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. :)