Christ-Like Minimalism

Decluttering For Lent

I’ve been trying to declutter a few areas of my life for Lent–spiritually and physically. I want to get rid of the noise. You know, the things that keep me from hearing Jesus.

In prayer, I’m often distracted and don’t even realize it. For example, when I’m praying the psalms in the morning, I’m not thinking about them. I’m thinking about my coffee. Or the sick kid, or my grocery list, or the hole in my sock. Anything, but what the psalmist is trying to say to me. I need to get better at listening.

I want to be intentional. I want to be present to Jesus everywhere, at all times.

Then there are the things or the “stuff” of my life. How many cookbooks do I own and never consult? Do I really need more than five skirts per season? How many nights a week should one have a glass of wine?

Or better yet–one that hurts a little–why do I like bright lipstick so much? Why? Is it perhaps because I’m vain?

Alas! I have so many attachments.

And little by little, I’m asking Jesus to scrape away the filth and the clutter, which reminded me of a true story I wrote about a couple of years ago. It’s about a family whose house burned down. I’ll post the whole thing below.

The Family Whose House Burned Down

A few years ago a local family lost their entire house to a fire.  It was devastating, as they only escaped with the clothes on their backs.  Somehow I got wind of it all and heard that they were living in hotel room and were asking for household supplies to start over again.

So I thought, what can I give?  I went to the basement and grabbed our extra suitcase.  (I thought they might as well have that.)  And I began to fill it.  I had an extra quilt.  I had a whole set of unused kitchen towels.  I had a few kids’ games that were never used.  I found so many things that I filled the suitcase and had to get a garbage bag.

Then I found my beautiful set of extra silverware that I had never used.  I held the wooden box in my hands.  It was a gift that someone had given to us for our wedding.  I didn’t want to part with it, partly because I worried about what that person would think should she find out and partly because the set was complete and like I said, beautiful.

I started to put it back on the shelf, but something inside me said no.  This lovely silverware set was not meant for me.  It was meant for this poor family, and so in the end I gave it too.

The next day I drove over to the hotel and gave them my things.  The mother of the family was so thankful.  So thankful.  But you know what?  I was the one who was thankful for the opportunity to give.  I walked away with Love burning in my heart.

Of course when we simplify or declutter our homes and give things away, we don’t always get to see who might benefit from it all.  But that one time I did get to see.  And it was worth it.

But it is always worth it, no matter what.  For giving our things away teaches us detachment from them, and more importantly, it teaches us Love.

Christ-Like Minimalism

Boys and Minimalism?

Before we get to the topic on hand, how’s your Lent going?

Ember Days last week was a wringer for me and oh so difficult. I can barely do the Church’s prescribed fast of one main meal and two small snacks without practically dying. Three days in one week! I’m such a wimp, but I guess I’m trying, and I made it. (Barely.)

Then, for some extra penance, last week I decided to paint my bedroom. I don’t know why I did this to myself. It’s so horrible and terribly tedious, especially the trim work. To help things along, though, I listened to Patsy Cline and sang loudly. Eventually my husband felt sorry for me and took over–painting, not singing, that is. God bless him.

And onto today’s topic…

Boys and Minimalism

Today I’m offering a tour of the boys’ bedroom for those of you interested in such things. There are three boys who share this room: a 10-year-old and twin 12-year-olds. Is it minimalistic? Sort of.

Here’s the what greets you when you walk through the door:

A Triple Bunk Bed

One of the very first things we purchased when we moved into this house was a triple bunk bed for the boys for the obvious reason that their room was the smallest. I’m telling you, if you’ve got more than two kids in a room, triple bunk beds are the ticket.

The first thing you may have noticed from the above picture is the lack of toys everywhere. That’s because the only “toy” the boys keep in their room are legos, and normally these legos are strewn all over the floor in the corner. So for posterity, I took the following picture which more accurately resembles the “everyday” experience.

Legos dumped out and beds not made.

