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Ask anyone – especially any parent – DVD organization can be a nightmare. We start out with a slim, cultivated collection of DVDs representing only the most uplifting and delightful and then…somehow…Alvin and the Chipmunks slip in there. And then one day, you realize that DVD and Blu-ray cases are taking over your home, your car, and your travel bag. Somewhere along the way, I found we were drowning in DVDs.

In an attempt to organize this collection I’ve tried it all. We quickly outgrew the neat and tidy drawers in our coffee table so I looked for other solutions. Remember the {ugly!} black vertical DVD towers that stacked your DVD cases? That was a decor statement! (And it didn’t really hold that many – you’d need 80 of them to contain what I organized into 4 small bins.)  I moved into 3 ring binders and that got rid of some of the clutter, but it wasn’t as easy to manage as I thought. The binders were unwieldy, not always easy to flip through to find the movie you were looking for, and there were several of them to keep up with our growing collection. And when we were traveling and wanted to bring a few DVDs along, we had to pull them out of the binder and slip them into a ziploc bag – not the best way to travel with DVDs if you don’t want them to scratch!

Once we ran out of space in binders I started searching for another solution and this bin & sleeve solution is what I landed on over a year ago. I waited to share because I wanted to make sure it was manageable and workable! And it has been!!!

This post contains affiliate links – they cost you nothing to use, but I may earn a small commission if you click through. Thank you!

What used to consume multiple cabinets and drawers now fits into 4 slim bins on the left side of our entertainment cabinet.

This has been THE best solution for condensing and organizing a DVD & Blu-ray collection into a smaller and more manageable space, but it also keeps the DVDs accessible when someone is looking for a particular movie, and completely portable and easy to travel with – just grab the sleeve (the DVD remains protected inside), tuck into your bag or the van, and easily return when you get home.

There are a lot of options for DVD organization – wire baskets, mesh bins, decorative bins, and media boxes with lids. There is even a DVD organization tray that functions very similarly to my bin & sleeve solution.

The first step in organizing – any organization – is to declutter. And that’s exactly what we did. We sat down and pulled out every single DVD we owned and created two piles: keep — give away. We kept ONLY those DVDs that were absolute family favorites or that were difficult/impossible to stream. Streaming movies on netflix and other services meant we could easily part with several of the DVDs in our collection. And we did so. Ruthlessly.

Once you have your *keep* pile, you’ll need to remove the front cover from the hard plastic case as well as the DVD (and any bonus DVDs).

SOURCE: Plastic DVD sleeve set (pack of 50)

The plastic sleeve set I bought contains a non-woven/no-scratch sleeve capable of holding 2 DVDs, and then a separate plastic sleeve with flap that can hold the DVD sleeve as well as the cover. It all slides into the transparent plastic sleeve and is now:

  • visible
  • protected
  • portable
  • and much slimmer!

We consolidated and transferred ALL of our DVD collection into the plastic sleeves with only a few exceptions:

  • boxed sets (like the Lord of the Rings Trilogy) that we wanted to keep intact
  • DVD boxes that have beautiful artwork or special inserts that we didn’t want to lose

It’s important to note that DVD cases – whether regular plastic DVD cases or the decorative boxes – do fit in these bins.

SOURCE: mDesign media bins (set of 2)

Next, we needed a way to easily contain and organize all the sleeves. (We ended up with over 200 Blu-Ray and DVDs in our collection.) I wanted a clear bin that would be simple for my little kids to pick up and carry, would allow us to easily see the first sleeve in the collection and I wanted the bin to fit the sleeves absolutely perfectly so that they would stand up without any shifting while still allowing us to sort with ease.

I chose the mDesign bins and they have been perfect! We slide them in and out of our cabinet all the time, and the kids can easily handle them (the cutout hand-holds are nice for that!). What I love about them is that they just disappear into your decor because they’re clear acrylic. They’re completely functional, the perfect fit for the DVD sleeves I bought, and slide in and out of our cabinet without scratching.

For reference:

  • The bin below (and above) is holding 59 DVD sleeves (some are 2-DVD sets), and the Narnia box.
  • I filled this bin as full as I could (not pictured) with DVD sleeves only (I removed Narnia from the bin) to give you a max capacity count:
    • This bin will hold a maximum of 85 (filled) DVD sleeves (many of those are 2-DVD sets).
    • That means that with 4 bins that take up a small space you could potentially store and organize almost 350 DVDs!

We organized our bins to reflect the movie genre that we typically view around here:

  • Disney movies (animated and non-animated)
  • Non-Disney kids’ movies (animated and non-animated)
  • Family movies (rated G and PG)
  • Any movie that is PG13 and above

If you’re looking for a solution to the DVD explosion in your home, maybe some of these ideas will fit your needs! Let me know if you have any questions!

 

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The new Emily Ley Simplified Planners and all the new accessories launch May 2 this year for the Academic Year planners (August 2018 – July 2019), and the Calendar Year planners (January – December 2019) launch in September of 2018. Many of you know that I am a huge fan of Emily Ley, her company, and her planners. And this year’s choices and covers are more charming and meaningful than ever!

I use planners for a lot of things – to manage time, to-do lists, goals, habit growth, meal planning, homeschool planning, budget planning, self-care reminders, to manage my volunteer time and church work, and to help me keep track of my health. And, I have a few different planning tools to help me juggle all of that!

My life is full. There is just no other way to describe it. I could list the litany of things I juggle and manage, but I don’t think it would be productive for anyone but me. What I am able to do is so largely dependent on my season of life and the tremendous help I have from my husband and grown children, as well as the grace God provides on a daily basis. Any list of my daily duties would either overwhelm or baffle you. Suffice to say, it’s a lot. It’s enough that I have to actively carve time for quiet and margin – something that I used to just be able to appreciate as it gently rolled across my day. No more. These days, I have to plan for it or I’ll just steamroll right past it. And it’s so integral and important – the culture of the family and your own personal sanity cannot survive without that white space. Leisure is the basis of culture.

My husband and I are always considering and RE-considering our time commitments for our family and my own commitments. My husband and my five kids come first for me. Period. I’m pretty unapologetic about that because that’s my vocation, my path to heaven, and the source of my greatest joys! There are a lot of things that line up behind those “first things” and using the Simplified Planner has been THE best tool for me to plan for what matters most and then line up my other priorities on paper. It helps me to see my day and gives me enough space in my daily planner so that I don’t feel crowded. And looking at my day, I can often see when I need to build in margin. Margin that is life-giving!

I use two planners, and I find great peace in my two-planner system. These two planners – the Erin Condren Life Planner (you can read my review here) and the Emily Ley Simplified Planner – give me perspective, which is so necessary for me to wrap my head and heart around the year, month, week, and the paper space to get all of my duties and lists out of my head so I can see daily action steps and prioritize my time.

