Last Christmas was tricky.
You see, typically when the question is asked early December as to what I would like for Christmas, 90 per cent of the time I will include in my list an item of clothing. In fact, I’m struggling to recall the last time a Christmas morning did ‘t involve a prolonged period before a mirror considering the success – or otherwise – of some newly given attire.
But this year when the question was asked, I paused. Not that I couldn’t think of anything; more because last February, in response to Rhythms’ #WearItOut campaign, I decided to go a whole year without buying brand new clothes. Through its collection of helpful ideas and informative articles, the campaign made me realise that clothing was an area in my life where I could live more simply and mindfully. Consequently, I made the decision to free myself for a time from the subtle pressures and temptations often involved in the consuming of clothes, and instead focus on what I have and take time to explore other alternatives.
I inwardly debated whether being given brand new clothes technically did not count as part of my resolution. It was a silly question. Of course it counted. Isn’t it amazing the holes we look for when trying to get out of something we don’t particularly like? Not that I have much reason to get out of this exercise, in fact.
Here are a few personal reflections:
The first observation I made was realising how often I wander into shops just to have a look, or fritter away the minutes at home looking for a bargain online. I suddenly found myself with what felt like a lot more free time. This wasn’t simply down to the task of avoiding shops and websites altogether – walking past the clothes section in supermarkets has never been so challenging – it was also the internal should I buy/should I not buy debate while walking, driving or doing something else. It has been very freeing, and as a consequence enabled me to be productive in other things.
Have you ever put your whole music library on shuffle while driving and realised that the songs you haven’t played in ages are surprisingly still good to listen to? If you’re anything like me, you then wonder why you are constantly on the lookout for new music. It feels a bit like that with clothes long buried in the deep recesses of my wardrobe. In light of my year-long resolution, I was determined to make more creative use out of what I already had. It has been rather enlightening to see just how far a tired-looking T-shirt can go in conjunction with other items.
The onset of winter led to the discovery that my stock of jumpers was both low in number and thin in substance. I needed a thick jumper. I tried a few charity shops and managed to find exactly what I was after. Later my Mum asked if I wanted any clothes my brother was giving away. Bingo! It does require more time and effort to explore other options, but the result can be pleasantly surprising and often less expensive. It’s also an opportunity to help others, like charity shops and family/friends/neighbours looking to have a clear-out.
In March this exercise will conclude. The enduring impact, I think, will echo my reaction to being asked what I would like for Christmas.
I will pause more.
I will pause to weigh up whether I’m getting the right balance between buying according to need and want. I will pause to reflect on whether I am devoting more time than necessary to buying new things. I will pause to consider how to make effective use out of what I already have. I will pause to explore what charity shops and community groups have available. I will pause to examine whether my wish for brand new is disguising a deeper longing. I will pause to find out if a £3 T-shirt is contributing to low wages for the person who made it. I will pause to think about how my struggle to find a winter jumper is a mere echo of the struggle many homeless people face every year.
Are you pausing, too?
This post is part of a series that our friends at Rhythms are writing on minimalism and ethical lifestyles.