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Ink Slingers Martina Mom So Hard Series

9 Ways Two ‘Isms’ can Coexist in Your Large Family: Catholicism and Minimalism

MOM SO HARD Finessing the Intricacies of Your Modern Catholic Family

Not Naturally Organized…Naturally

It wasn’t long into our marriage that one of us (uh hem, me) decided that living with clutter and mess wasn’t suitable. Of the two of us, it became like that episode of Everyone Loves Raymond where they leave the suitcase on the stairs at the end of a trip to see just who would take it upstairs. Determined to see who would “cave” first, Debra and Ray both refuse to take the suitcase upstairs, each for their own reasons.

Not that our reasons were anywhere nearly as exciting or sitcom worthy, neither of us were particularly neat people to begin with. Married life both highlighted and compounded this problem, and while I didn’t feel pressured into doing something about it, it definitely came down to my feeling like I’d had “enough” and it was just time to make a change. I couldn’t stand looking at the endless mess due to…if I’m being completely honest here…laziness. I couldn’t pin it on anything other than our collective laziness as the reason why we lived in piles of papers, unpacked boxes, sink filled to the BRIM with dishes, clean dishwasher fully opened and unloaded (it simply became another location in which to pull clean dishes, just like the cabinets and drawers).

The Family Grows – and so do the logistical challenges

As our family grew, so did the challenges of incorporating strategies and ideas that lessened those everyday stresses. It was a lot like shoveling sand against the tide – futile. Add to that, you’ve read over and over again that I’ve said I’m not naturally organized, and you can see how I had all the ingredients for the perfect storm. Over the years, the desire to declutter was always there. What I lacked was vision and focus. Oftentimes, I would sit down to work on a project only to be derailed by hitting a brick wall on what to do next. Frustration often won out and so I would throw my hands up, give up, and walk away. It would take me sometimes years to finish a project – sad, right? The garage became the bane of my existence. After each move, it was filled with all the unpacked boxes and furniture I couldn’t part with. When we downsized, our garage was stuffed so badly, you couldn’t even walk around in it. I had to open the garage and work on boxes from the outside in, that’s how bad it was. By the time I had the first two house garages completed, we moved. One house we lived in seven years, and the other five. I often joked that as soon as the garage was unpacked, it was time to move. 

The Stakes are Finally Raised

Then we decided to move, upsizing our house after downsizing – that’s a whole OTHER post, friends. We moved in the summer and I gave myself ONE YEAR to get that garage in order – the tightest deadline, ever, lol. With our kid count at seven at that time, I had to get to work thinking about needs and how to organize the garage and I got to work.

I know the current secular push is to evaluate what you have and keep what “sparks joy” but for our large family (and maybe yours) it never really touched on sparking joy so much as it came down to sentimentality (within reason) and practicality.

Large families, by our nature, have different needs than a single person, married couple with no kids, and even small families. Add to the mix that we are Catholic, there are things that we will need to have multiples of or hang onto from one kid to another.

I finally told myself there wasn’t a problem with having a lot of something, but it really came down to its use and could it be stored adequately between uses. And that became my foundational rationalization. 

Let’s get right down to it – how do we make this happen?

So, how can Catholicism and…minimalism coexist, especially within large families?

The good news is they aren’t mutually exclusive. The Tiny House infatuation that has taken over America the past few years has highlighted something good about having less that everyone can benefit from. And even large families can benefit from this practice, too!

