Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Clothes & Stuff

Today I counted my clothes. Inspired by the Twenty Pieces Project, I have been going through my clothes and trying to pare down. I've eliminated two trashbags worth already. Today I counted what's left after a couple rounds of filtering.

I was rather disgusted by the results. I think of myself as not having too many many clothes or shoes (at least, by the standards of my upper/middle-class American female peers). I also think of myself as not being all that attached to appearance. I even consider myself somewhat of a natural ascetic.

Well, it turns out that, counting by the Twenty Pieces rules, I have seventy pieces of clothing. Seventy! A piece of clothing for every day for ten weeks. This isn't even counting socks, underwear, swimsuits (I have two), scarves, or pajamas.

Ascetics do not own seventy pieces of clothing. People who are living in simplicity do not own seventy pieces of clothing.

This is an unpleasant wake-up call. I am remembering now the fervor with which I used to cling to my old favorite pieces of clothing as a child. I would outgrow them or wear them out, but to me they remained important and valuable by virtue of their familiarity. My mother would insist I give them up, get rid of them. I found this process frustrating and traumatic. I liked these clothes! I loved them! They were still comfortable, so why did it matter that they supposedly didn't fit right or look right?

It's been years since I had to go through such a purge with my mother looking over my shoulder. Today the freedom of having only a few things appeals powerfully to me. Moreover, I understand now my mother's perspective on clothes. Grown up, integrated into a society that will pigeon-hole me by my appearance, I have internalized society's perspective on clothing. (This is probably a bad thing. I must be judging people without even noticing it.) Old or inappropriate or unflattering clothing is easier to let go of now. So why is it still so hard to cut down my closet?

It's hard because I invest sentimental value in my clothes. The prom dress. The tie-dye "gypsy" dress my sister saved up money to buy me as a Christmas present after I had sighed over it in the What On Earth? catalog. T-shirts from exotic vacations, one each from Alaska, Washington D.C., Ecuador, ... Latin Convention shirts from high school, designed by one of my best friends. I am reluctant to part with these items, as if I'll lose the memories by giving up the physical objects associated with them.

It's hard because I'm also afraid to get rid of clothes that were given to me, especially if they were gifts from relatives (or worse, in-laws). Will they be insulted? Even if they don't find out, am I insulting them by getting rid of their gift?

Worst, I balk at getting rid of clothes that people talked me into buying. Once upon a time, I deliberated and concluded that it was worth buying item x. If I now decide that item x isn't worth keeping, that means I made the wrong decision when I decided to buy it in the first place. So goes my "reasoning"--the logic of my innards.

All that to say, it's hard for me to get rid of clothes. What if I need that later? It's even hard for me to acknowledge that it's hard for me to get rid of them. But here I am acknowledging it. And I am committing to getting rid of more clothes. At minimum, I want to pare it down to 50 pieces. I will be happier with myself if I cut it down to 30 or 40 pieces.

There may be ascetic tendencies in my personality, but stronger than my asceticism is my craving for thoroughness, for collection, for security. I'm a Five on the Enneagram, in my fallen nature a hoarder of information and of things. God is calling me to take my security only in Him, and to count Him as my greatest, my only, Treasure. "Store up for yourselves treasure in Heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." I want my heart to be hidden in Christ, not collecting dust in my closet.

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