About a month ago I did a huge declutter of my closet. I usually declutter my wardrobe at the end of the winter and summer seasons, removing old pieces or items I don’t wear anymore for one reason or another. However, this time I went through it honestly, cutting down my closet to about two-thirds of its size.
The reason for the massive pull was that I had several pieces, some many many years old and others about half the age, that I had held onto through several declutterings. I finally let them go. It’s been a decade since many of the pieces were my style, and with the constant health problems, my needs and body have drastically changed over time. I also understand myself better—I’m more likely to pick up relaxed chic pieces than something fancy or formal.
There’s another element to my declutter that I want to talk about. I’ve always been one to care about the stewardship of what I own, but over the last several years it grew more into a poverty mindset, where I feared when I could buy something next and whether or not I was being responsible for my clothes. The funny thing is that I have such great clothing care habits that they rival some of the most astute ethical fashion bloggers (which is no shade on them, I enjoy ethical and slow fashion blogs, particularly when they focus on creativity). I found myself reluctant to get rid of anything or buy something new, even when something had received far more life than your average piece of clothing.
When I made the choice to give up a third of my wardrobe it wasn’t an effort to embrace minimalism (although I’ve found that there is an average number of pieces that I manage best), it was because I need to make room for change. By getting rid of the old essentials I made room for replacements. Rather than dragging my feet, removing the old forced me to replenish with the new, and I can say, it has been wonderful.
There’s a lot of talk about pieces that can last generations, and, while there are definitely people who do not manage their clothes well, I think that viewpoint is a bit of an overstatement. While there are pieces that last for several years, there are still plenty of pieces that don’t. I’ve worked with historical textiles in a museum setting and can tell you that there are things that will stain and wear even if you take pristine care of it. Items will wear and fade, but we can enjoy them while we have them, and I think that is important.
Just as important, is the need to make room for the new when the old has worn through. It’s okay to replace the shoes you’ve worn through or those old jeans. It’s okay to buy yourself socks or good underwear (heck, you’re going to wear it every day, why not make sure it is comfortable and lasts). Everything physical fades, and I do believe that hyper fixation on our consumption can lead to the same crippling mindsets as poverty’s theft. While stewardship is important, I do believe the green culture around us (at least in the West) threatens to turn it into a fire and brimstone religion, where we are guilted into taking less to “save the planet” and having X amount of children (or that reproduction at all) is evil.
These are the extremes of these opinions, but I see them more and more prevalently in the voices around me, and that is concerning. It is especially concerning having come through a season where I constantly faced lack and began to see what I consumed not only as necessities but as blessings. We need to go back to appreciating items, not for the sake of “not consuming” but because they are good gifts.
As a Christian, I can see items in a different way than the world. They are not the source of my happiness, but they are a blessing. I also know that God loves to freely give to us, not only just as we need, but abundantly.
To some people this is off-putting. Some Christians might cry foul. “That’s Prosperity Theology, not the Gospel!” they might say. But when I look at the Word I see provisions as not only being necessity but blessings as well. God sometimes provides just what someone needs, but many times he blesses with more. He has shown wealthless favor to those who are poor just as he has poured wealth upon the rich to show them his favor.
And this is a hard teaching—we want objects and wealth in our lives to somehow balance. We don’t want God to give something more to someone when we have less. We covet. We desire what we do not have and when it is overwhelming we claim that blessing can’t possibly come from him. It was gained through evil. They’re selfish and don’t spread their wealth far enough around. Etc…
It is a hard thing to be in a place of suffering and acknowledge that simultaneously God could be prospering someone who isn’t suffering to show his glory.
But it is true.
This is one of the hardest truths for us to understand, how God can bless the poor and the rich, but it never looks the same. But this is because God is a good Father, not a vending machine. He isn’t a socialistic policy, dividing the wealth along lines we want to call “equal.” This is to say that wealth cannot come through evil means, but neither does poverty only come through oppression. God is good, and he loves us all. But how, why, and when he blesses us is bound up in the mystery of who he is and our relationship with him.
In my own timeline, I’m still in a season of lack. I’m lonely. I’m single. I’m in my thirties and have never lived on my own or never made a “big” purchase. But I see in my life the move of God’s hand to bring blessings to me. They may not always be visible or usual, but I know the gifts are because God loves me. I don’t need exuberant wealth to know he is good to me. But I also know that any wealth I have from him is a blessing and a gift.
This is why I can enjoy the things he has blessed me with during this season and freely give away the clothes that no longer suit me. I was not made for items. Items were made for me. I can repurchase fresh clothes that I need and, when I have the money, buy those extra pieces that spice up my wardrobe. God is generous, and I can expect him to be so because he has been generous with me.