Madridfamily-homeschoolAd
The Premier, Online Magazine for Catholic Homeschoolers
    Abby Sasscer

Living with Less: the 5th Principle of the Simple Life

Less is More

Imagine walking inside a church… Christ-centered, uncluttered and orderly.  Wouldn’t it be so beautiful if we could recreate the same atmosphere in our own domestic churches?

But aside from living out our vocations as husbands, fathers, wives and mothers, we have answered God’s profound call to educate our children at home.  While home schooling has its indescribable rewards, it also comes with its many challenges.  One of the greatest challenge we home schooling families are faced with today lies in being able to provide a simple, holy, and uncluttered environment so that our homes could more fully reflect a Christ-centered domestic church.

Double Duty: Home and School

Everyday, we are faced with the reality that we are running both a home and a school under the same roof.  Creating a simple home environment is one of the first steps we can take to ease this challenge.  But simple doesn’t always mean easy.

When our Lord and Savior entered into this world, he did so without grandeur, pomp or circumstance.  In a lowly stable, He quietly came in all simplicity, humility and gentleness.  Saint Francis De Sales eloquently writes, “let us learn from Jesus in the manger, to hold the things of the world in such esteem as they deserve”.

Write for Us!

Our Lord came to this valley of tears to fulfill His purpose.  It was a purpose that He could not be distracted from as the eternal salvation of each and every soul depended on it.  And part of this purpose was to suffer His passion and death in order to set us free…free from all forms of bondage that our world has to offer.

But are we truly free?    Do we really enjoy the freedom our Lord so painfully paid for?  Or have we allowed worldly distractions, materialism in particular, to slowly creep into our own domestic churches and rob us of our freedom….freedom to focus on God, freedom to embrace our vocation, freedom to focus on relationships, freedom to live simply and joyfully?

What can we do to recapture the simplicity and beauty that our homes so desperately need?  Living with less, the fifth principle of the simple life, is the answer.

3 Benefits of Living With Less

1.  Our home becomes a haven

When we live with less, our surroundings become more orderly.  Our home becomes a haven instead of a place of constant stress and chaos.  When we have less things, we don’t have to expend too much time and energy organizing and maintaining our surroundings.

2.  There is more room to love God and others

Click "Like" if you support Catholic Homeschooling!

In Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians, we read,

“Now we have received not the spirit of the world but the spirit which is from God, that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.”

Scripture is not saying that the gift of material things is bad in and of itself.  However, we are called to love God ABOVE all things.  Having or desiring too many things can distract us from our relationship with our God and our family.     When we live with less, we have more freedom to ponder and listen to God and all the lessons He wishes to teach us throughout the day.    The more we find the time to pray, the more we can focus on improving our relationships with those around us and devote ourselves to becoming better husbands, fathers, wives, mothers and teachers.

3.  It gives us an opportunity to practice the virtue of holy detachment

What do the Saints have to say about holy detachment?  St. Francis de Sales reminds us, “How beautiful it is to behold a person destitute of all attachment, ready for any act of virtue or charity, gentle to all, indifferent as to any employment, serene in consolation and tribulations, and wholly content if only the will of God be done.”  He continues, “see why we never arrive at sanctification after so many Communions we make!  It is because we do not suffer the Lord to reign in us as He would desire. He enters our breasts and finds our hearts full of desires, affections and trifling vanities.  This is not what He seeks.  He would wish to find them quite empty, in order to render Himself absolute Master and Governor of them.”  St. Teresa of Avila also writes, “the condition of union seems to be nothing else than dying entirely to all the things of the world, and living in the enjoyment of God.”

Sacred Scripture too has much to say about living with too many things.    In Paul’s letter to the Colossians, we read, “be intent on things above rather than on things of the earth”.  In the First Letter of John, we read, “do not love the world or the things in the world”.  In the Gospel of Mark, we also read, “what profit does a man show who gains the whole world and destroys himself in the process?”.

Seven Simple Steps

Below are seven steps to help simplify your home environment:

1. Offer your detachment project for a higher purpose

Many secular organizational books will almost always have a chapter on decluttering.  I prefer to use  the word “detaching” as there is a sense of mortification when you detach from the things of this earth.  The act of decluttering then then becomes an opportunity to exercise virtue rather than a chore, task or goal to achieve.  Each time you declutter, offer your detachment project for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, the conversion of sinners or the conversion of a family member.

2. Declutter regularly

If we tend to accumulate items on a regular basis, then we need to declutter on a regular basis, at least twice a year.  In our home, we “autumn clean” during Advent because, chances are, the children will be receiving new things for Christmas.  We also spring clean during Lent and it allows our family to celebrate a more meaningful Easter Season.

3. Avoid storing too many items for future use

Another way of looking at it is by storing excessive things, someone else is possibly being deprived of it. Remember that there is someone out there who could be using the same item right now.   On a deeper level, every time we store too many things, we place more trust in our storage bins than we do on God.

4.  Establish limits

There is a saying that it is nice to have a little bit of everything.  However, there is no known universal law out there that says we have to have a lot of everything.  In our home, we keep a maximum of seven pieces of each clothing (7 shirts, 2 sweaters, 4 pairs of pants, etc.).  Toys and books are contained in bins or shelves.  Anything that does not fit in designated bins or shelves are put in the give away pile.  While each family has different needs, the most important thing is to put some sort of limit on things, especially toys, books and clothes.

