Let the hospitality begin!

family lunch table

I’ve been plugging away at the decluttering.

1300 items have been ticked off and removed from the house, via the bin, the op shop, and the post office.

And now, at last, there is space.

On the weekend we hosted 15 family members for a big birthday lunch. For the first time, there was not too much stuff to move out of the living room or kitchen. For the first time, we could actually seat 19 people in the room, using what tables and chairs we had (or could borrow). And for the first time, there was not too much to put back in the living room after they left (even less after I did a bit more decluttering and organising the following day!).

Our eldest daughter has finally started to study upstairs in her room, rather than at the dining table, at least now while she has major exams, so that has helped enormously to keep our surfaces clear, also, in this busy room.

Since then, I’ve been enjoying our open and decluttered space so much. It was the perfect space to recover from a cold in these last few days, and to enjoy the winter sunshine streaming in.

As I sat nursing my cold, I started to read and dream again about offering hospitality. It all seems so much easier with clear space. Space to sit, to cook, to think, to plan, and free time to do it all in. I’d love to offer hospitality to anyone, even if it’s just a cup of tea. Neighbours, friends of friends, kids, strangers, anyone.  That’s my dream. That’s what’s been motivating me to declutter more this time than ever before, and goodness knows I’ve tried before.

Because people are more important than things.

I just wish it hadn’t taken me so long to understand that.

Letting Go

There are lessons in letting go and major benefits along the way – Courtney Carver of Be More With Less

Ah, the letting go. Where the rubber really hits the road.

Once you’re motivated, it’s easy enough to ditch the junk, the broken, the redundant and unattractive bits and pieces that have stayed in your home too long.

But what if you’ve done that and your home is still cluttered? That’s where I am at, I think. I’ve been decluttering for years, but I still look around and see too many items in each space. A lot of these are things I like, but there’s just too many of them. My eyes dance from one thing to the next, my mind jumping chaotically from one unrealised intention to another …

“I should …”

“I never … ”

“But …”

… leaving me with no rest and sucking  my energy from me.

But Courtney’s post reminds me of the possibility that giving up possessions may seem sacrificial at the time, but could have repercussions I haven’t even imagined. That magic might happen when I take that extra step of giving up things that are ‘perfectly good’ but taking up space.

After all, it works for trees, doesn’t it? By letting go of their autumn leaves, they leave room for the magic of new growth and beauty to emerge each spring.


What is the purpose of our home?

bench

I’ve been thinking about why I want to cut down on our belongings. And I’ve realised that it comes down to the purpose of our home, and the specific purpose (or purposes) of each room.

I want our home to be a place of welcome, love, work and rest. A place where we can each express ourselves and enjoy the pursuits we love; and a place where we can invite others in to enjoy the warmth.

As for fulfilling the purpose of each room …

When I walk into the living room I want to relax, and chat.

When I walk into the kitchen, I want to cook.

When I walk into the dining area, I want to eat, and chat some more.

When I walk into our bedroom, I want to sleep, or get dressed.

When I walk into my craftroom, I want to create, and relax.

When I walk into the study, I want to make music, or use the computer.

When I walk into the laundry, I want to clean.

And although that all seems quite self-centred,and self-satisfying, (and possibly there’s a little too much relaxing?? But I am a phlegmatic, after all!) … What I’m really saying is …

I don’t want to have to move stuff out of the way before I start doing what that room was intended for.

We might as well not have all these rooms, if they can’t be used for the purpose they were intended.

I don’t want my energy and resolve drained before I even get started cooking, or relaxing, or creating.

We’ve been going great guns this weekend, tidying out my husband’s workshop, and have chucked out hundreds of items. We’re up to 900 items decluttered since January. That feels good, and I know I’ve decluttered a lot from inside the house recently, also. But this week I’m going to try this new way of thinking. As I walk into each room I’ll make a mental note of just what it is that is stopping me fulfilling the room’s purpose immediately. I expect that in each room I’ll find the same problem – a lack of a clear surface. So then I’ll take action, which no doubt will include more decluttering, and perhaps also some tidying and organising to improve the room’s function.

I really like this post about the purpose of our homes, also. Nester asks some great questions here.

What are the purposes of the rooms in your home?

What’s in the way?


Photo taken last April, when I worked for a month on keeping the kitchen bench tidy.

Slow Sunday 

  

I so need to remember this. And not just on Sundays. 

To resist the natural urge to focus on what is immediately before me … 

To remember that I have been raised with Christ, hard as that is to comprehend …

To not only resist and remember, but to actively and purposely set my heart heavenwards, to where Christ, the Lamb of God, sits in glory by the side of His Father.

Career vs Childrearing

Career vs childrearing

Some people just about my age have almost 25 or so years of experience and expertise in their career. I’ve been made very aware of this in recent months in a few areas of my life.

Me? Not so much. I taught Music for seven years before I had children, and then made a conscious decision to stay home with our girls full-time, as both our mothers did for us. I have no regrets about that decision. Although my parenting is flawed in so many ways, I’m so glad we could afford for me to be here for them.

career vs childrearing 3

But now that my girls are hurtling towards the end of their school years, I do wonder about earning some serious money again. If for nothing else than to pay for Yr12 formals, post-school mission trips and perhaps in the future, a couple of weddings. And then there’s the mortgage, which is just not going away on our ‘one-and-a-bit’ income. And I wonder about my so-called career.

