Christ-Like Minimalism

Christ-like Minimalism: The Bathroom

Bathrooms may be the easiest room to simplify.  What does one really need?

  1. Toilet Paper
  2. A Towel
  3. Soap
  4. Toothbrush & Toothpaste
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My bathroom

Oh, but the reality is, I’ve got more in mine.

I have a hair dryer, flat iron, and hair spray.  I also have mascara and a cosmetic compact, with two different colors of lipstick.  I’ve got 4 bottles of lotion.  (Mea culpa.)  My husband has shaving cream, deodorant, and a set of hair clippers.  He also keeps a Bible and Euclid’s Elements “on his side.”  (I suppose because it’s the only place where he can read uninterrupted??)

There are other things too.  I’ve got a household of 9 people to keep track of.  Therefore, I tend to buy things in bulk.  I’ve got three bottles of contact solution.  And a ton of toilet paper below the sink.

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Here’s an inside shot of the upper cabinet.
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And here’s the lower part of the cabinet with medicine on top and my things below.

In any case, someday I hope to have less.  But for now, here’s what I can recommend.

Tips for Less in the Bathroom:

  1. Limit the number of bottles in your shower.  I’ve got 3: my shampoo, body wash, and my husband’s shampoo.  Really, we could get by with 1.
  2. Limit the number of towels and washcloths in your cabinet.  The children have 1 towel each in their bathrooms, and my husband and I each have 2.
  3. Throw that old medicine away.  If you haven’t used it in a year, it’s probably bad anyway.
  4. Throw those old cosmetics away and buy less!

The last thing I’ll recommend for your bathroom is a holy picture or crucifix.  I have St. Therese right my by sink, and sometimes, when I’m brushing my teeth or doing whatever, I talk to her.  Yes, I might be a little crazy, but she always listens.

What’s by your sink?

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Homeschooling

The Homeschool Room

In our old home, we didn’t have a homeschool room.  Rather, I was very creative about where I placed our homeschool materials–on shelves in the living room, in kitchen cabinets, or in bedroom closets…anywhere.

And the children worked just about anywhere too.  In fact, we even had a card table set up in the basement storage room where The Eldest preferred to do her math, as it was a quiet spot.  One does get creative with limited amounts of space.

Thankfully, however, our current home has 5 bedrooms: one for my husband and me, one for the baby, one for the 3 girls, one for the 3 boys, and one for homeschooling.  Deo Gratias.

The Homeschool Room

Now, we’re trying to educate our children classically.  Just what does that mean?  If you’ve got twenty minutes, I strongly encourage you to listen to Andrew Kern’s podcast, The Top 5 Ideals That Any Classical School Should Employ.  It’s awesome.  And I mean, awesome, as in awe-inspiring.

But…

How does that relate to my homeschool room?

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In order to educate all these children, I need a space that is neat, simple, and beautiful, if possible.

Neat?  Most days.  Although it does happen that the boys will take out their circuits and leave them all over the room, and the Two-Year-Old will decide to shred an entire notebook to pieces.

Simple?  Sigh.  I operate a school.  Therefore, I must have some supplies, but these need not be in overabundance.  For example, do I really need those nifty magnetic shapes that everybody else has?  Nope.  (Although I secretly think they’re the coolest thing ever.)  Or how about a bucket full of markers?  Definitely not.

The third one?  Beauty?  I’m always harping on beauty, because it matters!  After all, Ratzinger once said, it’s martyrs and the arts that will evangelize the world, not all your committees and words.  Shoot, I came back into the Church through studying Church architecture, painting, and sculpture.*  One can only stare at Brunelleschi, Fra Angelico, and Wislawa Kwiatkowska for so long until one begins to ask questions.

In any case, today I’ll show you what works for us.

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In our homeschool room, you’ll see a table and chairs, where The Eldest prefers to do her school work because she can shut the door.  The other children like to carry their work out to the kitchen to be near me.

On the walls in here you’ll see a picture of B16 (our affectionate name for Pope Benedict XVI), two maps, a history timeline, the alphabet, and numbers.  These are all practical things, but I’ve also tried to place them proportionally on the walls.  (Proportion is so important that St. Thomas Aquinas names it as one of the three elements of beauty.)

The other side of the room features our computer work space and bookshelves.

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These are mostly our school history, science, and religion books.  Our other literature books are in a different room.

Lastly, we have the closet, which is a blessing.  No longer must I run from room-to-room in order to gather my daily supplies.  They’re all just here.

