Oh, Dearest Mother, Sweetest Virgin of Altagracia, our Patroness. You are our Advocate and to you we recommend our needs. You are our Teacher and like disciples we come to learn from the example of your holy life. You are our Mother, and like children, we come to offer you all of the love of our hearts. Receive, dearest Mother, our offerings and listen attentively to our supplications. Amen.



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Our Lady's Loom, Larder, and Laundry
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myheaven1967
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Posted: Jan 27 2015 at 1:29pm | IP Logged Quote myheaven1967

I recently read a book. It is called The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
I had started to go down a "minimalist" path. But *for me* going down the minimalist path, was leading me out of being a feminine woman. I was ridding myself of so much including beauty and color.
The I came across this book. She is not Catholic, not even Christian, she is Japanese and lives there. I think they are Buddhist. But she wrote in her book a paragraph that opened my heart. Made me see what I was doing.
I had even started to walk away from the Church. But she opened something me up.
I am now setting up my Mary altar. I had disassembled it. Never did I realize how destructive of a path I was on.
I am glad to have my heart opened. I pray to never lose that again.
I just needed to share that.
Thank you for reading.
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Posted: Jan 27 2015 at 3:10pm | IP Logged Quote JodieLyn

That's so wonderful about the book helping you not lose yourself because of minimizing.

I've seen several posts around lately about just that. Well, at least about decluttering too much. People who've done that and write about how it didn't make them happier.

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SallyT
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Posted: Jan 27 2015 at 6:43pm | IP Logged Quote SallyT

You really can throw some good babies out with bathwater, I always think.

And I think that's a really good point, about feeling that you're stripping away something feminine about yourself in going too minimalist. I've thought about that a lot -- I sometimes feel tempted to feel guilty about the number of dishes I have, for example. And yes, it's a lot. I love dishes -- though most of them just came to us from my mother and other people who were downsizing. I even have some beautiful dishes given to us by a priest who wanted them to have a good Catholic home. And no, I do not use all these dishes all the time, or even often -- though I do enjoy setting a pretty table and being able to change up what I use. That to me is genuinely pleasurable, because I enjoy beauty.

So when I've thought about the whole minimalist thing -- which is different from doing de-cluttering, I think. De-cluttering is cleaning. Minimalism is like asceticism -- at least it looks that way to me -- anyway, dishes are the first thing I've thought of as material things of which I have more than I absolutely need, and to which I am at least somewhat attached. Furniture would probably be a second, just because I do have pieces that have come down to me from my grandparents. And I have thought, what if I got rid of them?

Well, the short answer is that my mother would kill me, and at least one of my children would kill me, too. :)

And another short answer is that if the house burned down tomorrow with everything in it (minus the people and the dog), I would not miss the dishes that much. (there are some really irreplaceable things, like paintings my dad did, that I would grieve for -- those don't even come near my "minimalist wish list.")

But the longer answer is: I don't think it's wrong to have beautiful things, maybe even more than you absolutely, absolutely need. Some people may truly be called to an ascetical way of life, even as they live in the world, but I don't think everyone is called that way. Our souls do feed on beauty in the physical things around us, though what we perceive as beautiful may vary. For one person, a lot of stripped-down empty space is beautiful. For another, beauty is in color and form and things that fill a space. I don't know that there's anything objectively "masculine" or "feminine" about either of those orientations, though as wives and mothers, charged with creating a home for our families, many of us may naturally gravitate toward things that make our houses feel like homes -- and that includes beautiful and loved objects.

It's also true that our homes are our domestic churches, and all churches should be beautiful!

Anyway, thank you for sharing that. It is something I've been thinking about, andI think you've hit on something really important. I don't think that decluttering is wrong at all -- I've been on a huge purge-and-organize binge myself, and it's been needed and good. It's also true that we all need to practice detachment (that's why I not-infrequently do the mental exercise of imagining that my house has burned down. maybe that's weird). BUT I also don't think that minimalism, in and of itself, as a philosophy, is inherently virtuous or good for the soul.

