Four years ago Robert and I became Benedictine Oblates making our promises to Our Lady of Clear Creek Monastery. Becoming an oblate means embracing the Benedictine Rule and the charism of the monastery to which you make your promises to the best of your ability as a lay person. One of the major principles of the Benedictine Rule is simplicity. In a world that encourages more and then even more, this idea of simplicity seems quite counter-cultural. However, it does seem that emerging from the shadows cast from the big towers of constant activity is an idea of minimalism. Where we see this prominently is the minimalist, or some say, capsule
wardrobe. Because of our promise to modify our lives into a life of simplicity, I thought the capsule wardrobe idea was something I should try. After reading several sources to find out how to do this, I saw that some of the reasons for culling unnecessary pieces of clothing from my closet and learning to say no to the great deals at my favorite shop were principles that can be applied to a family life. Let’s take a look at three ways a capsule wardrobe can help us create a capsule family life.
1) Limiting Chaos
Don’t you hate it when you are running late and are in a rush to get dressed? Oftentimes that when it is the hardest to figure out what to wear even though there is plenty from which to choose. This can become one more chaotic event in an already chaotic lifestyle. If I compare the number of events in my calendar to the number of items of clothing in my closet do I see a correlation? Too much! Is it time to start culling activities? Ask yourself, do we, as a family, really need to do all of these activities?
2) Representing My Family in a Good Light
Who doesn’t consider how they will represent themselves by what they are wearing? What we typically choose to wear reveals who we are to the world. Transition this question to your family. How are the activities that we choose and the choices that we make for our family representing our family to the world? Do we have some balance or do we appear to be running around like crazy people? Are we representing family life in a positive way to singles or are we living in way, unnecessarily, that makes them say, “Why would I ever want to do that?!?!”
3) Running the Rat Race and Still Unsatisfied
Think about how laborious (and expensive) keeping up with the current fashions can be. Every season offers something new. How does this compare to the family choices? I know this was a big lesson that I had to learn when raising our children. Limits! We have a relatively small Catholic family, only four children. I had this great idea that we were not going to do the sports, music, dance, gymnastics, etc. thing, we were going to join one organization in which all of the children could be involved so that I didn’t have to taxi every afternoon and evening. But the truth was the organization in which we got involved had something different for each child. So I ended up taking one child here for one project and another child there for a different project. Then competitions came along and WE HAD TO WIN!! That meant more going and less down time, which meant more stress and less rest. This translated to irritable children, tired parents, and a level of dissatisfaction from too much of a good thing.
Cleaning Out the Closet & Making Better Choices
So how do we create this capsule family life? We have to look at our priorities. What is really important? We say that our priorities are our marriage, our family, each child. But if we look at where and how we spend our time is that real? Let’s break this down and look at some possible ways to make some changes.
Making My Marriage a Priority
When you begin to clean out the closet you have to figure out which pieces are most needed for your lifestyle. In family life, marriage is the foundation. When is the last time you went on a real date with your spouse? It is so important. The date isn’t the focus, the spouse and the marriage are the focus. In other words, the amount of money spent doesn’t make the date. You can simply put the kids to bed, grab the baby monitor, and go to the back yard with a bottle of wine (or water) and some cheese (or chips). It’s crucial that husband and wife put life on hold at least once a month for the good of their relationship. The second largest demographic in divorced couples is empty-nesters. Their last child has left home and they look at each other and say, “Who are you?” Their marriage was spent running from one activity to another or one promotion to another or one degree to another. You get the picture. Couples get married to spend life together so cross off something in the calendar and make time for your spouse and your marriage.
Recognize the Blessing & the Responsibility of Your Family
It’s great to have a closet full of clothes but is there at least one piece that still has a price tag on it because you really haven’t had an opportunity to wear it? It was so cute and such a great sale. But is it really necessary? Applying this to the family, we may be blessed financially, even if temporarily right before Christmas, and want to make our children happy by giving them the things that they want. But, again, is it necessary? What is necessary is the sanctity of our children. Backing off from going, doing, buying, and having provide more time and opportunities to spend time with our children and talk about important things like Heaven. As parents, we have to face the fact that our children are only loaned to us from the Lord and we are expected to give them back to Him one day. It’s our responsibility to put them on the path to Heaven and to keep them on that path. That takes time and attention rather than activities and stuff.
Appreciating Each Child
Once you have just the right pieces of clothing in your closet, you will find that you appreciate each piece for the role it will play in your wardrobe. You will love the different ways it can be used for different outfits. Ask yourself, do you know and appreciate the different personalities and gifts of each of your children? It’s one thing to encourage each child in their activities, but do you actually just spend time with child doing the things that are of the greatest interest to that child? Do you know each child’s love language? How about his or her personality profile. If our responsibility as parents is to help our children get to Heaven, don’t we need to know each child’s unrepeatable individuality so as to best direct and help him or her? What an adventure on which to embark with each child that we are blessed to have.
Real Peace & Happiness
Is it time to create a capsule family life in your house? Simplifying has proven over and over to bring much more peace and happiness that keeping up with the culture. The best way to bring about the real peace and happiness that we all long to have is to
re-prioritize marriage and family in our world, starting in your home. Say no to the things, both stuff and activities, that don’t help the members of your family get to Heaven. Enjoy your family and you will enjoy life.