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And here’s a look at the inside of both sides:

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This side features the children’s completed work trays, cubbies, my answer keys on one of the upper shelves, and a few games on top.
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This side has the children’s puzzles with DVDs on the top shelf and a few art supplies on the lower shelf.

In a previous post I went into detail about educational supplies or “toys” HERE.

And that, my friends, completes the tour of our Homeschool Room.  But I’ll leave you with three things that I’m continually working on:

  1. It’s better to have less.
  2. How I organize my space matters, because beauty matters.
  3. And, less is really better.  (Except for books.)
*This is why ugly churches and bad art are a sin.  They convert no one.
Christ-Like Minimalism

Christ-Like Minimalism: The Bedroom Closet

Some of you could care less about what’s in my closet.  Really, I sympathize.  You may just want to skip this post.

For the rest of you, here we go.

My Closet:  An Introduction

Now I’ve been pregnant or nursing for about 13 straight years.  Just think about that a minute.  Then consider that I likely have another 10 more years of fertility.

Take a minute, do the math, process it.  Think some more.

So clearly my body has been up and down a lot and will be up and down some more.  There’s my normal, pre-pregnancy weight.  Then, there’s my pregnancy weight.  I always gain about 50 pounds.  Then, there’s the post-pregnancy period, wherein it takes about a year for my body to return to its initial weight.  And then about that time, I’m pregnant again.

Why do I mention all this?

Because as any of you mothers out there know, this requires a variety of clothing sizes, unless you have the privilege (or burden?) of being able to buy new clothes every “Body” Season.

And then consider the fact that I live in a region that promises a temperature swing from a frigid -40 degrees Fahrenheit to a blasting 110 degrees.

It’d be a lot easier to live somewhere tropical year round.  I imagine you could live in a sundress and call it good.

How does all this relate to my closet?

In short, I’ve got three wardrobes:  Normal, Pregnant, and Post-Pregnant.  Of course there’s some overlap with clothing.  For example, my two nursing tank tops have simply become my pjs for all Body Seasons.  (Romantic, no?)  And fortunately (or unfortunately?) I can wear my one pair of sweat pants also during all three phases.

But for my sanity, I do have clothing for each specific Body Season, and I’ll mortify myself a little by writing about it.  Maybe it’ll give you a few ideas.  I’m hoping it’ll spur me on to get rid of more.

So what is in my closet?

No skeletons, I hope.

Here’s a shot of my clothes as one walks in the closet:

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Let me break it down for you.  As it happens, right now I’m experiencing a Normal Body Season, so my blue tub of maternity clothes is sitting on the floor.

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Tub of Maternity Clothes.  Currently not in use.

The pink box on the upper shelf is my wedding dress, and the brown box is my sole box of childhood memorabilia.

My Post-Pregnancy clothes are discreetly hanging in the corner, behind a few tank tops, which you may be able to see, if you look closely.

My dress-up clothes are hanging on the right, with my 3 dancing dresses in plastic.  (My husband and I enjoy dancing; it’s a hobby.)  So, the clothes on the left are what I wear every day.

Here are the remainder of the shelves, which contain bottoms for all four seasons – jeans, skirts, skorts, and capris.  (I don’t have any shorts.  I hate them.)

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The top shelf features a pink dancing skirt next to a Nikon camera; the bottom shelf has two bags on it.

Here are the exact numbers of my regular clothes:

  1. Long-sleeved shirts: 12
  2. Short-sleeved shirts: 6
  3. Tank tops: 7
  4. Sweaters/zip-ups: 8
  5. Jeans: 1
  6. Pants: 1
  7. Skirts: 6
  8. Skorts: 3
  9. Dresses (including for dance): 8
  10. Capris: 2
  11. Leggings: 2

I realize that for many of you, I’ve got a ridiculous amount of clothing.  But I’m working on it.  I was greatly inspired by Darci Isabella’s video on what she’s got in her closet.  Wow.  Like 5 tops and 2 skirts.  Just wow.  She does qualify it, however, with that she’s done having children.

My current rule is that if something comes in, something goes out.  I keep the same number of hangers.  And I also “rotate” my clothing, so that way I can see what is being worn, and what is not.  For example, do you see that blue long-sleeved shirt on the end?  I haven’t worn it in a long time, because it’s on the end.  Everything that’s been worn, gets put on the other side.  That shirt may have to go.

