I’ve posted about how to prepare for Ramadan in general. I included tried and tested advice that I’ve accumulated through experience, research, and consultations (in Preparing for Ramadan). This time, I’m going to go deeper into what I really want to do in my own Ramadan. It’s more personal, but you might relate to some of it.
Like I’ve mentioned before (in Ramadan is coming), I end up having to buy and get rid of stuff very frequently, because of our constant moves across seas and oceans. I am in the middle of shedding more, as I replace winter clothes with spring and summer ones. Spring cleaning is upon us as well, and that will tie into everything else I’m doing to prepare for this Ramadan.
We got rid of a lot of things with our last move, because we were moving into a smaller house. But for some reason, I still feel like we can do better. I’m not a minimalist, by any stretch of the imagination, but I do value space. For some time I’ve felt that I haven’t been taking stock of my space, silence, and time as much as I would like to. So this is the perfect time to work on that.
We regularly donate to a variety of charities. But sometimes, it feels as though this donating binge acts more as an excuse to go out and buy whatever suits our fancy, whenever we want. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a shopaholic, but I must admit that I don’t necessarily always control my urge to buy something that I think I might be able to use. I am particularly partial to paper, paints, yarn, and beads.
I write a lot, as you know, but I also like to make my own cards, and I get the kids to make cards for friends and family all the time. I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager, and the feedback I get is so rewarding, that it’s hard to resist. But I do have a lot more paper than I can use in a year, so that should be halted. I still have a few empty notebooks, and all the stamps, scissors, glues, ribbons, and decorated paper I know what to do with for all birthdays and celebrations this year. So that department should close.
I picked up knitting again, after several years’ hiatus, due to having little guys running around and not having the time to finish anything I started. I have enough yarn to do all the projects I can dream up for this year, so that department should close as well.
Paint… that’s a hard one. I do have about a dozen canvases, and dozens of paint tubes, brushes, etc., but I don’t know that they will be enough to satisfy my urge to paint for the rest of the year. I have enough until summer, so that department can temporarily close as well.
Beads. Well, I have more beads than I know what to do with, because as much as I want to learn to bead intricate chokers and beautiful jewelry, it is extremely time consuming and it truly does a number on my eyes. Although I’d like to pursue this, and it’s constantly at the back of my mind, and calling for me on my desk, I am going to set them aside, and at least not add to my stock until I’ve reached the level of mastery that I envision.
Clothes. I am purging. I only work a few hours a week outside the home, and I need to be comfortable and ready to get dirty, so I no longer need my suits and formal ensembles. They need to go to someone who needs them more than I do. I will keep a few stock items in case something comes up, but I won’t be adding any more, I’ll be subtracting in this department. [I hope to post a blog about the minimalist wardrobe soon]. I have just put away our winter clothes, and I am down to the last items needed for Eid (kids should get a complete new set of clothing, including underwear and shoes each Eid). I have counted and examined all my kids’ spring and summer clothing, and there’s no doubt in my mind that they have enough until next winter. I don’t like to buy their clothes too far in advance, shoes especially, because I never know if they will fit them when the season comes for them to wear them. Unless they destroy most of what they already have and what they will get for Eid, I will be closing this department as well as soon as I complete Eid shopping.
Kitchenware. I break a lot of dishes. I’m careless with them. I think it’s because I don’t think about washing and putting away the dishes when I do it, I am usually completely absorbed in some other thought, and do things mechanically, without much care. I am not going to start feeling guilty now. I’m too old for silly guilt-trips. Although this meant that I got to buy new dishes once in a while, I also developed an aversion to sets, just because they never lasted, and I wasn’t about to go crazy scouring every store to get just the right piece to go with what I had left. We have enough dishes to get us through the year, even if I do break a few. I have my mom and dad’s pots and pans, and they are among the best on the market, plus the added sentimental value. So this department is indefinitely closed.
