Book Notes: Not of This World, a Catholic Guide to Minimalism

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Minimalism is a trendy word these days and I’d venture to say it was also a popular New Year’s resolution this month! Who doesn’t want a clean and organized home that “sparks joy,” as the popular minimalist author Marie Kondo would say? Yet the process of reaching such a goal can be overwhelming, emotional, and seemingly endless, especially for moms! After a couple weeks of such a resolution, we might be tempted to throw in the towel — right back into that overflowing linen closet of towels, blankets … and a random sippy cup, Barbie doll, and stale Cheerios.

Is minimalism realistic for the average family? Most books on the topic seem written for those without children, or with ample finances to buy only a few quality items. What’s a Catholic mom to do?

Author Sterling Jaquith shows us that it’s not only possible for Catholic moms to practice minimalism, but even something that God calls us to. Don’t let that overwhelm you with fear or guilt — her book Not of This World: A Catholic Guide to Minimalism is an encouraging and practical guide to begin implementing minimalism in a godly way, with a healthy spirit of detachment and good stewardship. You don’t have to give away all your clothes. You don’t have to only keep things that “spark joy” (I can’t say my vacuum cleaner makes me light up inside but I should probably keep that!). And you don’t have to pause your life in order to lay out everything you own in one room and go through it (what mom has time for that?). I first read Sterling’s book when I was expecting our second child — it revolutionized my nesting trimester!

I asked Sterling a few questions to help us be better stewards of our home and possessions in the new year. Read on for some wise and helpful tips!

Before we even begin to look at our homes, why would you suggest we look at our hearts when it comes to minimalism and God’s plan for us? Why is this important?

The question we should ask ourselves about any venture is, “Does this bring me closer to or farther from God?” When it comes to minimalism, most of us know that we’re drowning in stuff and this clutter is causing us stress, costing us time, and results in us losing our peace. We know all this stuff is keeping us from the life God wants us to live. So close your eyes. Invite God into your heart. Ask Him to flood your heart with love so that is it is so full that your desire to accumulate things decreases. If we don’t start with this, our progress will be vain and short-lived.

How about the more practical process of minimalism? Where’s a good place for an overwhelmed mama to start? 

I think women should start with their clothes if they feel up to it because they don’t need to consult anyone else to do this. They can make quick progress of it and it usually feels the most freeing to acknowledge that we really don’t need half the clothes, shoes, and accessories that we own. If that feels too emotional, perhaps because you just had a baby and your body is in a weird place, skip the closet and move on to a bathroom. Girl, why do you have so many lotions? The bathroom is another small space that you can do in an hour and it feels so great to clear out all that unwanted stuff like scrunchies from the ’90s.

Can you share some thoughts for those who struggle financially, and who might fear getting rid of things because of the unknown future?

One of my gripes with many secular minimalism programs who talk about capsule wardrobes is that they often say, “You can buy it later,” when that really isn’t an option for families who struggle financially. The key to minimalism when you’re on a tight budget and you really can’t buy more baby clothes in three years is to double-down on organization. Get really good at tucking things away high up or down low where it doesn’t cause clutter. Think putting a shelf at the tippy-top of every closet and getting vacuum-sealed bags to go under beds. This is a great way to be a steward of what you have without having to see or touch it every day!

How about minimalism when it comes to our online habits? Is there such a thing as “living minimal” with our social media?

I am a huge fan of the Newsfeed Eradicator! This is a Google Chrome extension that prevents you from seeing your Facebook newsfeed. You can still see your notifications and go to any groups or pages that you like but you won’t be inundated with snarky posts from random high school friends or political posts from cousins you barely see! The other great tool is called Self Control. This app will limit your time on social media (or any site you include, ahem Zillow addicts) and then lock you out. Trust me, it’s for your own good!

How can we encourage our children to be detached from stuff, especially in such a materialistic and hedonistic society?

It’s about using phrases with the kids over and over again. “The less we have in this room, the fast it is to tidy up.” “When we have less things to clean, we have more time to do fun things together.” “We can be flexible and creative. We don’t need to buy that.” Tell them over and over that you’re NOT buying something you see. I do this with my almost 8-year-old. “Oh that dress is so cute. I love the color. But I have plenty of dresses, I don’t need another one.” Invite them into your process. I have my girls help me when I do a minimalism challenge to go through the junk drawer. We laugh about all the random things that end up there and they see how this space builds up every 3-4 months and we have to empty it again.

Is there a danger of becoming too obsessed with minimalism and making it an idol for ourselves (in the same way we can make collecting/obtaining things an idol)? 

Absolutely! This is the chapter I regret not writing in my book. You can make an idol out of anything including this. If you become so anxious or obsessed with minimalism that it steals your peace, you’re doing it wrong! That’s always my gauge … peace. If I start feeling antsy, breathing more shallow, looking around as if I’m in danger … I’ve lost my peace and I immediately bring Jesus back into the situation. “Lord, show me how to have peace in the process.” 

Where can our readers find your book? Can you share a little about your Catholic minimalism Facebook group as well?  

You can buy the book on Amazon and join the FREE Facebook Challenge — you DO NOT need the book to participate. We do two 8-week challenges per year and usually one or two 40-day challenges too! It’s super fun to do it with a group of faithful Catholic families!

Feeling motivated? Me too! I highly recommend Sterling’s book Not of This World as well as her Catholic Minimalism Facebook group. It’s encouraging and energizing to connect with other women who are seeking to store up heavenly treasures and decrease the earthly ones!

What area of your home feels most out of control to you? Invite God to be Lord of that area and ask for His grace to clean it up, clean it out, and organize it for His glory. 

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Copyright 2019 Laura Range
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About Author

Laura Range is an RN-turned-SAHM living in rural Ohio. She is passionate about marriage and family life, redeeming the culture, the written word, and women with crisis pregnancies. She enjoys her babies, cooking (and eating) food, good books, new friends, little moments, and keeping it real. She blogs at Life is Beautiful.

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