I use an Erin Condren Life Planner for my weekly overview, and a Simplified Planner Daily for my daily needs – because my life is full and I need the space of a daily to plan! And that’s what this post is about. It’s about all of the new 2018-2019 Simplified Planner covers and accessories and giving you a glimpse of them (they’re STUNNING!), and the latter half of this post will be my own way of sharing how I do my daily planning and how the Simplified Planner helps me live out my duties, responsibilities, and most importantly helps me build in space for truth, goodness, and beauty – lofty goals for a paper planner. Curious? Read on!

If you’re new to Simplified, or new to the idea of a daily planner, I encourage you to check out my other posts and reviews. I talk about my 2 planner system, and I walk you through all the reasons I love the Simplified Planner!

Please note: the links in this post are affiliate links. They cost you nothing to click through to the products, but I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase and for that, I am truly grateful! Thank you!

Before we really get rolling, I’ve got something exciting to share with you this year! For the first time, I can offer you a $10 coupon for your Simplified Planner (for new customers that don’t already have an account)! Follow this post to the end and I’ll leave the coupon link for you there!

THE  SIMPLIFIED  PLANNER

I love the Simplified Planner for so many reasons, but mostly because it is simple and meaningful. The covers are just stunning, and the daily layout is minimal enough that I can write and journal and note and manage all over the page!

Simplified is celebrating their 10th anniversary this year, and to celebrate they released 6 new cover choices – available in both weekly or daily editions! And because it’s their anniversary year, their planners are shipping in these gorgeous fuschia boxes!

COVERS

Three of the six new designs on the 2018-2019 covers were designed and watercolored by Jessa Bray, the new designer at Simplified: mint pineapple, blue tile, and watercolor floral. The designs by Jessa Bray take Simplified to a new level. They are joyful, feminine, beautiful, and they each evoke a different visual style – yet they fit together seamlessly within the Simplified Vision and image. I think the cover designs are so beautiful and striking that this year will be the hardest year ever to choose a cover! Which is why I’m glad the team at Simplified came up with a little quiz to help you narrow down which planner (weekly or daily) and which cover design fits YOU best!

This year, Emily Ley brought back two “throwback” covers – two covers that retained their popularity even though they were released years ago. The thin happy stripe is one of those covers! This planner cover has my heart. I’ve always loved the classic and colorful design of happy stripe! It’s so bright and…well…HAPPY!

Daily: 2018-19 Academic Daily, Simplified Planner, Thin Happy Stripe – $58.00
Weekly: 2018-19 Academic Weekly, Simplified Planner, Thin Happy Stripe – $48.00

The watercolor floral is by far, the most feminine of the new covers. The details on this cover are so delicate!

Daily: 2018-19 Academic Daily, Simplified Planner, Watercolor Floral – $58.00
Weekly: 2018-19 Academic Weekly, Simplified Planner, Watercolor Floral – $48.00

Mint pineapple is going to be THE popular cover this year, and from all the buzz, it sounds like this cover might go fast! The soft colors make the metallic gold pineapples pop! It’s a vibrant, playful cover with a big helping of southern charm and hospitality!

Daily: 2018-19 Academic Daily, Simplified Planner, Mint Pineapple
Weekly: 2018-19 Academic Weekly, Simplified Planner, Mint Pineapple

Navy dot is all classic! Timeless and graceful with that navy and kelly green! This cover is understated and captivating all at once! And it is the second of the “throwback” covers to be re-released!

Daily: 2018-19 Academic Daily, Simplified Planner, Navy Dot
Weekly: 2018-19 Academic Weekly, Simplified Planner, Navy Dot

Happy Stripe is a classic and is the one cover that is always in the lineup of covers from year to year. This cover is so bright and colorful and cheery!

Daily: 2018-19 Academic Daily, Simplified Planner, Happy Stripe
Weekly: 2018-19 Academic Weekly, Simplified Planner, Happy Stripe

Blue Tile is another captivating cover – full of beautiful symmetry in a design that still evokes a sense of vibrance and charm!

Daily: 2018-19 Academic Daily, Simplified Planner, Blue Tile
Weekly: 2018-19 Academic Weekly, Simplified Planner, Blue Tile

SIMPLIFIED  ACCESSORIES

There are several new accessories launching with the planners tomorrow, May 2, 2018. And they are all so beautiful, simple, and meaningful. All practical and pretty!

Sticker Book link to purchase $14.00

This sticker book contains 30 pages of hand drawn stickers and icons for your Simplified Planner!

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Every year, in early May, Erin Condren releases her new Life Planners for the year. With over 1.5 million Life Planners sold and 1 million followers, that date is eagerly anticipated. Erin Condren fans voice their delight at having a quality planner with thoughtfully considered details and beautiful accessories in a paper planner system. I count myself among those that have been loyally following and using this brand for years!! Initially drawn to the beautiful designs and functional layout, I come back year after year for the sophisticated and trendy designs that are layered into one of the most functional planners on the market. Practical and pretty – a match made in heaven!

If you’re considering your first Erin Condren Life Planner, sit down in your favorite chair with your favorite drink and get ready! This planner brand doesn’t disappoint. My review will be honest and detailed with pictures of every page and accessory so you can make the best decision possible! (And for you first time Erin Condren purchasers, there is a coupon code for you – just follow this link and set up an account and you’ll receive a coupon for $10 off your purchase.) If you’re a long time Erin Condren fan, I think you’ll enjoy all of the new covers and accessories this year and will be thrilled to see the planner is the same quality and attention to detail that you’ve become accustomed to.

I enjoy photographing (there are a little over 100 photos in this post – fair warning!) and reviewing Erin Condren products because I use them and love them! For 6 years now I’ve been choosing Erin Condren planners! I wear a lot of different hats and juggle a lot of things and I still love this planner! Now, more than ever, I enjoy the versatility, thoughtful function, and beauty of the Erin Condren planner!

I love sharing these beautiful products with you and I’m grateful to the team at Erin Condren for sending the items in this review my way so that I could photograph them and share my thoughts about all of them!! Six years ago, when I was searching for reviews on Erin Condren Life Planners, blog posts and reviews just like this helped me see the potential in this planner company and was my door into the planner community, and I’m grateful I get to give back and review a product I love so much! Additionally, I have to let y’all know that the links in this post are affiliate links. Each link that points you to a product costs you absolutely nothing, but I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase through these links, and for that, I am sincerely grateful! Thank you!

SIGNATURE   THEME

So let’s get started! When introducing the gorgeous new Life Planner and the new accessories I thought we could start by showing off the new theme that you’ll see throughout this year’s planners as well as the accessories! Erin Condren is calling it “Woven Wonder” and the graphic is representative of the common thread that all planners have – the love for planning – regardless of the season of life or planning style.

