Today I was thinking that I am thankful that we didn't have much money coming in for a while. When Aidan was in the hospital, my dh Kevin got laid off. This resulted in him going freelance so he could continue to work at home, but for several years the income was from royalties and barely a trickle. We were living off our savings, and paying extraneous medical bills. It was a difficult time in some ways. However, we learned lots that I am so thankful for today:
- We learned that technology was a servant, not a sort of hearth god. When our dishwasher broke down, we didn't get it replaced for 3 years, and guess what? it didn't make too much of a difference. The dishes still got washed. Similarly with our dryer, which has been out of action for a year. Our one and only, trusty car has 180 thousand miles on it, a bit beat up but functional. And so on.
- We learned to make homemade pizza. To buy enough pizza to satisfy a family of nine (with four teenagers!) cost $21 plus even for Costco take-and-bake. At the local restaurant it takes fifty dollars. I can make 4 XL pepperoni pizzas at home for less than $10 and it has become a Sunday afternoon tradition. I even learned to make garlic chicken pizza. I'm not knocking storebought pizza! but it's nice to know we can do it ourselves.
- We learned to heat our house with our wood stove, and congregate close to the fire on particularly cold days. Another cherished tradition! Stacking 6 cords of firewood every fall is another tradition, this one not particularly cherished by the children, but I have no doubt it has built muscles, team spirit, and some fortitude in our family.
- I learned to wait, sometimes for a long time, before I bought something. There are dozens of things on my wish list, but I don't have to spend my time pining for them. There is a corollary to the ability to buy what you want almost immediately. The corollaries are the discovery that they are clutter in your house, and that they don't solve the essential hunger that drove you to buy them in the first place -- the hunger for the perfect homeschool solution (that's my weakness) or the hunger for status or coolness or whatever. I learned this by experience : ). Waiting helps me see what the real hunger is and if it can be met some other way or left unsatisfied for the sake of "prayer, fasting and almsgiving".
I hope I can hold on to those lessons now that our income is slowly heading back up. I am sure there will be things I can be grateful for above the poverty line, too. Marie commented on my other blog:
I hear you on the freedom/deprivation paradox. Everything from Our Lord's hand is good, even if we have favorites or wistfulness toward some of the varieties of good..(PLUS: I realize that our "poverty" is abundance compared to 99% of the world through space and time. That's part of my point. I think it's true of Americans in general. We define a car, a TV and a flushing toilet as necessities, not to mention pizza, household machinery and a roof over our heads. I realize that my list of "deprivations" look rather like insane luxury from a different perspective. But ya gotta start somewhere, and when I say "poverty" I'm talking about what the US government considers the poverty threshold for income for families our size)
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
This was my solution for a truly chaotic situation. I am always finding little pieces of sets everywhere around the house.... duplos, chess pieces, little figurines, whatever. Rather than spend time I didn't have returning them whence they came, I would simply toss them into toy limbo. This is my oldest son's trunk, which he doesn't need anymore because he is generally off at college.
This worked OK -- better than having the stuff in sundry junk drawers all over the house. At least the junk had a home base. Every once in a while I would pay the fifth child to sort these into categories, and return them where they belong.
But this time I resolve.... almost resolve... RESOLVE to resolve to be ruthless and actually get rid of a lot of this, and put away the rest.
It's junk. It's junk. It's replaceable American plastic for the most part. Why am I keeping it, when I could be free of it? Because some Scottish voice in my head tells me it's wasteful to throw away things that could come in handy someday. And because some probably Scottish voice also makes me feel all sentimental about these useless relics from my childrens' past.
Plus, every once in a while I open the box and the little ones have a happy time sorting through the junk and finding the little figurines or rare useful things. But that isn't really worth the six square feet footprint and the mess that generally results.
So yesterday I sat down and made four piles:
- One for pieces from construction sets -- blocks, duplos and the like. I can easily return those to their proper storage places.
- One for little figures and manipulatives. I included the chess pieces in that. When the older kids play chess it's convenient to give the little ones the pieces from the incomplete set. I'll put those with the real chess set in a separate baggie.
- One for cars.
- One little baggie for dice.
I have not finished yet, but when I do, I'll take a picture.
A few weeks ago I read Organizing from the Inside Out. The idea of this book is to design " a system based on your life goals, natural habits and psychological needs". For some reason this book really clicked with me. She says something that is often repeated: find a place for everything. But this time, it sunk in a bit. I realized that if I, personally, can't manage some item or system, it doesn't belong in this house (unless of course it's something that the DH or children are taking care of by themselves).
Even if it's a wonderful resource, it doesn't belong in this house if I can't take care of it.
For some reason this ties in with Celebrating Abundance. If you take care of what you have, maybe you don't need so much. Also, Shawna at As Simple Plus Two Plus Two's toddler mantra: Keep it New, Keep it Few!
I will probably feel a pang someday when I realize I've tossed out something that we could have used.... somehow. But I can bear pangs. I feel worse every day when I clean the kitty litter. So if I can just Re-Solve to do this......