Sally

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Posted: Jan 28 2015 at 4:55am | IP Logged Quote CrunchyMom

I have not read the book, but it has been on my list, and I've seen several reviews for it, and the take away I have seen from most people is using a single question in decluttering, and that is, "Does this bring me joy?"

That does seem a healthier way of paring down, because I have a feeling that my home would come much closer to that simplicity and freedom and detachment I desire when I look at minimalism, and yet, that single question could really save you from asceticism.

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SallyT
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Posted: Jan 28 2015 at 8:00am | IP Logged Quote SallyT

Maybe "asceticism" wasn't quite the right word, now that I think of it -- people are called to degrees and seasons of asceticism in the Christian life, with Lent being the obvious example. So that's not, in itself, something to avoid, though clearly some people. e.g., certain religious orders, are more called to an overall ascetical life than others are. Still, there's a reason why people impelled toward ascetical practices have always been encouraged to do so under spiritual direction, not on their own.

I think of that passage in In This House of Brede that describes the nuns' "taking the discipline," i.e. self-flagellation: only at a strictly determined time, only for a strictly determined time, except by special permission. The right desire to mortify the flesh can all too easily become an obsession with punishing, or obliterating, or denying the essential goodness of, the flesh -- that fine line seems to be part of our human makeup.

I think anything that leads us to despise the physical aspects of our lives -- our bodies, our material surroundings -- is probably closer to classical Gnosticism, especially if it also proposes some kind of "superior" way of living and being. That's one reason why I resist clicking on "minimalist" links that turn up on Facebook (that, and dishes guilt).

There's so much that's attractive about movements like that -- attractive, and not intrinsically wrong. We can have too much stuff. We can be too attached. We can be poor stewards of our resources if we're buying too much (especially impulsively), or hoarding too much (uh, maybe I should revisit my jar collection . . . ).

But I try to resist those articles, especially if they promise pictures of tiny houses, or beautiful bare spaces -- because then I look at my own house and life through dissatisfied eyes, in much the same way that I do if I OD on Houzz.com. Or, if I look at and enjoy them, I have to remind myself that the way of life they promote is not, on its own merits, intrinsically virtuous. "Minimal" isn't a virtue. It may be an outgrowth of virtues, but I don't think it's an end in itself.

And pursuing it as an objective -- as if it were in itself a thing to strive for, as a form of holiness, perhaps in place of actual holiness -- would, I think, be really likely to produce just the kind of experience Jill and Jodie are describing.

I don't really have a "thing" about minimalism, incidentally (except that I have this dishes guilt!), but I am in general interested in contemporary forms of gnosticism, which I think is alive and well in our culture in many attractive guises.

So I'm not trying to bash anyone's interest in it, or to say that wanting to pare down stuff is evidence of a spiritual disorder. It's not. I'm inclined instead just to think over the philosophical/theological implications of things like this. I am married to a theologian after all, and they do say that over time, married people start to resemble each other. I guess this is Exhibit A.

:)

Sally

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Posted: Jan 28 2015 at 8:15am | IP Logged Quote CrunchyMom

Good distinction, Sally.

I think, too, that minimalism is a word that means different things to different people. I really like the book "Clutter-free With Kids" by the guy from the Becoming Minimalist blog, but then, there are lots of people who accuse him of not *really* being a minimalist. I guess he is just a less-ist???

I don't mind putting forth energy to maintain things that we use or bring us joy, but I think in today's culture, most of us probably spend too much energy maintaining the excess.

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Posted: Jan 28 2015 at 11:41am | IP Logged Quote ekbell

I think that an important element of asceticism is not disdaining the good that you are giving up.

