When I was 16 I went on a mission trip to Honduras. For the first time I encountered true poverty, and when I came home, I took one glance at my closet and cried. Why was I so blessed when others weren’t? I let myself feel good about being so tenderhearted to the plight of the poor and then forgot to do anything about it. This cycle has repeated itself about four or five times in my life. It goes like this: Minister to kids who don’t own shoes, feel bad about my own shoe collection, realize I need a pair of cognac boots ("they go with everything"), buy more shoes. (Now I'm not an idiot--I know that me buying shoes didn't rob a poor Honduran child of shoes, but it's easy to forget that Jesus calls us to minister to "the least of these" in the midst of accumulation.)
Now I’m 26, and I own 404 items of clothing. 404. Four hundred and four. FOURHUNDREDANDFOUR. No really, I COUNTED THEM AND THERE WERE 404. Also, I’m bad at math (i.e. counting and adding), so let’s assume I’m stupid and round up to 410. (Even numbers are friendly.) Four hundred and ten. FOURHUNDREDANDTEN.
A few things you should know about me before I continue:
- I loooooove clothes, but if ever accused of shopping too much (HUSBAND!!!) I have an arsenal of defense tactics: -The “Cheap Stuff Doesn’t Count” Argument: “I am a bargain shopper. NO ONE else in the WORLD has gotten a sweater for 89 cents. EIGHTY NIGHT CENTS!!!!” (That is a true story, and I brag about it bi-weekly. Keep in mind this post is not about pride but about sacrifice. I CAN’T DO IT ALL.) Bottom line: “I get good deals, and that makes it okay.”
- Clothes make me feel good about myself. If I have on the right outfit, I’m aware of my own awesomeness. If I don’t have on the right outfit, I’m uncomfortable. Sometimes I’m so uncomfortable that I end up going shopping until I find something that reminds me that I’m original, pretty, and put-together. I don’t like this about myself.
- I am a bandwagoner. I looooove to be obsessed with stuff, and I am not snobby about my obsessions. The one time I did try to be a snob and go to the Justin Bieber movie “because it would be so funny,” I left the movie as a screaming superfan. I have since attended his concert wearing a glitterized Bieber Fever t-shirts. (Yes, this shirt was counted along with the other ~410 items.) I am Team Jacob, I am Team Gale, I am Team Please-Give-Me-Another-Book-To-Obsess-Over.
- Jen Hatmaker gave me a book to obsess over: 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. This is not the kind of book I typically purchase (I am all about novels and tend to skim over anything that’s not narrative), but I read it because I already knew her blog was really funny and irreverent, a friend recommended it, and the cover looked cool. Please be impressed by what a well-informed reader I am.
- I am a pack rat with no idea how to de-clutter myself. My friend Haley once told me, “I was carrying a lot of stuff the other day, and I felt like you.” Haley and I are no longer friends. This packratness (I make up words, deal with it) is what drew me to the title of Jen’s book in the first place. I long to be a minimalist while also refusing to be a minimalist, and the conflicting voices give me headaches. “Tell me what to do, Jen!” So I read the book. The book led me to the Bible like the best books do.
-The “I Am Better by Comparison” Argument: “Here is a list of people who shop more than I do…”
-The “Fuzzy Meaning of Necessity” Argument: “I can’t wear any of the tan shoes I own with that skirt because my wedges make the skirt look too short and the flats make my legs look too short, okay? This was necessary.”
-The Snowball Argument: “I didn’t have anything to go with those pants, so I had to get this top. And the thing about the top is that it makes the pants seem dressier, so the shoes I wanted to wear with the pants originally don’t quite go, so I had to get these shoes.” Then, revert back to argument 1: “But I used a coupon, so I got a great deal!”
-To all arguments, add this: “If you don’t like it, I can take it back.” (This induces guilt or invites laziness, so the odds of a take-back are low.) Do I mean to be this manipulative? Of course not. But I’m starting to see these tactics for what they are: manipulations and rationalizations designed to get me what I want—STUFF.
Reading passages like The Rich Young Ruler with fresh eyes is changing my insides. I’m just hoping that I let it change my outsides the way I’ve refused to do so many times in my life. So the plan is to cut my closet in half. To take the horrid number 410 and make it 205 (still a ridiculously high number, but BABY STEPS PEOPLE). Will the glittery Bieber shirt make the cut? I JUST DON'T KNOW.
So will I be able to do it? I don’t know. Husband says, “I don’t want you to do this and then in 6 months freak out because you ‘don’t have anything to wear.’” But that’s the point, isn’t it? To bring myself to a point of discomfort? To sacrifice in a way that hurts? Earlier in the summer I cleaned the stuff I no longer liked. Now I want to clean out stuff that I still like. Because the impoverished and disadvantaged deserve better than my reject pile. Because I need to prove to myself that I don’t need it. I need to find my value elsewhere. I need to remember when it hurts that the majority of the world lacks what I have in abundance. I need to think about what Mark 10:21 actually means for my life (especially since I've been pretending like it doesn't apply to me since I'm not "rich"...a.k.a. "I know other people who have more money"):
So I’m going to start tackling it now, and I wanted to post this for accountability. If I tell people, I have to follow through, right?