5. Find strength from Scripture

In the Gospel of Luke, we read “avoid greed in all its forms.  A man may be wealthy but his possessions do not guarantee him life.”  In the Gospel of Matthew, we also read, “do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal.  But store up treasures in heaven where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

6. Seek help from the Saints

St. John Chrysostom reminds us,

“The soul which is attached to anything, even to the least thing, however many its virtues may be will never arrive at the liberty of the divine union.  It matters little whether a bird be fastened by a stout or slender cord – as long as he does not break it, slender as it may be, it will prevent him from flying freely.  Oh what a pity it is to see some souls, like rich ships, loaded with precious freight of good works, spiritual exercises, virtues and favors from God, which, for want of courage, to make an end of some miserable little fancy or affection, can never arrive at the port of divine union while it only needs one good earnest effort to break asunder that thread of attachment.”

7. Start small but be consistent

If you have a tendency to get overwhelmed, start small. If you don’t know where to begin, you could start with a drawer, then a desk, then a closet and slowly graduate to decluttering an entire room.  Stay consistent by keeping a realistic detachment goal. You can choose to declutter fifteen minutes per day or one drawer per week or give away one bag per month.  Blessed Teresa of Calcutta once said “The Lord is not asking us to be successful.  He is asking us to be faithful.”

Less Is Truly More

Simple living encourages us to live with less.  Living with less doesn’t only benefit our physical surroundings but gives us the opportunity to practice the virtue of holy detachment.   When we learn to detach from the things of this world, we also learn to practice holy detachment from many things in our life – detachment from worrying about things we cannot control, detachment from other people’s opinions of us, detachment from forming unfounded opinions about others, detachment from all other things that may take us away from loving God more fully, and finally, detachment from our own self-will so that we can embrace our Lord’s Holy will more fully in our lives.

For Further Reflection: Enlighten our minds, we beseech Thee, O Lord and impress upon our hearts with the greatness of our loss when we withdraw ourselves from Thee.  Grant that we may ever prefer Thee before all things else, and choose rather to lose all worldly goods than relinquish but for one moment Thy grace and love. From henceforth, O Jesus, I desire to die to all things else that I may live only for Thee in time and in eternity.  Amen.

About Abby Sasscer

Abby Sasscer
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 2008, she founded Project Nazareth and continues to spread the message of simple living by writing books and speaking for church groups. Abby hopes that more families learn to live simply and generously even if the world says otherwise, to truly discover that less is more and that a simple life is a happy life. See full author page. See her website: www.projectnazareth.info
  • KevClark64

    The problem at my house is just keeping too many things on the off chance that some day it might be needed. If we haven’t used something in ten years, then it’s not worth having, even if twenty years from now it might come in handy. Sometimes I wish I we could throw out everything in our house and start over, but this time only buy things we actually need.

    • Abby Sasscer

      Hi Kevin,

      In our home, we use a 3-S rule. When we’re not sure whether or not to keep something, we ask ourselves the 3S questions: Do we foresee using the items in Six months to a year, do we have Storage space for the item and do we have a System of retrieval. We realized that there’s no point in keeping an item if we don’t know where to retrieve it when we need it. Typically, we keep something if we have storage space and a system of retrieval. But even then, we establish limits on how much we can store. Hope this helps :-)

  • Nicole

    Great reminder! The house always looks better and feels better uncluttered. My problem is my husband and his electronics (chargers, extra parts, old items etc) He won’t toss them and I don’t know what to keep or throw out!

    • Abby Sasscer

      Hi Nicole,

      With my husband, we’ve agreed that he could keep whatever electronics he wants as long as it all fits in one large storage bin. Anything and everything that does not fit in that bin has to be given away. He understands that it’s okay to store things but we also have to set limits on how much we can store. Basic rule in our home is this: Storage bins are static and its content should be dynamic. In other words, if he wants to store more things in that one bin, he has to make room and give something away. He cannot keep buying more storage bins or our cottage will just be overrun by storage bins! My point is that we do have to establish limits so that stuff doesn’t take over our domestic churches. Hope this helps.

  • Gretchen

    This is an inspiring article! Do you have any ideas on how to declutter religious items? This is the one area that stumps me. I have so many holy cards, more medals than I can possibly wear, and small things like religious keychains that I don’t use. I feel like I shouldn’t just throw these items away, but I don’t know what to do with them. Help?

    • Abby Sasscer

      Great question Gretchen. A good first place to ask is your parish and see what the protocol is regarding religious items, especially if they are blessed. In our home, we keep our favorite holy cards in small albums and once they are full, we simply share the cards with others. I typically place a set amount of candy and holy cards inside a baggy and give those out when children knock on our door during All Hallows Eve. Also, with the approval of our spiritual director, we placed our old scapulars and rosaries inside a felt bag and reverently placed them inside the cornerstone cinder block when we first broke ground in building our cottage. As far as medals go, I typically keep them in our jewelry box and give them away to my children on special days (like birthdays, baptismal days) provided that each child place them in a special jewelry box of their own. This assures that the medals are treated properly and allows them to give extra medals to friends, relatives or maybe their children when they grow up. I think the best thing to do when it comes to religious items is to pass them on to others. You never know whether what you give may be an answer to another persons prayer. Hope this helps!

    • Erika

      Holy card and small trinkets we get in the mail or at church etc. we usually place reverently in the fireplace and burn. Larger items we take to the local adoration room with a “free” sign on them (if they are in good condition) and they are usually snatched up.

    • Laney

      You can offer it to your church. The DRE can use them as prizes for the kids who do well in Catechism class.

    • ostrander

      Give them to missions or others who may need them. There are Priests who would love to have a supply of religious items to share with parishioners.

  • Joyce

    Love the ideas, love the philosophy! We have the double-edge sword of being a military family that moves every 3 years: lots of new experiences, but also lots of uncertainty regarding housing, storage, or needs for a particular area! Though we declutter fairly regularly and do a big purge every time we move, I will still have to wait until we’re in our retirement home before I can get a solid hold of the clutter monster. :-)