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Friday, November 17, 2006


Clothes. We all wear them (well, hopefully!). They can be a symbol of power and success …or poverty. They can be a source of ridicule at school or at work...or they can land you in the “cool” crowd. Do you ever notice how clothes tend be a major conversation starter? It's always interesting to talk with people about their clothes. You can learn a lot about people by how they view their clothing...where they shop, etc. Clothes are a powerful tool…but they can control us if we let them.

When you are trying to simplify your life and downsize your possessions, you can’t ignore this area. It tends to be avoided because clothing is so personal...there are often a lot of emotional attachments connected to it.

As I looked through my closet about 6 months ago, I started to ask myself some questions?

  • Why do I have 4 plain white t-shirts?
  • When was the last time I wore those shoes? Last year?
  • Why do I “need” 6 pairs of jeans?
  • How many pairs of socks do I really need?!

I had to look inward and try to discover why I felt like I needed all of these clothes…when there are others who have so little. I also started to wonder when our culture became clothes obsessed. According to the website, clothes used to be stored in chests or armoires up until after WWII...and then there was a bigger need for housing and they started to build closets as they build the new homes. This is also around the time that TV was being introduced to the masses. I can't help but think that all advertising created the false sense of need for more clothing. Even today...if I watch too much TV/advertising, I immediately start feeling discontent with my current possessions and feel like I need to buy more to be happy. After we stopped watching so much TV, I no longer had a "voice" coming into my home telling me what to wear, what to think, and what to buy.

Stewardship: What would Jesus say if he opened your closet door?
I have to admit that I hadn’t ever really thought about what Jesus says regarding clothes up until about 6 months ago. Growing up, I had the typical attitude that you just couldn’t have enough clothes. And don’t even think about wearing USED clothes! *GASP!*. It takes time to change how you’ve always thought.

When I started studying on that topic…I realized that Jesus really doesn’t care about clothes much at all…and he tells us that we shouldn’t focus on it so much.

John answered, "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same." Luke 3:11

But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 1 Tim 6:8

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?" Matthew 6:25

"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin." Matthew 6:28

He told them: "Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic. Luke 9:3

It’s clear that Jesus thinks we have better things to put our time, energy, and money into than clothes. If you are going to focus your energy on should revolve around getting clothes to people who truly need them.

“But...I Need It!”
Our clothing needs are really very minimal. Depending on where you live in the country (seasonally) and if you work outside the home, you will need a couple pair of pants, a couple shirts, undergarments, shoes, and a coat. That’s it. Now…I’m not saying that’s all we should have…but it will do us good to think about what a “need” truly is. I’m also not trying to turn everyone into a minimalist or say that clothes are inherently bad. Clothes are fun. It’s great to find that “perfect outfit”…I’m just asking you to think about your closet and what it says about you and what you value. On the Simple Living boards, there are several threads about clothing. In one of them, I found this little tidbit:

"I found out that the less you shop, the desire to shop would decrease. And eventually, when you are walking in a mall, you have this weird feeling while watching people buying stuff...thinking, why would people need THAT...and you suddenly feel like an alien."

I can definitely relate to that feeling...especially now that I'm not shopping at malls. It's a very weird phenomenon.

New...or Not
When you are purchasing a new piece of clothing…why do you have to buy it new? There are so many second-hand stores, consignment stores, etc. that have racks and racks of clothes at a fraction of the price. You can look just like everyone else (if you want to) and have all the same brands and still have money to go out to eat. If you are someone who “just doesn’t shop at thrift stores” … examine why that is. Is that an attitude handed down through your family? Do you feel some sort of shame by not buying new? Granted, it is much easier to just run to the mall or Target to pick out the latest fashion. It takes a little planning to buy used, but it’s so much better for the earth AND your pocketbook. There are many fun groups and websites that focus on recycling clothing and "re-fashioning". I've shared them on another post, but they are worth sharing again:

Wardrobe Refashion
Little Brown Dress

Passing it On
Ok. So you’ve made the decision to downsize your closet. Where do you begin? There are several “methods” to help you decide whether or not you still need an item of clothing. I would suggest taking an afternoon and putting all your clothes in a big pile. Set up 3 boxes and label them “Give”, “Keep”, and “Not Sure”. Then get to it. If you think you should keep an item, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do I feel GREAT in this?
  2. Does it fit me correctly? Or have I just been telling myself that?
  3. Have I worn this in the last 6 months?
  4. Is it practical?

