There’s something about a new year. isn’t there? So fresh and clean with none of the last year’s mistakes . . . yet. It’s natural to want to apply the newness to our lives, to make them fresh and clean as well.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who resolves to tackle household clutter at this time of year. When it’s cold out, we naturally spend more time indoors enjoying cozy pursuits, and I have a hard time relaxing when my house is making me feel unhappy and anxious.
I wrote a super popular post a few years ago, about our American problem with too much stuff, and last year I acquired the popular minimalism guide by Marie Kondo. And I made some progress, but this is going to be my year.
Because last year I read a book that didn’t only talk about minimalism and explain it. This book anchored it in Catholicism, and that’s an unbeatable combination.
Sterling Jaquith, the author of Not of This World (which I was given by the author in exchange for my honest opinion in this post) hit the nail on the head when she wrote this: “Nothing in this world will ever really satisfy us. Our ultimate desire will always be for God, and that is why I believe all Catholics should embrace a lifestyle of minimalism.” This makes so much sense to me. Our consumeristic culture encourages us to fill our emptiness with more and more stuff, but it never ends, does it? We are always looking toward the next “must-have” item.
As my readers know, I was forced into minimalism a few years ago when my house burned down. I was involuntarily relieved of the burden of too much stuff. My relationship to the things of this world was changed instantly, and the result is that clutter I might have once not given a second glance now makes me anxious. I have intentionally chosen to acquire very few extraneous personal possessions, and I ruthlessly get rid of things regularly, but the stuff seems to pile up anyway.
I find this overwhelming, and the problem is hard to tackle. I need help, and this book provides it. The opening chapters explain minimalism, and offer personal examples of what can happen to people who live their lives piling up possessions. I recently traveled to Baltimore to help my mother-in-law go through some of the stuff in her home of more than 60 years prior to her moving into a small apartment. She is very happy in her new place, but getting rid of her possessions has been very hard–not just logistically, but emotionally. How much easier not to buy things and become attached to them in the first place!
Sterling goes on to remind us of the minimalist beginnings of Christianity–Jesus was born in a stable, after all! His followers were poor, and throughout the ages those in religious lives have continued to vow poverty. Following their example will bring us peace and space: “We’re going to create more space in our lives to connect with the Lord . . . The more we follow His will, the more peace we have and deep down, this is what we all desire.”
For me, this focus on Christianity is what sets the book apart from other minimalism guides and makes it uniquely motivating for me. But that doesn’t mean the other stuff is neglected! Much of the book involves detailed week-by-week and room-by-room instructions for decluttering, along with access to printable worksheets to help you do it. There are also special sections for larger families, homeschooling families, and people who live in small spaces.
I am starting on Monday to follow Sterling’s program. Buy the book right here and you can do it too! Even better, you can join in online and get explanatory and motivations videos from Sterling and feedback from other people going through the program!
This book really did start me along an ongoing path on minimizing my belongings. Below are some of my posts showing how I put its lessons into practice, complete with before-and-after pictures!