus on just one.  Eat together.
  5. The Children’s Hour. Her three page description of bath and bedtime rituals was always my favorite section of the book. Reading it now makes me wish I was more consistent with it when my children were younger. Although my teenagers are independent when it comes to bathing and going to sleep, I still have nine and twelve year old girls that would benefit from “a more gentle transition from day to night.” This would consist of undivided attention during the process of tidying belongings, bathing, teeth brushing, laying out the next day’s clothing, reading aloud (or silently), prayers, tucking in, kissing goodnight and turning out the lights.

It’s not only time to revisit these ideas, but also to put them into action.

Experiment #2:

For four weeks, one day at a time, practice the following: rise 30 minutes before your family, eat meals together at regular times and at the kitchen table, ensure that everyone completes his/her morning routines and daily chores, and the Children’s Hour.

If I can focus on keeping these simple routines, I think it will improve my home, and more importantly, my attitude. We shall see. I’ll leave you with my all-time favorite Mrs. Sharp quote:

“There is no ill that can befall man, woman, or child that cannot be made more tolerable in a tidy front parlor.” (37)

 

Book Notes: The Intellectual Life, Chapter 3

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“One word suggests itself here before any other: you must simplify your life.“  (41)

I’ve been trying to simplify my life for twenty years!  And I’ve been lingering over this chapter for about six weeks.  It has so many encouraging quotes to ponder, many of which confirm ideas I’ve held for some time now, and others that are completely new to me.  Here are some of the quotes I underlined on simplification.

“a certain asceticism is the duty of the thinker.” (42)

“Contemplation… is not compatible with the complications and burdens of an excessively comfortable life.” (42)

“Much peace, a little beauty, certain conveniences that save time, are all that is necessary.” (42)

“…how will you preserve the few hours at your disposal if your life is over-full?  You must reduce matter to the minimum, so as to lighten and liberate the spirit.” (43)

“Money and attention squandered on trifles would be much better spent in collecting a library, providing for instructive travel or restful holidays, going to hear music which rekindles inspiration, and so on.” (43)

Around the time I began reading this chapter, I discovered a podcast by Dr. Christopher Perrin called Café Scholé.  I immediately listened to every episode.  Dr. Perrin defines scholé as “undistracted time to study the things that are most worthwhile.” This is something I’ve been craving, not only for myself, but also for my children.

I have had a strong desire to simplify my life because I believe it will give me the time for scholé, and in this chapter, A. G. Sertillanges confirms this. To have this time to study, you must simplify your life.  But what does this look like?

Well, for me, it started out as decluttering.  I thought paring down material possessions would make life simpler.  And it does help.  As I shared in my last post, good habits of tidying and doing chores help too.  Doing fewer activities can simplify life, but I think to be really simple,  my mind needs to put first things first.   Most important, in my opinion, is that I make time for solitude.

In Order and Solitude (Episode 8 of the podcast), Dr. Perrin does a fine job in summarizing and going deeper into the ideas in Part II of this chapter, which is called Solitude. I’ve been listening to it when I’m alone in my van and it makes so much sense to me.  I’ve been pondering these ideas for years.  Why is it that I feel scattered after spending a period of time being constantly busy? Or drained when I’ve been trying to be a good wife, mother, daughter, or friend by listening to other people talk? Or distracted by too much time spent on movies, streaming shows, and social media?  It’s a lack of solitude.

Here’s a question:  Why, having known for almost half my life, that this silence is the one thing necessary for me, do I seem to avoid it or allow other things to take it away?

I think the answer is that (although I’ve told myself I do) I haven’t always wanted to know the truth. The truth can be painful.  It can be humbling. Being busy and productive is much less scary, and it keeps up the illusion that I am greater than I really am. I’m at a time in my life now where I feel ready to face the truth.  I want to learn. (It’s why I’m reading this book.)  Here’s a quote that gives me hope and inspires me to face the truth and to persevere.

“One cannot, says St. Thomas, contemplate all the time; but he who lives only for contemplation, directs everything else towards it, and resumes it when he can, gives it a sort of continuity, as far as may be on earth.

Delight will be found in it, for ‘the cell, if you stay in it, grows sweet: cella continuata dulcescit.’  Now the delight of contemplation is a part of its efficacy.  Pleasure, St. Thomas explains, fastens the soul to its object, like a vise..”  (51-52)

My interpretation is that if I keep seeking this silence/solitude/prayer as often as I can, and I make it a priority, I will begin to enjoy it so much that its frequency will naturally increase.

