New book encourages readers to live simply
by Marc and Julie Anderson
ARLINGTON, Virginia – About 300,000.
That’s how many items an average American home contains, according to professional organizers. Catholic author Laraine Bennett said she found the fact mind-boggling.
Still, she said disposing of possessions can be difficult, as she learned firsthand during her own move from a 4,000 square foot house to one of around 1,000. This decision, along with her personal journey of self-discovery and spiritual growth, is chronicled in her latest book, “The Little Way of Living with Less: Learning to Let Go with the Little Flower,” published in September by Sophia Institute Press.
The book does not fall into the genre of home organization books (although tips from a professional organizer are included). Instead, it’s divided into 11 chapters ranging from “Decluttering the Soul” to “The Only Good Thing” and “‘Tis the Gift to Be Simple.”
In its pages, Bennett refers to virtues like trust, poverty and simplicity as roses, alluding to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux’s promise to rain down the flower from heaven.
Because the book includes reflective questions, it can be used by book clubs, faith-sharing groups, or “anyone who hopes to grow in the love of God and neighbor by living with a little less. “.
A few years ago, Bennett’s husband, Art, noted that as a couple, they only used about 10% of their house.
That’s when the couple decided to jump on board with “the minimalist bandwagon.”
But it was harder than expected, Bennett said.
“It turned out to be very difficult for me, actually. It was a struggle,” she said. “I thought I would be able to handle it very easily – no problem.”
But she learned an unpleasant truth.
“I still have those attachments,” she continued. “So, going through that, I realized that I wanted to write about it. [and the fact that] there are virtues underlying this process. I needed to grow in these virtues.
Saint Therese exemplified the virtues to a heroic degree, Bennett said.
“She lived in [the] upper middle class and it was a beautiful home she grew up in,” Bennett added, “and she had beautiful things around her.
But she saw the temptation.
Thérèse’s family “returned to Alençon, says Bennett, where she was born and spent the first years of her life. And they were drinking and having dinner and treating her very well. She saw these marvelous things, very beautiful things, and she understood the attraction.
“She understood the allure, and yet she remained so firm in pursuing her goal, which was to become a great saint, to love God with all her heart, soul and strength. She is just an example perfect for me what I needed.
Decluttering is hard work
“Without the motivation of truly inspiring goals—strengthening bonds of love, serving others better, following Christ more perfectly, loving God with all our mind, heart, soul, and strength,” Bennett writes, “he It’s likely that we’ll soon find ourselves frustrated with any decluttering, organizing, or minimizing project.
“Mere tidying up, organizing, or minimizing without the motivation of a truly meaningful ideal will likely fall short of the abundant life to which we are called as Catholic Christians.”
While Bennett advocates a simpler lifestyle, she said simplicity can be found in homes of all sizes. It’s more about having a particular mindset.
“On so many levels we have to let go of the real things and we also have to practice this detachment of heart, this poverty of spirit,” she said. “I don’t want to belittle either.”
It’s a lesson, Bennett added, she had to learn herself when it came to her Amish farmhouse dining table.
“We had so many dinner parties around him,” she said. “We raised the kids with this table, and it’s a beautiful table. And so, I said, ‘Well, I’m not selling this one.’
After dismantling the table, she pushed it under the bed. Months later, a friend encouraged her to sell it or give it away. Eventually, Bennett said she realized the friend was right and gave the table to her son and daughter-in-law.
Ultimately, Bennett hopes people will benefit more spiritually from his book than anything else.
“I’m not trying to advocate that everyone should be minimalist,” Bennett said.
She just wants them to put first things first.
“We want everyone who comes to feel welcomed, cherished,” she said. “We want our homes to be places where people experience love, generosity and humble service. How can we do this better?
“We don’t need to have grand mansions, nor do we need to have perfectly organized houses. We also don’t need to have stunningly beautiful artwork on the wall.
“It’s what we can do with what we have, and how can we appreciate and be grateful for the many, many gifts we have. [that matters].”