Monday, September 14, 2015

letting go

I've always described myself as someone who is not very attached to "things."

I've said that if my house were on fire, the only material things I'd feel bad about losing are photos. Now that most of mine are in "the cloud," I don't really worry about anything.

Except my clothes.

I'm attached to my clothes.

The last few weeks have been very interesting. After reflecting on just how attached I was to these material things, I knew that I needed to ask why. Why were clothes so important to me? Why was letting go of them so difficult?

It's a generally accepted fact that women in our culture are more than a bit obsessed with our appearance. We are often judged by how we look rather than how we think, how hard we work, or how smart, virtuous, intelligent or talented we are. I'm very interested in the intersection between our self-image (body image in particular) and our acceptance by others, but that's a discussion for another day. For now I want to focus on why this obsession was making me keep all of these clothes, other than the fact that I've been known to go up and down in size and I've been hanging on to some small stuff. (The bottom line? If it doesn't fit today, let it go!)

Clothes do more than just cover our bodies. They tell people what we do, how much money we might have, what our habits are, how clean or neat we might be, and so much more. Now, I really do like clothes. I love color, and fabric and texture. I like to look at beautiful, well-made things and think about the creativity that went into making them. I even enjoy sorting them and organizing them in my closet, and I like bringing out the box of clothes for the upcoming season - even for my children's clothes! I had a retail job in a clothing store once, and it was like heaven - I got to play with clothes all day! But I've come to the conclusion that having a lot of clothes was simply the END to a MEANS. The MEANS was shopping. It wasn't so much that I loved these clothes. I loved CHOOSING these clothes.

Making choices can be daunting, and I'm often not good at it. Every time I'm faced with a choice, and especially when I've been given lots of options, I panic a little. But somehow, in the safety of my local J.C. Penney store, I felt somewhat powerful. Well look at little ole me, making choices like a champ! Yes, I will buy that sweater in blue! And I'll get one in black and gray for good measure! It's up to ME!!! I choose EVERYTHING!!!!

Then I'd bring it all home and stash it away. I'd feel good for awhile (usually about a week, or maybe until next payday) and then I'd set out to choose again.

This is not healthy.

Now, let me be clear. I'm definitely not giving up shopping. But I'm deciding that shopping is not the answer to my problem. I need to take time to explore the areas in my life that I need to make choices about, and I need to pray and seek counsel and then choose. I need to stop using shopping as a band-aid. I need to enjoy my clothes and have fun wearing them. I need to respect them as the gifts from God that they are. (Yes, clothing is a gift, people! God promises his people will be clothed like the lilies in the field, and we shouldn't worry about them.)  And I need to let go of the excess that is bogging me down.

In my last post I mentioned I was surprised by something. Well here it is:  it wasn't that hard to let things go. 

Seriously! It was fairly easy. In fact, it was exciting and oh so freeing.

Once I allowed myself to stop feeling guilty, to recognize that my clothing collection was not a sign that I was a horrible, wasteful glutton who cared not for the poor, but rather a symptom of a deeper problem, I was able to let go. Once I gave myself permission to keep things that were truly beautiful and useful, even if I'm not wearing them this season, I was able to let go. Once I recalled that God always provides for me, and that I will never go without, I was able to let go. 

And that is a wonderful thing.

So, there are still a few bags hanging around my house. But several items went to the resale shop, and others are now in my daughter's wardrobe. Most items went to a local "clothing pantry" at All Saints Parish in Southwest Detroit. I really liked the idea that people who really deserved and needed clothing would be getting it. (Yes, I manage to be self-centered even in my charitable moments.) A few things might be left for the garage sale, but I think I'd rather give them away. Just like all of my guilt and distress and difficulty in choosing.

I'm giving it all away.

But wow, what I'm receiving? It's so much better! Because when we let go, we make room for new possibilities in our lives, and that's exciting!

Now, back to the wardrobe. Let's talk next time about those wardrobe capsules and their 37 ideal pieces. Will I be able to whittle down to that few? We'll find out!

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