Saturday, June 23, 2007

Regarding Raiment

Six months they will be on the road. Living in a bus and sleeping in a new place nearly every night would seem to be discomfiting to these kids, yet they were the happiest, most well-adjusted children I have ever met. Ugandan orphans who travel the world singing and raising the money that supports them, they are on tour for six months at a time, with no more belongings than what they can carry on their backs. The Watoto kids that stayed with us last Fall taught me much about traveling light.

The contents of their backpacks consisted of three outfits, three underwear, three pair of socks, one pair of pajamas, a toothbrush, a comb, and a bandanna. That's it. For six months. My first reaction was that of disbelief. How could they possibly live that way? What if their clothes got dirty? What if they lost a button? Didn't they ever have grape juice incidents?

But as I watched their lifestyle, I was enamored. People. Ministry. Laughter. Singing. This is the stuff of such a simplified life. They washed and dried their clothes every night. They had a stain stick and a sewing kit. Simple. No backed-up laundry, no "What-do-I-wear-today?", no unmatched socks, no stress. I wasn't sure at the time what Father was going to do in me with this revelation, but I think I am discovering it now.

Having many months to ponder this and experience the contradiction in our lifestyles, the lessons in it finally took root in the form of embarking on revamping our family's clothing plan. I have already had much success in the area of the children's clothes. We keep five play outfits, two "good" outfits for public wear, and two church outfits. Doing laundry every day (a necessity in this size family) makes it easier to have fewer clothes. It also means that our favorites (which is all we ever end up wearing anyways) are always clean.

Since the main determining factor for clothing choices is lifestyle, we started by assessing what it is we need to accomplish in life. Starting with activities in which we are already involved skips a major step. Who is to say but that the things we are already doing may not need to be changed or eliminated? So we begin at the beginning: what activities does our Father want us to be doing?

What do we need to do in a day? A week? Anything that we need specific clothing for once a month or less, makes me question whether we need either to do it at all or at least need special clothing for it. (Which would explain why my bridesmaid dress from my brother's wedding is on eBay.)

Based on my lifestyle, I need only a few types of clothes. I work at home doing housework and teaching the children, I sometimes do really yucky work like farm chores or painting, I exercise, I go to church, and I occasionally go into town for business or social activities. All of those work themselves into three categories of clothing needs: Everyday, A-Little-Nicer-Than-Everyday, and Downright Grungy. Those three categories could not possibly require as many clothes as I currently own.

I have rewritten this post several times, explaining what types and amounts of clothing I have, only to determine that you do not need to know. I know that my initial reaction to reading information like that would be to compare myself, and judge myself poorly or favorably according to whether I am entering into pride or condemnation. I don't want you to do that. My desire instead, is to get you thinking...the same as the Ugandan children did for me.

How much time have I wasted standing in the closet, trying on outfit after outfit, attempting to decide what to wear (and how much have I frustrated Mr. Visionary in the process)? I know folks like to joke about how many clothes and shoes women have, but is it really funny? In light of eternal matters, can I continue to justify the amount of time and money that has heretofore been spent on clothes in my life? How much money have I spent on clothes that were a dumb choice in the first place? Worse yet, how many clothes did I buy because the ones we had just 'were not in style' any more? How many choices were made for no other reason than vanity? Fear of Man? Pride? How much time have I wasted finding a favorite shirt in the midst of ten perfectly fine ones?

Carla has taught me to not just notice the answers to questions like this, but to grieve, and allow that grief to do a deep and heart-changing work. My noticing how shameful my answers are is a beginning, but the next step, my repentance, is the true means of grace that the Holy Spirit will use to change me.

Do not hear what I am not saying. I am not saying it isn't important to care about our appearance, what I am saying is that we need to be honest about our motivation. I need to be honest about my motivation. I realize how easy it is to get caught up in the world's mentality about clothing and appearance. It screams that our worth is tied to our appearance. Yet, just because a lie is loud or unrelenting doesn't make it true. Getting free from that lie is a key to simplifying our wardrobes...and there is something about that kind of freedom that just invigorates a person.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on how you have been able to simplify clothing, or how you are feeling led in this area. Iron sharpens iron, and heading into a season of being world travelers and living out of suitcases...I can use all the help I can get.


Mr. Visionary took the picture and held the baby! He's multi-talented. :)


  1. My mom had less clothing then that when she was raised in an Irish orphanage, it's amazing how little a person actually 'needs'.

    Mom had to wash her under cloths/socks every night and hang them to dry for the next day. She had one everyday dress, and one good dress.

    they were allowed 1 egg a week, porridge everyday, milk -- which my mom is allergic to but had to drink anyway.

    I wish to thank you on your recent posts on ridding yourself of unnecessary stuff, they have been very inspirational.