When I first saw “woven wonder” in sneak peeks (before the launch) I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. I loved last year’s theme of painted petals, and I really loved the design the year before that of mid-century circles. Once I saw woven wonder in person I was smitten. It’s gorgeous! It’s vibrant and fresh and colorful!! Just like the planner community! Your first glimpse of woven wonder will be striking on the first full page of the planner, and you’ll find subtle hints of it throughout the planner on all of the pages!

YOUR PLANNER  –  YOUR WAY

Before we go into all the details about the new 2018-2019 Life Planner, I wanted to give you a brief outline of the customization options you’ll have if you order a Life Planner. I was initially attracted to Erin Condren for three reasons: the beautiful designs, the functional layouts, and the customization options. Over the years, Erin Condren has extended many of the areas we can customize our planners! Because we don’t all plan the same way! You build your planner to fit YOU! How do you plan? How do you want your planner to look? What’s most intuitive to you? We each have different planning styles; for a planning tool to be a good fit, it should reflect that style! And there are so many ways to do that with an Erin Condren Life Planner!

Planners this year start at $55.00; adding some options will increase the price. Let’s hit the specs and the details of ALL of the CHOICES you’ll encounter as part of the ordering process for the coiled Life Planner (there are other planner options on the EC website), and after this, we’ll walk through all the photos. If you have questions let me know!

CALENDAR OPTIONS:

  • 18 month planner (July 2018 – December 2019)
  • 12 month planner (July 2018 – June 2019)
  • 12 month planner (January 2019 – December 2019)

INTERIOR COLOR THEMES:

  • Colorful (a vibrant, colorful planner with each month’s designs reflecting a different color theme)
  • Neutral (a black/white option that is streamlined and gorgeous! There is some color in this planner, but it is minimal and soft – not bright. NOTE: the planner reviewed in this post is a neutral color theme)

LAYOUTS – Each planner contains a monthly spread (for a big picture monthly overview), followed by the weekly spread – see your week at a glance. It’s this feature that brings me back again and again. What your week looks like in your planner is up to you – you choose:

  • Hourly Layout (the planner pictured in this post is hourly)
  • Vertical Layout
  • Horizontal Layout

COIL:

  • Gold (the planner pictured in this post has a gold coil)
  • Rose Gold
  • Black
  • Silver

COVER:

  • Choose your own cover to reflect your personality! Let your cover become another accessory!
  • The laminated covers are interchangeable!
  • Many times the colors on a cover are customizable – on the website, when you’re ordering, look for the square color swatch icon under the cover choices – if it’s there, you can choose your own colors for your planner cover!

OTHER ERIN CONDREN PLANNER OPTIONS:

If you’re looking for an option beside the standard LifePlanner with interchangeable covers, one of the following planners may better fit your needs!

  • Luxe LifePlanner ($65.00) – the Luxe coiled Life Planner is still an option this year and comes with a permanently coiled in cover (it is not interchangeable). You have SIX beautiful cover choices for the luxe this year and you can add personalization in metallic foiling, or choose a blind imprint (which is beautiful on a luxe planner).
  • Hardbound Planner (Customizable/Undated) – this is strikingly beautiful planner with covers so rich you almost have to feel them to appreciate them! The covers are true hardbound (no flex at all) with a sewn lay-flat binding, a ribbon to mark your place, and a fabulous price point. Of all the planners, I find this the most portable because of the hardbound design! (I use the larger 8″ x 10″ as my content planner because the layout is perfect for that!) The planner comes in two sizes:
MY  2018-2019  PLANNER

I thought it might help if I identified which color, layout, coil, and covers I chose because they’ll be pictured throughout this review.

  • COLOR:     NEUTRAL
  • LAYOUT:     HOURLY
  • COIL:     METALLIC GOLD
  • COVERS PICTURED:     PINEAPPLE — TRIANGLE OVERLAY — CANDY DOTS

SPECIAL  TOUCHES

Erin Condren fans have come to expect a high level of quality in this planner – special touches that almost make you feel spoiled as you open and use this planner. The coil is an essential element of that quality. It is a solid, sturdy, heavy gauge metal coil. Remember, there are 4 different color options for the coils: metallic gold (pictured), rose gold, black, and platinum (silver). The beautiful and sturdy coil is one of the original features that drew me to this planner! I love that this planner doesn’t flex when you hold it and that’s a testament to the very high-quality coil and the substantial and thick covers! You might not have thought about coil quality, but after living all over the pages of this planner, I can tell you that you’ll appreciate the quality!

Every one of the laminated Erin Condren covers is interchangeable! Yep!!! Just pull from the top or the bottom and the cover unzips right off the coils and you’re ready for a new cover! Change of mood – change of season – change of style – upcoming celebration or event – just pop on a new cover! It’s a great way to accessorize this planner, keeping it fresh, while the inside of your planner remains functional and together! I’ll share the three covers I got!

Above is candy dots, which I love for its minimal, fun look. It’s very reminiscent of my favorite feature wall at the Erin Condren Flagship store in Austin, TX.

I saw the pops of color on this cover – triangle overlay – and knew I had to have it! I love geometric designs and bold colors!

And finally, there is pineapple, which is just stunning with all the metallic gold and electric blue!

Whatever my mood, whatever I’m celebrating, my cover can be a reflection! And I love that! There are soooooo many other new covers this year! Including a really exciting collaboration between Erin Condren and Joy Cho of Oh Joy! The Oh Joy! covers are vibrant and modern, full of pops of color, and I’ll be first in line to grab a couple for my new planner!

Here are some publicity shots just to give you an idea of the collaboration with Oh Joy!

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Conference season really kicks into swing this summer, but many of us could use a little shot in the arm and friendly encouragement right about….now! In February. For home educators, February is historically a season fraught with second-guessing, perhaps a slump in motivation, or even an impulsive desire to change every single book and curriculum that was on the schedule for the first part of the year. Our reflections can leave us in a dizzying state and set us up for discouragement. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Let’s reclaim February – as the season to REFRESH!

Mary Ellen Barrett is hostessing a live (FREE) webinar conference on Friday, February 23, with a lineup of speakers all geared to help YOU consider (or re-consider), refresh, and find inspiration in the beauty within your ordinary! And I happen to be amongst the lineup of speakers!

Edited to add: Friends, the Homeschool Connections website is experiencing technical difficulties due to an issue completely out of their control. They are actively working on the problem in order to re-open the website and registration for the Refresh Conference. Thank you so much for your patience, and check back soon! All of the links here will work as soon as the website issues are resolved!

Refresh! Midwinter Virtual Conference

The conference is hosted by Homeschool Connections, and what is so fabulous about this conference is that you can join in from home! Yep!! Grab a cup of coffee, clear the room, grab your laptop, tablet, home computer – and enjoy the conference without setting foot outside your door! Mary Ellen and the fabulous folks at Homeschool Connections are bringing this refreshing conference right to you…right when you need it most!

The lineup of speakers for this conference is quite fantastic, and I’m humbled to be a part of the talented group! Click on over for ALL the details about speakers, topics, and times.

