Have you ever joked about wanting to burn down your house and start over instead of purge and organize?
Haley Stewart, from the Carrots for Michaelmas blog and the Fountains of Carrots podcast recently released her new book, The Grace of Enough: Pursuing Less and Living More in a Throwaway Culture. It’s about her family’s journey and what they learned when they quit the rat race and for a year lived on a farm, in a tiny home, with no flushing toilets as a family of five.
I know, you might be thinking . . .
Full of beautiful quotes from the saints, encyclicals which they intentionally applied to their lives, and the life-lessons they will continue to apply to their lives beyond the field of soil, The Grace of Enough is a breathe of fresh air in a culture that tells us we have to have it all.
Haley graciously answered some questions I had after reading the book. Follow this link to get your own copy for your own library.
What inspired you to write this book and who was your target audience as you wrote?
I was inspired by a desire to reflect on the countercultural nature of following the Gospel and the simple practices that can help us find authentic freedom and true satisfaction in the midst of our consumerist culture. After my family spent a year living in a teeny tiny apartment on farm with no flushing toilets, we learned many important lessons that I was able to draw from. And our attempts to live out those same lessons now that we live a more “normal” life in the city helped shape the ideas I share for seeking these Gospel values no matter what your situation in life is. My target audience is the millennial Catholic who is yearning for more than our throwaway culture can offer, but I tried to write the book in a way that would be accessible to all ages and non-Catholic Christians.
As a wife and homeschooling mother of four (pregnant and suffering from HG while writing), how did you manage to find the time to write, balance your vocation, and survive HG all at the same time?
Thankfully, I was almost done with the manuscript by the time I started to get really sick, but I worked on edits and some sections after the pregnancy and the HG started. I was definitely in survival mode the entire pregnancy and was kept afloat by my husband, friends, and even my kids who learned to make their own snacks and clean up around the house when I was too sick to move from the couch. My husband is my best sounding board and editor and he made me finishing the book a priority for our family. I couldn’t have done it without him picking up the slack for me during the months of sickness. And I slowed down on a lot of the writing I usually do for other projects in order to just do the essentials until the baby arrived and the nausea was gone.
What is your favorite benefit since you began living the principles found in your book?
I think my favorite benefit isn’t something measurable like having less stuff to keep track of from simplifying—it’s a shift in mindset from productivity and efficiency, things we worship in our culture, to focusing more on unquantifiable but eternally valuable things like “wasting” time together as a family or making our home available for hospitality. I have an “achiever” personality, so it’s a struggle for me to stop focusing on things I can check off on a list and reorient myself to put on the mind of Christ instead of seeing through the lens of the throwaway culture. I fail on a daily basis, but it’s a struggle worth having.
If you could give yourself one piece of advice at the beginning of your journey as you looked at your full house and had to decide what to keep, what would it be?
I’d tell myself that even after ruthlessly purging, there would never be a time when I’d think, “Wow, I really wish we still had had such-and-such.” It’s incredible that we had so many possessions that were completely unnecessary!
Sometimes millennials come off ungrateful when a person from the older generation offers items, and the younger person doesn’t want them. Do you have advice on how to approach this situation with grace?
That’s a tough one. I think good, honest communication goes a long way. Expressing gratitude for well-intentioned gifts while trying to share your own vision for something different would be a good start. But anytime a generation chooses a different path that the previous one, it’s easy for there to be a since of rejection, even if unintended. I would err on the side of maintaining relationships at the cost of not being able to live as minimally as one would like. People are more important than things–even if the issue is that there are too many things.
What is the biggest takeaway you hope people will apply to their lives after reading the book?
My prayer is that people will feel hopeful that they are not alone in their desire to pursue the Gospel in our throwaway culture and that they are capable of making a difference no matter their situation in life. Rather than being paralyzed by the idea of all the big changes they might like to make, I hope that the ideas in this book show that small, but powerful actions and shifts in mindset are possible and can transform their lives and lead them closer to Jesus. For example, it’s not going to be possible (or desirable!) for everyone to move to a farm, but we all could have our neighbors over to dinner and it’s those seemingly simple actions that will change the world.
What does the future hold for Haley Stewart? Do you think you’ll author more books in the future after seeing the success this book has had?
I’d love to take on another big book project in the future but I’m currently just letting some ideas simmer until they’re ready. In the meantime, I’m working on a children’s picture book with an illustrator friend, trying to keep up with podcasting, blogging, and freelance writing, and snuggling my new baby all day.
Haley talks to the concept of a “throwaway culture,” but has not written a throwaway book by any measure. The Grace of Enough speaks to a generation that is constantly told, “get the latest,” “have more,” and is even susceptible to frays of guilt when they don’t accept something given. Her words challenge this modern philosophy and her life demonstrates that having less is often the shortest route to spiritual freedom and personal happiness. As St. Jane Frances de Chantal said,
One thing only is necessary to possess: God, and for this I have a burning desire. This alone is happiness. All the rest is mere smoke.