If you can’t answer yes to all of the above, throw it in the “Give” pile. If you having some emotional issues letting it go, throw it in the “Not Sure” pile. The key to going through your clothes is to do it FAST…the more you sit and think about each item…the more you will THINK you want/need to keep it. Clothing is easy to come by…if you give away something you need later, find another one. Also, it does help to have a friend or spouse do this with you…so that when you need a second opinion, there is one readily available. However, don’t ask your packrat friend to help you…she will only hinder.

A side note…I know there are some of you thinking, “What about my Aunt Berta’s pink leather jacket”! If you have heirloom items in your closet that you no longer want…you should ask around the family and try to pass them on that way. If not, take a photo of the item, put it in an album and write out all of your memories about it…and then get rid of it.

Where do I take it? Can I sell it?
If you want to sell some of your clothes…try a consignment store. You can take your clothes into the store and as they sell, you will get a percentage of the profit. I prefer to just get rid of it all and be done with it…so I usually opt for Freecycle or Goodwill. Fill a bag, take it in, DONE. You could also take them directly to a women's shelter...they are always happy to receive nice women's and children's clothing. I have sold some nicer items online if I know there is a market for them and I needed some quick cash. You could also try a a clothes swap...or as I've heard them called, a "Naked Party" and invite a bunch of your girlfriends over to swap clothes. Here are the details on how to do it.

Disposable Clothing
We live in a "disposable" obsessed culture. I have switched my house to completely re-usable/cloth everything... so why do I buy disposable clothing? The items that I've bought in the past from Old Navy, Target and other discount stores are usually a one- season item and then they are trashed. If I would have just bought higher quality to begin with, many resources (and headaches) would be saved. Now that we are Compacting, I'm not going into those stores at all anymore and my closet is so much better off! I think that is one of the great things about thrifting...almost everything I've found has been a high-quality brand that will last and last...but without the high price.

I've also found that when you have less clothing, you tend to take better care of what you have. With my "disposable" clothing, I didn't care if something stained it or if it ripped.

What does YOUR closet look like Sara?
In the photo above, you can see what my closet looks like. The far left section is mine. Over the last 6 months I have gotten rid of about 75% of my clothes…and I don’t miss them! It’s so much easier to do laundry, to clean up, to sort…when you don’t have a mess of clothes in your closet. It’s immeasurably easier to get dressed in the morning when you only have a few choices. Since moving into the apartment, I’ve gotten a few more items simply because we don’t do laundry as much now. But I LOVE the simplicity of having less clothes. Less stress. Less mess. Less is good…now go clean your closet!


Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

I was just thinking about this yesterday... how I've become a person who loves to wear a Maggie's black organic cotton camisole, with one of my husband's shirts worn over it, unbuttoned. It's very simple. Of course, my lifestyle as a stay-at-home mom and writer helps! :)

Quick note on recycled clothing... I'm reading a book called Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. Incredible book. Anyway, the authors do caution us about wearing clothes made from down-cycled plastic (you can't really re-cycle plastic I learned)... the toxic exposure is way more than our skin should take.

Thanks for your thoughtful post!

11/17/2006 5:04 AM  
Anonymous Kim in IN said...

Hi Sara,
I have for years worn mostly skirts. I either make them,or buy from thrift stores. In summer it's broomsticks with t-shirts. At the beginning of fall/winter I wear two skirts I've made (linen blend)one chocolate brown and one olive green. I wear long sleeve t-shirts and/or a sweater. I wear knee socks or tights. I have one pair of jeans(bought thrift). I have 4 pairs of shoes. Two birks,one dansko,and a pair of new balance tennis shoes.
Now don't ask me about all of the bags/totes/backpacks in my closet.
Maybe you could do another post?lol

11/17/2006 6:45 AM  
Blogger RANDI said...

Too many clothes is not really a problem of mine (maybe shoes?) but there are definitely other areas for me. I have been thinking a lot lately about consuming, buying, having--what is the purpose of it all? I know that God is making a change within my heart.