Here are the details of my speaking time:
  • TOPIC: Homeschool Planning: Let’s Get Into the Details
    • Ok! Y’all know how excited I am to chat planning, right!! I’m grabbing my Erin Condren Teacher Lesson Planner and all my planning tools – the works! We’ll chat about planning specifics and ideas to recharge your homeschool planning as well as share some insight (earned from the good ‘ol school of hard knocks!) that help me in creating organized plans that streamline the day and give all my students clear expectations! And we might even tackle that million dollar question: what to do when God’s plans trump our plans!
  • TIME: I’m speaking at 1:30 PM ET/12:30 PM CT, but check the Homeschool Connections website in case of any last minute logistical changes!!
  • GO REGISTER!! You have to register to hold your place for this free event and there ARE limited seats!

Time is a gift to steward. We aren’t in control of time, nor do we need to micromanage it, but we do have to exercise some diligence in working wholeheartedly in home education! Planning is a tool that helps us steward the gift of time.

Maybe you’re feeling a little discouraged reflecting on the first half of this year and you’d like to grab some new planning ideas, or maybe you’re overwhelmed by circumstances and seasons and your thoughtful plans could use a little more flex. Or maybe you’d just like to chat planning-in-general and grab some ideas to translate into your own planning style to help you organize your time! Pull up a chair and come sit with me at my desk! Let’s encourage and find refreshment as we share about the gift of time and planning as a form of stewardship!

Hope to see you Friday!

Edited to add: Friends, the Homeschool Connections website is experiencing technical difficulties due to an issue completely out of their control. They are actively working on the problem in order to re-open the website and registration for the Refresh Conference. Thank you so much for your patience, and check back soon! All of the links here will work as soon as the website issues are resolved!

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Oh goodness! I didn’t mean to be away for quite this long! In fact, I started drafting this post on December 4, but life and then Advent and then we have multiple birthdays and my anniversary all at the beginning of January on the heels of Christmas. It has been a wonderful month, but it has kept my focus away from my series, and I’m so glad to be back and settling into more routine so I can write more!

This is the 4th in a series of reading, discussing and applying ideas from Thomas Howard’s book which is available under two different names: Splendor In the Ordinary and Hallowed Be This House. If you’re new to the series, start at the Index Post discussing The Household for more explanation and a trail of breadcrumbs to the other posts in the series. Each post contains an updated Action-Questions Printable for you to print and prayerfully consider in applying these ideas.

So, if you’re still reading along with me…let’s step into the Entryway.

Ordinary is Affirmed by setting it off

Every home has one. Or something of one. A place to walk through on the way in or out of a home. But I wonder if most of you will share this in common with me? We have a front door entryway through which we welcome guests, but also a much more commonly used entry which is found by entering through our garage and that ceremonial door swings into…wait for it…our big walk-in pantry & utility room area. This is the most commonly used entryway in our home so I found myself with a bit of a mixed response as I read along with this chapter. On the one hand, I nodded in agreement over the idea of having a place to welcome, to pause and recollect, a place that is fittingly beautiful. Certainly, our back door entry is practical – and fitting for the times my children come trekking in with mud up to the hip and rocks gathered lovingly in pockets – but it’s not exactly a place of recollection.

Still, entering in – whether through our utility area or through the front door – signals something. It signals that home is inward. It welcomes family, friend, and stranger – through either door.

I found this chapter a challenge. It challenged my own sense of space and how our entry space functions and communicates because I live a very practical life. I love pretty around and within, but practical matters and systems and routines tend to rule the day here. They matter. They must. They’re necessary if one is to continue treading and keeping one’s head above water.

Or must they?

Does so much practicality threaten to swallow up the splendor? Have I become so focused on practicality that the front entry is simply a useful place to stack clean clothes as they await transport to various rooms?

If, as Mr. Howard writes, “the ordinary in our homes is affirmed by setting it off now and again,” we will have to consider how to go about setting it off. Because what we do and how we love and the beauty we embrace in our homes is worthy. There are moments full of wonder within, and it’s worth setting off.

I don’t think this diminishes the function or necessity of the back door entry. The back door does have its place in a bustling home with mud outside its doors and little (and big!) feet that are mud magnets, but I found great inspiration in reconsidering the beauty and splendor within the front entry.

Because rooms do have functions. There is an order and sequence to the rooms in our home. Think of the rooms as reflecting and forming an ordered whole, much as the spectrum of colors in a rainbow follow an order. It would be jarring and dissonant for those colors to be rearranged. Red is always first in the rainbow, it doesn’t belong between green and blue. In the same way, the entry is always first. The other rooms follow. And clean laundry doesn’t belong here. (Even if it is a convenient drop off place on the way to the upstairs bedrooms.) Of course, practicality necessitates that we cut ourselves some slack. After all, it may be that the basket of clothes to go upstairs awaits pick up at the bottom of the stairs, which happens to be in, or near, the entryway. But as a rule, the entryway is the first step into your home. It is the physical space into which you invite another someone into your home and it should welcome, invite, refresh, and allow a person to pause for just a moment. It’s hard to imagine refreshment and welcome amidst tripping over laundry or dolls or whatever happens to have migrated into the entryway.

Pause and Preparation

It makes sense, after all, to pause here for a moment. Stepping across the threshold and coming into a home is significant. We exchange greetings here. Practical functions are exercised – those of assisting guests with bags and coats and things. But, what is significant is that this place, this entryway, signifies an entering into a unique home – your home – that extends and reciprocates love in all the different rooms and through countless acts of service throughout the day. All of that happens in the rooms just beyond, but I find it soothing almost to consider that the entryway can be a more recollected place when greeting guests. It has a place in the order of entering a home. It is the red in the rainbow. Because just like discordant rearranging of the colors of the rainbow, we can’t come in from the outside into, for example, the bathroom – it would be utterly displeasing and odd. It is the entryway that allows for a brief pause in order to prepare for crossing into the other rooms, and all the ordinary splendor within them.

What if?

What if your home doesn’t have an entryway as such? It must have a door, and so then, there must be space just inside that door that can serve as an entryway. Begin to envision that space, however small, as set aside. Are there practical things you can do to encourage that vision? Perhaps you have something beautiful that, if placed strategically, will also function in a measured way to signify that there is time to pause in the entering in and allow for a special greeting place.

A Place to Bid and Greet Farewell

Now for a reality check. I’m a southern girl. And southern girls are about hugging and smiling and welcoming…and…eating if I’m being honest. (More on that in a future post in the series, but I’m pretty sure we could solve most of the problems of the world with a casserole and a big hug because every time there is a crisis I have a compulsive drive to bring a casserole somewhere and that can’t be wrong, can it?)

