Editor's Note:  Be sure to check out Tami's great Smart Martha website to purchase the "Kids Can Clean: The Bathroom" DVD.  LMH

Since we started a New Year, I am sure that many of you began focusing on organizing, cleaning, uncluttering, or simplifying in this new year.  Even if you haven’t formally declared any of these in a New Year’s Resolution, I am sure the thought has passed your mind that, “Hey, I really need to organize, clean, unclutter, or simplify SOMETHING.” This is why plastic bins are all on sale at Walmart!

Some of you were brave enough to declare some real New Year’s Resolutions. Was it to start a diet?  Get the kids to help out more?   Work on the virtues of temperance and fortitude?  What?  I say this last one in jest because I’ve never heard anyone actually state a resolution as nonspecific as this.  For me, though, it seems that keeping most resolutions requires the good, old-fashioned virtues of temperance and fortitude.  This is why we all struggle with keeping New Year’s Resolutions—because they usually depend on practicing virtue and not just following some list.  And since these virtues are acquired with grace and prayer and practice, just making a resolution in and of itself doesn’t cut it for very long.

Perhaps a Catholic way to approach New Year’s Resolutions is to use a few resolutions to not only improve ourselves or our families, but to actually help us work on our virtues.  We can connect a simple resolution with the virtue that we can work on while trying to keep that resolution.

So for example, I would like to lose 10 lbs in the next few months.  This requires a lot of temperance on my part.  I always have to have dessert and usually seconds.  For me, I am going to limit dessert to just once a day and have it in a smaller quantity.    This will help me with the virtue of temperance.  Remember virtues are like muscles.  The more we work them, the stronger they become.

The other resolution I set is to do the chore thing better with the kids.  I need to do a better job instructing my kids in what chores they need to do, showing them how to do them, and following through to make sure they’ve gotten them finished.  A resolution like this requires fortitude. I’m usually too lazy to follow through after the kids were supposed to have done a chore.  Sometimes I’m even too lazy to ask them to even do a chore—I don’t want to put up with the hassle of them complaining about doing it.  This is the perfect opportunity to work on fortitude. I must keep on going even when I’m tired and don’t feel like it.  I have to make the effort to walk upstairs and peek in the boy’s bathroom to see if Joseph finished cleaning.  I may also have to ask one of the older boys to sweep off the back patio even though I know I’m going to hear a hundred reasons why it really doesn’t need it or asked why another brother doesn’t have to do it.  This is the nature of most children.  Unfortunately, when mothers and fathers lack fortitude and become weary and tolerant of these ways, the children learn to keep wearing the parents down.  Have you felt worn down?  Think fortitude!  I can keep going, and I can keep my kids going!  Keep working that “fortitude muscle” in yourself and in your children.

Of course, I’m always up for a choose-the-better-part-and-be-like-Mary resolution to start the New Year. This will be something like adding an extra prayer time, reading something spirtitual, or attending Mass more often. Usually I’ll stick with this for about a month and then, thank God, Lent comes around, and I will start it again!  And the second time around I usually can manage doing it for the whole forty days of Lent.  I am trying something simple this year that hopefully I can keep doing.  I am starting my day with a perpetual novena prayer to St. Therese to ask her help to live her “little way” as I go about my busy activities.

Do you have New Year’s Resolutions that you have set for yourself?

What virtues will need to be exercised to help you keep them?  Is there a “Mary” resolution that you’d like to become a regular part of your day or week?

Even though Jan 1st is past, it’s not too late to think about setting a couple of resolutions for yourself—if the whole year seems to much to ask, then just make one for today.

Sts. Mary and Martha of Bethany, pray for us!

Copyright 2011 Tami Kiser