A new year is the ideal time to re-orient our personal, marital, family, and spiritual life.
Many of us make individual New Year’s resolutions, but it is also a great idea to make resolutions as a family. Here are some suggestions for your consideration.
1Organize and donate to clear things out
The closet packed to the brim with clothes, the kitchen cupboard overloaded with unused food, not to mention the baby’s things piled up on a shelf. Our houses are often overloaded with papers, clothes and objects. Although there’s no real mess, the atmosphere in the house is stifling. “Tidying up simplifies daily life, reduces stress, saves space, and can even make room for pleasure,” explains Élise Delprat-Alvarès, author of Range ta vie [“Put your life in order”]. By getting rid of things, we breathe better, see better, and feel less oppressed.
Sophie found several bestsellers on home organization, such as Marie Kondo’s The life-changing magic of tidying up or Dominique Loreau’s L’art de la simplicite: how to live more with less. And she explains how she went into action: “For me there are three solutions: sorting, throwing away and donating; then I ask myself about each object: ‘Do I really need it?’ ‘Where do I put it (what do I put it with)?’—questions that I now ask myself before each purchase. I put my summer/winter clothes in a single closet (one meter wide!) and removed the armchair from the bedroom that served as a garbage dump. And when I say to myself ‘I’ll keep it just in case …,’ I throw it away.”
To optimize space, specialized sites offer hanging shelves for shoes, vacuum storage bags that allow you to gain up to 70% of space, drawer dividers for underwear.The surplus can be given to St. Vincent de Paul, the parish or another charity.And why not leave the children’s things at a second-hand store?
2Reserve some time every week for your marriage
At times, married life seems like that of a logistics company. Newlyweds are swamped by family obligations, 40-year-olds concentrate on their professional life, and the elderly take care of everything. It is not easy for a couple to find time alone. However, the Teams of Our Lady recommendtheir famous once-a-month “duty (or pleasure) to sit down,” a time dedicated to talk about their marriage. Christine and Christian meet every Sunday night for 30 minutes to talk to each other honestly. After they make the sign of the cross, they review five important points they have designated: children, family, professional life, money and sexuality. Sometimes they even have time to meditate on a text from the Gospel.
3Strengthen your relationship with someone in need
You probably have a lonely cousin, a brother-in-law in trouble, a friend who needs an attentive ear. Choose a specific person you could strengthen your ties with and give yourself until next Christmas. Tell those around you so that you can apply yourself wholeheartedly to the work and write a plan so that you don’t get lost halfway through. Move forward progressively, leaving the person time to consent or not: try a message at a celebration, a letter, a phone call, then a meeting on neutral ground, perhaps a dinner with several before an individual face-to-face meeting.
The relationship between Elizabeth and her sister grew cold ever since she got married without telling her family, so she decided that after three years of silence, it was time to approach her. “I wanted to share what happened at one of my retreats where I prayed to be reconciled with her. So I ‘materialized’ my sister into a figurine of the Nativity scene that looked like her, put it on my bedside table and threw myself into a Rosary of Mary, Undoer of Knots. What I liked about this novena is that it helped me reflect on my sometimes dismissive attitude towards her. This certainly helped to undo our knot, which was made up of grudges and scars. Then I mailed her a picture of our two little ones with a nondescript commentary, something on the lines of ‘They had a great time!’ She took my outstretched hand. Today, she asked me to be her daughter’s godmother!”
4Spend individual time with each child
Except for a few prodigious parents, spending time alone with a child can be mission impossible, especially when you have several. Anne has made a list asking each of her four children, ages 3 to 16, what they would like to do with her. If she has not managed to find time during the week she makes time on Friday for activities such as reading a story, baking a cake, illustrating her poetry, lighting a candle for someone in church, choosing a novel in the bookstore, looking at pictures from their childhood, going to the market with them, watching a TV series, playing Scrabble … but time spent on homework doesn’t count!
5Be more concerned about the planet
How about each family member making an environmental resolution this year? Turn off the lights in the hallway, spend less time in the shower, buy products that are as non-polluting as possible, sort the waste, collect batteries and light bulbs to take to their specific dropoff sites, establish a composting area (if you have a garden) for organic waste, etc. There are many very practical and easy-to-apply solutions.
6Evaluate your commitments
Single or married, religious or even a teenager—should we get deeply involved in an activity for others, as charity demands, or should we slow down a little in our commitments? Some will have to lower their standards to give priority to their responsibilities (for students, to study; for parents, to raise their children; for the business owner, to manage their business; for the religious, to pray). Others will have to take care not to constantly postpone the occasion of giving their time to others. Volunteering for associations, participation in the parish (preparation for baptism, choir), prayer group, scouts or couples’ movements, there are many ways to give. The commitment can be individual and can be an hour per week or a day per year with the family. Through this example children will learn to give their time to others.
7Choose a regular form of spiritual nourishment
Read the word of God every morning with Magnificat, at night examine your conscience, on Thursday spend 10 minutes in prayer, on Friday say a Rosary. The possibilities for putting yourself in Christ’s presence are many. A quarter of an hour a week for adoration of the Holy Sacrament should find its way into a Christian’s schedule. “It is a place of silence, the only thing I really need in my week, a place where I make acts of faith, which are not magic, but which transform me,” says Steven.
8Mark spiritual commitments on a family calendar
Proposals to enrich our spiritual life abound, but the months go by and the opportunities often remain in our head. Damien and Sophie buy a large wall calendar every year and gather their three children to fill it out. The goal is to mark the key spiritual dates of the school year for each other and for the family. This is a good way to work out the different proposals (a pilgrimage coincides with scout camp, for example) and to decide when to take the annual family pilgrimage.
Olivia de Fournas
9 New Year’s resolutions for Catholics