Experiment #4 Results

Here is where I tell you what I learned from Experiment #4: Quiet Time.

The Experiment

Slow down for one week. Do only necessary work. Be as quiet as possible. Do not initiate any movie nights or put on any music. Stay away from social media and news. Spend lots of time ouside, and rest.

What I Did

Sunday: I went to Mass with my family. I followed our usual after Mass routine of eating a meal while watching a week’s worth of Frank James You Tube videos. I skipped other videos that I usually watch, but that my family does not enjoy. Next, I posted homeschool curricula for sale online. I sold some and prepared them for shipping. I sat on the deck reading meditations and planning out the week. Then I did some more questionable work (necessary or unnecessary?) to please my daughter Sarah. Rachel and I helped her put together her new bed and bedding. I spent time praying and journaling. I made dinner. I prayed the rosary while talking a walk outside. At night, I watched a movie with Bobby that he initiated and chose. Then I ironed Bob’s clothes and made his breakfast for the next day. When I had trouble falling asleep, I looked at homeschool curricula on my phone in bed.

Monday: I woke up 15 minutes before my alarm went off (unusual) and started the day on my phone again. I was looking at Home Bunch, a website that I use to get decorating ideas for my home, or maybe as a distraction, or as a reason to snuggle under the covers longer. I wrote in my journal: I get scared if I don’t sleep enough I’ll get sick. I had trouble falling asleep – uncomfortable – and woke up early. I hope my new “strategy” is not too busy. I already feel rushed in my “slow down” week. I’m planning unnecessary work. I went to a 7:15 AM Mass, prayed the rosary in the van, and returned empty cans at a grocery store while waiting to meet my mom and sister for breakfast. I dropped a package off at the post office, then stopped at the Home Depot to purchase some electrical items for Sarah’s room. I read one of Sarah’s novels aloud to the girls, then took a two hour nap. I picked up and cleaned the house all afternoon, made dinner, went to a meeting on Zoom, then watched a movie with Bobby and the girls. I was up late again reading something on my phone.

Tuesday: I woke up sick. I changed my plans to staying home all day. I spent time journaling, praying, reading more of Sarah’s The Chapstick Chronicles to the girls, talking on the phone with a friend, and then I felt worse. I thanked the Lord for really slowing me down. It was more quiet than I had planned and I believed that he chose what was best for me. Bobby brought us take-out for dinner. I watched a movie with the family at night. All I had to do for it was sit still on the couch.

Wednesday: Too sick to do anything. No reading, no writing. No work. I watched two movies. Probably initiated them. I tried to pray a little.

Thursday: I felt a little better. I shopped online, started thinking about homeschool planning, read The Chapstick Chronicles, and spent the afternoon on the deck doing a crossword puzzle. It was beautiful out. Then I did laundry, cleaned the kitchen, and made dinner. I was busy and unaware of God’s Presence. I started looking into history curriculum, showered, shaved, went to a Zoom meeting and watched a movie with Bobby and the girls. At bedtime, I was up coughing and couldn’t get comfortable so I shopped online for Hannah’s summer reading books and read some news articles. When I realized I said I wouldn’t read those this week, I read the Intro to Consoling the Heart of Jesus into the early morning.

Friday: Still sick. I journaled a long time. Guess I had a lot to say. Read meditation books and some scripture verses and more of The Chapstick Chronicles. I started the Consoling the Heart of Jesus: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat. Good times on the deck. I watched a show with Bobby at night and prayed and journaled before bed. I had the bedroom to myself because Bobby’s been sleeping upstairs in a non-germy room.

Saturday: Prayer and meditation, journaling, continuing the “retreat” and blogging.

What I Learned

  1. I am not in charge. Unfortunately, I keep forgetting this one. But on the other hand, I did accept that things were not going the way that I had planned. This time.
  2. God knows what’s best for me. And He gave me another reminder of this. Remember all of the unnecessary work I did on Sunday? Remember on Monday I was already feeling rushed during my “slow down” week? I might not have rested at all if I was feeling well.
  3. I want to try to do one thing at a time. Multitasking makes me feel hurried. So often I listen to talks while working, I eat while watching shows, I think, plan, figure out… while doing other things. I am not in the present moment. This getting things done can get compulsive. I get anxiety about not wasting time. If I slow down, by doing one thing at a time, (and thinking counts as an activity for me) I can be present to what I am doing or feeling and be aware that God is present with me.
  4. I want to watch what is going into my mind. I’ve talked about this before. If I’m going to be limiting the amount of information that’s going in, (because I’m doing one thing at a time) then I better raise the bar on the content. Is it true? Is it honorable? Is it worthy of praise? And so on…
  5. I want to watch what is coming out of my mouth. I failed at being as quiet as possible this week. I think I forgot that was even part of the experiment. Did I really need to give everyone unsolicited updates on my sick symptoms? Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?
  6. God gives me encouragement. As I was thinking that some quiet time would benefit me, I read this in Jesus Calling, one of my current meditation books: “You need a buffer zone of silence around you in order to focus on things that are unseen.” It goes on to say that overstimulation blocks out awareness of the unseen world. Encouragement.
  7. Put First Things First. Yet another principle that I already know, but struggle to put into practice. I read about it Friday in my “retreat” book. He explains how when we want to detach from something, (Let’s say noise from busyness, talking, movies or media.) sheer acts of the will are the wrong way to go about it. They don’t work… for long anyway. The reason is that focusing on the attachments puts second things first. The only way to detach is to keep the focus on the first thing. He gives the example of St. Peter walking on water until he takes his eyes off Jesus and sinks.