What’s Missing From This Boy Room?

  1. The 10-year-old’s little tractors and farm equipment. One boy does have some toy tractors and hook-ups, which he keeps in the storage room. Why there? Because there’s room on the floor to set up a farm, and he won’t be bothered with the girls, for nobody likes to play in that dark, unfinished place.
  2. Their books. While they do keep their current reads in their beds to peruse at night, all other books are in the book shelves located in the basement family room.
  3. 3 Nerf guns with bullets. The boys have a little plastic tub of these items, which is also in the basement family room.
  4. Games and puzzles. All the kids’ games and puzzles are in the Game Closet, which is technically the bathroom closet. Funny place, I know.
  5. Trains and train tracks. This bin is also in the basement family room as the Little Girls actually play with them now, not the boys.

That’s all for toys. If you’d like more thoughts on that topic, however, click HERE for a post I wrote awhile ago. Not much has changed.

Moving on.

The Closet

Here’s a picture of the the boys’ closet:

What you can’t see are a few lego boxes on the left and 3 backpacks on the right of the clothes hamper. The upper closet shelf is where the twins put their jeans and pants. (Most of which happen to be in the hamper when I took this picture…)

Since the boys’ room is small, we’ve elected to put their only dresser right in the closet. On top of the dresser are three boxes. Each boy has one in which to put his treasures, like duct tape, string, baseball cards, rocks, jack knives, etc.

The drawers of this dresser are all labeled, too. This is because the boys were continually mixing everything up and not, therefore, able to find socks or undershirts when they wanted them. I’ve found that clarity makes for less chaos.

Here’s a breakdown of the drawers from top to bottom:

  1. Undershirts and underwear (They all share)
  2. Socks and belts (They all share)
  3. Shorts – 12 pairs (They all share)
  4. 10-year-old’s jeans/pants
  5. Lego directions

To the left of the dresser is where the 10-year-old hangs all of his shirts and to the right is where the twins hang their shirts. The nice thing about having 3 boys close in age, however, is that really, they can share most things.

Confusing? Here’s a specific inventory of the boys’ clothes:

10-year-old:

  1. 5 pairs of jeans/pants
  2. 8 long sleeved shirts
  3. 4 short sleeved shirts
  4. 1 suit with jacket and vest
  5. 4 uniforms for private school

Twin 12-year-olds: (These numbers are higher, as their are two of them)

  1. 8 pairs of jeans/pants
  2. 12 long sleeved shirts
  3. 12 short sleeved shirts
  4. 2 suits with jacket and vest

We try to stick pretty closely to these numbers, as it seems to work if I do their laundry once a week. Also, should the boys receive a new shirt or something for their birthday, etc., we do follow The Rule:

One Item In, One Item Out

Lastly, here’s a shot standing against the bunk beds of the opposite side of the room.

Nothing to show.

And that’s it! If you have any questions, be sure to ask.

Christ-Like Minimalism

Can a Teenager Be a Minimalist?

The short answer is yes, but I’m not so sure my teenager is. She does try, however, and today I’m going to offer a tour of her room.

The Eldest’s Room

I’d like to begin by saying that I wish The Eldest did not have her own room, for I think sharing a room with a sibling is terribly helpful in combatting selfishness and pride. This should be obvious to anyone who has had to endure this and contend with a sibling using all your stuff and leaving it all over the place. Nothing is sacred. Furthermore, it’s obvious that nothing can really be private. And for sanity’s sake, one had better have a tidy room to accommodate another person’s treasures and junk. Truly, the possibility for virtue is endless when sharing a room.

In our situation, however, sharing a room isn’t practical. The Next Girl Sibling is half the age of The Eldest and follows a completely different sleeping schedule. The Eldest gets up at 6am, showers, and joins us for Lauds at 6:20, while The Next Girl Sibling skips it all and sleeps until 7:30 am. She also goes to bed a full hour earlier. (At least The Next Girl Sibling has the honor of sharing a room with two Little Wreckers, her younger sisters, which ought to contribute to her growth in holiness and virtue…)

In any case, we’ve decided that The Eldest gets her own room for the time being, and here is a shot of it standing in the doorway.