  1. Implement good cleaning habits. If you aren’t naturally organized, you will probably have to work a bit harder to create inroads to more organization in your family. When I began turning over a new leaf, I looked to Fly Lady for help in not just establishing good cleaning habits, but working through ways to organize. I’ll admit at the time, I only had two children, one in school and a baby at home, but as our family grew, what I learned from Fly Lady became foundational to my success.
  2. Three boxes. When you’ve got a good cleaning schedule in hand, the next step is to assess what you have and decide how to pare down. This is when three boxes come in handy: trash, donate/sell, and keep.
  3. What time of day works best? This helped immensely when it came to starting a decluttering/paring down project. Night owls might find evenings are a good time to work on a room – I’m not a night owl, so I tend to pick a block of time or a weekend and hit it hard in the morning. I rarely work on something all day long, as that just leads to a lot of frustration and overwhelm for myself. I also tend to find a burst of energy the day before trash goes out in making those final decisions on things we don’t need. Sometimes it translates to getting tossed, and other times, it means things are bagged up and put in the van to take to the thrift store. 
  4. Take your bags of donate items to the store NOW. Don’t delay. Don’t be like I was for years, driving my donate bags around town for no good reason other than just…laziness, lol. I think the record for me was something ridiculous like four months of bagged donate items in the back of the car. Never again. We have three thrift stores within a handful of minutes around, two of which within spitting distance (there’s my East Texas popping through, y’all!) of the grocery store, so no real reason not to stop by and drop those bags OFF!
  5. Take inventory of the items you DO need to keep multiples of or store for a time. Because we are large families, there WILL BE certain things you accumulate and with good reason. This varies from family to family. I’m not going to tell you to ditch X – because if I do that, and it’s something you may actually truly need, that doesn’t work. What I am saying is think it through, decide if the need is sentimental or practical, and decide where and how you will store said items. If you have the space and proper storage bins, those are things that can help factor into keeping items your family will use again. In our home, we keep shoes and clothes stored, and a lot of them! They are all stored in bins in the attic. Because our birth order alternates, we tend to hang on to clothes for a while. This has always been a practical need for our family, but that might not work for other families. Additionally, keeping garments for sacraments from one child to another is a practical need. Minimalism for large families should leave room for items we know we’ll need down the road. Plus, sentimentalism has value I’ve found isn’t worth tossing. 
  6. Toys. We have large families. I get it. Keeping toys out or easily accessible doesn’t always jive with the feel of minimalism, but there are some clever ways to tackle that. Tuck toys behind the doors of small or large furniture. Some other ideas can include a cabinet, drawers, or even a coffee table with drawers for specific toys. Barring that, if you have the space and the ability to set this up, you can peruse Marketplace on Facebook for some fabulous steals for storage. We have two locked closets in our house, one for school supplies (our former homeschool closet) and a game closet. Inside each, I was able to find two 2×4 Expedits for a steal from a local person who was moving. I have one shelf unit in each closet, and in the game closet, it contains baskets filled with sorted toys. Keeping the toys locked helps us decide when we rotate toys through and keeps the kids excited when new toys come out to play!
  7. Clothes. To keep clothes from getting out of hand, we keep bins in the kids’ closets to toss clothes that don’t fit as they grow out of them. Once in a while, we empty it, and decide what will be stored for the next kiddo, donate it to friends or the thrift store or just trash it if it’s too far gone!
  8. Books. I am a HUGE fan of books and it’s one of the few things we do not part with unless they are beyond repair. That said, you can always pare down on religious books and bless others in your community if you have an overabundance like I might – uh hem. Consider joining a local Catholic group on Facebook or elsewhere that you can both request books as needs arise as well as find takers on your overflow book stash.
  9. Rosaries, sacramentals, and consecrated material. This is one area in particular that I won’t tell people to pare down unless you have good reason. Rosaries, sacramentals and consecrated materials tend to tell a story: given by a loved one or picked up on a special trip, they should have a loving place in the home. Sacramentals that are plastic or have no sentimentality to it can be gifted to someone in need. If they are blessed, broken, and beyond repair, please please please properly dispose of the sacramentals. This includes any books that have been blessed as well. To read more on how to properly dispose of these sacred items, visit this site for more information.

As you can see, having a large family doesn’t mean you have to own all. the. things. We don’t have to be drowning in things because we think our large family requires it. The emphasis here is on active and ongoing discernment of balance in the family. There will be seasons when you will need more of X and guess what? That is TOTALLY fine! As long as the active discernment is in play, you will be able to assess your family’s needs and adjust accordingly. 

What works today, may not work tomorrow for the family. And you know what, friend? That also is totally OK. 


Thank you for reading this installment in the series MOM SO HARD – FINESSING THE INTRICACIES OF YOUR MODERN CATHOLIC FAMILY. This series is focused on taking a look at the Faith through the lens of being a Catholic mom. Using a spiritual foundation as our starting point, we walk with you and share candid and practical elements that make up our days. We will look at primary spiritual elements, recognizing that without God, nothing is possible. How do we start our day? How do we end our day? If God does not bookend our days (at a minimum), we can start to see how feeling overwhelmed or worse can creep into our day. Even the most mundane of chores and activities can be done to glorify God. 

 

9 Ways Two Isms can Coexist in Your Large Family

 

 

Categories
An Industrious Woman Domestic Church Ink Slingers Proverbs 31 Catholic Woman Rachel M Spiritual Growth

Ode to Feminine Genius: An Industrious Woman

This is the seventh installment in the series of Ode to Feminine Genius: Proverbs 31 Catholic WomanToday’s topic will cover An Industrious Woman.

