Decluttering & Simplifying for Catholic Families
by Rita Davidson
Every Catholic family today is feeling the pinch. As most Catholic families have more than a few children, space really becomes an issue as the family grows. We have felt the pinch, as many of you remember from our early days. I pulled out the following article that I wrote from my archives here, in hopes it would help someone else. This was published in a homeschooling magazine a few years ago. It lacks a bit of "Catholic’ content but I thought it was helpful in a practical way, as is.
Hope you enjoy it!
When we started out, we were so happy to just be together that we could have lived anywhere. We started by living above my parents until our third daughter arrived and we realized it was time to get more space.
We were overjoyed to find a small 2 bedroom bungalow on a large country lot out of the city. I remember distinctly, looking at the smallish bedroom then looking at each other and saying, “We can eventually add-on.”
As a homeschooling family with a home-business as well, we quickly filled the entire place. Bookshelves climbed the walls and 3 more children later we found ourselves desperate for more space.
When we had our fourth child, I remember getting rid of the dresser in my room to fit a crib. When we had our fifth, we got rid of our bed frame. On having our sixth child, I ended up sleeping in the only place there was; the living room floor, that became our makeshift bedroom. This is just to give you an example of our cramped house. Space was not an option!
Over the years we struggled to make sense of our space and find room for things. At Christmas and birthdays, gifts were small. All large toys would have to wait, there simply wasn’t room. All those large castles and garages I wanted to get for the boys just couldn’t be bought. One particularly painful event was our daughter who wanted a piano. It was a great distress to her that we simply could not find the space to fit one in no matter how we tried.
One thing became most evident when looking at the world at large. Most countries did not have as much as we do in the Western world. Talk of our landfills filling up too fast and then looking at Third World countries and the extreme of their living brought a vivid reminder to us that we didn’t need to have as many adult toys as what we may have been thought we needed. As homeschoolers we may be stuck at home for school, but our horizons are ever wider as we look at the big picture. It was a re-education process for us and it took 10 years to learn some valuable lessons. I hope these will be of some use to those of you that are struggling with lack of space in your own homes.
Three things stuck out at us at having to be the biggest culprits in filling up a homeschooling home. *Books, Toys and Clothes.
So twice per year we would sort these areas to rid ourselves of the accumulations that filled up nooks and crannies in our tiny home. Everything from gifts from the past Christmas, to things we picked up at the recycle shop for free. Sometimes it came in faster than we could blink an eye!
Here’s a detailed look at our Bi-Annual Sorts:
- Book Sort includes: books that were never read, gotten by mistake, too old compared to an updated edition, duplicates or perhaps ones easy to rent from the library.
Books are the largest culprit in a homeschooling family. Each year new students and new grades bring in more books. Soon they are in stacks on the floor and anywhere they will fit. We made good use of our walls. Bookcases that lined our only hallway had books that went to the ceiling. Other bookcases filled the walls of the large living room and we placed furniture in the center of the room to make use of the wall space for shelving. We even ended up with some bookcases lining the back of our couch facing the other bookcases. If it’s any indication of how many books we had, when we finally did move, our movers were exhausted and never wanted to see another book again!
Bookcases can be used for more than one layer of books. To get the most value from bookshelf space we had all our bookcases lined with twice with books. Books in the back, then another row in front and then books on top of those on the side.
- Toy Sort includes; broken toys, toys with missing parts, toys too complicated, or perhaps duplicates or just ones you didn’t like when your children opened the gift from Uncle Joe!
Toys are one of those things that are just a part of every modern home that includes children. But, keep in mind that a child can often most enjoy a sandbox with some water and making mud pies than the latest plastic robot that will break in a week. Your choices here will determine what you will keep, but fresh air and sunshine were always my favorite choices for good, healthy, robust children.
- Clothes Sort; This is a tough one, but these include all stained clothing or anything too small that you don’t need to keep for another child. If you have a real accumulation of lots of clothes, sometimes you need to actually gather all the clothes per child. Set them all out in piles: Pants, Shirts, Dresses etc. Then see how large each pile is. You might be surprised to see they have 20 dresses and only 5 shirts. What you need to do is reduce these to a reasonable level to say enough for one whole week or 10 days. Get rid of anything but your favorites and reduce the amount of clothing that has to be sorted, washed, folded and so on.