She does try to keep her possessions to a minimal.

I’d like to point out the neatly made bed. Is it always this way? Nope. Almost never, in fact. But moving on…the two drawers under her bed are not for clothes. One drawer contains knitting apparatus and the other has all the Little Girls’ paper dolls, which they frequently play with during the day and leave all over the place. The night stand serves as The Eldest’s only dresser, and it contains her underthings.

Next, here’s a shot of the opposite wall that I took while standing on her bed:

This side of the room contains an old desk that used to be mine in college. Now normally this desk is covered with school books and piles of paper, but today The Eldest is at school and has her homework with her. The drawers of this desk contain a ridiculous number of colored pens and other letter-writing equipage, which is clearly not minimalist. (She’s a diligent epistoler and a dabbling calligrapher, so we’ll forgive her.)

Lastly, and really what everyone’s interested in, is the closet. Just how much clothing does a teenage girl in this day and age need?

Notice the lego bin on the floor. This contains all four girls’ legos and is most often dumped out and scattered everywhere…

Here is a full shot of the closet. There are no other clothing articles hiding anywhere. What you can’t see on the top shelf is only a sewing machine and a sewing basket on the left and right respectively. In other words, here is The Eldest’s entire wardrobe for every season of the year. (Remember, she does not have a dresser or chest of drawers, other than the night stand.)

Let me break it down for you.

On her shelf are four piles of clothes: (L to R)

  1. running clothes
  2. 1 pair of jeans and 1 pair of sweatpants
  3. shorts to go under skirts and dresses
  4. long leggings to go under skirts and dresses

After the piles, you can see two pair of dress-up shoes. She’s also got a pair of running shoes, flip flops, two pairs of boots, and one pair of Mary Janes for school, which in all total 7 pairs of shoes.

Her clothes left to right break down (roughly) thus: 3 dresses, 8 or so skirts, school uniforms in the middle, 14 or so long sleeved shirts and sweaters, 8 or so short sleeved shirts, 8 or so tank tops. There are a couple of items in the laundry basket below, which you can see, so likely I’m missing a few.

Now, is this minimalistic? I don’t know. For her station in life and considering that she’s got to weather all four seasons in Minnesota and Wisconsin, I’d say it’s not bad. Certainly others have and do get by on less, but I’m satisfied.

One rule we do practice in this household is One Item In; One Item Out. In other words, if grandma gives The Eldest a new sweater for Christmas, which she did, then The Eldest must choose a sweater to give away, which she did, thankfully.

And that concludes our tour. Questions? Be sure to ask.

Christ-Like Minimalism, Kim's Kitchen

Christ-Like Minimalism: The Kitchen

Today I’ll continue the minimalist discussion with a look at my kitchen.

Disclaimer (Again)

I’ll say it again, always be careful about comparing yourself to other families.  We are all different and are called to different stations in life.  No two families will look alike!  I am only offering one way that works for us.  Maybe an idea or two will stick out for you in the following.

My Kitchen

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So here we go.  The above is my kitchen, which you can see is one big room with the dining room to the east and the living room to the north.  (You can’t see the living room, as I’m standing in it to take the photo.)

I probably don’t need to say that our kitchen is used for preparing food, (I do have 7 perpetually hungry children and 1 husband who is grateful to eat anything) and the dining room is for eating in.  Except that I feel that I do have to mention it.  Not all families cook and eat together.  We do.  So this space is important.

A Note on Beauty

Beauty matters.  Beauty is objective, and it affects us.  I learned this in grad school, studying art and reading what St. Thomas Aquinas and others had to say about it.  But really, I didn’t need to study those great thinkers to know that I am influenced by my surroundings.  Walking into a clean and simple room has a calming, peaceful effect on me.  Walking into a dirty and chaotic room will instantly overwhelm me.

