NOT THE BOOKS!
If you are anything like me, then books might be a tender topic when it comes to minimizing. The smell of books and the adventure they carry you on can make you sentimentally captive. For many years my goal was to collect books, but the tide has shifted. I was recently asked for tips and took it as a sign to write this blog post.
Holding the bedtime storybook I read to all of my children, the emotional ties made want to hold onto it forever even though no one wanted to hear it anymore, including me! I have held onto a few of my favorites that I plan to read aloud to my kids as they mature. I also keep some uplifting books that I reread occasionally. It is okay to preserve some special things, but when it becomes a whole bookshelf worth for each person in the household, it might be time to reevaluate a little. Are we keeping books out of guilt, fear, sentimental obligation, or because we truly use and enjoy them?
It is a childhood right of passage to pull books off the shelf, but when it brings mom to tears regularly, it's time to make a change. Picking up the same pile, over and over again, gets old. My inner librarian needs books to be treated gently or reverently, and that was not happening because they were toddlers! To save my sanity during the season of littles, I moved all special books high and strewed only a few of the chunky board books at a time. Then I could breath a sigh of relief.
Through birthdays and Christmas, we collected more and more books. I kept having babies, so I saved them to read to the youngest. During those years, I hoarded books, but now that my youngest is no longer a toddler, the first to go were the board-books. I became aware of how my belongings weighed on me and was ready for a change.
The kids didn't often object to giving books away. I was the one with the attachment. The perpetual what if mentality plagued me for a while. They had already moved on to the bigger and better titles. If someone did happen to object, we would do one last read aloud and set it aside. After a week, it was inevitably forgotten, and I would donate it at our local library while mentally reassuring myself that we could always borrow it back. Immediately afterward, I felt lighter allowing our books to bless others rather than collect dust.
My youngest is a boy, so next to go were all the early readers that didn't catch his interest. Barbie and other girly readers were looked right over; he wanted superheroes! We were able to bless other families who had girls and my shelves are more under control. Once he graduates, his first readers will be passed onto friends as well.
I was hoping my girls would love Harry Potter as much as I did. After number three, their interests waned. I am still holding onto it for my boy in case the series works its magic on him. The girls have discovered other series, and I had to come to terms with that. Classics are great but getting stuck in the past isn't. Forcing them to love all the series that I did as a child is ridiculous, instead, I am cultivating a serious library addiction.
The more we let go, the more we have room for. Sometimes, it is best to wait and see if anyone goes looking for that title. Keep an ongoing pile for donation and encourage kids to be generous. The story they loved might bring adventure to a new reader because of their generosity!
These tips can overlap into other areas too. Minimalism isn't a destination, it is a mindset. Be mindful of the season you are in and keep refining.
I’m so excited to be a guest writer on my daughter’s blog! My newest phrase is “Such fun!”. This is a quote from the mother on the Amazon Prime series Miranda. If you haven’t seen it and need a good belly laugh, check it out. I just love British humor.
So, that’s the beginning of my advice to young mothers - laugh more. Don’t take everything so seriously. Play more. Enjoy the messiness of childhood and stop thinking you have to clean it all up.
I sat the other evening with a young mom, about the age of my daughter, and listened to a familiar theme. The young woman was worrying aloud, “Am I disciplining my children enough? Am I keeping the house clean enough? Are our meals nutritious enough? Am I volunteering enough at church? Am I teaching the children to read? How many clubs and sports can we afford? I’m running all the time and it makes me tired and not as patient as I want to be.”
I sometimes feel that my most important mission as a grandmother is to put a reassuring hand on a young woman’s shoulder and give her permission to relax. We are living in an atmosphere where society is constantly urging us to be more, do more and have more! This pressure is blared from the television, the computer, our smartphones and even the pulpit. Everything in your life should somehow be bigger and better. The whole family feels the pressure.
My recommendation is to step off the treadmill and refuse to let anyone force you back onto it. Don’t be bullied or pressured by your neighbors, your friends, your family (but Mom, everybody’s doing it) or even your church. If you want to teach your children good things, start with the basics.
Teach your children to breathe! Slowly! We all need to stop running, rushing, shallow breathing or worse hyperventilating. My Dad, who is now 81 was just released from a hospital to a rehab center. There they are trying to teach him to breathe deeply. He said he was amazed at how much of his life he has spent shallow breathing and how difficult it is to learn to slow down. He had no idea how much breathing impacts your health. So teach your children to breathe.
Teach your children to see, look and notice. I just read an article about children having neck problems due to being bent over tech devices all day. Here’s the remedy. Look up! When was the last time you spread out on the grass and looked up at the clouds, noting their strange shapes and movement? Encourage children (and yourself) to really looked at a flower and noticed all it’s parts. Did you know that not all blades of grass look the same? It takes a certain calm to notice details. Play games where you hide things in the backyard and let them search. Ask them if they remember what color shirt Daddy was wearing when he left for work, or what their sibling was wearing or doing five minutes ago. It will amaze you - both with how much they notice and how little we do!
Teach them to smell! Help them smell; not only the flowers, but also the musty, dirty laundry under their bed. Help them identify lavender, cinnamon, mint, modeling clay, baking, and the many fragrances in our world. Play the blindfold game and see if their noses can give them information when their eyes cannot.
Teach your children to hear. First go outside and listen to all the sounds on the earth - from nature sounds to the sounds of humanity. Then help them learn the differences between listening, hearing and understanding. You do that first by listening to them. They also observe how you listen to your spouse. Take time to communicate with your spouse over more than the mundane details of the day. Allow the children to witness you argue sensibly and even passionately, so they can see what it means to compromise, apologize, and make-up. Allow them to know that the real world requires negotiation.
Teach your children to taste. Okay, this starts early, from nursing to baby food to every toy they put in their mouth. Children instinctively want to taste life, so broaden their tastes by helping them try new foods Let them experience the difference between salty, sweet, sour and bitter. Explain that all tastes are relevant and remind them that sweet is not the only taste they should enjoy. Stop worrying that if they don’t finish all that new recipe that they will starve. They won’t. Our job is not to cater to their tastes - it is to help them develop their tastes.
Teach your children to feel! Allow children the wonders of all the textures they can touch with their hands, teaching them to touch small things tenderly and gently. But along with actual physical touching/feeling, also teach them to identify and feel and own their emotions. Help them find proper outlets for real emotions. My Dad once gave me a hammer, some nails and a log and let me pound out my anger in the backyard, driving in as many nails as it took to work out my feelings. Some people punch or bite pillows. Let your children have a good cry when needed. Give them a safe space to feel and work out their emotions. I personally feel our society is suffering the consequences of suppressed emotions. People who have never been taught appropriate acknowledgement of anger or sadness, reach a tipping point and react in sudden violence to themselves or others. We need to start young to teach children to acknowledge their own emotions and then they will also develop compassion and empathy for others.
What? That’s it? Encourage the five senses? What about reading, writing, arithmetic? What about thriving in a competitive world? What about extra curricular activities? What about technology? I repeat! Relax. This generation is asking the same questions we were asking in the last generation - how much screen time is okay? We were concerned about television and you worry about Ipads and smartphones. The truth is still the same, when the power goes off, and there are no screens, we are all back to relying on our five senses and the knowledge we draw from them. If they have been neglected, we all lose out. Screens will come and go, grow larger and then smaller. Technology will develop and then be replaced with better and more sustainable invention. Those children who have been taught to see and understand their surroundings and themselves will have the best platform and the best designs to bring into the next generation.
My Current Mantra
Walk humbly with God and do the work at your hands....