Holy Week Declutter and Donate

by | Apr 2, 2015 | Lent, Lent, Liturgical Living, Seasonal | 15 comments

Every year, during the first three days of Holy Week, we do a big declutter and donate.

This is how I get motivated . . . We Can Do It!

Here’s why it works for us . . .

1. Since it’s tied to a big event – Easter – I can’t “forget” about it, or put it off forever. “Spring” cleaning would be way too vague for me. It would keep getting pushed back week after week and it then would be a hundred degrees here and I’d put it off until the next year.

2. Holy Week always follows St. Patrick’s Day. Since a couple hundred people usually come to my house for the Hooley, I’ve already given the house a “visible to others” cleaning. Doing closets, and drawers, shelves, and the inside of the refrigerator is a logical next step.

3. Our weekends are pretty packed with sports and errands and family activities. So it’s hard to squeeze an extra big project in there. We take this whole week off of school, and Holy Week things don’t REALLY get started until Thursday. We use a set, weekly, homeschool curriculum, so it doesn’t work that well for us to try to take just a couple of days off during a week. It’s all or nothing. So that gives us a three open days, and kids off of school with nothing in particular to do is a BAD THING. Especially kids who still can’t have screens because it’s still Lent. I wouldn’t want them to be bored . . .

4. The kids are expecting it, so there is less drama. I get significantly less push back on things like this when they know it’s coming. It becomes just another family culture thing. They know that for Tierneys Holy Week is a working week. I think it’s a great time for us to really run ourselves a bit ragged, then enjoy Easter and EIGHT DAYS of celebration and treats and screens all the more.

5. Same goes for me. I really don’t get a lot of personal fulfillment out of big cleaning jobs. Throwing stuff out? Love it. Big organization projects? Those I can get behind. What
I don’t love is the REorganizing of stuff I’ve already organized and
for which I created a perfectly lovely system, but STILL the baby toy
bin has sharpies in it and EVERY bin has a layer of little Legos and a
jumble of other stuff. It’s the same every year. I always feel like I’ve spent a whole day on something and now it looks . . . how it SHOULD have looked the whole time. Blerg. Give me a cake to bake or a meal to prepare or something to sew anytime, then I’ll have something to show for my efforts. But I do realize the importance of doing it. Which is exactly why it makes it a good thing for me to do during Holy Week!

I didn’t take a before picture, but isn’t the ‘after’ surprisingly underwhelming? I find myself wondering how it could possibly look other than that. Even though somewhere deep, deep, down, I know that it will not always look like this from now on.

Top half is board games and craft and science kits. Bottom half is toys. Specifically, the bins are: art supplies, boxing equipment, toy cars, baby dolls, wooden toys, laser tag guns, beyblades, girl squinkies, boy squinkies, miscellaneous other stuff, Avenger dolls large action figures, Busytown, airport, Legos, knight helmets. On the other side of the room is a play kitchen, a dress up box, and duplos. The girls have their American Girl Dolls in their rooms. And that’s it for toys. It still seems like a ton of stuff somehow, but it’s for seven kids, and it’s a lot less than we used to have when we only had two.

Here’s what we do . . .

1. Monday: Desks, counters, and bookshelves in bedrooms. Playroom counters and toy closet. Everything gets organized and put back into its proper place, and toys and books that aren’t getting used get set aside to be donated.

2. Also, Monday: New this year, I did a final clean out of the food in the freezer and made “Holy Week Soup.” I boiled down all the bones and slightly past-their-prime veggies I had thrown in the freezer over the past months to make a giant pot of broth, and added meat scraps, veggies and noodles, and that’s what we ate Monday through Wednesday. Our special Holy Week menu starts on Thursday, so this was a good way to get the freezer emptied AND not to have to worry about cooking dinner each night. Updated to add: this was not very popular with the kids. I still might do it again. It’s a penitential week and whatnot. But they did not love having the same bone broth and veggie soup for three nights straight.

3. Tuesday: Clothes closets. Kids try on all clothes and shoes and move what doesn’t fit out of the closet. I also have them inspect for stains and tears and get rid of those, too. We do laundry much more frequently now than we used to, so my kids really don’t need to keep all that many clothes on hand. I’m a big fan of the Capsule Wardrobe concept, and am doing that with myself and my girls. For the boys, since we live in Los Angeles, they pretty much wear shorts and t-shirts year-round, but I want them to keep only stuff that fits them right now in their closet. And only a select few items. Seven t-shirts, two long sleeve shirts, a sweatshirt, five shorts, two pants, two sets of church clothes, some socks, shoes, and underwear. That’s it. Church clothes that are still in good shape get saved, and some t shirts get moved right from one brother’s section of the closet to the next, but almost everything else gets donated. I have done altogether too much careful storage of clothing that never actually ended up getting used again.

I also have them go through the dress up clothes and pick some things to donate.

In the afternoon, I had to run out and buy some new church pants and shoes and underpants for various boys. So as to avoid nekkidness.

