Vacate Clutter Day 5

How did these make it through so many kitchen purges? Not today!

I did not follow my plan of resting after lunch. In the morning I worked on the kitchen cabinets and drawers, an extra kitchen closet, and part of the pantry. Then my mom came over for a visit and lunch.

After she left, I couldn’t leave the pantry unfinished. It was tedious looking at all of those teeny expiration dates with my fifty-one year old eyes. The room is not well lit and my eyes were never great anyway. I got glasses when I was three and hard contact lenses when I was eight. When I was three-fourths of the way through, I started writing the month and year on the box/can with a Sharpie marker. If those items are still there on my next pass through the pantry, the dates should be easy to read.

I was on a roll, so I did the dining room, an Easter decorations bin that was in the dining room, and my kitchen desk. Though I go through my desk cabinets and drawers regularly, there were still so many items to file, throw away, relocate, ask Bob about, and “to do” at a later time. I’m also taking notes of items to purchase (such as coffee for guests) and future projects to work on (such as updating checklists or organizing our power outage supplies).

After dinner, I started sorting items in the basement. I did this the whole time Bob was working out down there. He guesses it was one hour and twenty minutes. I now have a list of basement categories to deal with this week. Time to rest and eat popcorn.

Vacate Clutter Days 3 & 4

Day 3

Sunday was a light day because I try to rest on Sundays. I only sorted a pile of books someone gave me last summer. There were some interesting ones that I haven’t decided about yet, and I have a box to go out the door.

Day 4

Today I started with my portion of the Master Bathroom. Bobby’s things are all out on the counter and the floor. I think he’ll go through them soon.

Cleaning drawers is very satisfying, and thinking about reorganization is tempting. After spending too much time on that, I realized that I need to focus on just decluttering or there is no way I’ll get through my checklist during vacation. My daughter Sarah already called my plan “ambitious”, which is code for “I don’t think you’ll finish that much in one week.”

Next up was the Utility Closet. I didn’t think of taking a before photo. Here is the stuff that was in it, and an after photo.

My method was: 1. Empty closet. 2. Relocate items. (I decided to move extra boxes of facial tissues to the bathrooms, car cleaners and shoe/boot sprays to the laundry room cabinets, and hand sanitizer – I do not know where yet.) 3. Throw away trash. 4. Put the keepers back in the closet neatly.

I also decluttered my Laundry Room/Half Bath and the Upstairs (Kids) Bathroom. These were recently remodeled so I didn’t take pictures. I’ll do Room Tours posts on them when I have time. But not this week because I am focused!

Vacate Clutter Day 2

Just a quick update…

I decluttered my bedroom. It’s not finished because Bobby hasn’t gone through his stuff yet. I went through all of my non-clothing items and it took longer than expected. (It’s hard to not get sidetracked when purging reading materials.) I am getting rid of seven items and some paper.

I realized that many of the books in my closet (shown below) are study projects that I hope to do in the future.

Note to self: If you continue to minimize possessions, you’ll reap the benefits of a well-ordered home. One of these will be more time to focus on the study projects you are hoping to do. So don’t give up!

Vacate Clutter Day 1

I started with the living room. I emptied the drawers and shelves. I moved some items to the rooms where they belong, threw away some trash, and got rid of a remote we don’t use. Then I put what we are keeping back in their places neatly. I also dusted and vacuumed while I was at it. If you want to see photos, check out my “Room Tours: The Living Room” post. The room looks almost the same as it did then. The Wii U and accessories have moved upstairs and we no longer have that white pillow. I didn’t get rid of any DVD’s this time around. I have a commitment tomorrow morning. If I have time to continue in the afternoon I will. I asked half my family the questions on pages 54-55 in The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker. We all agreed that this is an inviting space that encourages conversations, and is easy to maintain. One room down, loads more to go!

Vacate Clutter Vacation

I just sent a text in my family’s group chat about the whole house declutter I plan to do during the upcoming school vacation week.

“Can you think of a catchy name for my project?” I asked.

Matthew, my oldest, who’s 22 (and the only one to respond), suggested Vacate Clutter Vacation. So naturally, I looked up the definition of vacate. To leave a place that one previously occupied. Perfect. I’m going to stay home this week, and send the clutter on a permanent vacation.

You can see the areas I will go through listed above. I’ll likely skim through some books I own to psych myself up. I plan to get as far as I can each morning, then stop at lunch time, leaving the rest of the day for prayer and recreation. Doesn’t this sound like a healthy, balanced approach? It’s not my usual way…

I’ll post my progess here daily.

Book Notes: The Intellectual Life, Chapter 6

Chapter 6 is titled “The Spirit of Work”. In this post, I will be concentrating on Part II. Concentration.

“Nothing is so disastrous as to keep turning one’s attention this way and that.” (127)

I may be guilty of this. After all, it has been six months since my last post on this book. I have most recently turned my attention to discernment of spirits. It’s my idea du jour. I thought about doing a series of posts on it and realized that I should first finish what I’ve already started. In my defense, I don’t actually flit daily from one thing to the next. I can focus for months on something.