Since I am at home all day, with 7 loud children, I find it very important to live as neatly and simply as possible.  And if I can, I add a touch of beauty.  Maybe it’s a candle; maybe it’s a few flowers for the table.  Wild flowers are readily available where I live in the warmer months, and during the rest of the 10 months of the year, my husband can pick them up from a florist very cheaply, if they’re bought by the stem.  (It’s only arrangements that are expensive.)

I’ll say it again, beauty matters, especially in our culture of throw-away, plastic ugliness.  We are not utilitarian communists after all.  We are Catholics.  Do you suppose Jesus ever picked a bouquet of wildflowers for his mother?  I’ll bet he did.

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Tulips by the stem.  $12.83.  Always worth it, even if they only live for 5 days.

Back to the Kitchen

So in the kitchen, I’ll point out 3 things I try to do.

  1. I try to put very little on the countertops.  In the above photo, you’ll notice that only the items that get used daily get a place there.  This is for both practical and aesthetic reasons, for it allows for more space to cook, and it makes the space seem cleaner and bigger.
  2. Everything in the kitchen has a place.  If it doesn’t have a place, then it doesn’t belong.  And I try to put things in a logical spot.  For example, since my husband and I drink a bottle or so of wine per week, these items need to be easily accessible.  (See the photo below.)  Of course if wine isn’t your thing, then get rid of all those wine glasses taking up space!

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I realize that to some of you, this may seem ridiculous that we own all these wine glasses, but trust me, we use them.*

And lastly, #3.  If I haven’t used something in a year, then I get rid of it.  I’ll highlight that for you again.

If you haven’t used it in a year, get rid of it!

Seriously, if you haven’t used that egg separator in over a year, get rid of it.  If you’ve never used that brand new juicer, get rid of it.  If you have two ice cream scoops, get rid of one.  For that matter, how many large, cooking spoons do you have?  Or when’s the last time you used all those cook books crammed in your cabinet?  Or how about those 52 water bottles?

It’s freeing, living with less.  And who knows?  Maybe someone will be overjoyed at finding your mini-muffin tins and champagne flutes at the secondhand store.

Parting Notes

Lastly, I’ll point out a few other practical things that I do in my kitchen.

Here’s a shot of the island.

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Like the countertops, I keep this as clear as possible too, so that it is a space that can be used throughout the day.  Children will do homework here, work on a puzzle, or just sit and watch me chop vegetables.

The other notable thing about the island is that I put all the plates, cups, and bowls in the lower righthand cabinet.  I did this so that the little children need not climb the cabinets to set the table.

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Every day plates and bowls on the bottom shelf, and cups on the top shelf.

The other thing I’ll point out is a shelf by the dining room table.  (See photo below.)

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Note:  Everything has a place.

We keep our laptop here, so that we can listen to audio books during lunch.  (The speakers are on the middle shelf.)  My husband I also enjoy listening to jazz music in the evenings too, so it’s nice to have it readily available.

Next to the laptop are our prayer books for meal times.  This includes the Magnificat for the Mass readings and Butler’s Lives of the Saints.  I also keep the children’s current poetry there too, since we review them at breakfast.

And next to the speakers, you’ll notice a white basket.  This is where we keep our cloth napkins during the day.  After supper, Child #5 empties it into the laundry.

That’s all for today.  If you have any questions, be sure to ask in the Comments Section below.  Others may have the same question!  Or if you have any great ideas to live more simply in the kitchen, post them for us to see.

 

*Two notes here.  1.  We enjoy drinking wine out of proper wine glasses.  Hence all the different stemware.  2.  Did you notice all the glass bowls?  It also may seem ridiculous that I own that many.  And I agree with you.  I think I’ll give away one or two.  But I’ll also have you know that I’ve made progress in this department.  I used to own about 25 beautiful glass bowls.  Not kidding.  People were very generous to us at our wedding.
Christ-Like Minimalism

Christ-like Minimalism: The Living Room

A Series on Christ-like Minimalism in the Home

Today I’m going to begin a series examining each room in my home, in light of minimalism.  But not the secular minimalism void of any deeper meaning.  No, I hope to have the message of the Gospel at the heart of all of this.  Christ is the beginning and the end after all.

