Two women made the radical decision to stop buying clothes for a year, but it changed much more than their wardrobes …
‘I FELT PHYSICALLY SICK’
A flush of shame crept up my neck to my cheeks as I stared at the piles of musty clothes littered around the room: stained maternity clothes, worn-out jeans in four different sizes, tops I was keeping just in case I lost weight, or gained weight, or the fashion changed. I saw the pair of pants I never liked but paid too much money for and the stack of dresses with their tags still attached. Piles of clothes I didn’t wear and didn’t need, but didn’t want to leave behind.
Maybe you’ve seen the popular Netflix series Tidying Up With Marie Kondo? The ‘KonMari’ method requires participants to stack every item of clothing they own in one big pile, then pick up each garment and ask: ‘Does it spark joy?’.
At the beginning of 2018, I had my own ‘tidying up’ moment, prompted by an international move back to New Zealand. But there was no effervescent, yet firm, Japanese organising expert guiding me through the process, and certainly no joy.
I felt physically sick when I considered the sheer volume of tangible greed hanging in my wardrobe and stuffed in my drawers. In a moment of radical clarity, I vowed not to buy clothes for the next year.
So 2018 became my year without clothes. I sorted my collection, stood in front of the remaining items and hardened my resolve.
In the beginning it was easy. I avoided shops and turned off all my favourite apps. I hit unsubscribe to email newsletters and stopped following brands on Facebook.
It wasn’t so easy to unsubscribe from my emotions. Painfully, they began to show me why I needed to keep buying clothes. I was forced to sit with my discomfort and examine my own heart.
I was naïvely surprised to find ugliness: Apathy. Pride. Greed. Privilege. Selfishness. Vanity. Envy.
Without the distraction and noise of buying I was able to stare my insecurities in the face.
I realised I was using clothes to meet needs of significance and worth. Clothes were the band-aid on my gaping wound, the inadequate fix for a spiritual problem.
It became a year of confession and repentance as I shared my story with others. I was able to have honest conversations about fast fashion and modern slavery; about facing the sin of greed openly; about identity in Christ.
Did I go back to buying clothes? Yep. Socks and underwear were first on my list!
Beautiful fashion is like any good gift that can be distorted into an ugly idol. There are ways to love and serve Jesus with our clothing choices.
For those who are able, consider the ethical tensions in the fashion industry as an important responsibility. I’ve also learnt that being mindful of my motivation is an essential discipline in a modern, consumerist generation. I still need regular reminders that the only true ‘spark of joy’ is never going to be found in a pile of clothing, but in looking to Jesus and the worth and significance he brings.
By Sophia Sinclair
‘I’D USED SHOPPING FOR CLOTHES AS A WAY TO MANAGE MY EMOTIONS’
Long before Marie Kondo became the name synonymous with decluttering and auditing wardrobes and walk-ins,
Dr Phil was the self-help guru on prime time afternoon viewing. A memorable episode was centred around a woman who was labelled a ‘hoarder’ by her nearest and dearest.
One of Dr Phil’s steps towards a better life was for her to take every item of clothing she owned and put it all in the one place, so she could get a clear picture of what she really had. Sound familiar?
I was intrigued by this idea, and within 30 minutes there was a mountain in my lounge—not a bump or a small hill, but a mountain! I was slightly horrified and glad that only my cat was there to witness it—her look of judgement was enough!
I realised at that moment that I had more than enough clothing. There was nothing I was lacking—except perhaps some self-control. So I took some time to sort through what I needed, what I wanted, and what was simply excess. In an effort to prove to myself that I could avoid ending up on The Dr Phil Show, or worse yet, Hoarders, I decided that I would not buy any new clothes for a whole year.
What began as a bit of a novelty became a challenge and then a commitment that was not always easy to keep—the word ‘sale’ became a dirty word to me! I began thinking about excess and how I often had far too much stuff in my life.
There were a few times during the year when the temptation was really strong to forget all about it and shop up large—but then I would remember the mountain. I realised how I’d used shopping for clothes as a way to manage my emotions. I used to get this rush from buying a new outfit that I didn’t need (and probably couldn’t really afford), and I’d get home, the rush would wear off and in its place was guilt over my impulse purchase.
By breaking that habit of spontaneously shopping for clothes, I came to really appreciate the clothes I did have, and the money that I was saving by not spending so much. Clothes became less about escaping or covering up (see what I did there) and more about the enjoyment of a favourite outfit.
The temptation was definitely there to replace clothes shopping with some other form of shopping (like DVDs or books), but I had unintentionally embraced the idea of living without excess, so that seemed pointless.
After the 12 months ended, I shopped far less than previously, and when I did, it was often at a Family Store or Op Shop. I bought more because of need and less because of want. When I look at my wardrobe now, I wonder if I need to repeat the process with shoes… although they do spark a lot of joy for me!
By Shar Davis