I don’t want this post to begin to illuminate a vision of formality in welcoming and entering-in with all this talk of pausing and recollecting across the threshold. Because that formality isn’t the integral thing here – it’s the greeting and expression of love within an order (entryway) that is the real thing here. This greeting is an exercise of courtesy, and courtesy is not so old-fashioned as you might think, dear reader. It is actually a necessary ingredient in any cultured society. Courtesy, sincerely expressed, shows that I recognize you as an image of God – and therefore worthy. Period. In looking around at the sad societal affair we find ourselves in today I can’t help but wish there were more expressions rooted in courtesy. The simple act of seeing you – seeing each other – as worthy because we are each made in His image. Doesn’t all the talking and back-and-forth seeking a bridge to connect and repair damage come down to that not-so-old-fashioned idea our grandmothers pressed on us? Courtesy. Perhaps I’ve oversimplified it. I digress.

If courtesy is the motivating force behind our greeting, and generosity is the animating force, then we will naturally want to adorn the entrance with beautiful objects (beautiful doesn’t equal ornate; beautiful can be quite simple) because these convey the beauty within, and suggest the dignity imbued in the atmosphere of the home. And these beautiful objects that the guest’s eyes first track across also convey to your guest that the objects are placed there with careful consideration. You put them there for your guest – because each and every guest, without exception, was made in His image. Each and every guest that enters through your entryway is worthy. Consider that as you consider the furnishings and embellishments in your entryway.

Formal and ostentatiousness are not required in the entryway; beauty, generosity, and courtesy are.

An Awareness of Grace & Glory

When I consider these grand elements – generosity, courtesy, beauty – how can I not be affected? These aren’t lofty nor unreachable. I could argue that they are necessary, civilized, perhaps even cultural anchors.

The ornamentation and beautiful objects in an entryway should be chosen with consideration of the family economy. One very simple and well-considered object can lift a room and express beauty. I imagine the dwelling place of the Holy Family. Its furnishings were the simplest and most humble, yet they were enough for the King of Kings to enjoy. I imagine the Blessed Mother arranged everything with great consideration so that she could exercise hospitality and welcome. If your family economy necessitates the same frugality, know that you are in the best of company.

The placement of furniture and beautiful objects will signify the beauty within. All of it begins to weave space together. These rooms and spaces used to be empty containers, but rightly considered and appointed, they become a home. A home which contains all of the ordinary acts that take place within it. And all of those actions and expressions find their source and end in persons – each of us made in the image of God – which makes all of this ordinary stuff…holy. And it all begins in the entryway.

Edited to add: Look what Joanna Gaines is talking about in issue no. 6 of The Magnolia Journal!

Next week, I hope to be back with the next post in this series: the living room. Join me!

As you wait, perhaps you’d like to take a look at the action-questions printable. These questions spring from the ideas Mr. Howard shared, and my humble explorations, from the chapter on the entryway. Remember, these questions are for your consideration and perhaps confiding in your spouse. Some of them may prompt or invite action. If they aren’t a blessing, please ignore them!

Click on the image to download and print the printable.

Use the green PRINT button at the bottom of this post to print.

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This is the 2nd in a series of reading, discussing and applying ideas from Thomas Howard’s book which is available under two different names: Splendor In the Ordinary and Hallowed Be This House. If you’re new to the series, start at the Index Post discussing The Household for more explanation and a trail of breadcrumbs to the other posts in the series.

This chapter was a short one, but it certainly does help set the tone, and we bounce from deep idea to deep idea within the short pages of this chapter. Let’s explore some of these ideas!

The Door

Inside. Outside. There can be neither without a door and walls. The door separates inside from outside, and we pass through it every day. The door welcomes home mother, father, and new baby. It shelters in a storm. It opens to a neighbor in need. The door communicates that the home is a space set aside, secure, a sacred place, a haven, a domestic monastery.

“Borders and veils and doors have always marked holy places.There is a paradox here, of course: if what goes on inside a holy place has any validity at all, then it will flow out and hallow everything else…” (Thomas Howard)

This idea is the principle behind rebuilding culture. What we do in the home grows and unfolds and naturally extends.

If home is a refuge, a place of unconditional love and hospitality through service, then our actions will naturally extend through that door. We’ll take that love and hospitality with us wherever we go, and we model that to our children, so that they, too, will be ambassadors through the door.

Our domestic monastery, as a place set aside, has a very important function – to remind us through its rooms and the visual tokens we place about that our “ordinariness is actually holiness unrecognized.”

Thomas Howard likens our home and our living here as an exile of sorts. After Eden, we lost the ability to recognize holiness in the ordinary, and now we must struggle against the temptation to view it all as secular. We must struggle to remind ourselves that we are, in fact, in exile. This is not home. Yet the temptation exists when there are so many secular comforts and luxuries at our fingertips to be quite content right here and to begin to view it all as utilitarian, as secular, as luxury that is needful. We can either set roots right here (the result of which is a sticky web ensnaring us in a never-ending longing for more and more stuff), or begin to reconsider and order a space – all the spaces of our home – with reminders that it is all His. It is all veiled holiness. And it is all a gift to steward and assist us out of exile to our true home. Heaven.

And how do we do that? How can I help myself, and not just myself, but my family, to recognize the holiness and the extraordinary within the ordinary? By ordering the rooms of the home to give visual clues – breadcrumbs, reminders – that we walk daily among the extraordinary. A visual clue could be a piece of sacred art, a timer with a bell that calls the family to the Angelus, a holy card placed over the washing machine that reminds me that my Via goes through the laundry room. Because those small, tangible reminders communicate an atmosphere that it is ALL HIS. It is all gift and blessing, and gifts and blessings must be stewarded. They must be considered, offered, and placed in His service.

These visual breadcrumbs are the perfect place to start, but there is another important way to change the ordinary things we do on the inside of the door – whether that is cooking or playing games or reading – into something extraordinary.

Marking the Days

As we move through the chapter from a discussion on the door – the meaning of a closed door signifying that there is an inside that is rightly ordered and protected from chaos and tumult outside, and the door open in hospitality – we find ourselves entering, perhaps with a guest, behind the closed door. Mr. Howard reminds us that we “are the attendants at this shrine.”

“As is true of any holy place, this one (the home) has for its activity the marking and celebrating of what is true, and the keeping alive of the vision of what is true; namely, that all is holy.”

Initially, I considered that this directive was to inform my own attitude and sense of being within the home – to elevate my way of thinking about ordinary tasks. And it did affect a powerful shift in my own attitude over the last 10 or so years. The morning offering becomes so meaningful when I consider that as a form of marking and consecrating the day. And all my little tasks and errands and duties fold into the one thing needful – my life for yours. “Offering things up in acts of consecration and praise,” is, “what lifts those things from the heap of mere ordinariness and makes them extraordinary.” (Splendor In the Ordinary, Thomas Howard) It becomes a powerful way of stepping through a day. And, while I do think this is a significant part of the idea, as I read again, I considered more.