A Disclaimer

I am not an expert.  I don’t know what I’m doing, really.  I just know there is an overwhelming interest in this area lately and many are asking for help and guidance.  I’m only sharing what has worked for me and my family.  Of course my family will be different than yours.  You will have different needs.  I only hope to offer a few ideas that may work for you.

My main source of inspiration comes from Fr. Thomas DuBay’s book, Happy Are You Poor.  And man, let me tell you, I fall so short from where he would have me be.  But I like that because I like a challenge.  If you don’t own this book, you should.  It’s a great one to come back to.

Secondly, though, I was greatly inspirited by Darci Isabella.  She has shown me that a large family – she’s got ten children – can homeschool and live with less.  If you look around on her YouTube channel, you will find videos where she does room tours.  I found them helpful over this last year, even if I didn’t do things exactly the same way she did.  (For example, she doesn’t like owning books.  I do.)

And that’s my goal.  Just so show you an example of a large family, bumbling along, and trying to live a more Christ-like simplicity through what our cultural calls “Minimalism.”

The Living Room

So here we go.

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What is the purpose of your living room?

Certainly our living room is a place for anyone to gather at any time, but it’s real purpose is for us to have a place to pray.  We gather here as a family twice a day for that very thing.  In the early morning, at 6:15am my husband and I begin Lauds with him lighting the four votive candles that you can see on the fireplace mantle.  (We love candles.)  On Sundays, we light the two tall tapers too.

I wanted the focus of this room to be on Jesus, which is why His icon is centrally located above the fireplace.  You can also see the house phone on the mantle, but that has been bothering me lately, so I moved it to a more discreet location in the dining room.  Also on the mantle are two family photos and a vase of flowers.  (I love flowers – fake or real, but preferably real.)

The bookshelf consists of four inner shelves.  The lowest shelf is usually empty because the baby just tears stuff out of it anyway.  However, sometimes I will put a baby toy or two there, as you can see from the photo.  The next shelf up contains the children’s prayer books, since they join us at about 6:40am for prayer.  The shelf above that one holds my grandmother’s King James Version of the Bible that we frequently reference for the beauty of the language and so want it to be easily accessible.  There is also a family photo here and a bowl of rosaries.  The last inner shelf are all current books that my husband and I are reading in addition to our prayer books.

Next to that bookshelf on the floor is a basket full of children’s picture books.

To the right of the fireplace is another chair.  (See photo below.)

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Behind this chair you will see the children’s rosaries on hooks.  We need the rosaries to be in a handy spot because every night after dinner, we kneel before the Sacred Heart of Jesus as a family and pray five mysteries together.IMG_1038.jpg

Here is a shot of the opposite side of the fireplace.  The end table between the chair and loveseat usually has our periodicals on it with a book or two that someone may have been reading and did not put away.  Ideally, I’d put the periodicals in the bottom part of that stand, but I can’t with the baby always tearing things out right now.

The lamp to the right of the loveseat is the only other light we have on in the mornings.  I particularly like its location because is lights up Jesus in the Last Supper directly above it.

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Here’s another shot of the living room.  You may be able to see that to the left of the gray couch, on the floor, are two folded blankets.  They are kind of hiding, but they’re important since we live in the Arctic Circle.  (Not really.)  The children use them every morning to snuggle in.

And that’s all that’s in my living room.  I used to have all kinds of toys in my living room when my older children were younger, but I never liked it.  I hated the mess.  So a few years ago, I said enough.  No more.  And let me tell you, it’s way better.

Now that doesn’t mean that stuff doesn’t get drug in throughout the day, but it does mean that it gets put away after dinner.

