Purging the Junk – 40 Bags in 40 Days

My house is full of STUFF.

Even though I always have a box behind the laundry room door to toss random “Goodwill” items into as I come across them, a couple of months ago I decided that I needed to step up the “Stuff Exodus” just a little bit.

I had read an article near the beginning of Lent that talked about purging your house of unnecessary things. It was called The 40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge (from whitehouseblackshutters.com) and the whole idea really appealed to me. I generally don’t give things up for Lent, but this year, I decided to give up a lot of the junk in our house. Not because having it is sinful (though it probably is), but because I felt like I wanted a new start for spring. A less-cluttered start.

I started with the kitchen cabinets. For a long time (during thousands of dishwasher loadings/unloadings) I have dreamed of scaling down and making everyone have their own plate, cup, spoon, and fork. AND NOTHING ELSE. Hey, that’s how it was for Laura Ingalls. Heck, she and her sister even had to SHARE a cup and they turned out just fine. And if it was good enough for them, it should be good enough for me, right? Plus, I was really sick and tired of getting knocked unconscious from over-stacked ceramic mug avalanches. (I did keep my Elvis ones from Graceland, though.)

In the end, I didn’t go completely overboard – we still have enough plates to host people for dinner – but my kitchen cabinets are SO much easier to deal with now. Not to mention the dreaded “Tupperware Cabinet.” Since I had a quota to meet, I gave up on saving mismatched lids and threw them all out!

And it felt good.

The kids got in on it too – they helped me clean out the toy room. With the help of some $1 plastic shoeboxes, we sorted everything out and cleared 6 bags out of there. It’s nice for them to have a place to play where they can actually move around and not be completely surrounded by toys. They even admitted that it’s nicer to have fewer ponies and Barbie dolls. That was surprising.

I cannot even begin to tell you how much unnecessary stuff we had in our house (well, we still have a lot, but not nearly as much). I took it one room at a time and I purged. I sold it. I threw it out. I passed it along. I recycled it. I donated it. I gave it away. I sat it on the curb.

Doing this challenge has given me a little bit of a new perspective. Since I included my own closet in the clean-out, now I’m really picky about what I want to put back in. I hauled out 5 garbage bags full of clothes, shoes and purses – and now I’m not about to waste money and that beautiful empty space on anything I don’t absolutely love. I’m really hoping my attitude will become contagious because I’d like for the idea of “love it or lose it” it to spill over into the rest of the house too.  

Perhaps my next challenge will be The 40 Pounds in 40 Days Challenge. Kidding! Just kidding.

But seriously – we are so blessed to live in a country of abundance… most of us have “enough.”

And I’m learning that sometimes, less really is more.

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Are these really necessary?

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Passover and Butter Sheep

We aren’t Jewish.

But we did celebrate Passover this year.

I’ve always been interested in Jewish festivals and how, for Christians, the New Testament fulfills the prophecies of the Old Testament. A few weeks ago I went to a class about the seven major feasts of ancient Israel. Does it sound dry and boring? Well, it wasn’t – it was fascinating!

We learned some ways to incorporate parts of these ancient feasts at home – I was super excited to try the bits and pieces that would work for our family. It just so happened that this particular Passover was on the same night as the Blood Moon. Since it was also the first time we’d ever done anything like this at home, the whole idea seemed very special.Image

As we got all of the food together (traditionally, every part of the meal has its own symbolic meaning) and spread a special tablecloth on the table, there was a definite air of excitement in our house. We read the story in Exodus – it says that “you should eat with your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste.” We all felt like we should be in a hurry!

And hurry we did.

Sadie, 10, pulled down all the shades (because we weren’t supposed to look out the window), turned off all the lights, and lit lots of candles.

Josie, who is 8, said she had goose-bumps on her arms and butterflies in her tummy. She collected robes and “staffs” for everyone (since we had a shortage of staffs, we ended up using our marshmallow-roasting sticks from the firepit.) 

Adelaide, my 5-year-old, painted a picture for decoration. She also ran around and set the table with real plates and silverware.

Then the girls and their 3-year-old brother, Jed, tried to sweep out every single bit of dirt from the kitchen floor. “This is impossible!” one of them said. “Exactly!” I told them, and then we talked about how the bad things in our lives can be like dirt.  We can try and try to get rid of it all, but it’s just impossible. That’s why we need a savior. Sigh. I love when things come together like that.  

Each child chose three favorite things that they would take with them if they had to leave home in a hurry – stuff they couldn’t bear to leave behind in “Egypt.”