Proverbs 31 industrious woman

Industrious woman, this theme speaks to me. I love being industrious; checking things off my lists, completing tasks, keeping up my home. Nothing brings me the same kind of joy as a freshly swept and mopped floor. Industrialism is perfect for my type A tendencies because it’s black and white, there’s no gray. You either are or you aren’t.

Except, I also have six children at home with me every hour of almost every day.

So, industrious woman easily becomes nagging crabbypants mom who doesn’t have time to read books when you ask her, because she’s only on number 3 of 74 things to do for the day.

Before we can be industrious women, we must first set our priorities for the day, or even the next fifteen minutes. There are two things I need to keep my sanity- a shower and a swept floor. Walking barefoot on crumbs might just be my purgatory. So therefore, after breakfast every morning, I sweep the floor. But, if I’m being true to my priorities, the cleaning ends there. I stop and move on to mommy things- doing hair, playing games, homeschooling, going outside. Every wife and mother has her things that must be done, a bare bones, and it’s important to figure out what that is for you.

Here’s the thing though, being industrious does not trump love. And, for me, that’s hard to remember.

taking care of familyWhat being an industrious woman means, at the heart of it, IS love. Because I love my husband and our family, I keep up with the chores, I cook meals, I am diligent with our housework. I attempt to be self-disciplined. And because I love God, I try to offer it all up to Him through Mary.

I believe there are two main tenets of industrialism in the home. Each is important, and it looks different in each person’s home of course, but without these two things it is difficult to employ this virtue.

1. Keep A Schedule and Plan for Rest – We all know that running our homes on a schedule is beneficial for everyone. The children are always better behaved when they know what to expect out of each day, more things are able to be accomplished by everyone, and at the end of the day, Dad doesn’t always come home to a frazzled wife. But, moreover, being industrious is using our time wisely. Having a schedule means nothing if you don’t follow it. If you are supposed to be folding laundry and instead decide to check facebook for just a few minutes first, things surely start to fall apart. The few minutes turns into 15 and then just as you pull the laundry out of the dryer, baby wakes up and now the whole schedule is pushed back. Of course we must be flexible, but flexibility is not the same thing as purposeful lethargy.

All moms have experience with putting off naps for just a little too long. We really need to finish grocery shopping, or get big brother to karate, or even something fun like a family trip to the zoo, but inevitably, the baby takes the brunt of it and eventually turns into a crying, cranky mess. Well, us moms are the same way. We all know when we’ve pushed too hard and our bodies and minds start pushing back. Part of using the gifts and grace God has given us is knowing when to rest as well. A mom’s schedule should include a reasonable bedtime, down time, and prayer time.

2. Minimalism and Waste –  Our job as wives is to build up our husbands as the leader of our family and our home. One important way that I believe is often overlooked is letting our husbands know that we both appreciate his income and feel that it is enough. Whatever the amount of money in the budget, the industrious woman puts it to work for her. She budgets effectively, spends only money that is there, and creates little waste. The industrious woman lives richly within her means.
IndustriousWoman
Our tomatoes seemed to fruit really late this year after having a cool and very wet summer, so now that it’s officially fall, our plants are full of green tomatoes. My initial thought was to just compost the whole lot and be done with it, but I knew I couldn’t rightfully throw away food that could nourish my family. Instead I composted the plants for future use in the garden, and have picked all the tomatoes that will soon become canned mincemeat. It’s about using what we have to it’s fullest benefit.

Keeping the home neat, is much easier when you have fewer things. It’s that simple. If something is broken beyond repair, get rid of it. If there’s something you never use, donate it. If something you own is causing you stress or the inability to properly keep your home, give it away. Personal belongings are not important, not really, and when they cause you to lose sight of the bigger picture it can be a slippery slope towards sin.

“She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.” -Proverbs 31:27

What ways have you employed in your home to use your blessings to their fullest benefits?

 

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Ink Slingers Mary P.

Owning Less, Appreciating More: A Catholic Discovers Minimalism

owninglessappreciatingmore2
In March, I mentioned that I was going to participate in a decluttering challenge as one of my Lenten disciplines. Unfortunately, God had other plans for me this Lent. I had to have a tonsillectomy, which involves a somewhat long and painful recovery (how’s that for Lenten suffering?!). I barely was able to begin the challenge, much less complete it. However, the idea of getting rid of unnecessary possessions in my life had been on my heart for at least a year before that – though I was ignoring it for a while – and continued to pull at me once Lent was over.