I have been earning money, and these days have a decent part-time income for the relatively few hours I put in.  I’ve had piano students nearly every year since 1989, only taking a couple of years off when I had babies. I’ve taught recorder classes for Yr2-3 kids for nine years or so. I’ve run craft classes and sold Tupperware, (although they didn’t turn out to be as lucrative as I had hoped). I’ve led adult bible study groups for years. And I’ve learnt valuable skills as I undertook each of those endeavours.

Fiona 2014

My patchwork of part-time experiences doesn’t present so well on a resume these days, however. “17 years full-time childrearing” doesn’t count for much, even for teachers. Those 17 years have been life-changing for me, giving me confidence, wisdom and more knowledge of child development and discipline than can be found in any textbook. But when I’m searching for work, those years don’t compare with 17 years full-time teaching. And methods, ideals, objectives, syllabuses and technology have all changed since I last taught a high school music class back in 1997, I’ve missed a lot. In fact, the Dept of Ed won’t even let me apply for Music Teacher jobs, since I’ve been out of that position for over 5 years. (They will, however, let me teach any subject and any age group as a Casual Teacher, which doesn’t make sense to me at all.)

So, I wander in a middle land. Where I feel like a schoolteacher but am not one, where I wait for the phone to ring for a day’s teaching and mostly it just doesn’t ring. Unable to get more experience without more teaching, but unable to get teaching because I haven’t got the right experience.

I’m not sure where this is all headed. If I’m not going to teach in schools (more than just a random day here and there), I feel like I need some other direction from God. Or perhaps I will teach again, but not just yet. In the meantime, I probably need to give up dreams of having that great “career” where I’m a brilliant primary or music teacher, because there’s limited time on earth to do and be all things.

A person’s days are determined;
    you have decreed the number of his months
    and have set limits he cannot exceed.(Job 14:5)

Don’t get me wrong, I  love my life, – what I get to do, where I’ve been at various stages, the people in my life, and the day-to-day events and responsibilities. I’m oh, so thankful that my husband has selflessly worked in his career to support us all these years. I like my mix of work and fellowship and home. But now and then my horizon opens a little and I wonder “What if ..?”

I can’t help remembering Kathleen Kelly’s words in You’ve Got Mail:

Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life – well, valuable, but small – and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven’t been brave?

path

Perhaps I’ve been relying too much on The Great Casual Teaching Idea and not relying on God to lead me. God doesn’t need 25 years of career experience chalked up for me to be of use to Him, nor is He limited by my financial contributions to our family. He is the One who has set me on this journey, and I guess I need to keep my eyes on Him to guide me through the rest of it.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. (Prov 3:5)

Open space dreaming

In this post, Joshua Becker draws our attention to the growing body of statistics regarding our accumulation of stuff. Can you believe that “there are 300,000 items in the average American home”? At first that number shocked me, until I thought about my own home, the books, the craft items, the collections, the hardware supplies … no, it’s not surprising.

Having recently been helping my mother-in-law downsize her home, I am all too conscious of the number of items that can accumulate over a period of years, and remain for various reasons. Months into downsizing, the valuable and the useful has been given or repurposed, and this weekend hopefully much of the rest, the detritus of years, will be sold at a garage sale. And even then, there will be more to be collected by a charity. And this from a couple who downsized first from the family home 16 years ago, and who considered themselves frugal, organised and rarely enticed by the latest and greatest!

Dealing with that stuff has helped me to see material possessions differently. This morning I walked around a department store, looking for a new heater. Who buys all this stuff? Brides-to-be? Gift-givers? Mostly people like me, I’m guessing, who don’t need it, but like it, who have too much disposable income, and who find it convenient to forget their mortgage momentarily in favour of the pleasure of owning something new.

Which brings me back to where we are. Living in a house with too much stuff. This year, I’m using Rachel’s chart to tally my efforts of decluttering 2015 items in 2015. Each item (or group of items) decluttered earns a square crossed out. It’s the middle of May, but I’ve only decluttered about 650 items. A hundred of them were just this week. I’ve got a long way to go. Each part of the house has had one or more passes over it, the real junk has gone. I feel a sense of achievement as I tick off each square on the chart. But now things get harder. What do I like but not need? What can I voluntarily give up to make space?

Because I’ve realised that space is what I crave the most. Clear, empty, open, full-of-promise space.

That, and time not spent organising and decluttering. Freedom to invite someone over on a whim. Space for playing and creating. Headspace for for more meaningful pursuits and what I really believe in. Time to go out without feeling like I should be at home, decluttering.

I’d love to finish the 2015 challenge, and more. Because I can’t help feeling that a better life is waiting beyond.

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Photo taken on our recent holiday at Lake Wallis, one of my favourite spots in the world, because of the open space and the stillness.

Edited to add: after writing this post I decluttered 82 unnecessary items from our garden shed! Woohoo!