Sadie chose her Snoopy, her favorite book – The Penderwicks, and her old, falling-apart quilt. Josie brought her Bear-Bear, her Wolfie, and her stuffed pink lamb. She used her Crunchy Blanket as a belt for her robe so she was able to sneak in a freebie. Adelaide chose two little stuffed doggies and a little red and white bear that Sadie gave her. Jed brought his stuffed Dino, his Mousie, and his fuzzy blanket.

If I were going to choose, I would need a wheelbarrow so I could take all of my scrapbooks with me.

Finally, the meal was ready (and no, I didn’t try to make lamb on my own – I bought gyro meat – this IS my first year, after all!). I did try to stick with what it says in Exodus, though, so we had lamb, horseradish, green onions (bitter herbs), and unleavened bread. We also had other “Bible foods” like olives, dried fruit, and almonds.

Their dad said a prayer and symbolically “killed” our butter sheep (by chopping its head off with a butter knife) and then we put red crepe paper around our doorframe outside.  I know, I know… our neighbors are gonna think we are so weird!) Then we talked some more about the story of Passover – the wicked Pharoah, the horrible plagues, the sorrow of slavery – and the joy of freedom.

To top off the night, the kids watched the movie The Prince of Egypt.

The kids liked the lamb okay – they liked the unleavened bread better, though. And they loved the movie.

And me? Well, what I liked best was bringing the meaning of the Easter season a lot closer to home.

 

It’s Breakfast Time!

I’ve never been a morning person.

Left to my own devices (this never happens), I could easily sleep until 9:30 or 10:00am on any given day.

Since neither my plans nor preferences matter very much to the small people currently inhabiting my home, these days I’m usually up around 7:00am. I’m up, but I’m definitely not “at ‘em.”

Usually 3-year-old Jed sneaks in first. He throws one leg up on my bed and then uses the comforter to pull himself up the rest of the way. He whispers (it’s more of a stage whisper, which you are very familiar with if you’ve ever tried to keep a 3-year-old quiet): “HEY! MOM! I CAN SNUGGLE WIF YOU?” Then he nestles in next to me with his head on my pillow, his hand on my arm, and his freezing cold feet thawing out on my legs. It’s always a rude (yet cute) awakening.Image

As we snuggle (usually he has his two fingers in his mouth, slurping, so I don’t go back to sleep), I hear the pitter-patter of little bare feet running down the hall, down the stairs, and sneaking into my room. It’s always 5-year-old Adelaide, and she is always hungry. “Mama? What’s for bref-tast? I am staarrrvvvving!” she exaggerates. Then she scootches her brother over and squeezes in under the covers with us.

She tells me about her dreams (recently she’s had a series of them about our family going to the grocery store and meeting other people that have our names) then she reiterates her “starvingness.”

I start breakfast while she and her brother snuggle, look at books, and watch Peter Rabbit cartoons. Sometimes they come and help with breakfast (they’re especially fond of cracking eggs) or they let the dog out and scout for birds at the bird feeder.

Their older sisters, just-turned-10 Sadie and 8-year-old Josie, almost always sleep late. They both like to stay up late reading, so unless we have to be somewhere early or it happens to be their turn to make breakfast, I don’t wake them until after breakfast is ready.

When Sadie comes down, she’s usually dressed and already has her nose in a book.

Josie, on the other hand, is usually wrapped up in her fuchsia bathrobe with her “Crunchy” fuzzy blanket around her neck like a scarf. She almost always has an amazing case of bedhead.

Sleepy-eyed, they give me hugs and sit down at the table. We say a morning prayer and read a devotion or some Bible verses (one of my favorites is Lamentations 3:22-23: “His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness.”)

Then I might read a chapter or two from whatever our current read-aloud is (right now we are working on two: Mary Poppins Comes Back and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.)

They love real bacon (except Josie, who says she can only eat turkey bacon because real bacon tastes like PIG) baked in the oven. They love turkey sausage and corned beef hash. They love pancakes and waffles (Adelaide always gets those two mixed up) covered with whipped cream (sometimes called “sour cream” by Adelaide and her brother). When we are in NC visiting family, they love fried livermush and gravy. Adelaide and Jed love eggs – any kind. Sadie will almost always opt for an English muffin with butter and jam. Josie asks for orange juice or chocolate milk (which is a rare treat at this house!) Everyone tries to steal a sip of my coffee (and Jed will chug the whole bottle of French Vanilla creamer if he isn’t intercepted first!)

Adelaide cleans her plate (and sometimes finishes everyone else’s, too). Jed runs away before he’s finished. Someone spills something. There’s a fight about who gets to take Dad’s breakfast to his home office. It’s all a daily ritual.

Nope, I’m not really a morning person, but breakfast together is almost always our starting-off point for the entire day. I feel blessed to be able to have this time together with my children –

But another forty winks still wouldn’t hurt.