Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Lent de-cluttering 1

Now then, this Lent de-cluttering challenge – 40 bags in 40 days.

It’s made me realize how sick of thinking about both numbers and clutter I am. Even so, let’s press on, because it’s also woken me up to how much extraneous rubbish I’ve managed to accumulate without even noticing it!

We’ve begun sorting and sifting in our house, and confidently expect lots more stuff to surface as Lent progresses. It isn’t even Ash Wednesday until tomorrow, but you know how it is – once you start thinking about a thing you get on with it, so we generated lots of bags straight off. I guess it’s meant to be one bag on each of the forty days, but hey – too bad; I have better things to do, I’m just going with the principle, ie get rid of as much as possible while retaining what I actually need.

So I thought it would be more interesting, rather than just itemize what I (or others in our house) chuck out, to consider categories of Stuff – that might help in future with identifying what needs to go and what should never have accumulated in the first place.

So here begins my analysis of what I’ve unearthed so far – there are other bits and pieces from other members of the household too, but I expect they come into the same categories.


So today’s category is what I call true junk – stuff that just needs throwing away. No one wants it, it’s no longer useful or it’s broken.

Like this pile of plastic food trays. I’ve used them for plant pot stands, also for feeding the fox, but there comes a point when they just have to go. This is that point. I’ll rinse them off and put them out with for recycling. And that old ripped foil ex-food-tray for fox feeding. Foxy doesn't rip up his food trays, but next door's dog does if he manages to burgle our garden!

Likewise, these goblets from our food liquidizer. Because most of us use this every day, we go through them fairly often. We keep the goblets for spares, but we’d accumulated more than we needed. Also there’s a pan lid where the riveted handle has broken off. This will go to our council dump, where everything is sorted for recycling.

Also this bird feeder, infested with mould and impossible to clean despite many attempts, rusty, and broken. Dead.

This brings me to –


True Junk accumulates in nooks and crannies. Under this garden seat, the wind has blown scrap cardboard (we can compost it) and a flowerpot. 

A gardener might want that – we put out old flower pots in stacks at the mouth of our garden path, chalking on the wall that anyone can take them – and they do! We also do this with other unwanted things – items of furniture, etc. It all goes.

Here’s an example of places of accumulation! This was deliberate, actually. We got this vegetable bed ready for planting last autumn. We put cardboard from mail order packaging, and the bags from the bought part of the compost (some was our own) on top to stop the weeds until we were ready to plant. Now we are, we can compost the cardboard and the bags can be recycled The watering cans and plant pots, bricks and stones etc were all holding down the cardboard so the wind didn't blow it away. They aren't junk of any kind.

Well, I expect that’s enough reading for now or you’ll die of thirst or boredom or something.

To be continued . . .

Monday, 27 February 2017

Beatitudes of simplicity, solitude and silence.

Though I lead retreats regularly, I rarely get to attend one as a retreatant. Every year the Badger pays for me to go with him to his church parish weekend, and that’s usually the sum total. But last year I went to a retreat at Penhurst, exploring prayer and writing.

This morning, sorting through my belongings on the usual hunt for things to chuck out, I came upon two journals – one a bullet journal I started, the other meant to be a kind of thinking journal or something. Anyway, journals aren’t really me, I’m no Thomas Merton; and, though I gave bullet journaling a good go, I still prefer keeping my diary in my computer. It has the added advantage that when people ask me to do things I have to say, “I don’t know. Can I tell you later?”

But I’ll keep the journals until they’re full, using them to make notes on things. I like reporters notebooks best, but the journals will do until they’re used up.

Anyway, at this retreat I went to, I took one of these journals along, and we had to do a couple of writing exercises – which I wrote down in the journal I came across today.

The first one was that we had to write our own version of the Beatitudes. Obviously upstaging Jesus is a dubious endeavor, but at least it makes him laugh. Here was mine.


How blessed are they who live simply,
For status, power and wealth are burdensome,
Clutter is time-consuming, and in complication is infinite weariness.

How blessed are the frugal,
For they can afford to be generous, they are not demanding,
And they sidestep the demon of worry.

How blessed are they who can let go,
For they walk free from the encumbering of possessions,
Their daily routines are peaceful, and they give other people space.

How blessed are they who speak softly,
Not an annoying mumble I mean, but without stridency or aggression –
For they can be heard better than those who harshly insist.

How blessed are they who move quietly,
Mindful of how they walk, handle objects, close doors and blow their noses –
For they are very nice to live with.

How blessed are they who spend long hours in silence,
For silence fosters the living Word,
In silence the Word matures – silence offers space to think again.

How blessed are they who are content in their own company,
For they are restful to those they encounter.

How blessed are they who accept the essential solitude of every human being,
For they make peace with the grief of exile,
The existential loneliness of the human condition.

How blessed are they who do not seek attention,
Who pass through life as unobtrusively as moving light.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Lent challenge, Lent books.

Lent is coming!

It’s Shrove Tuesday this week and Ash Wednesday on March 1st.

In our house we will definitely be having pancakes on Tuesday, then on Wednesday we’re starting our Lent thing.

This year we’re going to do Ann Marie’s 40 bags in 40 days challenge from the intentional living blog White House Black Shutters

If you fancied doing it too, she’s made a printable for it here if you’d find that helpful. As we already live a fairly minimalist lifestyle, we didn’t think it would be possible to get together 40 bags individually, even if we took turns at counting in taking out the trash on dustbin day, but we thought we could manage it – and certainly benefit from it – as a household.

Actually we got excited talking about it yesterday and started eyeing up all the things to go – and had pancakes for tea, too – but decided to hold our fire and start bagging on Wednesday. Oh, yes.

Will take photos of our progress.

Meanwhile, if you are someone who likes to read a book through Lent, you might enjoy either of these that I wrote (pics are linked to Amazon UK, titles in text to US Amazon).

The Hardest Thing To Do  is a novel, 4th in my Hawk & Dove series.

The Wilderness Within You is part of my experimentation fusing fiction and reflection, and is a book of reflections on biblical themes written as fictional narratives – conversations with Jesus. An online reviewer for CLC bookshops described it as perhaps the most “off the wall “ Lent book I have seen for awhile, which made me happy, and it was one of our diocesan bishop’s books chosen for Lent the year it came out.

Both are Lent books, with a chapter for each of the days from Ash Wednesday through to Easter day.

But how about you? Are you doing anything special to observe Lent this year?

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Called To Watch

Emily emailed me recently about her blog Called To Watch.

There’s a lot of chronic illness in Emily’s family – her mother, father and sister all have serious chronic conditions – but Emily herself is not ill.

Realising that the issues arising from this must apply to many others in similar situations, Emily decided to start a blog exploring what it means to be a ‘watcher’ – someone closely tied to a loved one who is suffering – looking on, supporting, caring, observing, but not personally experiencing the illness.

Emily is a good writer and a person of deep and passionate Christian faith, and this is a really interesting perspective, that I know will resonate with the life situations of many who read here.

She includes a page (here) with a contact form for those who are watchers for loved ones in chronic sickness, because she'd like to include interviews and the stories of other watchers in future posts.

She also writes a personal blog called Glory Afterwards.