Home decorations, curtains, rugs, furniture. Unless I find the perfect piece to hold all of my paper and beading supplies, I am not going to replace anything. Everything we have works properly, and even if something breaks, I think we can make due without it. Furniture is way overrated! As long as it’s clean, safe, and comfortable, everything else is secondary. This also goes along with my need for space. It’s harder to achieve in a smaller home, but we still need it, I crave it.
I’ve gone through all of our belongings, except for the kids’ toys, I’ll let them take care of that. We’re getting rid of anything we don’t want or need. And we’re not replacing anything. That’s what it means to have too much: you have more than you need to replace.
But I’m not going to let this “charity” get to my head. I’m doing myself a favor, and I’m going to do myself another favor by not falling into the consumerist trap of having to get something else to replenish my void. Whatever void that is.
This Ramadan, I will work on discovering what that void is, from the inside, and I will attempt to fill it with non material things. Not delicious, once-in-a-year treats, not “I’m worth it” make-up, not anything that I can put in a box and take to the local thrift store once I discover it no longer fills my void. I’m going to be soul-searching, deepening my understanding of myself and my calling.
Oh! Along with this void filling vicious cycle, goes the need for validation and useless information on social media. I’ve already cut my FB down to a bare minimum in the last year, and I don’t wander about, but I do read a lot on WordPress. I read books, and I watch foreign movies. I won’t be doing much of that either, so if you post something fantastic and I don’t “like” it, it isn’t because it’s not amazing, it’s just because I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. I will resume reading blogs after Ramadan, but I need this month for introspection. Social media adds to the noise.
I love being surrounded by books, but there are books on my shelves that I honestly don’t think I’ll ever get around to reading, so they’re going to have to find a new home. This Ramadan is going to be about space, silence, and time well spent.
Getting rid of material distractions is the first step. Deciding not to shop for anything other than food is the next. Limiting the noise and distraction adds to it. And then comes the hard part.
I am going to be reading the Qur’an with my kids in English, discussing all the verses they want to discuss, and putting them into practice. This will require deep attention, quietude, stamina, and resolve. My kids are enrolled in a Qur’anic competition, so they will be practicing memorizing Qur’an as well. I will attempt, as I do every year, to read the entire Qur’an at least once in Arabic, but I will be doing this in my own private time, preferably in the middle of the night. We will be praying tarawih at home, as a family, and I hope I can get the older kids to go to the mosque with their dad. I am planning on attending iftars at the mosque at least twice during the month. I won’t be discussing my charitable acts here, because I don’t want to loose sight of why I am doing them, but of course, that will be a part of my fast as well.
As part of our together time, other than reading, discussing, putting lessons into practice, praying, and memorizing together, I would like my kids to start helping with food preparation. The older ones might even be able to make a small dish each! I think they would love that! I hope they do!!! This will take care of one large section of the time well spent part. The rest is too personal to share here.
I think that putting the verses into practice is going to be the most challenging part, as we will all have to engage thoroughly with the meaning and the spirit of the words, and finding practical applications as we go through them. The Qur’an is timeless, and like all great books, it reveals new nuances of meaning every time I read it, so this is something we can carry with us not only from Ramadan to Ramadan, but throughout the year, and our entire lives.
Finally, I am going to look at ways to use everything we have in new ways. So if the kids decide they want to make a garland, a lantern, a bag for their toys, or anything of the sort, I will look for tools within our current inventory of stuff, and reuse it, repurpose it. I didn’t include any crafts here, because I don’t want to take away from the deeper meaning of what I’m trying to achieve here. If we do crafts, they will happen spontaneously, and I promise I’ll post pictures after the fact.
I am actually very excited to be doing this, and I can’t wait to get started! I hope you have found some of these ideas helpful, and even if you can’t relate to everything, I sincerely hope that you have found something that resonates with you. If you have any suggestions, or if you wish to join me in this mental, physical, spiritual and material fast, I hope you’ll add your voice to the comments below!
Until next time,