I actually made this strange exclamation (not aloud, just in my head) last night after Bobby and I spent the afternoon going through our stuff. I was pumped up. I may have even swung my arms around enthusiastically, feeling powerful.
Of course, today I see the reality of the situation. We put a small amount of trash in the back of our truck. I’ll bring it to the dump tomorrow. We also sent lots of paper to the recycling bin. I have lists of items to post online and projects to be done. Some items were sorted into categories. The basement looks worse than it did before we worked down there. But I am hopeful and grateful. We made a lot of decisions together, and this week, while Bobby’s in New York, I can plug away at removing the excess from our home.
But not today! Today is Sunday, a day of rest. I don’t do it perfectly, but I try to avoid doing unnecessary work on Sundays and to spend some time praying and some time doing what I enjoy. Today, I finally finished a book I started last summer, Letters and Instructions of St. Ignatius Loyola. It wasn’t an easy read for me. It was sometimes interesting, but not a favorite. I’ve chosen another book I started reading during the summer to be my next book study. I hope to write about it here. It’s Leisure: The Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper. I was only into Chapter 3, so I plan to start from the beginning.
Gotta go now because some members of my family and I are going with my father to see Puss in Boots: The Last Wish. I hope to write again soon.
I can’t believe it’s been more than four months since my last post. And yet I shouldn’t be surprised, because long stretches between posts have been a pattern for me. It seems like when I “come here” in the mood to write, I feel obligated to explain where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing. So let me just get my excuses for not writing out of the way.
They are as follows: homeschooling, parenting, Italy, remodeling the half-bath, Plum Island, parties, NYC with Mary, decluttering, home maintenance, NYC with my sister, holidays, plays, deep cleaning, decorating, Christmas shopping, wrapping, movies, puzzles, cooking, celebrations, taking down decorations, and trying to maintain relationships and my spiritual condition.
So today is Day 15 of the Catechism in a Year, and I’m on Day 10. I’m also on Day 10 of a 30-Day Organizing Boot Camp, of which I’ve completed 16 of the assignments. If that didn’t make sense, it means I’m a little behind on my studying the Catechism of the Catholic Church and a little ahead on my decluttering and organizing my entire house. I expect to get behind on the latter when I get to the storage areas assignment, which for me is the dreaded basement. Maybe I’m being dramatic. It’s not as bad as I imagine it to be. I made a great deal of progress on it in November. The problem is that I always give up when it gets hard, and I don’t finish the whole house. Well not this year!!!
Let’s talk about books. The start of a new year always gets me assessing where I’m at in many areas, and reading is one of those areas. I find myself, as usual, with a list of books I am “currently reading”. This means I started them, but do I want to finish them? I’ve decided that 2023 is the year I will finally read The Lord of the Rings. I’m starting with The Hobbit. I also plan to finish the last few pages of Letters and Instructions of St. Ignatius Loyola. That’s all I have decided so far. There are so many good options. I will commit to one soon.
I’m not going to attempt to plan out my whole year as I did in the past, by setting goals and breaking them down and getting things done. While organizing crafts and hobby supplies, I found my old planners. The first one was an original Franklin Covey planner and the year was 2000. Yes, I have 22 years of them. Skimming through them I found it interesting that 2020 was noticeably emptier.
Anyway, I’m starting out 2023 by planning for the week ahead. I start by scheduling the activities that I already committed to, like giving rides. Then things important for my spiritual wellbeing, such as adoration. I also track daily habits I’d like to form or strengthen. I thought I’d ease into physical habits to make it easier for me to develop them. The first week I focused on sleep. I went to bed early and got up early. Yay! The second week I added drinking water. I met my daily water intake goals. Yay! But my sleeping plan failed miserably. I got into eating chocolate and staying up late reading or watching YouTube videos on my phone in bed. This week I’m going to try going back to the 5-0. (It’s going to bed and getting up at regular times, calorie counting, drinking water, exercising, and journaling. It’s basically taking care of my body.) I’ll need to take one day at a time and pray for help to do this. And a media fast wouldn’t hurt.
Speaking of media, and media fasting, today I watched a video I found fascinating. A man on a channel called Sips with Aquinas was interviewing Dr. Peter Kreeft. It was so interesting that I took notes. He listed the only three reasons why anybody ought to do anything according to Aquinas: 1. moral duty, 2. practical necessity, and 3. fun. There’s some food for thought. So, if I’m considering doing something, and it doesn’t meet any of these three criteria…
He was making the point that we make our lives more complex rather than simplify them. And why? Why are we so harried and hassled? Why do we complexify? And I like this one: Why do we put ourselves in a spider’s web? He says we are bored. I call it running away. The not wanting to slow down and sit quietly. He says it takes too much effort. It’s because of sloth. I’ve read about this before and would like to ponder it more in the future. And one last idea: If you don’t believe in a real Heaven, you have to try to make a heaven on earth, and that’s going to keep you very, very, busy forever.