There are days worth marking. In following the Church calendar and living it in our home, through the ordinary tasks and in the ordinary rooms within the domestic monastery, we mark and celebrate eternal truths. These truths are shared by our big brothers and sisters in the faith, the saints, and passed down to us by a loving Mother, Holy Mother Church, and they teach in small ways. To consider this a form of “saint worship” would be to misunderstand the rich beauty and example the saints give us. Like the Blessed Virgin at the wedding feast of Cana, they echo, “do whatever He tells you.” These feasts of the Church celebrating Saints and seasons show us the way out of this exile. They point us home. This is a truth we can mark and celebrate. How that looks may be different from home to home depending on talent and means. We may mark the day by going to Mass, cooking, reading stories, crafting, or playing games, and in doing so, we allow these Feast days to become “bearers of the divine mysteries and glory to us.” (Splendor in the Ordinary, Thomas Howard).

All the doors in your home

As I pondered this chapter, it occurred to me that there are many doors in our homes. The front door, the back door, and other doors, that while not literal doors, are doors that swing open and closed nonetheless and we would do well to consider them and guard them.

I suppose we think of the door as the big hinged rectangle usually located on the front of our home. We’ve got a nice mat out front, maybe some flowers. There’s a deadbolt so we’re safe from the storms and tumult outside. But is that the only door in your home? I write and you are reading from a very different place than perhaps Thomas Howard had in mind when this book was first penned in 1977. Here I sit pouring my thoughts out for you on a blog which will reach you through the internet, perhaps email, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or some other digital door. Technology provides a myriad of these digital doors, many of which are in our homes (and hands) and they swing wide open with ease. While the front door is concrete and we can tend it and open it and close it, these doors which open to digital realms are not so tidy nor so easily seen. But make no mistake, they are a place of coming and going and the very same principles must apply.

I know this is a landmine of a topic, but these digital doors most certainly swing open and closed and I can’t ignore it, and neither can you, dear friends. I am not an expert, nor do I speak from that perspective. I’m a mom of adult kids down to little kids with kids in between. This is a question we’ve grappled with and revisit regularly. I offer a few ideas for you to consider.

The realm beyond these digital doors is wide and heavily trafficked. I’m not going to give you black and white guidelines that imply a do-this-and-no-harm-will-come-through-that-digital-door principle because they simply don’t exist. Just as I can’t promise you that if you erect a strong solid steel door on your home no ill will ever befall you. Ignoring and eschewing doors does not offer protection. It only invites motivation to explore outside a door…with no guidance. The virtue of prudence exists so that we can exercise it for our individual family and seek what is best for our family in a given season. Make use of prudence (it’s a virtue!!) and lean heavily into the graces given through the Sacrament of Matrimony.

To be clear, I do not eschew doors – digital or concrete. In fact, I walk through them both regularly. And I allow my children to do so. With the physical doors in our home, there is a measure of graduated movement when my children walk through a door. At first, I may allow a child out to play in the yard while I watch nearby. As that child gets older, he may go out with siblings while I watch from a window. Still older, he goes out with friends, and then on his own, and one day he’s off and driving and going farther and farther away, but always with guidance and a clear idea of where he is going, how to get there, and how to get back home.

The digital doors in my home function similarly. I use them regularly so that I can be familiar with the territory and because I have always delighted in sharing the extra, the overflow that can extend from my home through these digital doors. With my children, the same graduated movement principle applies. At first, I walk with my children, and then little by little, we let them move through those doors until there is a maturity and readiness to walk through the doors without accompaniment. There is always guidance, watchfulness, prudence, and while there is much good to be found on the internet, there is also clear direction given on the dangers outside that door.

We don’t live in cloistered communities. We’re called to be in the world, not of it, to be the salt and light and you need doors that open to bring the light of Christ to a dark world. I pray we can all find a way to close these digital doors in prudence when necessary and open the doors in hospitality when possible – and model the same to our children. The internet is in need of baptizing.

A small practical note: our family has found a small device known as The Circle to be a wonderful “digital doorkeeper” in helping with the practicals. It’s something used by the entire family and monitored through an app. Think of this tool as identifying every single open digital door so that you, as a parent, can know the comings and goings and how much time is spent there. And, you, as the parent, can decide to permanently close certain digital doors, while leaving others safe to open. It’s a way of throwing light onto everything, and I believe it’s a universal principle that things done in the light are far safer than those cloaked in darkness and secrecy.

And where would a door be without…

…walls? And that’s where we’ll pick up next week! With the four walls.

Questions to Consider

I received some feedback about the questions I left at the end of last week’s post. Several of you asked me to expand them, and I’ve decided to do so in the form of a printable file. I’ll update the file each week with a new printable reflecting questions from the week’s chapter. My hope is that these questions will be a way for both you and me to consider the deep ideas here and work our way toward action steps we can take to recognize the splendor within our ordinary.

Click the image below to open and download the printable Action Questions.

 

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Wildflowers and Marbles by Jennifer Mackintosh - 3M ago

I’m thrilled to be able to offer you the 2017 | 2018 Preparing Heart and Home Advent Planner! Friends, I made several updates this year that I hope will make this planner more and more a blessing for your home! This year’s planner is 21 pages long. Just click the image above to download – or click here.

This year, I added a bonus for you! I came up with some weekly printables that I hope will help you plan! You can take the planner and any other Advent resources you find, and use this printable to jot down goals and the ideas you’d like to incorporate in your week. There is a printable plan-sheet for each week of Advent and Christmas.

I made this planner printable with my grown daughter in mind. Many of you have been with me and this blog since Sarah was a little thing. Married now, and starting her own family, I thought of her and the traditions she might bring into her home, and I thought back to how I began – all those years ago – with only a handful of holy cards, a liturgical year calendar, and my daughter’s sweet willingness to be alongside my own journey of learning about the richness of the liturgical year. These printables are (I hope) something that any of us can use – regardless of faith or season of life. It is simply a paper container to help you organize a few of the riches you may want to bring into your own home so that you may begin to build on the beautiful and rich liturgical traditions of the season of Advent and Christmas.

You can click directly on the image below to download, or click here.

You can use the printables in a couple of different ways:

  1. Print the Advent planner and then print the plan-sheets.
  2. Insert a plan-sheet right behind the appropriate week in your Advent planner and then bind it all together.

Or…

  1. Print the plan-sheets and keep them on your clipboard so that your plans can follow you from room to room.

Are you wondering what this FREE Advent planner and printables set contains?