4. Wednesday: Ideally this is just a half-day of work, so we can start prep for the Triduum, but the goal is to clean out drawers and shelves in the common areas: kitchen and living room. Pencil drawers and junk drawers get tidied, movies and books get thinned out, refrigerator and pantry shelves get wiped down and reorganized. Also school bins and shelves get reorganized.

Here’s how we do it . . .

1. Emotionally, this is more difficult for some kids than for others. Sometimes there are tears over throwing away old projects, or donating toys that aren’t getting used. But I purposefully don’t just do it myself in secret when the kids are asleep. I want my kids to learn generosity and detachment from possessions. Doing a purge of their things a couple of times a year helps them get used to detaching, and focusing on giving things to other children who don’t have toys really helps them to be generous.

2. I make a list of all the things I hope to accomplish on a particular day. Then I let the older kids each choose one or two things from the list, for which they are responsible. They head off to do their jobs, while younger kids work with me on a bigger project. Once the little kids have at least done a little bit, I usually have the bigger kids cycle through thirty-minute turns watching the little ones, so the other big kids and I can work without them underfoot.

3. I try to break up the day a bit. We start immediately after breakfast, work for about two hours, take an early lunch break, work for another two hours, then take an afternoon break. I am a person who likes an afternoon nap, especially when I’m pregnant. So, I always take an hour or two off in the afternoon. The little kids nap, and the big kids get to have a break, too, to read or play outside. Then we all work again for two hours until dinner.

4. Once someone’s individual goals for the day are completed, I expect them to help someone else. (Because for Tierneys Holy Week is a working week.) But if the day’s goals are all done by dinner, we get to watch a Holy Week movie together.

And now that THAT’S over with, we get to focus on our fun family Holy Week traditions, which are a lot of fun. And also very meaningful and penitential of course. 😀

Spy Wednesday Thirty Pieces of Silver: Accomplished

Speaking of things I like . . .

1. I’m guest posting over at my friend E’s blog today, while she snuggles with her new baby girl. So click on over there to find out all about my new Easter dress, and my current handwork project, and my latest Netflix binge-watch, and the book that I’m adding to my not-as-good-as-the-movie list.

2. There’s a cool downloadable Triduum Infographic here. It gives a good overview of what to expect and how to get the most out of the three holiest days of the year.

3. I’ve seen a lot of talk about this post by Taylor Marshall on whether Christians should celebrate Seder meals. (Spoiler: He says no. BIG time.) In our home, we try to replicate the food that Jesus and the apostles would have eaten at the last supper, so I serve lamb, and flat bread, and a salad of bitter herbs, and applesauce (because I made haroset one year and the kids didn’t like it). But we don’t attempt to replicate the prayers or ceremony of a “real” Seder meal.

That said, I think people like Mary Reed Newland of the classic book The Year & Our Children , and Monica of Equipping Catholic Families, both of whom, I believe, do advocate for prayers and ceremonies of some kind, are doing so in good faith and as good Christians, and I tend to think Mr. Marshall is taking it a bit far in his conclusions here. There’s no official Church teaching on the matter, so this is something upon which good Catholics are allowed to disagree.

Updated to add: If all he’s saying is that folks shouldn’t attempt to have a REAL Jewish Seder meal, then we agree. And I think, probably, we do agree. I just read his conclusion: “So if you are invited to participate in a Christian or Messianic seder, kindly decline. You’ll find what you’re looking for in the Mass.” and cringe a bit.  There are such a wide variety of ways that good Catholics attempt to remember and commemorate various events in the life of Jesus. I just imagine some hostess somewhere getting a bunch of phone calls this afternoon with people “politely declining” their seats at her dinner party this evening, just to be on the safe side. 🙁

5. And this pretty much blew my mind:

For Holy Week, here’s how you can match your Myers-Briggs personality type to a patron saint

If you can remember my What I Wore Sunday posts from the past few weeks, check out INTJ. Seriously. I read it and had to look over my shoulder to make sure I wasn’t on candid camera or something. Just when you think you’re all creative and unique . . . One note, the Anglicans put it together, so there’s a “Saint Cranmer” on there, but if you just blur your eyes and read “St. Thomas More” instead, you should be fine. How did they do with you?

Happy Triduum everyone, I’ll see you on the other side.


  1. Mary @ Better Than Eden

    Ugh, I'm mad I read that link to the Seder meal thing…talk about trying to create a controversy. This is the first I've ever heard someone speak art though it was wrong to do. I think it's a beautiful tradition to teach our kids about the Jewish roots of our faith, what the Last Supper meal was like, and what the Lamb of God symbolism is all about. A whoooole bunch of our liturgical prayers come from the Jewish tradition. There's nothing wrong with bringing that into our worship and observance in the proper way.

    But, hey, good job on the decluttering 🙂

  2. Anna

    Dr Marshal did say though that it is all well and good to read about the Passover for educational purposes. And I guess my question for him would be,"Can we read about it and eat lamb afterwards? Would it be better to read about it on a liturgically insignificant day?"

