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 other 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.

Book Review

Humility Rules: Book Review

Anyone need a good book for teenage boys?  That’s inspiring, short, and hilarious?

You’re in luck.  Ignatius Press has just the thing:

Humility Rules: Saint Benedict’s 12-Step Guide to Genuine Self-Esteem

This is the title of Brother J. Augustine Wetta’s book.  Click HERE for it at Ignatius Press.

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Notice the monk carrying a skateboard?   This book is full of funny pictures.

A friend of mine gave this book to me, and I read it in a day or two.  It’s set up in 12 “steps” and offers practical advice after the fashion of St. Benedict’s Rule.  It’s good for anyone to read, but the reason why I emphasize teenage boys is because Wetta is a monk, a high school teacher, and a rugby coach.  Furthermore, he’s got a great sense of humor, used to professionally juggle, and loves surfing.  He’s a manly man–perfect for teenage boys.

Wetta even has a little chapter on dating wherein he addresses the infamous question, “How far is too far?”  He ends his rant on the wrongness of this kind of thinking with, “Feel free to do anything you could brag about to your mom.”

Then there’s a chapter on impure thoughts.  He describes his own struggle with this.  “While reading a biography of Saint Benedict, I learned that when he was tempted, he threw himself into a rose bush; so I said to myself, if Saint Benedict can do it, so can I. I went out into the garden behind the monastery and jumped right in.”  You can imagine what happened next…getting stuck for an hour and half, and then having to explain himself to a brother monk…poor guy.  It’s a great story for teenagers.

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I couldn’t resist showing one picture of his monks.  I love that they’re lifting weights.

But he’s got great advice for all walks of life, not just teenagers.  For example, he was once asked to preach at his best friend’s wedding, so he sought the advice of the wisest monk in his abbey, Brother Luke, who happened to be napping.  Brother Luke opened his  eyes and calmly told him, “Tell him [the young married man] that there will come a day when he will want the window open and she will want the window closed.”  Then Brother Luke went back to sleep.  Wetta was taken aback.  What simple, but profound advice!

As a mother, I too found this book inspiring and funny.  For example, let me quote a passage that I could relate to:

When I [Wetta] was seventeen, I burned a hole in the living room carpet.  I didn’t do it on purpose, but let’s just say I wasn’t thinking when I set the hot kettle of popcorn on the rug in front of the TV.  A few minutes later, my mother was standing before me with tears in her eyes, saying, “How much of this house to you plan to destroy before you finally leave for college?  Just let me know so I won’t get too attached.”  That was a few weeks after I had decided to juggle bowling balls in my bedroom, and several months after I had backed the family car into the garage door.

Any mother who has boys will understand what Wetta’s mother was feeling.  How often have I lamented the destruction of my house?  From holes in the walls to broken toilet seats, my husband and I joke about how we can’t have anything nice.

Wetta’s Homework

Each chapter concludes with Wetta’s homework for the reader.  This may be the best part of the book – this simple, practical advice.  Let me give you a few examples of his homework:

  1. Clean a toilet.
  2. Drive somewhere with the radio and the cell phone turned off.
  3. Clean up someone else’s mess.  Bonus points if it’s on the floor.
  4. Spend an entire day without looking at a screen.

Now who wouldn’t want their teenage boy (or girl) to read this awesome book?