“… let your soul be all intent on whatever it is that is established in your mind as a dominant, wholly absorbing idea.” (127)

I just spent the month of March watching four seasons of the TV Series Heroes. Three-fourths of my daughters are into Milo Ventimiglia. They love him as Jess Mariano of Gilmore Girls, we all love him as Jack Pearson of This Is Us, and now we know him as Peter Petrelli, argueably the most virtuous character of Heroes. I don’t recommend the show – full of violence, gore and bad moral decisions – but I hung in there because I enjoyed the Heroes group chat with Bobby and my two older daughters. We posted theories, predictions, memes, etc. And we had a lot of laughs together. My point is that I can focus my attention.

“Make an orderly series of your different studies, so as to throw yourself into them completely. Let each task take entire hold of you, as if it were the only one.” (127)

I’ve been kind of doing this since my last Book Notes post. There was listening to media while Bobby and I worked out in the basement, a big Christmas movies binge, Hobbit, Lord of the Rings and John Wick marathons, the bathroom and kitchen remodels, the laundry room closet remodel, and the St. Joseph consecration. I’ve thrown myself into these, they’re just not studies.

One noticeable difference is that these are activities that involve my family members. I wonder if I have trouble committing to studying because it is an activity that I do on my own. Do I not think it’s important? I wonder why I am able to break a house project down into tasks, prioritize them, and plug away at them until it is finished. But when it comes to studies, I flit, I float, I fleetly flee, I fly.

“We must allow each thing its separate place, do it in its own time, provide all the conditions necessary for the work, devote to it the fullest resources at our disposal, and once it has been brought to a successful issue, pass on quietly to something else. It is incredible what results one accumulates in that way without wearing oneself out in fussy agitation.” (128)

A. G. Sertillanges states that, of course, we may have several undertakings going on at once. And we concentrate on one at a time. When the turn of one comes, we put the other aside. There is one last quote from this section on concentration that I underlined.

“To dig and dig into the same hole is the way to get down deep and to surprise the secrets of the earth.” (129)

I am so motivated now to concentrate on my studies in an more orderly fashion. I want to allow myself the time it takes to go deeper into topics I feel led to explore.

Where Do Messages Come From?

The Holy Land for Holy Week (Jerusalem, September 2014)

It’s a good question to mull over on a rainy Sunday afternoon. First, let me answer the question: Where did this question come from? I recently watched a YouTube video by The Minimal Mom called “The Silent To-Do List“. If you’re an aspiring minimalist, it’s worth the watch. (I plan to use the “filter” in my next round of decluttering.) If not, then here’s what I want to consider today.

She says that Fumio Sasaki, in his book Goodbye, Things, states that every single material item in our house is sending out a message to us. His proposal is that as the things are telling us to do something, they are adding to our to-do list.

So we are carrying around this subconscious to-do list. She adds that as she has simplified her home, her silent to-do list has gotten shorter. This makes sense to me and has been my experience. I was ironing in my foyer as I listened, and taking a quick look around I “heard” many messages. I jotted them down along with their potential sources.

  • the red cooler, “Hannah needs to wash it”
  • the mesh, stuffed animal hammock, “I need to hang it”
  • cabinet fillers, “I need to finish the laundry room project”
  • broken hutch door, “I need to fix it or get it repaired”
  • dining room blinds, “They need to be fixed”

I realize that this is how I actually come up with many ideas for my physical to-do list. But how much of a burden do I put upon myself with the silent to-do list? Sure, I often write things down believing that it clears my head. But I’ll bet those messages keep on coming whether or not I’ve written them down. Why do my lists seem so long? Am I overextended? Do I procrastinate? Am I a perfectionist? Do we have too many possessions? And I cannot ignore the fact that I don’t believe inanimate objects are capable of messaging. So where are these messages coming from?

My first possibility is me. They are my thoughts. This appears to be confirmed by information I received from my husband while explaining the concept to him. I found out that we get completely different messages from the same object. A pile of napkins on the table might tell me that I need to put them away in the drawer where they are kept. But they may tell him that he should buy a napkin holder. I couldn’t tell if he was serious or not, but he said our kitchen is telling him that it needs more things on the walls and more doodads. So while I’m hearing that we need to simplify, he’s hearing that we need to buy more.

Can I conclude that we are giving ourselves these messages? I don’t think so. I remember hearing in a talk by Fr. John Hardon called Temptation/Inspiration that our thoughts are never entirely just our own. I believe this to be true. Our minds are never operating alone, but under the constant influence of intelligent forces outside of our minds and wills. Ultimately, they all come from one of the two types of spirits.

This brings me to the second possibility. The messages are either from the Holy Spirit or the evil spirit. And because I’ve come to the end of my writing time, this is a satisfactory answer to me for now. Practicing the discernment of spirits will help me to recognize the sources of my inspirations and those thoughts I hope to reject. Holy Week is here. I will try to be more aware of my thoughts and spend more time in prayer. And to help, I will limit the messages I am hearing from external sources by culling my to-do lists, paring down possessions, and fasting from media. Have a Blessed Week!

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.