  2. I couldn't agree more with this post! I remember when I was in college. I would buy 2 pairs of jeans in the fall, cut them off in the summer, and wear free t-shirts/sweatshirts. One pair of new tennis shoes and one pair of sandals per year and I was set.
    We do own more outfits than you do because we air dry all our clothes year-round, and in the winter it can take 2-3 days for heavier clothes to dry.
    There used to be a PBS show with a guy named Steve who traveled throughout Europe. On one show, he showed the viewers how he packs for trips lasting over one month. One pair of dress pants, one nice shirt, 2 shorts, 2 tshirts. He only bought clothes that would quickly air dry, and he would wash that day's outfit in a sink at night and let it air dry overnight. He carried everything he needed for over a month in one backpack. It really is all you need.
    My daughters went on a church mission trip last week to NC. They were primarily assisting at a food bank. The food bank got food that restaurants and grocery stores were going to throw out. The kids had to spend time sorting through mishaped sweet potatoes to cull out any usable ones. Most of the sweet potatoes were maggot covered, and of course the smell was horrendous, but there were usable, good sweet potatoes somewhere in the piles. I think it is the same with clothes: how many people have a closet full of clothes, most of which they never wear, and how many needy people out there really need those clothes that are just gathering dust and dry rotting? Why are we hoarding things we don't need?

  3. This exact topic was on my mind this weekend and I intended to blog on it! I still will :)

    Whenever we travel, I take only three outfits per person. One to wear, one to wash and one in case the washing takes longer than overnight! I also mostly do pants, t-shirt and 2 sweaters in case it is cold. If I pack dresses for my daughter it takes even less space :)

    After we have finished travelling, we get back into the nightmare of too many clothes and getting behind on the washing. I keep trying to get more organized with having less clothes. I don't buy many clothes, mostly they get given to us, and I don't like to say no! What I need to do is take what I need and pass on the rest. If we can live with only three sets of clothes when we travel, then surely we could live with 5 or 6 when we are not...??!!!

    Any questions you have on traveling with the family, feel free to email me. I've lived in 7 different countries with my family, including two when I was the mother :)



  4. Thank you, Julie.

    How did you know I was in my basement today, going through our things YET again, discovering even MORE that we can do without?

    I DO appreciate your sharing what the Ugandan children had in their backpacks. It is startling - but clear - that they were fine and happy and had what they needed.

    I have heard of other large families who pared their closets down to slim basics - and at first, I found it unthinkable. The longer I go, and the more children I have (which actually shouldn't really figure into the equation!) the less I want to keep. I think it has less to do with the amount of people in the house, and more with seeing what really brings meaning to life (which having children has helped me to understand.) I also appreciate your correlation with realizing where we find worth. That's a hard lesson for modern America (me included) to realize.

    I *think* I am finally doing pretty well with the clothing - but I am still kind of boggled on the sheets/blankets/towels thing. Some times, it seems we go through them like crazy (depending upon which children still wet the bed!) and others not at all.

    Ah, it's all good. I'm enjoying the growing up process as the Lord leads us along. I'm enjoying finding worth in things that the world says aren't worth much - and in finding delight in small things. My world seems so much richer with less in it. It's easier to focus, easier to accomplish.

    In the end - it's all just "stuff" anyway. Material junk that has no eternal value. It will be cast aside for such as it is. Thank you for the refocus!

    (Now, doggone it, tell me about this new adventure you are going on!) :) (Or can you do that?)

  5. Me too. The shuffling stuff part.

  6. Hi, I just hopped over from Holly's place. I like what you're saying but I'm curious what the game plan would be for fluctuating clothing sizes - like for a woman in childbearing years. Also, most of my kids clothes are hand-me-downs that I keep sorted by size and stored in the basement. Is there a way, do you think, to keep that stuff to a minimum? Thank you for the ideas. I think they're great.

  7. oldpathsfamilyfarmJune 25, 2007 at 6:31 PM

    You know, this is something I haven't quite figured out yet - the childbearing years clothes. I have been pregnant or nursing or both for 13 years straight, so it matters! I did have a girlfriend who went through a whole pregnancy with ONE pair of leggings and only wore her hubby's shirts the whole time. I don't think I could quite pull that off, but there has to be something better than the two huge boxes of maternity clothes I have still in the attic.

    I will be digging into this question some more though, and I will post if I come up with something. Let me know if you do, too!

    About the kids clothes, I have determined to keep only the stuff that isn't easily replaceable, like modest girls' dresses and nightgowns. I have three 'sets' of kids: big girls, boys, and little girls. I do not save the big girl clothes for the littles, because there is a 7 year gap between them. I save more boy stuff because they are so close in age, though. I still try to keep what I save down to the five outfits, and a little something for church.

    I hope this helps!

