I joined the bandwagon and read the popular book “the life-changing magic of tidying up.” The book is so popular, that I waited months for it to be available from the library. Was it worth the wait? Sure, because I didn’t have to buy it! Am I glad I read it? Sure, but since I had actually forgotten I placed it on hold, I could have lived without it. Gasp.
A few weeks ago, Theresa wrote a brilliant review of the book from a Christian perspective. You all should read it. I agree 100% with her review.
So, why am I bothering to write another review from a Catholic mom-blogger perspective? Because it’s how I roll, and because I want to touch on the question many people have asked me as I read: “Can this be done in a large family?? What about my husband who has collections and …?? Is this something we can do as Catholics?” My friends, I have some thoughts for you. My hope is that this post will compliment Theresa’s post.
Let me start with my “Big Nos” about this book and the philosophy of tidying up that Marie Kondo promotes.
**The idea to thank our possessions for a job well done: No, thank you. Objects are objects; they do not have a soul or awareness or intelligence of any sort. It is better instead to thank God for the gift of our blessings and how our lives are better for them, as well as ask Him to remind us and show how we can be generous with our blessings.
**The practice of greeting your home: Again, my home surely is a blessing and I’m glad we have such a decent one to live in…but I don’t need to greet this building.
**Having a parting ceremony for objects you are finished using: again, these are objects. They have no life within them , we do not have ceremonies for inanimate objects. This certainly approaches and dabbles with idolatry.
**The idea that “real life” begins as soon as you have put your house in order after a good, proper, tidying up. “Real life” is every day, no matter the state of our homes. Real life is doing that which God calls us to, loving our families, doing our best in our jobs, etc. Real life isn’t made possible by a clean house, though it certainly is nice to have a clean house.
**The belief Ms. Kondo shares when she says, “One theme underlying my method is transforming the home into a sacred space, a powerspot filled with pure energy…” No, no, no. Maybe close, but no. A clean home is not the goal and the starting point for our real lives. A clean home certainly is going to be more peaceful, organized, and even beautiful. A clean, peaceful, tidy space is a wonderful environment for living within, for creating a domestic haven, for being the “safe space” and comforting place our families gather and grow within.
And now to the good part: what I like and what I think about using the ideas in a large family (or any family, for that matter!).
**Can this “work” in a family with Catholic Christian values? In short, yes, I think it can. As I pointed out before, some things aren’t worth subscribing to, like thanking our items. But we can, and should, give thanks to God for what we have in our lives. We can, and should, not fill our lives with stuff just because, instead, we should be discerning about what we own and keep our minds focused on what is best suite for our lives and families. Less is likely going to be more!
**Should you read it? Only if you want to. Now, on to what I appreciate, and then more thoughts.
**Sort through your items, (every.single.one.of.them.), and only keep what brings you joy. Theresa thought this was a little weird, I think it’s, well, lovely. Who wants to be holding on to things they don’t really like? But…I’m not single and I do have to have some things that aren’t exactly joy-inspiring, but are rather, useful and practical and helpful to our family life. I mean, I can’t just toss all the ugly socks and old college notes and research books just because they don’t bring me joy. I can’t toss anything that isn’t mine (which IS a caveat that Ms. Kondo makes, and an important one I will get to next). However, the idea in general to keep what is most pleasing to you and ditch the rest, that I like. It helps me whittle down my wardrobe, bookshelves, home decor items, even my kitchen tools. Did I really need 3 dozen random canning jar lids? Nope. I don’t have that many jars, for one thing, and I decided I like the wide-mouth version than the regular-mouth jars.
Every time I read her idea to keep what inspires joys, I was reminded of the following quote by William Morris. I think they are complimentary.
Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. -William Morris
Practically, I have my own things, my husband has his things, and we have 5–going on 6–children. It isn’t practical, nor is it really even possible, for me to sort through every single thing. What I can do, is keep in mind the idea to keep what is useful, and what I really enjoy. In the last week, keeping this in mind, I’ve gotten rid of those excess jar lids, about a dozen books I’m not going to read again, a useful–but not my style–tablecloth, and there is a box of assorted things ready for the thrift shop.
**How to apply this to a family, you ask? Well…my husband likes his collections, but when he has some time and the mental energy, he sometimes does cull through various things. His things aren’t mine, and I have no business sorting them, nor nagging him. Once in a while, I might kindly ask if he is still using something…but nagging isn’t good for any marriage, so I’ve given that up (at least, I try). On this point, Ms. Kondo speaks about keeping her own space clean, and finding peace and joy in that, instead of looking around the house at her family’s clutter and finding fault in them. This I liked, and it reminded me a bit of the Gospel story to remove the plank from your own eye before telling your brother about the splinter is his.
**As for children? Well, I’m the mom. If I don’t manage how many clothes they have, how many toys they own, and what in general even is allowed into our house for them, then I’ve missed the first opportunity at kiddo-clutter-control. With 5 kids, it’s amazing how easily the piles just grow. When shirts don’t fit, out they go. If they are in good condition and I like them enough to save for a younger sibling, I will keep them. That is prudent. If jeans have holes and are beyond my time or talent for fixing, out they go. Same for shoes, socks, toys. Speaking of toys…I do plan on spending some quiet hours this week culling through the basement. I’ll keep favorites, board games, and little more than that. At this point, if it has been forgotten in the closet, why are we keeping it?
And for my own things? I sorted through my closet not long ago, but I have a feeling I could be a little more discerning still. There is one top I can think of right now, that isn’t a color I love, nor does it fit that well…so that will be donated. For my hobby things, I’ll probably sort through the fabric stash and other craft supplies and keep only what I truly plan to use, save some things for the kids to create with, and donate the rest.
Most of these things will be donated, others I’ll try to swap on homeschool boards (all the books under the clothes).
Part of the clutter mess to be cleared out of the craft room.
**Do I expect this to be a one-time event, as Ms. Kondo suggests? Heck no! This is a large family I’m raising and loving! This is a work in progress. As much as I would love to spend a week or so non-stop decluttering, I can’t. I have people to care for, and that means constant interruptions and putting needs above clearing clutter. We have seasons of purge and seasons of collecting (ahem, between November and January, we celebrate 4 birthdays and Christmas). We have seasons of sorting, seasons of growing into and out of clothes rapidly, and in a years’ time, we might be moving, which will be a major purge time. I plan to gently and gradually instill the idea of keeping what is most useful and beloved, and work towards a goal of making smart decisions about our things and our buying power. Overall, I’m hoping we’ll better appreciate the gifts God has given us, and live with gratitude to Him for what we have, and focus less on our things, more on our love. In the short and long-term, I’m hoping for a clarity about the items I allow into our lives, and always be working on a peaceful, beautiful home for my family to live and love in, a space that is our domestic church and the place we grow most in our faith so we can go out to the world to share God’s love.