Vacate Clutter Day 7

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!

Vacate Clutter Day 6

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.

The jacket (May 2002)

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.