The season of Lent is one that is meant to remind us of our mortality, our inter-dependence, and (for us middle-class, privileged folks in the United States) the luxuries we often overlook. Admit it: for the majority of the world’s people who live on less than $2.00 a day, most of what we consider commonplace is downright extravagant.
Many of us fast from luxurious foods, some of us find new ways to look at our food consumption practices, others of us take on a practice that may otherwise seem tedious (like daily prayer, or walking to work instead of driving, etc.). This year, I plan to reduce my dependence on material goods… particularly clothing.
By the end of Lent, I will have reduced my wardrobe by 50% (giving that 50% to Goodwill). That may sound like a lot of clothing, and it should. I mean, think about what 50% of your wardrobe looks like. But it’s also a lot of clothing that is truly unnecessary.
Let’s think about it: how many of our pieces of clothing do we actually wear? I mean, how much of our wardrobe is functional and not just ornamental? I am, of course, talking about that dress that I wore once to a wedding two years ago and never put on again. And yes, I am talking about those (many) pairs of pants that I have yet to discard, though my waist will never be the size it was in my sophomore year of college… ever again. And of course, I am talking about the third pair of jeans I bought last month, despite the fact that I already own five pair.
This, friends, is an unhealthy dependence on hoarding clothing.
So, to accomplish this goal I will need a schedule of sorts. This is where the planning comes in.
How many pieces of clothing do I need to discard in order to reach 50%? Do I simply cut one half of my total pieces (whatever types of clothing those pieces those may be), or one half of each type of clothing (jeans, sweaters, dresses, dress shirts, etc.)? Will this Lenten practice include the reduction of pairs of underwear (don’t worry, I wouldn’t donate used underwear… gross), or just those items visible to the public? Do I use a combination of strategies… for instance, the untried but probably true: “if you haven’t worn it in the last 12 months, you should toss it” in addition to some other, purely numbers-based strategy?
Though I may not know the specifics, the first step will be cataloging my wardrobe. This (admittedly) appeals to my obsessive personality, so it should be an interesting challenge.
By this Saturday, I will have compiled a list of all the clothing I own… I have yet to decide if I should post this list online. Obviously, there are pros and cons to a public list of my wardrobe. On the one hand, it can be inspirational: if I can get rid of half of this, imagine what you can do! On the other hand, it could cause you dear readers to loose all respect for me: “She owns hot fuschia pedal pushers… and didn’t get rid of them?! For shame!”
On an entirely different note, seeing a list compiled of all the clothing I own may be itself the impetus to cut it in half. It’s one thing to be well provided for; it’s an entirely different thing to be swimming in a mass of clothing you will never wear again and for which you probably have little appreciation.
Whether public or private, this list will be compiled by Saturday. By Easter, a substantial amount of the bulk will be gone. Let us not forget, however, the largely failed Great Pantry Staple Challenge… I must be steadfast, bold, and unapologetic in my wardrobe whittling, lest I fall once again into a pit of excuses.
By the time Easter comes, I hope to have developed a new appreciation for the luxury of clothing. By the end of Lent, I hope to have shed some of my dependence on clothing to define my public appearance. It’s a small but present reminder to me that changing the way we think about appearance, beauty, clothing, and our habits of consumption begins with your own practice. This, friends, will be one painful but necessary opportunity to practice.
I’m interested to know: what are you planning to do for Lent? What do you think of this experiment?