Confusing?  Make sense?

It’s my crazy way of knowing what I need to get rid of.

And how about my husband?

Here’s his entire wardrobe.

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Work clothes hanging on top.  Everyday clothes on the bottom.

He does have some running clothes too, and so do I.  They’re just in the dresser, in the room, with underwear and socks.

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Dresser for underwear, socks, 2 pairs of leggings, nylons, running clothes, veils for Mass, and an empty drawer.

And shoes?

I gave up on shoes a long time ago.  Less is way better, and in my case, a lot more comfortable.  Here is a picture of every single pair of shoes I own.

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From left to right: winter boots, running shoes, every day shoes, dancing ballet slippers, sandals, flip flops, and every day boots.

Any questions?  Be sure to ask.

 

Christ-Like Minimalism

Christ-Like Minimalism: The Master Bedroom

When I was a little girl, I used to imagine the perfect bedroom.  It was atop a high, high tower, naturally in a castle, built with beautiful gray stones.  My room had a tall ceiling and large, airy windows, with white muslin curtains flowing in the breeze.  My bed was certainly canopied with the same said cloth.  All was peaceful; all was beautiful.

Alas, I have grown up, and to my dismay, I do not live in a castle.  But I have not given up my hope of a peaceful, beautiful bedroom.  One wants a quiet place to retreat to after all.

Today I’ll look at our master bedroom, which may give you an idea or two for your own bedroom.  Also, if you have any good ideas, please be sure to post them below.  I am always looking for ways to simplify.

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There are a few things I’ll point out about our room first:

  1. In order to achieve a quiet atmosphere, I’ve limited the amount of objects sitting out.  You’ll notice that each night stand has a lamp, with my side also featuring a clock and my Bible.  (My Bible is the only reading material in the room.  This is intentional.)  The other dresser has a picture of my family, a few flowers, and a  little perfume bottle that my mother gave me.
  2. I’ve also limited the number of objects on the walls.  You’ll notice in the photos below that I’ve got a picture of our wedding ceremony, a picture of the Sacred Hearts, and a crucifix.  Nothing else.
  3. There is no mirror anywhere to be found either, not even a tall looking-glass.  There used to be one attached to the dresser, but I got rid of it, and in our old house, I kept a tall looking-glass behind the closet door, but I decided I didn’t want it anymore.  Yes, there is a mirror above the sink in my bathroom, and I suppose it’s necessary, as I don’t want to look completely disheveled all the time, but in the end, it is better for me to not walk by mirrors all day long.
  4. Lastly, you will not find a TV in this room.  Nope.  We wanted an atmosphere of simplicity and peace.

So here we go.  If you’re walking down the hall, here’s the first glimpse of our room that you’ll see:

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By the way, in the hallway on the right is my “art wall.”  This is where I hang the children’s latest artwork.

Notice the wooden rocking chair?  That’s my time-out chair.  It’s one of the best things about our bedroom.  I have a place to go, when it’s loud and chaotic in the rest of the house.  Truly, I am very thankful for this little spot.  Above it is a photo from our wedding and off  to the side you’ll see this hanging on our wall:

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It’s a crucifix from our wedding.

I intentionally put the crucifix on that wall because I can see it from both the rocking chair and from our bed.

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Here is another shot of our room when walking in the door.  The only obnoxious thing is the big, ugly fan.  I wish I didn’t need it, but I do.  Every afternoon I lie down for about twenty minutes and must turn it on, to drown out noise from the rest of the house.  I have heard about white noise machines and have wondered if I should look into them?  We’ll see.

The opposite wall looks thus:

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You might be able to see the holy card of Jesus to the left of the dresser.  Next to Him is a drawing (also of Jesus) that my daughter made for me.  I hid those two little pictures there on purpose.  It’s my little spot where I sometimes kneel to say prayers.

The door on the left is our bathroom.

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There isn’t anything special in here.  For example, you won’t find tons of towels.  I’ve already mentioned elsewhere that my husband and I each have two.  You also won’t find a scale, though, either.  About ten years ago I got rid of that Mood-Wrecker.

And the closet?  I think I’ll do a separate post on clothes later on.  I’ll just leave you with one last photo.

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This is my little bird that perches on my windowsill.  It was my Grandma Martha’s.  I think she’s rather pretty.  She brings joy to my heart.  I find that she often changes locations, though.  My children have a habit of sneaking in my bedroom and flying her around the room to land somewhere else.

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.