It started out mostly from a whim, and then from the intrigue of a challenge.
I like to be pushed, and I like the idea of minimalism and less consumerism.Could I really do this? Could I stick it out for a whole year? I decided to try.
So at the end of February 2014 I agreed with myself that I wouldn’t buy any clothes until March 1, 2015.
It was a really good experience, a good year. I learned valuable things such as:
- contrary to what I used to think, a woman really can have too many scarves.
- you save great amounts of time and money walking past used clothing stores.
- you save great amounts of regret if you don’t walk inside used clothing stores.
- life goes on even after you walk away from something you really, really want
- there’s always next year
- if you don’t wear a jacket more than twice a year, you can get rid of it painlessly.
Some things that helped:
- I told a couple friends what I was doing, so they could hold me to my word
- I liked the clothes I had (most days)
Part of what took me to this kind of action is that I’m moving out of the country this summer. After living here 5 years, I’ll need to condense my stuff into probably no more than 2 suitcases. Every piece of clothing will need to be weighed (literally) and culled according to its value and serviceability.
It’s a great discipline for someone like me who idealizes doing with less and simplifying life. I’m not interested in being shabby and thread-bare, but I despise being bothered with stacks and shelves and boxes of Stuff to Wear.
Probably it’s harder for a Mennonite to maintain a good working philosophy of buying clothes when you/I can find them so cheaply. In our Polish backwater town, there are more used clothing stores on any given block than I’ve seen in any other town, and the siren call is out there every day. It appeals to our thrill of the chase, and the victory of getting more with less.
But sometimes, for whatever reason and whatever season, it’s good to say a hearty, clarifying NO. It’s surprisingly freeing. Part of discipline, I think, means carrying out a decision that you made well before the heat of the moment. It’s empowering to walk past something you really want and to know that it didn’t get the best of you.
And now that I can buy clothes again, I’m having fun, fun, fun!
Maybe it’s because I have a hard time moderating moderation and tend toward being all-or-nothing. Maybe it’s because I treasure the privilege I have now to buy some nice things.
- The day before March 1 was a Saturday and I had some free time, so I asked my friend to come with me to give me advice on buying a piece of fabric for a Simple Clothing Project that I’d been dreaming about for months. I bought it (it was more expensive than I’d expected) took it home, did what the recipe said, and it was a dismal failure. I think there’s hope for it, but for now, it’s crumpled up on the floor, waiting for its redemption. I don’t think it’s a punishment for breaking the fast a day early but maybe it’s a lesson about not rushing into things and being humble enough to do a trial run first.
- The one time I allowed myself to go into a used clothing store (to buy scarves for a project I was doing for friends) I saw this perfect, beautiful linen/cotton white top. It was really painful to walk away from it, but I managed. It haunted me for a long time. Would I ever find one so perfect again? Months later, I went to Jerusalem and was shopping in the old city and several times I walked past a white top that caught my eye. My friends said I should just ask about the price. I did, and about 15 minutes later, left the shop, wearing the piece! In the process, I learned how to bargain, which was hysterically fun. Do I miss that first linen top? Not for a skinny minute.
To wrap up: fasting isn’t fun. I haven’t girded up my courage yet to fast from second helpings or from chocolate. A year’s clothing fast was the thing I needed to do that was hard, but not impossible.
I don’t know what you’re grappling with, but you might need a fast from whatever it is that is getting the best of you. It could be music, work, entertainment, stuff, people–anything. For some do-able season, for some honorable reason, can you say NO? The discipline will make you stronger than you realized you could be and teach you surprising things.
Who knows? You might learn to bargain with a dramatic Middle Easterner.