BTW--I found your blog a couple of days ago and I love it! Your posts speak to the things that are on my mind these days.

11/17/2006 7:05 AM  
Blogger Jen. said...

Hi Sara,
Thought I'd introduce myself & thank you for the varieties of inspiration you provide on your blog! I'm trying to wean myself off of paper towels & have discovered I LOVE using the vintage cloth napkins I bought ages ago on eBay & wasn't using. I've always shopped for clothes at Goodwill, etc. & most of my favorites came from there. I need to pare it all down, though & this post was very timely for me.
Thanks - and I hope you don't mind my dropping by!

11/17/2006 7:06 AM  
Blogger Kim said...

Hi Sara! I just wanted to say how much I LOVE your blog. I am a friend of Jacqulyn Millers, and I met you at her baby shower. Your blog is the first thing I read every morning at work. You inspire me to rethink things and to be more conscious of how wasteful I can be. Thank you for creating such a great blog!

11/17/2006 7:18 AM  
Anonymous Danielle said...

Great post! I grew up with hand-me-downs and yard sale clothes, so buying new has never been a big deal for me. I do love clothes but hate shopping, which is good and bad. Bad because that turns me off to digging through consignment shops and as I'm working full time that's the last thing I want to do when I need something on a evening or weekend. Good though, because my lack of liking to shop keeps me from spending too much!

I've been trying to pare down my closet and my husbands into just the things we really need and are easily interchangable to make multiple outfits. I do have a hard time getting rid of things I've had for a long time if it's perfectly fine, even if I don't wear it that much. Sad! Something I need to grow in. I'd rather have less clothes I like than lots of clothes I wear sometimes!

11/17/2006 8:09 AM  
Anonymous Becca said...

It's so amazing to me how your posts parallel exactly what I've been thinking about. I've had a goal to go through all of our clothes and do exactly what you suggested with the 3 piles. But I've also told my husband I really need him there with me to help with decisions. You are one smart lady Sara, thank you for sharing your thoughts!

11/17/2006 8:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi! I've recently started reading your blog since it was linked on Mrs. Catherine's MIH site. I enjoy reading about your life perspective!

A fun way to think about shopping in the consignment shop is that all the clothes are "pre-tested" for your convenience! Not to mention that my own pre-owned clothes have sold at the local shop for a little spending money and I didn't even have to set out the yard sale signs. Nice.

11/17/2006 9:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for stopping by and leaving your note. :)

My master bedroom is next on my decluttering journey. I am tackling my children's closets this weekend. So thank you for the extra nudge!


11/17/2006 11:29 AM  
Blogger Charity Singleton said...

Sara - Again, very practical. As I think about simplifying and living greener, your blog is such an encouragement. I have so many questions, and so many of them are answered right here.

11/17/2006 1:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What an inspiring blog! I know it's early in the season, but I'd be interested in knowing how you and your family approaches gift giving and the whole hoopla surrounding the holidays.

11/17/2006 2:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sara, What a great post! For the last few weeks I put away all of my clothing (with the exception of a 4 pair of pants, 1 pair of jeans, 7 t-shirts (long and short sleeve), 7 button down/ work shirts. That was it. I couldn't belive it, but I was happy with only these few items.

I agree with you. New doesn't have to be store new. Only "new to you." I used to have clothing swaps with firends. We would each offer up clothing we didn't want, and pick through each others clothing.... Works great!

11/17/2006 6:37 PM  
Blogger A JoyFull Life said...

And on top of having just a few clothes you always look cute. I love you my cute friend! When are coming to visit?
Miss you!

11/17/2006 10:10 PM  
Blogger Here we go... said...

I have been trying to scale down closets for the past two years. I get pretty good at it, and then someting new pops up. Like, a job that requires business casual, or another job that requires business formal. Getting pregnant always is crazy because you are never the same size at the beginning, end, season-to-season, and so on. I find now that I not only am smaller at the beginning of pregnancy than before, but I also have to outfit the business formal attire I need once a week. Very frustrating!! But, I keep trying and will one day be a full-time, stay-at-home mom and will wear the same clothes style each day, including church. Aaahhh, the day will come!