Toys are a big problem for most families these days, and I hope to address that one as I go along in this series.  For now all I can say is, less is better.  I’ve never regretted giving away toys.  And strangely enough, neither have my children.

That completes my living room tour.  If you have any comments or questions, be sure to put them below in the Comments Section, as others may be interested in what you have to say.  In a week or so I hope to examine another room, but I want to leave you with a memory that popped into my head while typing this out.

The Family Whose House Burned Down

A few years ago a local family lost their entire house to a fire.  It was devastating, as they only escaped with the clothes on their backs.  Somehow I got wind of it all and heard that they were living in hotel room and were asking for household supplies to start over again.

So I thought, what can I give?  I went to the basement and grabbed our extra suitcase.  (I thought they might as well have that.)  And I began to fill it.  I had an extra quilt.  I had a whole set of unused kitchen towels.  I had a few kids’ games that were never used.  I found so many things that I filled the suitcase and had to get a garbage bag.

Then I found my beautiful set of extra silverware that I had never used.  I held the wooden box in my hands.  It was a gift that someone had given to us for our wedding.  I didn’t want to part with it, partly because I worried about what that person would think should she find out and partly because the set was complete and like I said, beautiful.

I started to put it back on the shelf, but something inside me said no.  This lovely silverware set was not meant for me.  It was meant for this poor family, and so in the end I gave it too.

The next day I drove over to the hotel and gave them my things.  The mother of the family was so thankful.  So thankful.  But you know what?  I was the one who was thankful for the opportunity to give.  I walked away with Love burning in my heart.

Of course when we simplify or declutter our homes and give things away, we don’t always get to see who might benefit from it all.  But that one time I did get to see.  And it was worth it.

But it is always worth it, no matter what.  For giving our things away teaches us detachment from them, and more importantly, it teaches us Love.

 

Christ-Like Minimalism, Flashback Friday

Minimalism & Sceptic Pumps

  1. Yep, it’s Thursday.  But I have a busy day tomorrow and would like this post to go out today.
  2. I was recently interviewed by Mrs. Laura Gardner for her company’s blog.  The topic was Minimalism.  If you’re curious click HERE for it.  All the photos in her article are from my home.

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    Like this one.  It’s my living room.
  3. I want to highlight the book she mentions at the beginning of her article.  This book was life-changing for me.  If you need a little kick in the behind to get rid of some of your stuff, then read THIS.  It’s Fr. Thomas DuBay’s Happy Are You Poor: The Simple Life and Spiritual Freedom.
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  4. Man, this book is tough to swallow.  But it’s true.  Your exterior surroundings are a reflection of what’s going on inside you.  One ought to live, in his words, “Gospel Frugality.”  (I have a long, long way to go.)  This is the key, however.  I like DuBay’s phrase – Gospel Frugality – because it suggests something that “Minimalism” doesn’t.  In short, it means that God cares how you live.  And unless you get that, you’re not going to simplify your life.  Or your possessions.  (And no, it doesn’t mean living in squalor with zero possessions.)
  5. This week our sceptic pump went out.  That was exciting.  Actually, the pump probably gave way some time ago, but we didn’t know it.  We thought maybe a kid shoved something down the toilet in the basement, as that toilet wasn’t flushing properly.  We shrugged it off and told everyone to use the upstairs toilet, hoping to get around to having it fixed sometime in February.  Well, then my husband noticed that the water level was much higher in the furnace room drain.  Then the upstairs toilet wouldn’t flush fully.  Then my husband investigated and discovered that the sceptic tank wasn’t draining because the pump wasn’t working.
  6. Do you have any idea how big of a disaster this might have been?  Imagine the nastiest fecal matter you can.  Imagine the stench.  Imagine it inches deep all over your house!  Oh praise God for observant and inquisitive husbands!
  7. In case you’re wondering, the matter has now been resolved.  We have a new sceptic pump, and everything is functioning properly.  Deo gratias.
  8. How was your week?