Last month, I started reading an ebook about Minimalism (a lifestyle in which you own only what you need or love), and I got up from my computer, walked into my kitchen and started putting mugs, pots and pans, and kitchen utensils, into a box to donate. I committed to reducing my excess possessions, and made a plan with my husband as to how to go about it. So far, we have donated, thrown away, or recycled too many items to count (although I truly wish I had been counting!) from only a few of the rooms in our house. And we have only just begun. My husband and I feel a strong sense of liberation and relief every time we carry a container of stuff out of our house, and I can feel my overall stress level decreasing as the number of items in our house decreases.

I don’t remember how I first became interested in Minimalism. I don’t think it was largely for reasons related to my faith. I had practical considerations, particularly the fact that owning less means spending less time cleaning, organizing, and reorganizing. When my children’s toys were spread all over every room of the house, I would fantasize about getting rid of most of them because it would mean less stress and less cleaning up. However, it has become much clearer to me in recent months what Minimalism has to do with my faith. I am now seeing many connections between owning less, and living (and teaching my children to live) a truly Christian life.

if-we-do-not-feel-grateful-forThe first connection that comes to mind is that owning too much often means not being grateful for what we have. I’ve seen this in my children. The more toys they have, the less they take care of or truly care about any of them. At Christmas when they are showered by relatives with gifts, they don’t seem to appreciate any of them. They are just waiting for the next gift to open. Lately, they’ve been telling me they are bored, even though they have countless things to play with. They do not appreciate what they have, and I really can’t blame them for that; I don’t truly appreciate what I have either. To illustrate, how many times have I looked at my closet and dresser full of clothes and said “I have nothing to wear,” while there are many people who own only the clothes on their backs? Gratitude is fundamentally important to maintaining a right relationship with God and for developing empathy and a heart for service to others, and I believe that owning too much stands in the way of that.

The second connection is that de-owning helps us to detach from “things.” I said in my Lenten post that I never considered myself to be materialistic, but I do have an attachment to “stuff” (I think most people do). This is spiritually unhealthy. For example, I have often become angry at my children for accidentally breaking or otherwise ruining an object. When they fight over a toy or a certain beloved dish, I tell them that “people are more important than things”; but what message have I communicated to them when I’ve become angry at them for breaking something? The “thing” is so important that I’m willing to treat them poorly because of it? Whether we realize it or not, our attachment to material possessions can get in the way of truly loving others.

Scripture and the writings of saints are very clear that we need to be detached from possessions in order to serve God most fully. That doesn’t mean we all have to take vows of poverty. Rather, we have to internalize that our possessions are tools to aid us in serving God and each other, not goods for their own sake.  They certainly should not be roadblocks to holiness.

Think of the scriptural passage about the rich man who asks Jesus what he needs to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus tells him to sell all he has and give the money to the poor; but he cannot do it. This is someone who has always tried to follominimalism-is-not-that-you-should-own-nothingw the Law and seems sincere in his desire to follow Jesus, but is too attached to his possessions to do so. While I’m not rich by 21st century American standards, I am rich in comparison to many people in the world and probably most people throughout history (perhaps even the rich man in the passage). I not only have everything I need, which makes me more well-off than many, but so much more than I need. Jesus has not yet asked me to sell everything I have but are there tasks that he has asked of me that I haven’t done because I am attached to possessions? If Jesus DID ask me to give up everything for him right now, could I do it? I would like to say yes, but I think my “yes” will be much more confident further in the process of de-owning.

Lastly (for this post), the minimalist lifestyle is the antithesis of our consumerist culture. It’s “normal” and expected to buy tons of stuff that we don’t need. A society focused on producing, selling, and amassing unnecessary things is not a society that is focused on God or even on each other. Think about the horror stories each year during Black Friday and the entire Christmas shopping season about people’s despicable behavior toward each other in their quest to procure some unnecessary item at a bargain. Also, consider that people now look at large families as burdens on the world because of the alleged problem of “overpopulation.” The truth is that the problem is not overpopulation, but over-consumption; and instead of committing to consuming less, people commit to having fewer children and chiding those who don’t. “Things” are treated as being more important than people. I don’t want to be part of the over-consumption problem anymore, especially because I have a larger-than-average family.

I don’t believe that Minimalism is the only right way to live. I don’t even know if I will ever truly be a minimalist myself. What I do know is that the Lord has put this on my heart for a reason. I don’t want to be like the rich man and tell Jesus that it’s too hard to give up material things for him. The rich man not only forfeited his chance at Heaven, but also at living a truly joyful and meaningful life. And what does it profit a man to gain the world but lose his soul?

 

 

 

 

*Top image uses photo from http://www.simplehumble.com/category/minimalism/