11/18/2006 7:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your post really inspired me to take a look into my closet. Mainly, it was the photo of your closet that did it. Wow! So, I dived into my own closet ... and just purged. It felt SO good (I wrote about it in my blog in case you're interested). Better than shopping for things, actually. I took 6, very large trash bags to Goodwill and I can't believe how much space I have. I still think I can do more. I'll see, in the following weeks, which things I wear and which just lie around. Thanks for this really inspirational post ... it's really motivated me. Keep up the wonderful posts! :)

11/18/2006 8:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. Your post hit home today. I'm doing a mini compact with clothing.I am not buying anything new for a LONG time, except for the essential undergarments. Decluttering a mile a minute with my clothes. I am a clothes horse but not a fashionable clothes horse. Jeans and sweatshirts and t shirts. Time to down size. I just donated 12 pair of jeans that no longer fit and I know I will never wear them again. I simply have more than i need right now and I am working on fixing that.
I often wonder what Jesus would think!! I enjoy your blog a great deal. It gets my mind working in different ways.

11/18/2006 8:48 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

It's been so great hearing about your closet downsizing stories!! Awesome! It gets addicting, so watch out! Pretty soon you'll wake up one morning and truly have NOTHING to wear. hee hee!

11/18/2006 10:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Clothes are not so much my problem, I have two pairs of jeans; one to wash, one to wear. My kids were horrified that I went the whole summer with the same two pairs of shorts.

My downfall is the other stuff...books, mostly. Kitchen stuff. Although I thought the rice maker we got at the tag sale for $2 would be a waste, and we use it all the time.

I'm basically just trying to keep everything simple. I really enjoy your blog, I started reading it this past summer, and it's great!

11/20/2006 3:09 PM  
Anonymous Catherine said...

I looooove this post! You are such a wonderful inspiration to us all!

You are right...downsizing becomes addicting and even when you think you have gotten rid as much as you can, simplifying that is, you start looking around and asking yourself, "Where else can I do this? What else needs to go!" :O)

The picture of your closet is one your whole family shares? The fact that y'all can fit all your clothing into one is amazing! I will definitely be sharing this with others!

Love and God's Blessings,

11/21/2006 9:42 AM  
Blogger Sara said...

Hi Cat,
Yep...that's it! We have some little drawers that we put undergarments in, but that's all. It's quite nice.

11/21/2006 10:04 AM  
Anonymous Catherine said...

That is awesome! I love it!

I have to share with husband and our youngest son will be making a recycling center much like yours. When we moved here to our little town I didn't think they had a recycling program but just recently found out they did...but you have to take your items to the center instead of it being collected on certain days and with certain color containers like we had in Orlando. David is so excited and has even thought of what he and daddy could use that we already have to build the shelves. I wanted to share that with you and thank you for sharing your idea about have planted some seeds that is for sure! :O)

Love and God's Blessings,

11/22/2006 7:35 AM  
Anonymous Lindsey @ enjoythejourney said...

I'm extremely impressed and inspired! You are so right, it weighs us down. Less is more.

11/22/2006 9:36 AM  
Blogger Belly Belle said...

I remember hearing awhile back that it was the invention of the washer and dryer that created the "need" for more clothing. When everything was hand-washed people would wear things more than once before washing and didn't have a lot of clothes. Then came the washer and dryer and voila, everyone "needed" to have clean clothes to wear so people bought more. The irony of course is that it was supposed to be a time saver, but it actually just created more laundry.

11/24/2006 1:08 PM  
Anonymous Wendy said...

Hi Sara, I've been reading for a couple weeks now and have been really challenged in my thinking by your thoughts, not just on clothes, but other areas as well. Thank you. I love your pictures (you are SO talented) and I love your heart for God, that you want to please Him in every area of your life.

11/27/2006 7:50 PM  
Anonymous Wendy said...

I cleaned my closet today and gave away 3 bags to Goodwill, you inspired me. It felt good to downsize.

11/28/2006 7:05 PM  
Blogger momteacherfriend said...

I have gave away much this summer and I still have more to give. Taking the time to sort it....
I just realized that is your pregnant belly cast off to the left....cute!

12/14/2006 4:06 AM  

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