Mary and mercy came to our house this May. After years of chasing an illusive dream of someday organizing our entire home, I finally managed, with God’s assistance, to do just that. It was a ruthless and exhaustive endeavor. Closets, cabinets, drawers, shelves and rooms were systematically purged of everything that was not nailed down. The contents were given away, thrown away, or put away — in their proper place.
The Wisdom to Know the Difference
My goal was to organize at least one hour a day for 33 days. This was Mary’s month. I coupled my cleaning with the Saint Louis Marie De Montfort 33-day Preparation for Consecration to Mary. The Rosary on tape played continuously as I went about my daily organizing. To further honor Mary, we kept fresh flowers by her statue in our family room. I surmised that if anyone knew the best way to organize a home, it had to be the Mother of God. I asked our Lady for help.
If I was going to fight and stand a chance to win this war on clutter, I wasn’t going to do it without much-needed artillery. Arming myself with black garbage bags, I lit blessed candles and sprinkled holy water throughout the house. My revamped serenity prayer went like this: “God grant me the serenity to hold on to everything I need, the courage to get rid of everything I don’t, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
What did I hold on to? I kept the shirt hand-sewn for me by our girls as a birthday gift when they were younger. This shirt was constructed with no pattern, and from my sister’s old drapery fabric — in true Sound of Music style. It has a neckline, sleeves, and shoulders. It is lop-sided and off-centered, with one sleeve smaller then the other, but when I put it on, it actually fit. Could I part with it? Never! But it did go into a box labeled “treasures” with a sub-label of “hand-made shirt from the girls.” Being organized doesn’t have to mean letting go of memories. Sometimes, order helps us know where to go to find them.
What did I let go of? Piles of useless papers were duly discarded. Blessed holy items that could not be thrown away (broken rosaries, worn-out scapulars etc.) were put to their proper rest. Rolling up my sleeves, I grabbed a shovel from the garage, dug a hole in the dirt in our backyard and buried them there. Books that we’d likely never read again were donated to the library, and summer clothes and shoes to charity. Socks without matches were thrown out.
Discarding old and empty paint and propane cans was no simple task. After making an appointment several days in advance, these items were hauled down the highway to the county’s hazardous disposable site. Strong men in white jump suits greet you there, take your hazardous material with a smile, and send you packing with a 28-page Recycling Directory that offers all kinds of fascinating information on the topic of trash. Did you know, for example, that 48% of all trash is paper? (I refrained from commenting that the 28 pages of material they gave me had just increased the percentage of paper that would need to be thrown out.) The town hall folks were kind enough to come and cart away our old computers free of charge. I got giddy over that.
Charity and Peace Come from Order
Winter coats were stored away in the basement. Once they were piled in one place, it seemed we had more coats than we needed. Having been instructed that detachment is the path to sanctity, I tried to do the holy thing and detach from the excess coats. But that was easier said than done. No one wanted to take a donation of winter coats in the month of May. So our coats were stored away and the ones we’d like to donate are packed and ready to go. When the cold weather rolls around this year, we will be prepared to donate the excess coats to those who are in need.
Organization not only paves the path for charity in deed, it paves the path for charity in word. When a child asks for an umbrella, one can get quite a kick out of saying “Did you check the left hall closet, second shelf up from the bottom, right hand side, darling?” while masterfully sautéing onions on the stove. It’s not only fun to know where things are, it’s faster than saying “I don’t know where it is, let’s look for it” and engaging in a ten-minute search only to be reminded of the abandoned onions at the blaring of smoke alarms. Just knowing where things are in our home is a simple way to keep the people in our family happy.
Teddy — once our now-teen daughter’s favorite stuffed animal — had been missing for years. His suspicious disappearance was linked to a sudden bout with allergies. The pediatrician had instructed me to “hide” Teddy until the allergic reaction had passed. I hid him just a little too well, because after I’d hid him, I was unable to find him again. Unsuccessful search-and-rescue missions for Teddy continued intermittently for years with our daughter asking every now and then “Where is Teddy, Mommy?” This May, thanks to spring cleaning with Mary, the question was answered. Teddy was ceremoniously returned to my daughter with a note that said “I was lost but now am found” (Lk 14:15). Her surprised and joyful response was, “Wow, he looks so little.” No, sweetheart, you just grew up.
Pure and Simple
It seems like our house just took a big breath, and let go a long, relaxed exhale. The place is airy, and there is more room for our family to live the way God intended. God’s timing is perfect. Mary’s months come twice a year, with five months between October and May, and five between May and October. Her months arrive just in time for her to help us with our spring and fall cleaning. Mary is a pure and simple mom. She can teach us to be pure and simple, too.
Just as sure as the sun will rise, the clutter will begin to collect again tomorrow. Plans have been made to de-clutter “religiously,” so to speak. That means including short organizing sessions in our daily routine. More than that it means including God and Mary in the effort. When the steady stream of clutter flowing into our house is about to sweep us away, I’ll try to ponder Mary’s simplicity. Instead of throwing up my hands in despair, I hope to remember to fold them in prayer, and ask our Lady for help. She is our Mother. And that is what Mothers are for.
©2006 Mary Anne Moresco