That last line about pleasure fastening the soul to its object like a vise sounds powerful to me.  It inspires me to want to fast.  It makes me want to break the grip of the vise holding unworthy objects to my soul.  Objects like food, excessive entertainment, media, or even work, that allow me

“to half live while time runs by, and to sell heaven for nothings.”  (50)

As in the last chapter, this one also contains many practical tips which I’ll share here in a bulleted list.

  • Do not burden yourself with too much baggage. (41)
  • Slacken the tempo of your life. (42)
  • Do not inquire at all about the actions of others. (46)
  • Do not busy yourself about the words and actions of those in the world. (46)
  • Avoid useless outings above everything. (46)
  • Be slow to speak and slow to go to those places where people speak… (47)
  • Do not run after news that occupies the mind to no purpose… (47)
  • Do not busy yourself with the sayings and doings of the world… (47)
  • Avoid useless comings and goings which waste hours and fill the mind with wandering thoughts. (47)
  • Before giving out truth, acquire it for yourself…  (52)
  • Do what you ought and must… (58)
  • Do not forget that in association with others, even in ordinary everyday meetings, there is something to be gleaned.  (59)
  • Find the right balance between the life within and the life without, between silence and sound. (62)
  • You as a man of thought must keep in touch with what is; else the mind loses its poise. (64)
  • The spirit of silence must therefore pervade the whole of life.  (67)

Experiment #1 Results

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Here is where I’ll tell you what I learned from Experiment #1: Downsizing Eyes.

The Experiment

Imagine you are moving into a tiny one bedroom home next week.  It has a small living room, kitchen, bathroom, and very little extra storage.  What would you take with you?  What are your favorite things?  What do you use all the time?  What is most important?

What I Did

  1. I made a list of all of the areas in my home that hold items I use and/or own.  I did not include my children’s bedrooms, my husband’s study, or the shed in our yard.
  2. In each area, I examined the items found there and thought about what I would do with each one (in the experiment scenario). Would I take it with me? Should I declutter it right now?
  3. I got rid of 8 useless items and a 1 inch stack of paper.
  4. I took notes about what I got rid of, and what items I would want to take with me.
  5. I analyzed my notes taking frequency of use into account.

What I Learned

  1.  I’m almost a minimalist! I realized that most of the items in my home do not belong to me. And many of the items that belong to my husband and me, I would let go of when we downsized. I think the reason I don’t want to call myself a “minimalist” quite yet is because there are two areas in my home that I haven’t “finished” yet.  They are the basement, (where I’ll be asking my husband and my kids if they are ready to part with their stuff) and two shelves in the school room closet that contain photographs and memorabilia. Once I finish decluttering those two areas I’ll be there.
  2.  I really don’t need many possessions.  I think glasses and contact lenses would actually be my most important items.  Living without those would be very difficult.  The next most important items would be the ones I use daily and weekly.  These are toiletries, clothing, appliances, tools, some furniture and kitchenware, journals, books, my iphone, cleaning supplies, office supplies, my money belt, laptop, and van.
  3.  I discovered what items are important to me.  Although I could live without all of these, I am happy to have DVD’s, slideshows, and scrapbooks of my family.  I love that I have the crucifix that used to hang above my grandparents’ bed, and a few items that were meaningful to them.  I also love certain framed prints hanging on my walls and books sitting on my shelves even though I know that they are replaceable.
  4. The way I see my home has changed. As I knew before I started, this experiment didn’t help me to get rid of any of my husband or my children’s possessions. I have often felt overwhelmed by the amount of stuff in our home.  It felt like I was always trying to catch up and I was always going to be behind.  I think this has helped me to see reality more clearly.  I can easily take care of my own stuff.  I can set boundaries and my family members can take care of their own stuff.  I am also reminded by my mother’s experience, that this is only a season in my life. I am grateful that I still have the presence of these wonderful people in our home.
  5. I can focus on maintenance.  (That is, after I go through my last two areas.) I have a tendency to procrastinate dealing with paperwork.  I can focus on keeping up with the paper coming in and not allowing my kitchen desk to accumulate clutter. I can work with my family on the habit of putting items back into their homes. When we do our regular kitchen, bathroom and laundry chores, the house looks good.  If we add in tidying up our own stuff once or twice a day, then it will look even better.

In Conclusion

I plan to set aside time to work on the last two areas. I’ll be calling myself a minimalist by the end of 2020!  I will also get the whole family involved in consistently taking care of our home and possessions. Maybe that will be one of my next experiments.