In Conclusion

So, I did slow down this week. I didn’t do it exactly as planned. Actually, it wasn’t at all like I planned. But I’d still give this experiment two thumbs up. Look what I learned again! So many good things. Today, I’m not planning anything. I’m just doing one thing at a time, and being quiet, and listening for direction.

Experiment #4: Quiet Time

Yesterday was the last day of school for Rachel, my daughter who goes to high school, and Hannah and Mary, who were homeschooling with me. We are now officially on summer break. I spent this morning on a “Mother’s Sabbath”, a term I added to my vocabulary after reading A Mother‘s Rule of Life. I don’t know its exact definition. (Though I enjoyed the book, I gave it away.) I think it means getting out of your house and doing things that renew your spirit. When I take one, it usually includes Mass, the Rosary, Confession, Panera, reading, writing and Adoration. It can be a time of recollection and of getting my priorities straight.

Today, I thought of something that was a part of my daily schedule when my children were young. I called it Quiet Time. It was usually after lunch. It was when everyone went into separate rooms to do something quiet for an hour. It might be playing with toys, napping, reading, drawing… as long as it was quiet. My Quiet Time was often “interrupted” by babies. And sometimes I would blow it myself by going on a computer. This was back in the days before iphones and ipads. This morning I realized I want to spend the first week of summer break slowing down.

From my journal:

Slow Down Week – Like a Sunday. Do what’s necessary, but enjoy life. Spend the week with you, Lord. In prayer and meditation, adoration… quiet. No news, no videos. Resting – Nature – Art – Music (not quiet) Remember Quiet TIme? Unplug.

So that was how I remembered Quiet Time. I think I need to be more disciplined if I want the life that I desire. To be closer to God, I cannot crowd Him out with noise and ceaseless activity. So, I’ll try this for one week and report the results.

Experiment #4:

Slow down for one week. Do only necessary work. Be as quiet as possible. Do not initiate any movie nights or put on any music. Stay away from social media and news. Spend lots of time ouside, and rest.

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.

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)


Experiment #1 Results

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.



Experiment #1: Downsizing Eyes

6BBC3B66-1EB1-4505-9FD3-E088D48A7849My step father passed away on December 27, 2019. He and my mother had lived together for thirty years.  They weren’t pack rats, and they were fairly organized and clean.  For the past few months I’ve watched (and sometimes helped) my mother give away and throw away their possessions in order to downsize.  I helped my mother buy a one bedroom condo, which is closer in proximity to my sister and me.  Then two weeks ago, we helped her move the possessions she wanted to keep into the new condo.  Last weekend, she decided she wanted to put her house on the market by the end of the week, and yesterday it was listed.

For five days we spring cleaned, painted, posted items on the “letgo” app, gave items to their new owners, and filled up a 15 yard dumpster.  Then on the sixth and seventh days, I rested.  Today, I’m thinking about the whole experience.

Letting go of a home you lived in for forty years as you grieve the loss of your spouse is my mother’s story.  Saying good-bye to my childhood home and remembering my step father and my grandparents, who also have passed away, and who were a big part of my life back then, is my story; but not where I’m going with this today.  I’m pondering the downsizing of material possessions.

Those who know me well, know that this is a big topic of interest for me. Decluttering, purging stuff, minimalism, voluntary poverty, and downsizing… they are all related in my mind.  And now I have this fresh, first-hand experience (not my own) of answering the questions:  What do I want? What do I need? What am I willing to let go of?

It’s hard not to notice the fact that I will one day go through this downsizing myself, or if I die first, my family will be throwing out and giving away my possessions.  So why am I keeping things that I do not use on a regular basis?  It motivates me to do another pass through my home with the eyes of a downsizer.

Experiment #1:

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?

This will not help me to get rid of any of my husband’s or my children’s belongings.  And I will, of course, need to keep many extra articles of furniture and shared items in the common areas.  But let’s see how this experiment will affect my own stash of personal belongings.  Results will be the subject of a future post.