  • The rich liturgical history of the season of Advent.
  • A week by week planner which contains a daily listing of the liturgical feasts and customs appropriate to that day.
  • Both the Extraordinary Form Calendar of 1962 (the Latin Mass) and the Ordinary Form Calendar of 1969 (the Novus Ordo Mass in the vernacular) are represented in the planner.
  • Each day contains book ideas coordinating with the daily feast, and Advent customs.
  • An index booklist for you to consider.
  • Room for you to jot down new books you’ve found or books you’d like to add to your daily reading.
  • O Antiphons listed with a link to a prayer companion for praying the O Antiphons. (copyright, Jennifer Gregory Miller)
  • The booklet contains daily plans and ideas from the 1st Sunday of Advent through January 13 (the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord) – covering Advent and the Christmas season.
  • This booklet is compiled by a lay Catholic who is faithful to the Magisterium and teaching body of the Catholic Church. This booklet is not affiliated with an approved ecclesiastical source.
  • This booklet is in pdf format – you are free to download, print, read on your tablet (most tablets will allow you to view a pdf in your ibooks or kindle app) or computer.
  • By all means share with your friends! Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam! All I ask is that if you share, you share the link to this post, not the file. Also, sharing on social media is invited and encouraged. Please post the link back to this post.
  • Copyright permission is granted to print and use this within a family or small group. If you would like to print and distribute large copies of this document, contact me first.
  • There is plenty of white space to journal plans, ideas, extra books, and craft ideas after each week’s plans. I hope this makes the planner useful and personal to you and your family.
  • All the books and resources in the planner (and more) are linked at the end of this post. Many of the links are affiliate links. They cost you nothing, but I may receive a small commission if you make a purchase, and I am so grateful for that!
  • This is a 21 page booklet, and the printable set of plan-sheets contains 7 pages – keep that in mind for printing purposes.
The Advent & Christmas Booklist

What follows is a collection of books our family has enjoyed over the years. Many of them are included on the plans. This is not an exhaustive list! We don’t read all of these each Advent season – we choose a few to enjoy. Collect books for your Advent basket a little at a time, keeping choices lovely and reserving enough quiet to prepare for the season. (Please note that I am an Amazon affiliate and most of these links are through Amazon – if you click through these links I do earn a very small amount. Thank you!)

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Have you ever heard the phrase, “bloom where you are planted?” I suppose that applies to us moderns, planted squarely in the 21st century with all of its technology, activity, and constant going and getting and coming back from. I don’t eschew technology, nor activity, nor going and getting, but they do begin to overshadow days when they’re not guarded. 21st century or not, we’re still called to moderation in enjoying all of these goods, and perhaps now more than ever, we must learn to guard our homes – just as our medieval ancestors guarded their castles against too much intrusion. For home should be a haven of truth, goodness, and beauty. It should be filled with ritual and routine, order and delight. And it cannot be any of those things if we’re never in it, or so distracted that we’re never really present to the people that inhabit it – our families.

Let’s read through this together

About 12 years ago I picked up a book, Splendor In the Ordinary by Thomas Howard. I had no idea then that the ideas within would trickle into my imagination and weave through all my thoughts on home, the atmosphere I cultivate, even how I decorate and order spaces, and how I view everything ordinary. My senses and the ordinary were elevated. Mr. Howard’s book helped me understand the need for order, helped me recognize the beauty in something ordinary like organization, the supernatural value in exercising hospitality, and that the sacrificial beauty of my-life-for-yours can lift the ordinary into a place of beauty. I read and re-read this book, but it has been holding down a place on my bookshelf for far too long. It’s time to re-read it and refresh my ideas and thoughts. And, I’d love it if you read along with me! I can’t promise you a regular pace of posts (although I really want to!!) because I don’t have all the posts in this series built yet. But I can promise you that we’ll thoughtfully consider each chapter, starting today with Chapter 1 – the Household. I will come back and update this post with links so that the post can serve as an index to the entire series.

Though this is an easy book to read, the ideas here need time to sink into your thoughts and walk with you through your spaces so you begin to prayerfully consider the splendor within your ordinary. Take your time reading and considering – there is no pre-set pace! I also highly recommend a notebook alongside your reading. When I read this book for the first time I took away many ideas – practical and philosophical – that I wanted to consider further and act on.

Let me share a couple of technical details about this book.

All three books contain the same content although covers and titles vary. Truthfully, and of absolutely no consequence to this discussion, I much prefer the cover to the current 2012 version but the title to the 2000 version, Splendor In the Ordinary. Because in truth, that is what this book is all about. In any case, whichever copy you have will work fine if you’d like to read along. There are 9 chapters and I’ll attempt to tackle a new chapter each week. I’ll post some of my own introductory thoughts, ask what I hope are thought-provoking questions to help you brainstorm and apply these ideas, and you are invited, encouraged, and welcome to share your own thoughts in the comments.

It could be helpful while reading to keep Mr. Howard’s perspective in mind. Originally written at a time in Thomas Howard’s life when he was an Episcopalian (after having been raised in an Evangelical home) and on the road to conversion to the Roman Catholic Church, this book stretches toward a universal truth that I think reaches all. (Read more about Mr. Howard’s conversion story here – his story is inspiring and I particularly enjoyed the books that he appreciates that inspired him – many are also my favorites, from Knox to von Hildebrand.) Having discovered that sacramental rites and liturgical rhythms actually bring us closer to Christ (See his book: Evangelical Is Not Enough) Mr. Howard shares through the pages of his book, Splendor In the Ordinary, how every room in the home – every ordinary space and experience – is a place to encounter God’s grace.

A word about my perspective

I am a wife of close to 25 years. I’m a mom to 5 children. I homeschool my kids. I make home. I enjoy organizing creatively and planning as a way of stewarding the gift of time. In short – I’m in the trenches. Our days are anchored to the truth and beauty of the Roman Catholic Church. Her liturgical rhythm and rich traditions are woven into our ordinary. When I read this book 10 years ago, my family was still quite young and I was eager for a richer and deeper vision in making home. Now, I write as a mom with a daughter who is married and delighting in making her own home while I still have children in every other age and stage present at home – from high schooler to preschooler. The atmosphere of our home over the last 10 years has developed – somewhat organically, but mostly intentionally, and was influenced in large part by this book. So my perspective is one of revisiting an old and very dear friend.

This book is about home. It is about the sense of the sacred within each room of our home. Perhaps parts of it may challenge you or your way of thinking. Perhaps it will challenge mine. But if you long to embrace the idea of home as haven and full of the ordinary that stretches out onto mystery, this book is for you! What I will share in each of these posts is less of a book review (think: “he said this, and I think this.”) and more like thoughts on various themes within each chapter. These are just my reflections having re-read this book after allowing it to inform my imagination for the past 10 years. And the goal in sharing is to prompt you to read and begin imagining, too.

Index

Please join in whenever you like – there is no set schedule! Start reading at the beginning and follow along from there! I’d love it if you’d like to share your thoughts in the comment box along the way!