That is sacrifices done for the love of God *should* be of things good in and of themselves, *should* be of the best we can give not of something we think worthless.   (giving up what is worthless is a duty and can be a burden which we can offer up to God to create good from)

The temptation of sour grapes, of disdaining what we've sacrificed is a strong one along with the temptation to believe that the way we are called to live superior to all others.
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Posted: Jan 28 2015 at 12:20pm | IP Logged Quote JodieLyn

You would think so Sally, but I've been seeing more decluttering info lately that is about getting rid of stuff, not just mess. And yeah people getting caught up in getting rid of stuff from that encouragement and then realizing that they wanted that stuff, that their life is not happier without it.

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Posted: Jan 28 2015 at 2:50pm | IP Logged Quote myheaven1967

Wow what wonderful responses. I am sorry I didn't make it back today sooner. I did give away things that I now regret. I emptied my dresser, hung all my clothing. I do have 3 drawers under my bed, thank goodness. And got rid of the dresser!!! Oh my.
I am kind of saddened by what I did. I nearly gave away all my Catholic books about Mary and such. I even *almost* gave away my fathers Bible that was from Israel. Because I was looking at it as wrongfully attached to these things. They really encourage you to get rid of so much. I did empty a lot of clothing out of my closet, but honestly that is ok. It's now how I want to represent myself and it isn't truly what I feel comfortable in. By the way, my father passed away when I was 2.... I have not much of him and honestly - obviously, I don't have him either. Just small memories.
I guess I am a flop. I quit minimalism. I do want to reduce the things I do not need anymore, but I am no longer a minimalist......
Yes, I was also trying to look at it from a religious and spiritual aspect. I noticed a close friend of mine that is deep into it, walked away from the Catholic Church and took her children with her. That I think is when the red flags started to go up.


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Posted: Jan 28 2015 at 5:03pm | IP Logged Quote ekbell

My husband uses cardboard boxes to store his regular clothing. Is this minimalist (no extra belongings) or cluttering (the cardboard boxes take up more room then a dresser would)? Or is it just a combination of lazyness and thrift?

I suppose it's all in how you look at it.

As for books, artwork and the like, I've been reminded of the Iconoclasts and the arguments against them, particularly the point that images can inform and remind those who have no time or ability to read.

We need reminders of what's important, books (which most of us have the leisure to read) or images or ideally both. We also need to *show* our children what's important.   

Of course our house could stand a lot of decluttering, a few more places to *put* the things that would be good to keep and maybe even hanging up a few more pictures and the like on the walls.


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Posted: Jan 30 2015 at 9:48am | IP Logged Quote cathhomeschool

I agree that minimalism means different things to different people. If you google it, all the pictures that seem to come up are monochromatic (or at least all neutral colors) and bare. But there are people who writing about minimalism from a different point of view, like the Becoming Minimalist guy. There are a couple of ladies whose views I love. I will see if I can pull them up and link here. The main point that they give, though, is that the entire point of "minimalism" is to minimize the extra baggage/distractions so that you can focus on PEOPLE, which is what is really important. -- relationships, not stuff. So for some that may mean getting rid of a lot, and for some it may not. It is about detachment, like Sally said. And I believe that even if you're not attached to any of your stuff, having "too much" is not healthy. There is a world in great need and our excess might bless another. We are not given all we have only for ourselves. (These are the struggles I have and the thoughts that go through my mind!)

myheaven, I am SO HAPPY to read that you found a book that helped you find the balance between beauty and stuff. How scary it is that something that starts out seeming innocent and good can lead us away from God. It is a reminder to me to always reevaluate and go back to why I should be doing a thing -- does it help me be a better mom and wife? Is it helping me love those around me more? Is it life-giving?

I've never heard of Life Changing Magic. I'll have to look it up.      Thank you for sharing your experience!   

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Posted: Feb 03 2015 at 6:07pm | IP Logged Quote myheaven1967

You wrote it so well Janette. Thank you. I have reduced a lot of the clutter and stuff. The overflow. But yet, I am painting this spring, all colors based around a Mother Mary statue, I want to line my cupboards with pretty colors, and I want to eventually decorate very pretty but practical. I don't like to clean a ton of things but I want to be feminine as well.
I want throw pillows and books I love. Yet balance my choices with our life here at home.