Too many clothes are a factor in every modern home. Often one has so many clothes that they are in large piles everywhere. We often don’t realize that less is more, as they say, and that having less clothes makes for a much reduced burden on you and your machine. We realized this vividly when we washed our clothes by hand for four years. It is amazing how little one can do without if needed.
Our sorts became a tradition for us that we did each Spring and each Fall before the two gift giving seasons.
Armed with two garbage bags:
One for garbage., One for giving away, we sorted with a vengeance. Some might like to add another bag for packing away too. We did this as little as possible.
The idea here is to keep things to a minimum. Anything that isn’t being used or is broken goes out. Anything you like, but just can’t use, should be given away too.
We found it easy to know others could use what we had and so donations to our local recycle place really helped ease our discomfort.
There are lots of other little areas that need attention too.
For example another tip is keep only what is practical. That means get rid of all the knick knacks that can clutter. Books are useful, but a glass turtle will only collect dust and need your care to keep clean so out it goes. Except for a few very favorite items they have no real value in a small Catholic home if they don’t do something for you.
Lastly, use your walls! We used to laugh as we considered if we could suspend shelves from the ceiling to make use of all that bare space! But, yes, use your imagination. You can put single shelves along the top of a window to hold more books. Shelves attached to the wall can fill up the space between a bookcase and your ceiling. Ikea has bookcases extenders that you can purchase as well. Making use of the space all the way to the top of your ceiling will give you that bit of space you’ve been looking for. And bookcases aren’t only for books. They make great shelving for clothing, or boxes, or whatever you can think of.
The amount of space your lacking will determine how much you sacrifice of your belongings. For us living with 6 children and a homebusiness in only an 800 square foot home made us have to take the most drastic reductions. Looking back there was likely even more I could have done. I’ve heard some mothers say they don’t have enough space with 2 children in 1200 square feet. You really need to take a good look at your own values, what you own, and what you can do without so that you can appreciate the home you have without constantly tending to it. Simplicity has a way of relieving you of a great burden so that we can enjoy life with our children more.
Now that we are living in nearly 4000square feet of space, I am forever grateful that our children and us, learned the lesson, that less is really more.
Reading over this article after so many years, it struck me how we need to declutter our hearts and souls. The cobwebs that settle into our hearts from discontent and lukewarmness, pride and vanity, cloud up our thinking. Our souls become dark like the unswept corners of our home. We accumulate sacramentals and statues and relics hoping they will be a visible proof of our faith, but they collect dust as we put our faith in ‘things’ rather than in our devotions as a living treasure.
Be aware that as we clean our homes, and keep them tidy, that our souls are the most important possession we have. Without a grace filled soul, we would be lost. And that is the greatest tragedy of all time. This world is descending into darkness at an unprecedented pace. What this world needs is more souls to sacrifice, more souls to love, more souls to remain decluttered so that the light of Christ might shine forth into this dark world.
What do you think ?
©Copyright 2006- 2012 Rita Davidson All Rights Reserved.
Rita is a Catholic wife and mother of seven children. She reverted back to the faith when her oldest was making her First Communion. By then, she had completed degrees in Hairdressing and Make up artistry. She went on to receive a degree in Natural Health and another degree in Art. At age 26, Rita suffered a minor stroke. With no lasting effects, this dramatically changed her outlook on life. In 1996, Rita began ‘Little Flowers Family Apostolates’ to reach out to other families with her new found faith, by creating unique Catholic books and resources.. In 1999, she wrote the bestselling, ‘Immodesty; Satan’s Virtue’. She was editor of ‘The Catholic Health Letter’ for 7 years. She has been a homeschooling mom for 20+ years, and has written for various magazines. She is honored that families have trusted her with their questions, needs and concerns over the years. She continues to write and reach out to Catholic families with her husband, Mark and their 4 boys through