Alternative promises for Lent

?Thank you, Ben and Jerry?s, for releasing your newest ice cream The Tonight Dough starring Jimmy Fallon…just in time for Lent.? ?JIMMY FALLON, THANK-YOU NOTES

My last Lent give-up attempt was a neglected New Year?s resolution. Everybody deserves a second chance, but I don?t feel completely comfortable with recycling failed resolutions into a Lenten sacrifice. So instead, I have simply opted out.

This year, as a family, we?re trying something different. It?s a pre-made 40-day plan that revolves around a charity called Imagine No Malaria.

We are given a very specific task to do each day for the 40 days of Lent. Examples are to give $1 for every sink in our home one day, another to log on to a website and learn about global poverty myths, another to donate all the change in our pocket or purse, and another to give $5 if we live within 10 miles of a hospital or clinic.

All of the small donations are thrown into a jar and the average household will collect a donation total of $100. I like this for a few reasons.

1. The entire thing is planned out and organized into uniform square boxes. Not an ounce of thinking, planning or self-control required. Win.

2. It?s a good cause through a local connection with a global reach. We?ve already been involved with Imagine No Malaria through an annual event called The Skeeter Run 5k Fun Run, so we know what it?s about. (Shameless plug: It?s happening in Hillsboro again this April?find the page on Facebook.) Win.

3. My kids can see how easy it can be to save some money. A little at a time, a few dimes here, a couple dollars there. It may sound grandiose, but that seems like a major life lesson that will be useful some day. Win.

I was happy with this plan. I was going to settle with this plan. Then one day I stumbled across the most ingenious idea of all. An idea that I knew, beyond question, was formulated specifically for me. And others like me.

It revolves around stuff and my numerous recent conversations about stuff. My frustrations, my clutter, my moments of borderline rage about piles and stacks and corners full of…stuff.

I have said more than once lately that we either need less stuff or a bigger house. Of course, I know which one. We have more than enough square footage of house and said stuff.

This plan costs 40 trash bags. You fill one up each day and then throw, donate or recycle, skipping with joy the entire time. This now is my second Lenten vow. To fill as many bags as possible with things we (a) didn’t know we had, (b) forgot we had and, (c) didn’t know we didn?t need. I?m proud to say I?ve already filled two bags, have a newly organized window bench seat, one side for board games, one side for my daughter?s craft goodies, a purging that open an ?if you give a moose a muffin? trail and led me to a cleared flat surface that looks strikingly similar to a dining room table.

The second trash bag came from our home office, also known as our dog Jack?s crate quarters, which now is void of extra papers, a chewed up blanket, a dead computer tower (which also had stuff stacked on top of it) and one less office chair. (Two chairs for one desk?why do I do these things?)

Forty bags might be unrealistic, but I?m not a stickler with numbers. Two bags in and I already feel accomplished. But I?m not done…oh no I am not. Every room is about to get trashed. A few may get trashed twice.

Patrice Fagnant-MacAr?thur, an online writer taking part in the #40bagsin40days (yep, there?s a hashtag) said, ?The beauty of doing one bag a day is that it?s doable. One of the things that paralyzes me when facing the clutter is that there is so much of it.?

She has that right. It feels overwhelming but a little less once that first bag is filled.

It?s early in the game but I?m on track to stick with it these 40 days (and nights if need be.) If I fail, I will just stick this idea in my recently cleared filing drawer and

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