    • Kendra

      That was how I felt too. I appreciated his quotes from St. Thomas Aquinas, but his conclusion, "So if you are invited to participate in a Christian or Messianic seder, kindly decline." just seems awfully harsh. It seems like by his advice we'd have to decline all sorts of generous offers for things that aren't REALLY trying to BE a real Seder, just to commemorate it. And we Catholics like to remember and commemorate stuff.

    • Sandra

      I don't think Marshall is trying to discourage things that aren't REALLY trying to BE a real Seder. I believe he is responding to things like this, which, at least where I live are relatively common: http://www.thorncrownjournal.com/spotlight/passoverseder.html
      There is a huge difference between this and watching the Prince of Egypt and eating lamb chops 😉 If you google Christian Seder, you'll find plenty of articles written by Jews and other Christians explaining other reasons for not trying to recreate a Seder. I mean, how would we feel if some well-intentioned non-Catholics wanted to learn more about the Mass so they bought a Sacramentary and chalices and hosts and tried to recreate it? And it's not harsh to decline in the same way we respectfully decline communion in Protestant churches. An invitation to watch a movie and eat lamb and pita bread is a horse of a different color.

    • Kendra

      Thanks Sandra. If all he's saying is that folks shouldn't attempt to have a REAL Jewish Seder meal, then I agree with him. And I think, probably, we do agree. I just read his conclusion: "So if you are invited to participate in a Christian or Messianic seder, kindly decline. You’ll find what you’re looking for in the Mass." and cringe a bit. There are such a wide variety of ways that good Catholics attempt to remember and commemorate various events in the life of Jesus. I just imagine some hostess somewhere getting a bunch of phone calls this afternoon with people "politely declining" their seats at her dinner party this evening, just to be on the safe side. 🙁

  3. Hope

    Love the decluttering–that you can manage to get through it in a few days! I've been going room by room through the whole house since January. One room gets tidied, all the others fall into chaos.

    I'm with you on the Book Thief so far. I haven't seen the movie (though, I want to) but the formatting and the narrator really throw me off. I didn't like the book Mary Poppins either. So, I want to join your Movie is better than the Book club. Which really isn't like me. 🙂

  4. Sandra

    In The Year and Our Children, Newland says "as far as we are able, we serve the foods served at a Jewish Seder supper (their Passover meal), although ours has a different significance…The program of our meal- the prayers, the story- changes a bit each year…" She does not do an actual Seder meal with Seder prayers (anyway, a modern-day Seder is different from the one Jesus would have celebrated since the destruction of the temple in 70 AD). Marshall was pointing out that we do not have the necessity or even the right to take another religious practice and co-opt it, something that many Jews find offensive. When Jesus said "It is finished" He completed the need for a Jewish Seder and it is fulfilled in the Mass. Like Anna said, we can learn about it, have lamb and bitter herbs and all that for supper but we don't play-act a Seder or pretend we are doing it. Having a "Seder" is becoming more and more popular in Protestant churches (many of whom do not have the richness of Tenebrae, Maundy Thursday, Adoration, washing of the feet, Good Friday liturgies, processions, Paschal fires and candles, etc.). As Catholics, we have the Mass, the fulfillment of the Seder and all the beautiful liturgical things your whole blog is about. It's great and important to learn about- Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist is a phenomenal book- but not something we should attempt to recreate.

  5. Amanda

    Yeah, the worst cleaning is when you finish and it looks like it should have all along. Which is the playroom every time I go up to see what "yes, it's cleaned up, Mom!" really looks like. Happy Triduum and Easter!

  6. Ashley

    I am curious if he also thinks that circumsision for health reasons are a mortal sin as well? It's an Old Testament ritual, but our reasons for doing it today are much different than they were back then. I just don't buy his logic.

    Also, LOVE the Holy Week cleanout! I will add that to my "to do" list for next year!

  7. Anonymous

    This whole controversy confuses me. We went to a Seder several years back and then our priest told us we'd committed a grave sin (though not mortal since we really had no idea…). Yet other Catholic churches host Seders? How is that supposed to work? We love Seder meals and it's a great way to show children part of the culture that Christ comes from.

  8. Alison Esbeck

    What is your age break down of big kids and little kids? I am constantly trying to figure out what are reasonable expectations for my 5, 3 and 1 year old.

    • Kendra

      I have those, plus 7, 9, 11, and 12. The ones you DON'T have are the ones I consider big kids. My five year old has regular morning chores, but on big cleaning days, her job is mostly to play with the littlest two so the rest of us can work.

  9. Heather

    Wow! I'm impressed! I've been cleaning out things too, I think its the weather getting warmer and nicer. I like the idea of tying it to Easter/Holy Week though….its a time to be more focused and committed. Might as well use it to clean out the closets too!~

  10. Laura Rose

    GREAT idea! We were doing the 40 bags for 40 days thing, and I did about half and just lost focus and motivation. Having a plan (especially one that is year to year and expected) is awesome.


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Hi! I’m Kendra.

For twenty years now, I’ve been using food, prayer, and conversation based around the liturgical calendar to share the lives of the saints and the beautiful truths and traditions of our Catholic faith. My own ten children, our friends and neighbors, and people just like you have been on this journey with me.

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