  1. The Household <– you’re here!
  2. The Door
  3. The Four Walls
  4. The Entryway
  5. The Living Room
  6. The Dining Room
  7. The Kitchen
  8. The Bathroom
  9. The Bedroom
  • Action Question printable – there are action questions generated at the end of each post that correspond to the reflections and suggestions both in my posts and in Thomas Howard’s book. These are primarily to be used in private for your own reflection or discussed with your husband.
The Household – Chapter 1

Throughout all of history, there have been places set aside as hallowed, or holy. Think of Moses taking his shoes off in the presence of God in the burning bush and the shrines of the Middle Ages. Sadly, modernity has eroded this sense of the sacred. We live in such a scientific and technological age that everything must be understood, known, explained, statistically quantified. Stripped of mystery, and certainly no sense of the sacred, we’re left with a shallow, superficial mask that skims the surface of a hideous under-culture. And it makes it exponentially harder for us to consider ourselves as daily “carrying on the commonplace routines of our ordinary life in the presence of mighty mysteries.” (Splendor In the Ordinary)

The millrace

The stripping of mystery from the every-day isn’t the only stumbling block. We face other challenges, too. Clutter. Stuff. Activity. So much of it that we’re never home to breathe in the quiet, to consider prayerfully, to live with enough margin that we can freely and joyfully engage our family. And yet. That’s what we want, isn’t it? The reality is that we do live in a modern age and life does come tumbling down the pike at a pace that is sometimes fast. We could put on blinders and over-shelter or move to some remote corner of the earth, but I would argue that that solution isn’t genuine, nor does it offer any service to the children in our care who will one day have to step across the threshold of the safe harbor of home and jump into the fray. No, our answer will have to be one that models stewardship while prudently guarding that which should never cross the threshold of a domestic monastery.

The ordinary as sacrifice

The trouble is, we’ve lost not only a sense of the sacred but also the need to sacrifice. From Abel’s pleasing sacrifice, Abraham’s tested sacrifice, to Our Lord’s ultimate sacrifice – we have always been called by God to offer sacrifices. And if I’m to offer sacrifice in my day, I’m going to have to start thinking of the kindling and flint I can gather to burn – the dishes, the lack of sleep, the repetitive chores, the 849-gazillionth load of laundry, the setting down of something good to be attentive to a person, the meal I’m preparing, the cross I’m carrying, the time I’m stewarding. I always joke that my path to sanctity goes through the laundry room, but it’s true. In the very ordinary parts of our day, we find the necessary means to offer sacrifice and encounter grace.

Order | Bells

Thomas Howard speaks without hesitation on the activity and clutter that seem to permeate modern homes and the secularization that has extinguished our sense of sacred. Activity and clutter threaten to snuff out any sense of quiet time to breathe in life, to contemplate prayerfully, to be joyfully present to a child, a husband.

St. Benedict offers us two examples that I think can be edifying as mothers – order and bells. I should be clear – we cannot and should not replicate a contemplative monastery in our homes. As wives and mothers, we live an active vocation, and our vocation requires different “rules” than St. Benedict offered his monks. It would be wrong to long for the order and quiet of a contemplative monastery – to do so will undercut contentment in a New-York-minute. The rhythm of home will be different (and louder), and our call to prayer will be different (and louder), and all of it will be good because we work out our path to holiness through this vocation – the one that goes through the laundry room. Having said that, I do think that if we look at principles, we can find some ideas worthy of translating into the home – our domestic monastery.

Order

Brace yourself!!! There is a need for order in the home. God is a God of order – not of chaos nor confusion. I’m not talking about perfect, matching baskets lined up and labeled in sequence, I’m talking about the kind of order that results in good stewardship and a space that one can exercise hospitality – to family and friends. Because all that extra stuff causes “visual noise” – the eye trips over a pile here and a stack there every time it looks through a room or a space. Order reclaims quiet and simplicity.

And yes, there’s some organization involved. But let go of fantasy-order and embrace reality-order. You know, the kind of order that may ask you to organize in empty egg cartons and shoe boxes! Use what you have – get creative (my favorite organizing containers are usually glasses from my kitchen cabinet or the thrift store)! Because if you do, contentment will provide a peace and joy for what you have carved out!

You’re establishing order in your home – with your children, your husband, in your season of life, within your means. Don’t look around and give in to the comparison trap thinking that someone else’s iteration of order is more perfect, or prettier. This whole comparison thing is such a thief when it comes to creativity and contentment so don’t let it in here, ok? Work within your lane – the lane God put you in – and carve out reasonable order.

  • DECLUTTER: You should not be drowning in stuff. We’re each blessed with material things that can assist us in our vocation – if it isn’t assisting you, let it go. Detach. Let it bless someone else’s home. We’re approaching Advent – there is no better time to declutter your home while you ponder the poverty and sweetness of the Holy Family that night in Bethlehem.
  • ORGANIZE: The material things that do serve us in our vocation are blessings to steward. That means managing them, and to some extent organizing them so that – we can find them when necessary, we can loan them when asked, and we can allow them to enrich our family.
Bells

Consider for a moment the bells that ring in a monastery. They call the monks to the next thing in their day, and obediently, at the sound of the bells, the monks get up and attend to the next thing. This is done so that the monks of a monastery will order their day with purpose and will see that God’s plan, not theirs, is the path to holiness. A friend shared (in a facebook group I’m in) a beautiful idea she heard – that our children are our bells, calling us to the next thing. I would take that a step further – our husband, our children, the ending buzz of the dryer, the timer for the oven – these are all bells – these ordinary daily duties. They call us to the next thing. We rebuild culture by doing the next thing. If life is so noisy and frantic and feverishly paced, how will we hear our bells so that we, too, can get up obediently and live out God’s plan for the day?

Consider…

Here are a few questions from this chapter I’m leaving for you to consider. Ignore them entirely, keep the answers to yourself, or share some insights here! This part is entirely optional. I shared my thoughts above, but I think questions can sometimes do more to help me brainstorm than anything else!

  • Do you find it difficult to think of your home, and the rooms in it, as hallowed/sacred?
  • If you consider your home as a hallowed place, does that begin to change the way you think of your ordinary duties?
  • Are there one or more ordinary duties that you find especially challenging to view in this light?
  • Does your current level of activity drown out your “bells” – the call within your vocation to do the next thing?
  • Does your day have enough margin (free time) that you’re able to engage your children?
  • Have you considered your ordinary duties as the kindling necessary to offer sacrifices to God?

For a full printable with more detailed questions from The Household – click the image below.

Is the ordinary holy?

“Ordinariness in a word, opens out onto mystery, and the thing that men are supposed to do with mystery is to hallow it, for it all belongs to the Holy One.” (Splendor In the Ordinary)

The ideas from this chapter began to turn everything – every action, attitude, and thought upside down for me. And I began to look at my ordinary in a different light, bathed in mystery, and capable of expressing great beauty!

So, together, let’s go with Mr. Howard from room to room and discover what this can look like. And especially what that looks like in very real, and practical terms. I’ll be back and we’ll open the floor to discuss Chapter 2, The Door. Do we slam it closed in the face of outside culture? Or do we fling it open it in hospitality? Grab a cup of something warm and join me!!!

 

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