In conclusion, once more, I was able to bring a bunch of wandering thoughts back to the theme of this blog: Slowing Down.
Look what’s left! Not too much. Really… just the basement, garage, and Bobby’s clothing. I’m thinking of checking off Joseph’s bedroom and clothing. One reason is that he’s working a lot, and he’s not going to want to declutter on his days off. Another reason is that we just went through his stuff when he switched bedrooms with Hannah and Mary. I can’t remember when that was, but I think it was after Christmas. Reasons #3 and #4: He’s twenty. He owns mostly Legos and books. He’ll want to keep them all. And the fifth reason is that his stuff is in his room. I rarely see it and it’s never strewn around the house. Bobby’s clothing, however, affects me. I do his laundry and benefit everyday from a tidy arrangement. I don’t want to be wrestling with sweaters, trying to squish them into his armoire.
So today I started with my van. You can see in the photo a pile to relocate on the left and a trash pile on the right. I didn’t vacuum the van interior, but it looks greatly improved. Very satisfying.
I emptied the linen closet. Sorted into yes, no, and not sure. The girls agreed to let go of some blankets. I’m getting rid of the extra tiles from the old bathroom floor. Unfortunately, I think there are some sheets and blankets in the basement. Some people made a fort under the stairs weeks ago.
I finished the school room, and the girls’ bedrooms. Tomorrow will be a day of rest.
I started by dropping off three bags of clothing at a donation center this morning. I also got 2 black garbage bags full of cans out of the garage. That’s not really clutter though. It’s trash that’s worth money.
I hung up these hammocks in the girls’ closet today. I haven’t decluttered their room yet, but I checked with Mary and she wanted to keep all of her stuffed animals and dolls. These are the ones she doesn’t keep on her bed.
I went through the “family room” part of the school room. Mary was willing to part with many items that she doesn’t play with very often. She also didn’t care if I got rid of books. She just loves her stuffed animals.
I had a lump in my throat this afternoon from spending too much time in the school room. I pulled out more books to give away. Mostly early readers and books someone gave me last year. I ditched lots of paper. I decluttered the sentimental items. I added to my future projects list: scan photos and finish scrapbooks. I’m purging picture frames, including this one.
Matthew’s going to take it. It was his cute little hand I traced.
The most exciting news of the day is that while Bob was busting on the elliptical machine and the recumbent bike, I was holding up items from his bins and drawers, and he was telling me where they go. The study, the garage, the bathroom, the trash…
Master Bedroom and Mudroom… check!!
Edited to add: Controversy ensued as to whose hand was actually traced in the above picture. After research, I have concluded that it was mostly likely Rachel’s hand.
Master Bathroom, check! Bobby sorted his toiletries into keep or trash. (A big deposit into the emotional bank account.)
I asked Mary, who is nine, what she wanted to keep in the mudroom and I bagged up the rest.
Foyer, check! There was nothing to get rid of in the closet. We use the iron and ironing board, vacuum cleaner, wrapping paper and gift bags (sometimes). We haven’t used the hangers much because we haven’t been having parties, but someday, right? And the jigsaw puzzle collection is staying.
I started to sort the homeschool curriculum before I left to go to a wake in Connecticut. Some items were easy to part with, but there are many “not sures”. We have decided to send Hannah to eighth grade at our local Catholic school this September. We haven’t made a decision about whether or not to send Mary (the youngest and last homeschooler in our family). As of now, she is on a waiting list for the fifth grade. So just being in the school room is emotional for me. That’s a story for another post.
As you can see in the picture above, I have a lot left to do. I checked off Sarah’s bedroom and clothing because she is going to do them on her own when the spring semester is finished. She usually does her own decluttering now. She’s the most minimalist of the family. I told Bobby, who’s into fitness, that our house is losing weight. It really does feel lighter to me already!
Clothing. I recently let go of more of my own. I’m now down to just what I actually use. Today I parted with the light bluish-purplish windbreaker that I think I bought before I got married. That puts it at 24 years old. I have fond memories of baby Matthew sucking on the hood strings during Sunday Masses, and wearing the jacket in places like NYC and the Holy Land. But I haven’t worn it in about two years, so it’s out the door. I think it makes me look like an old lady now that I’m getting closer to being one.
I started the mudroom purge. I couldn’t finish because I still need Bob and Mary to go through their stuff. But I packed away the snow boots, scarves, gloves, etc. Packed the winter coats of the family members willing to wear sweatshirts and jean jackets even if it gets cold again. I brought up the summer totes, flip flops, slides, etc. Then I organized the holiday decorations. We didn’t part with any. We use what we own. I think I tossed some St. Patrick’s Day items yesterday. We are not Irish. But we do often celebrate by drinking Shamrock shakes.
I finished by sorting through Rachel and Hannah’s clothing with them. We got rid of two white kitchen bags of mostly hand-me-downs that don’t fit them or that they wouldn’t wear. The picture above shows the decoration and clothing bins we keep in the basement.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!