The problem of “stuff”

I am, it must be admitted, not a particularly domestic person.  I’ve always done the basics required for the house not to be a health hazard, and not terribly much more, mostly because there always seemed to be more interesting and important things to do than mopping the floor.  My husband’s approach to things domestic has been similar; so for the time we’ve been married we’ve muddled along, and we’ve been happy in our rather cluttered and untidy space.

But life goes on, responsibilities pile up, we had a daughter, he worked full time and I’ve been pursuing demanding studies, and I got to a point of sheer frustration because my life seemed so disordered.  I’m always tired, always stressed, always have more on my to-do list than can reasonably be accomplished, and the things my heart wants – like nurturing my daughter, cherishing my husband, sustaining a prayer life, or let’s face it, even a decent night’s sleep – seemed impossible to manage.  It shouldn’t be this hard, should it?  Was I just a lousy wife and mother, or what was I doing wrong?

Posting about this on a parenting forum, hoping to benefit from the wisdom of other mothers, someone recommended that I read the book “A Mother’s Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul.”  I’ve just finished reading it.  I’m not a Catholic, so I don’t agree wholeheartedly with every point the author makes, but between the rosaries there is much sound wisdom to be gained from it.  I’m now pondering how I can adapt this approach to my own situation in a helpful way.

One thing which struck me is that the very first thing the author suggests you do – even before fussing too much about your prayer life – is to get your home in order.  Analyse the purpose of each room in the life of your family, and fill it with those things – and only those things – which further that purpose.  Organise storage accordingly.  Make any repairs needed in each room.  Pay attention to questions of aesthetics.

This?  This is the first priority?  Why?

Because you won’t settle down to pray in peace if you trip over toys to get to your chair.  You won’t want to snuggle up to your husband on a bed piled with unsorted washing.  You won’t have the focus to be present to your children and their needs if, late in the afternoon, you’re unclear on what you have in the pantry to cook for dinner.  You need to get the basic stuff out of the way of the more important things in life.  This is “preventative discipline,” getting your life in order so that things go right, not wrong.  In short, if you want to have time to really pray, spend with family, study, all the things I really care about, and do those effectively, you need to have a living space (and therefore a head space) ordered enough to be able to do so.

I had never before understood the idea that meal plans, chore lists and decluttering might be a spiritual as well as a menial discipline.  I must admit that I’m looking now at our decidedly un-orderly house with a sinking heart and a feeling that perhaps this is beyond me to do.  But also a willingness to at least try, if it might support me to do better at the things my heart is truly called to.

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