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Posted: May 16 2015 at 7:44am | IP Logged Quote SeaStar

Nice article about this book and the whole "does it bring you joy?" idea..

Konmari article

I followed a link in the article and read that the author rarely wears pants anymore because they stopped bringing her joy. Interesting...

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Posted: May 26 2015 at 6:23am | IP Logged Quote SeaStar

Bump: You can listen to the Audible edition of this book for free on You Tube

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Posted: May 29 2015 at 5:44am | IP Logged Quote CrunchyMom

I have been listening to the audio of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I really like it a lot. It is subtly but significantly different from any other decluttering and organizing method I've read about or followed. Instead of questioning whether you should get rid of things, she has you handle each of your possessions and ask whether it sparks joy. You only keep things that do! She also has you declutter your entire home by category instead of space, starting with clothing, rather than going room by room. On Wednesday night I watched a couple of videos of the Konmari way of folding laundry, so yesterday morning with a ton of laundry in the living room that I had stuffed in the van when madly cleaning the house for an appraiser to come, we all sat around learning to fold her way. It is totally something that, had I seen it without listening to her book, I would have thought, "ain't nobody got time for that." But having heard her describe her method, I can really envision keeping that way if we follow through with getting rid of all competing clutter as she describes. Parts of it are weird, like having you talk directly to your home and possessions, but I really love the sentiment of gratitude described behind it and how she uses that gratitude to break her attachment to objects she doesn't need. She speaks a lot of living in the present and how our attachments to objects are often attachment to the past or fear of future, which really does echo so many writings of the saints, I don't have a problem sort of transferring her ideas to more Catholic ones. One of the biggest reasons I've always been drawn to minimalist ideas is because I felt we were not being good stewards of what we do own, and her anthropomorphic strategies sound a little silly but really boil down to good stewardship of what we've been given.

Anyway, even if you think that you don't need to read her book because you already understand decluttering, I really recommend giving it a second chance. I listened to parts of it while actually cleaning out our drawers and closets, and it was really motivating. She describes how so many of us "rebound" after decluttering and organizing and insists that with her method, there is no rebound effect, and I have to say that I believe her.

I also love how she eschews fancy storage and describes the shoe box as the ultimate tool.

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Posted: May 29 2015 at 12:14pm | IP Logged Quote SeaStar

I am listening, too, Lindsay.

I really enjoyed her analysis of other decluttering methods and why they ultimately fail... the one drawer at a time method never ends, the give-one-item-away per day method has no lasting power... I completely agree, having had that experience myself.

And I think her method of organizing by type rather than location is brilliant, because if you have to gather all the books or hot wheels cars or scarves you own in one place, the chances are you *will* be shocked enough at the volume to do something about it.

But my very favorite part of her method is the idea of letting things go that have already served their purposes in your life. If you bought a dress, loved it in the store, took it home and just never wore it, then guess what? It is time to let it go because it has already served its purpose in your life: giving you a fun shopping expedition and the happiness of owning something new. Mission accomplished for that dress- it can go now.

For some reason that idea helps me tremendously, especially with books. If I bought a highly recommended book or one that I thought would be a great fit for us, and it just isn't working out, I can let it go, because its job (helping me explore options) is completed. I don't have to hang on to it forever feeling guilty or feeling like I have to make it work somehow.   What a relief!

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Posted: May 29 2015 at 12:52pm | IP Logged Quote CrunchyMom

I agree. As It might sound bizarre to "thank" an object, but it truly does make it easier to discard if you intentionally think about it with gratitude but ultimately saying goodbye.

And I also agree about her method of going by category instead of by room making so much sense! It also helps so much with implementing her method of sorting and discarding first before finding permanent homes for things. At first, I was afraid she expected my home to be pure chaos for six months until I finally got to put things away, but the order she has you sorting by category makes so much sense.

