I’m currently going through Jen Hatmaker’s book/social experiment 7 with a friend (definitely check it out if you haven’t yet) and this month’s challenge has been particularly convicting for me. The premise is simple: choose seven items of clothing to wear for the month. See what it’s like to live with less.
I decided to modify the challenge by choosing seven items of activewear and seven items of regular clothing. Because… working out, and germs and stuff. I also didn’t include undergarments, socks or shoes as part of the seven. I know, I know. I didn’t really do 7. I made some concessions that definitely made it easier. For perspective, though, I just counted 40 shirts hanging in my closet. Forty. Shirts. Not sweaters, dresses, jackets, tank tops—just shirts. And those are just the ones that are hanging. There are more folded, and in the laundry, and in the pitiful “yet to be folded” pile on the floor of our sitting room.
What I Wore
Needless to say, cutting down to roughly 14 items for the month was an enormous reduction. Here’s what I pared down to:
- 2 pairs of long active leggings
- 1 pair of shorts
- 2 tank tops
- 1 shirt
- 1 jacket
- 2 pairs of jeans
- 1 plaid button-down shirt
- 1 gray dressy shirt
- 2 t-shirts
- 1 jacket
So, here’s what I learned from wearing 14 items of clothing this month:
- I’ve been getting dressed everyday with a closet full of hundreds of items of clothes for most of my life. No. freaking. wonder it always took so long to get ready. What a colossal waste of time much of that has been.
- Nobody really notices what you wear that much. I’ve been the person to fret about whether I’ve worn an outfit too frequently, wondering if people would notice and think I’m a slob or that I don’t own other clothes. In reality, no one notices that. And if they do, well, who cares? Whatever, that person needs Jesus. This is not that serious. Move on.
- Having more can very well create more stress. I don’t think this is necessarily a universal truth, but for me it has proven true. I got a new top, so now I need jewelry to go with it. And makeup. And shoes. And probably another top to go with the jewelry and makeup and shoes too, for good measure. Then I wind up with more in my closet, and more in my life. More money spent, more room taken up, more clutter. As someone who goes on “clear the clutter” binges at least once a quarter—a day in which my family repeatedly tells me I’m a lunatic, while I scoop up as many things as possible into donation bags (“Why do we have so much stuff? Where does the stuff come from? Who gives us all this stuff?!”)—my accumulation of more, simply for the sake of it, is total nonsense. I do not need more. Maybe I need a new pair of pants to replace some old ones, but I don’t need more things just to have more things. Friends, remind me of this when I coerce you into shopping with me. I will surely deny it, so screenshot it for good measure.
- Having a plethora of options appears to be a convenience, but it can actually be a burden. There’s a reason for the stereotype about women having to try on 25 outfits before choosing something acceptable when getting ready. We’re overwhelmed by choices. Our closets are stuffed to the brim and we can’t find a damn thing to wear. The choices don’t make our lives easier. Indeed, they can actually create more ways for us to feel overwhelmed and inadequate. Paring down to basics is a refreshing change of pace to the usual bombardment of choices we face everyday.
- When you play the comparison game, you always lose. It didn’t take wearing the same clothes over and over all month to get this one, but it did help me put it into perspective. Comparison whispers to us, What she has, what they own, what she’s wearing—it’s better. There is no winning this game. There will always be someone who has more and better things. But gratitude whispers a different message. Gratitude says, Look at all that you have. You are so blessed and so fortunate. What abundance you have to be thankful for. I might have worn the same jacket all month, but some people wear the same outfit every single day, because that’s all they have. When you limit your wardrobe options because you recognize what you have is enough, you can take a deep sigh of relief and stop playing the game. It simply isn’t worth your effort. There are more important things to commit your attention to.
- Fast fashion is bad for the planet and for workers. I won’t get too deep into this because it’s probably several blog posts in itself. Fashion is a $1.2 trillion global industry, and we spend $250 billion on it in the U.S. alone. Fast fashion is exactly what it sounds like—new styles are pumped out of factories at lightning speed, increasing what used to be four seasons of styles per year to upwards of 10. More styles leads to more purchases, which leads to more waste. And because these items are fairly inexpensive, we tend to throw out these cheap, mass-produced items without a second thought. The increase in clothes production has also led to increased demand on supply chains, which often results in poor working conditions, unfair wages and child labor. It. is. a. mess.
Becoming Part of the Solution
So, what can we realistically do to make some positive changes in this department? I’ve come up with a few practices I’ll be putting into place to reduce my contribution to the cycle of fast fashion and the endless accumulation of more. I invite you to join me in trying a few of these if you feel so compelled.
- Parse through your clothes and clear out anything you haven’t worn in the past year. You could make it the past six months, but I’d say a year is safe to account for seasonal changes. If you haven’t worn it in the past year, chances are slim that you will ever don it again. If you’re hanging on to something for sentimental reasons (or less noble reasons, like guilt) take a photo of the item before you get rid of it. There are obviously exceptions—if you want to keep your wedding dress but aren’t planning on wearing it again I don’t think you’re a terrible person. But I think a lot of us hold onto things way past their usefulness for no real reason. Let’s let go and limit our options to clothes we actually wear.
- Sell your previously loved clothing, and donate what you can’t sell to a shelter. There are several websites and apps that make it easy to sell your clothes online. I’m currently trying my hand on Poshmark, but there are also Mercari, Ebay and several others. Set a date by which you want to sell the clothes, and donate anything that doesn’t sell by then to a local shelter. Or if you want to skip the selling altogether, take your previously loved clothes straight to the shelter. In the past, I’ve hauled all my stuff off to the thrift store because it’s nearby and it’s easy to quickly deposit everything there. But I’m working on being more intentional with where I donate, and I recommend you do the same. Do a little research on where the greatest need is locally, and give away your things with intention, instead of depositing it wherever is easiest.
- Purchase what you can secondhand. I know this isn’t possible for all your clothing needs, but it’s a great option for lots of things. In many cases, people purchase an item only to wear it once or twice, then leave it hanging sadly in their closets for eternity. Perhaps you know this story well yourself. You can find very gently used, or even brand new items, on the aforementioned sites. Be sure to also check out what your local consignment shops have to offer.
- Purchase new items from fair trade, dignity-spreading companies. What a wonderful feeling it is to invest in clothing that was lovingly made by individuals in a developing country, knowing they are being compensated fairly and given an opportunity to change the lives of their families through their work. Or to purchase an item from a shop that donates a percentage of the proceeds to a noble cause. These items do usually cost more than what you will find at Target, but the quality will also likely be superior, and knowing you are directly supporting dignity for the workers who created it is simply invaluable. A quick Google search for fair trade clothing companies will point you in the right direction, but I have to share one of my favorites with you: please check out The Flourish Market. I stumbled upon their brick and mortar shop while in Raleigh, and I am a forever customer—both for the adorable products and the beautiful mission.
My hope is that as I scale back and practice living with less material things, I’ll create more room—more room in my closet, in my budget, and in my mind and heart. More space for Jesus to move. I pray that He would fill in the gaps with the intangible things that are so much more meaningful than any of the stuff we can acquire here on this earth.
To our shared story,