“The ordinary arts we practice everyday at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest.” – Thomas Moore
Abby Sasscer was born in the Philippines and came to the United States in 1986. She is a wife, homeschooling mother of three, author, and speaker. In 2004, Abby’s family moved to a small cottage in the mountains in order to practice voluntary simplicity. In 2008, she founded Project Nazareth and continues to spread the message of simple living by writing books and speaking for church groups.
What influenced you to practice voluntary simplicity?
There were many events that influenced my desire to practice voluntary simplicity. I grew up in the Philippines and witnessed poverty in a very powerful way during my daily commute to and from my Catholic school. These images of poverty left such an indelible mark on my soul that, when I came to the United States as a teenager, I made a quiet promise to “live simply so others may simply live.”
As a young adult, I visited several convents to discern a vocation to the religious life. I experienced our Lord in a very powerful way in the simple and orderly way the religious sisters lived. With a simple environment, I was able to focus more on my relationship with God and with those around me. When our Lord made it clear that He wanted me to serve Him as a wife and mother, I longed so much to instill that simplicity into my future domestic church.
Our family lived a comfortable life in the suburbs, and yet we felt a constant call to practice voluntary simplicity in a more concrete way. After seven years of intense prayer and discernment, we left the suburbs and built a small home in the countryside. It is in this Little Home in the Hills that Project Nazareth Apostolate was born with its mission to inspire and encourage families to live in a spirit of simplicity and generosity.
What inspired you to write Simplifying Your Domestic Church?
I originally wrote the book for a dear friend who worked from home full-time and home schooled her four children, two of whom had special needs. Although I wanted to visit and help her out on a regular basis, I couldn’t do so because I myself had a growing family to take care of.
So I decided to write her a manual that included some organizational tips and blank forms I used for home management and home schooling. I even added some passages from Scripture and Saints’ writings to encourage and inspire her in her journey.
As soon as my friend read the manual, she told me that I should seriously consider publishing it so I could share this information with other homeschooling families. I hesitated, but she pointed out that what I considered neuroses may very well be a gift to others. I told her I’d pray about it.
The thought of undertaking any publishing projects at that time was daunting due to health issues associated with my pregnancy. However, there was one night when I was physically suffering so much that I couldn’t get to sleep. Instead of feeling pity for myself, the Holy Spirit moved me to focus on serving others by revamping my original manuscript. So after much prayer, discernment, and many nights of writing, rewriting and editing, I was finally at peace about getting it published.
What makes Simplifying Your Domestic Church different from other organizational books?
There are several features about this journal that set it apart from other organizational books:
It addresses materialism from a very spiritual standpoint. The first several sections offer opportunities to meditate on the virtues of simplicity and holy detachment. Each section contains self-examination questions and numerous Saints’ and Scripture writings for meditation to encourage and inspire readers in their journey towards simple living.
It offers plenty of practical tips on decluttering, organizing, scheduling, paper trailing, menu-planning, Christian budgeting and end-of-life preparation. There are sample forms used by real homeschooling families and plenty of blank home management forms and labels that can be photocopied or downloaded at any time.
It is set up as a text and journal in one. The layout is very light and uncluttered mainly because I want families to spend more time praying and simplifying rather than reading. Once purchased, families have access to free organizational advice via phone or email. You may consider it a form of “lifetime technical support”…as long as I’m alive, that is!
What is the best way to use Simplifying Your Domestic Church?
You can use Simplifying Your Domestic Church depending on your family’s needs. Most moms use the forms on a daily and weekly basis. Others use the journal seasonally, especially when they want to declutter during Advent or Lent. Some use it as a summer resource when they are less busy and want to conquer a major organizational project.
Others use it as a group study resource, either as a family or with other mothers in the parish. Some families even use it to teach Life Skills to their high school children.
How can your book help families?
My hope is that Simplifying Your Domestic Church will help families discover plenty of opportunities to attain sanctity within the sacred walls of their domestic church.
My fervent prayer is that it will impart a profound message to all its readers, that is: The secret to sanctity is to do all things, including the mundane tasks of decluttering and simplifying, out of a deep and abiding love for our God and our family. Our goal is not to have a perfectly organized and decluttered home. Our goal is Heaven. And love is the best way to get there.