Another story from 7 – Week 2: Clothes
A few weeks ago an old friend was in town from California. Along with our other old best friend, the three of us made plans to go to dinner. We weren’t going anywhere fancy, but it was in Chicago and I had a doctor’s appointment beforehand and hadn’t decided if I would drive down town or take the train and walk… All of these situations were going through my mind that afternoon as I tried to figure out what to wear. Meanwhile my two year old Jack was downstairs watching tv and calling my name. Finally I realized these girls were friends with me when I was in Junior High and wore plaid shirts that were so big they wouldn’t fit if I was 9 months pregnant. Clearly the friendship runs deeper than fashion.
As I mentioned yesterday, this is the second time I’m going through parts of this 7 study since I did a few weeks of it with my church. My first clothes fast only lasted 4 or 5 days and then we had Easter and weather changes I wasn’t expecting. This week I stuck to 7 clothes and had my son Jack wear 7 clothes also, since we all know that children are basically another accessory to our own outfits. What I found was that it wasn’t hard. If I had planned a little better I could have easily eliminated one or two items which I had barely worn anyway. I found most often that I wanted to change because I didn’t feel clean or I thought maybe my shirt smelled. But I realized that many people don’t have the option to wash their clothes as much as I do. They go to bed at night wearing what they wore all day and it probably does smell.
I felt guilty NOT wearing all the clothes in my closet. Rotating through 3 tshirts for 7 days when I have enough tshirts to wear a different one everyday for two months, made me realize the excess I have. It had me wondering how many tshirts should I own? How many pairs of jeans should I keep when I only wear two of the 10 pairs anyway? And to be honest, I only wear that 2nd pair when my #1 favorites are being washed.
I’m sure many of you can relate to having a variety of sizes in your wardrobe. When I was pregnant with Jack I was on bed rest for 4 months and I just got really big. After having Jack, recovering from bed rest was really challenging. It was at least a year before I was back to my normal size. Therefore I have a pre-Jack wardrobe, a maternity wardrobe, a post-Jack wardrobe, and then back to normal but with new things because it’s been years since I wore the other stuff and some is out of fashion or doesn’t fit the same. Do I hang on to it all? What if I have another baby – then I’ll need the maternity clothes, and possibly the “big” clothes …
All of this takes up 17 dresser drawers, 2 closets, and 1 crate across 2 rooms in my house. And that doesn’t include jackets.
How much is too much? Jen Hatmaker said the only people who ask “how much is too much” are the rich people. I don’t have an answer for how may tshirts or jeans I should have. But the solution comes in changing my heart. The more aware I’ve become of other’s needs, the less stuff I want to keep and the more I want to give away to help them. Why should I keep so many unworn items when someone is struggling to find enough clothes for the day.
All of this led to a Clothes Swap party last fall. After reading 7 and hearing about their Clothes Swap, I thought that’d be a great thing to do. I invited lots of friends to donate clothes to the Swap, then come to the party and “shop” from each other’s discarded items. All the leftovers would go to a shelter that gave the clothes away for free to people in need. All together I collected clothes from about 15-20 people. It was only women’s clothing, shoes and accessories – we didn’t even attempt children’s or men’s clothes. I set everything up in my dining room and barely had enough space for it all.
The actual party was a lot of fun. Everyone was friendly to each other and passed items around, “This didn’t fit me, but you try it on.” There were no fights over anything, although we debated what was still in fashion. And everyone left with something, but much less than what they brought. After cleaning out their closets no one wanted to fill up that space again. After the party I kept things out for a few days and more people who couldn’t make the party stopped by. After a week my house was starting to smell like a thrift store, so I knew it was time to pack up. After our “shopping” we donated more than 400 items! I completely filled my SUV. I took everything to a church nearby which opens their “closet” for those in need each week.
This Clothes Swap was last fall and I gave away almost half of my clothes. However, all the numbers I told you of tshirts and jeans and filled drawers are from now. Clearly I still have a long way to go. In 1 Samuel the Lord says, “For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Proverbs 31 says “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”
I know that I have this struggle of dressing for others. Dressing to be noticed, to be accepted, to be valued. But the truth is I already am noticed, accepted, and valued by the Lord. His opinion of me is the only one that matters. And the more I seek to live in a way that pleases the Lord, the more “attractive” I will be to others. In a year, or a week, or a day, people won’t remember what I wore, but they will remember my character and how I lived. I want them to see what Colossians 3 says – that I am chosen by God, holy and dearly loved, clothed in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. That I forgive others as Christ has forgiven me. And over all of that, may they see love – that I love God and love others.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12-14