One thing she emphasized when going through clothing that was like a lightbulb to me was her insistance that you not hold onto clothing that is worn thinking you will use it as loungewear around the house. She said the only thing that you might possibly use this way is a knit top and everything else just takes up space. I find this is SO TRUE. Even with my kids, I'll save stained collared shirts or slacks thinking, "these could be used for play clothes," and they never, ever are.

As a part of the clothing declutter, I've spent all day sorting through the bins of hand-me-downs, and I have two garbage bags for trash and one huge bin of stuff for Goodwill. I kept holding onto things like pieces that none of the kids ever really wore and/or I never liked enough to dress them in because they were technically in good shape. But really, someone else would enjoy having it. They are fine. Just not suited to our style or lifestyle. And then there were the thingss I loved on my older kids that are just a mess. Their time has passed. It is enough of a headache to store clothing to pass down anyway, why make it more of one by trying to store things that don't bring us joy out of guilt or passiveness?

I suppose, though, this managing life with a larger than average family is one area where she doesn't really address things, and we are left to sort of modify her philosophy to suit our lifestyle. I'm also not going to get rid of books quite like she describes because, as homeschooler and maybe just in general, we have a very different relationship with books and a different purpose in maintaining a home library. Likewise, I do still have to store seasonal clothing because it doesn't really work to keep out the same clothing since I'd just have to switch it out the following year anyway because it won't fit, and if I leave it all out, the 4 year old is just going to wear sweats and complain about being hot all summer Still, as I described, I am finding I can apply her concepts well even as I sort through our seasonal tubs of hand me down clothes.

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Posted: May 29 2015 at 1:01pm | IP Logged Quote CrunchyMom

myheaven1967 wrote:
I recently read a book. It is called The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
I had started to go down a "minimalist" path. But *for me* going down the minimalist path, was leading me out of being a feminine woman. I was ridding myself of so much including beauty and color.
The I came across this book. She is not Catholic, not even Christian, she is Japanese and lives there. I think they are Buddhist. But she wrote in her book a paragraph that opened my heart. Made me see what I was doing.
I had even started to walk away from the Church. But she opened something me up.
I am now setting up my Mary altar. I had disassembled it. Never did I realize how destructive of a path I was on.
I am glad to have my heart opened. I pray to never lose that again.
I just needed to share that.
Thank you for reading.


I really liked her chapter on religious keepsakes. Even though it was all related to the visiting of Eastern shrines and the good luck charms associated with their pagan traditions, her advice was really beautiful. When she described setting up a home altar, it really reminded me of Leila Lawler's book, The Little Oratory so much. It is strange how so much of what she said in regards to this really hit home in spite of the vast cultural and theological differences.

Idk, I've heard people say things about the book like, "It got really weird pretty fast..", but I just found it charming and inspiring.

I also think this would be a great book to read as a follow up to Splendor in the Ordinary/Hallowed Be This House by Thomas Howard. If you read Howard first to grasp your relationship with your home in a Catholic, sacramental way, I think it would really compliment the practical implementation laid out in the Konmari method.

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Posted: May 29 2015 at 6:48pm | IP Logged Quote SeaStar

I agree that it seems weird to "thank" an object before letting it go, but in some strange way it gives me closure... kind of acknowledging that yes, it did have its time- thanks for that- and now: goodbye.

I will be interested to see how or if any of her methods change after she has her baby. What if she give birth to a little hoarder?

Kids copy so much of what their parents do, and yet at the same time, some kids are just born with their very own, extremely intense personalities and you can model behavior until the cows come home and still they want to go their own way.

We all know what it's like to have good intentions of limiting toys, etc and then to get derailed by loving family and friends who pile on the plastic toys, goodie bags, yet another basketball, set of PJs, etc. For awhile you can get away with making things disappear, but at some point kids get older and realize: hey- that's my stuff!

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Posted: May 29 2015 at 10:06pm | IP Logged Quote JodieLyn

What is it the Catholic Church says about other religions.. that we deny nothing that is true but that the fullness of truth is found in the Catholic Church? Something like that.

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