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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Summer Declutter

Hear me now, oh, thou bleak and unbearable world
Thou art base and debauched as can be
And a knight with his banners all bravely unfurled
Now hurls down his gauntlet glory

I am I, Don Quixote, the Lord of La Mancha
My destiny calls and I go
And the wild winds of fortune will carry me onward
Oh, whither soever they blow
Whither soever they blow, onward to glory I go!


One of the speakers at the IHM homeschooling conference I attended in May was Colleen Billing, who runs her own company for home organization called Peaceful Interiors. Charlotte Mason wrote that education is "an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life." Atmosphere is a full one third of a child's education. So we can deduce that our homes need to be clean, well-organized, and beautiful. Colleen reminded us that our God is a God of order; that we are created with hearts that crave and desire order. Decluttering our homes is paramount for providing a Catholic CM education!

Home organization is not merely utilitarian; it is spiritual. What we see on the exterior tends to reflect what is going on with the interior life. And we are affected spiritually by the quality of our surroundings. As I have written about before, Marie Kondo, in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, goes so far as to say that once we have cleared our clutter, we will be able to uncover our life's purpose!

But decluttering takes time, and time is a luxury that many homeschooling families do not possess. Of course, "discipline" comes right after atmosphere in the CM motto, and by discipline Charlotte meant habit formation. With good habits, your children should not be accumulating clutter. They ought to be in the habit of picking up after themselves and keeping their rooms and possessions tidy. Encouraging them to give unused and unloved items to charity is a great practice to instill. In the same vein, we adults need to model good habits. There is one room in my home in which I have failed in this regard dismally.

Colleen suggested that we choose one room and work on it from start to finish. She shared that the average room takes between four and twelve hours to declutter! So if you are wondering why you can never get that Terrible Room under control, most of the problem is likely that you haven't taken enough time to diligently put in the necessary hours.

My Terrible Room is part of the master bedroom suite, separated from the sleeping quarters by a set of wooden French doors. I know, I am a lucky woman! This room contains my husband's dresser and his closet. The rest of it is my stuff. My dressing table, a bookcase, and a cabinet. Multiple storage boxes and 3,000 magazines.

Marie Kondo says that before you can organize anything, you must clear out the clutter. She counsels us to touch each object and ask ourselves, "Does this bring me joy?" That is the entire criteria. Believe it or not, you can do this with books and magazines without even looking inside. Colleen adds that we should question whether we use the object on a regular basis, meaning at least yearly. This criteria can work with items which hold no sentimental value. Luckily sentimental items are the last things that we declutter in Marie's method. Again, the bringing of joy gets the last word.

Colleen recommends designating a specific time to work on decluttering and burying your phone and computer away from yourself. Marie admonishes us to get to it and do it all at once, rather than the proverbial "a little at a time". She promises that if you declutter your entire home in one fell swoop, you will have such great practice in making decisions about what stays and what goes that you will never have to go through this decluttering process again! I would add that we have to keep up those good habits we have established in our children and ourselves. Marie insists that we must begin with our own stuff, and no one else in the family can help us decide. Since most of us are on summer break from homeschooling lessons, the time is now to get it done!

A couple of final notes on the spiritual side of this topic. Colleen recommended John Michael Talbot's book, Simplicity. Our homes are like little monasteries. Monasteries are very simple but very beautiful. Come up with a vision for your home. Go from room to room and write it down. Dream a little bit. She was also very enthusiastic about flylady.net for additional tips.

It might feel like you are dreaming the impossible dream, but perhaps it is, after all, not so difficult so slay that windmill.

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