  8. Thanks for sharing this picture Julie. I love all these beautiful smiling faces together. I'd love to share my thoughts on simplifying clothing with you, but you are the one motivating me! Thank you so very much.
    It looks like you have a simplified schedule as well. I appreciated your post from last summer I believe, about Vacation Bible school.(gasp!) We haven't done that either in a few years. I'm so glad I'm not the only one! It also helps to know that you're not running from Brownies to Soccer, to piano lessons and it's okay to just stay home with you kids. If you feel up to it,...if you have time...could you share with us your thoughts and feelings about that? Getting out of THAT rat race as well and how your kids are just fine with it? Tell me it's really okay to not have our kids in activities that seperate us as a family. On the five in a row boards, there was a question asked if anyone had been homeschooled. One of the ladies got her husband to post since he was homeschooled. He did well as a homeschooler(with four sibblings) and really enjoyed it but said he wished he could have been more involved in organized sports. But if that's the only negative to being homeschooled then that says a lot. I'm not doubting whether I should be homeschooling. I just feel grief about not getting my kids to do all these lessons and things that cousins are doing. Both my sil's have their daughters in dance five days a week.(one of them told me her 8yo goes 7!) And just got back from "Nationals" with the big trophies again. They ask what my kids are interested in. I'm rambling on your blog. Sorry. I also want to apologize to Mr. Visionary for thinking he looked a little dazed from the whirlwind of decluttering he had just been in. When in fact, he was hard at work at the office!Or it could have just been the "buzz around him". :) Sorry Julie's husband!
    Also, doggone it! I want to know about this adventure too! You've posted just a little bit, and I'm wondering when you'll be taking off. Oh, I hope you don't declutter your computer! :( Many certainly are one to your readers. :)

  9. OH...and I think I can now convince one of my daugthers to throw away her hardly ever played with Strawberry Shortcake that she wouldn't part with the other day...hopefully! One down, a thousand more to go. NO, it's not that bad...we really did get rid of four big garbage bags of toys a few days ago. This is no easy process!

  10. Yes, indeed. I too have been feeling the need to re-evaluate. I'm getting down to the necessities, but boy it takes a long time. Part of what I am going to do to condense is make my own dresses, which will accommodate three phases of my life which occur with some regularity: 1. non pregnant, 2. pregnant and 3. nursing... i have practically three wardrobes, if I just had some functional dresses, I could cut down to ONE wardrobe. YES! So, that is my goal, but it is taking some time, as I am not an especially gifted seamstress, in fact one might term me a beginner! lol plus for the last few months my machine has been packed away. Delays... well, onward!

    Thanks for the post.

    Mrs. Meg Logan

  11. For several years we have in the midst of shifting families--my parents divorced and remarried, several elderly family members died, and a thrift shop also moved in down the road. We have had a constant influx of stuff, including clothes, in that time. I am
    learning that I only need to hold onto the very favorite things from any given season because I gravitate towards the thrift shop when I am out, I sew for fun-reusing old embroidered sheets, doilies, pilow cases, and the kids and I all change our "favorites" with each season so keeping the other stuff doesn't make much sense.

    Every year or so the Lord gives me a "get rid of half of everything" time which is such a blessing. I am also noticing that what fit last year for me, doesn't the next as my body shifts so I am trying to store away only the favorites and get rid of the rest. The Lord has been showing me that I don't need to horde things because He will provide when they are needed.

    The only thing I really hold onto is the next size of each season of jacket (our weather is unpredictable and ranges from -2 F to 99 F over a year--so I do have to keep a variety of seasons on hand.)

    BTW--this post was VERY timely--we are about to have a hue yard sale to liquidate my grandfather's estate this weekend and I was thinking I needed to go through and get rid of clothes--the Lord used this to prompt me to go and do it--3 large black garbage bags now await.

  12. oldpathsfamilyfarmJune 27, 2007 at 7:06 AM

    I think I will tackle this question. Let me take a couple of days to gather my thoughts, and then I'll share some of our thoughts about maneuvering THAT rat race.

    Don't worry about Mr. Visionary...he's personally offended by nothing!

    I'll also try to share what I am able about the "adventure" Father is leading us toward.

    You're IS no easy process. But it is necessary...and He gently leads us.


    I have often thought that would be a great idea! Well, that, or just live in tent-style jumpers with large armholes for nursing. Then fifty pounds either way, pregnant or not, would make little difference. Convincing Mr. Visionary that it was a good look for me would be the hard part. :)

    I always thought that if we still DID have to sew all our clothes, it would make this whole issue of wardrobe a LOT easier. Suddenly it would be much easier to have three outfits than to have to sew more.

    Yes! We could just use the black T and the black long-sleeved shirt under the tent dresses! Hey...wardrobe problems solved. LOL

    You said, **The Lord has been showing me that I don’t need to horde things because He will provide when they are needed.**

    THAT has been the hardest thing for me during all of this. Seeing exactly how far I have to grow to truly trust Father. The *stuff* has just been the instrument He has used to show me.

    I hope the yard Sale goes well! We are having one on Sunday as well!

  13. I really enjoy this post. I have been thinking of getting down to 5 or so outfits for my boys and getting rid of the hand-me-down idea. What I am really struggling with is what to do with the clothing we don't need anymore. Specifically, if it is stained but otherwise in good condition. Any ideas? I am not sure which organization could use them and don't want to waste their time if they will just throw them out (I can do that).

  14. oldpathsfamilyfarmJune 28, 2007 at 5:57 PM

    I struggle with the same question. I'd do either of two things: find another Mommy who can use them for farm or play clothes, or see if your church (or a parachurch organization)has any ministries that can use them, since after natural disasters or in third world countries, those things don't matter. I'm sorry I don't have any specific ideas. If you find some, let us know! :)


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