Staging My Own Mutiny: Food Fail & Life as a Clothes Junkie

I was a big fat fail at the food fast.

As I write this post, I’m sipping on a chocolate chai and munching on my favorite coffee shop cookies. I ate the better part of a homemade carrot cake loaf this past week and demolished an entire box of Girl Scout cookies in one sitting on last Tuesday night.

Obviously, I have a sugar issue.

I did just fine eating what was in my cupboards for regular meals and keeping my grocery shopping to a minimum (spent less than $30 on groceries in two weeks). However, I found myself justifying soy chai tea lattes and hot cocoas late at night, claiming they are not desserts. I'd randomly end up munching on sugary mints at work and popping a few jellybeans in my mouth out of boredom or availability and not giving it a second thought.

I completely failed to give up that indulgence and direct that craving to spiritual matters.

My friend Kelsey is also participating in the 7 experiment with our women’s church group and said this about giving up food indulgences:

This week so far has been a reminder to be thankful, meet the challenge head on, and allow that uncomfortable space to be there. It’s okay to feel uncomfortable, and I need to figure out why I feel that way and why I need those things to satisfy me.

I didn’t allow for the uncomfortable space.

In fact, the minute I felt the slightest uncomfortable- I stuffed that space with something- sweet or not.
I think this is very telling.

I’m not done with food fasts.

In fact, I think this is something I should start practicing regularly- as a way to deal not only with my reliance on sweets as comfort, but also to allow that space to focus on what is causing  me to reach for those cookies instead of facing the real issues head on.

Although I failed to keep my fast promise, I think I learned a really valuable lesson here about where I’m weak and need to rely on Jesus and not the closest sugary treat to comfort me in times of stress.

This next 2 week section is on Clothes.

In the 7 experiment,  Jen counts all the things in her closet and arrives at a number: 327.
She says to estimate the amount of items we own and then count.

I figured I have about 350 items.

Then I set out to count.

And count.
And keep counting.

429 items. 41 pairs of shoes. 16 jackets.

Not including socks, underthings, a load of workout clothes in the dryer and a tub of summer clothes and sandals  I forgot were in the bottom of the closet.

Which means the final count is probably around 500.

That is enough items for me to wear something different every single day of the year.

I’m a little disgusted with me.

And to think I got rid of 3 tubs of clothes at the beginning of the year, haven’t bought a single thing and I STILL have 500 items?

Apparently, I have a little bit of a problem here.

Let’s explain how I got into this conundrum:

I love fashion
As long as I can remember- I have loved clothes. I've tried the latest fashions, invented my own fashion (my family will do well to remember my skater punk/hippy/goth phase in mid high school) and even dreamed of being a model one day. When I was 10 or so, I had this backlit lapdesk that I used to trace models onto and invent runway masterpieces. I had a purse collection at age 10 that could rival any adult.
And I’m not the only one in my family. Most Saturdays as child were spent shopping with my mom. We’d go to Target or the mall and wander around. I spent all my birthday money and Christmas money every year on clothes along with my siblings. For us- shopping and fashion were fun ways to spend time together. 

Looking pretty outside makes me feel pretty on the inside
I’m a firm believer in ‘if you look good, you feel good.’ I did a fitness challenge a couple years ago and when that was over I pretty much replaced my entire wardrobe. I went down a few pant sizes so I used that opportunity to buy things that made me feel good. And when I wear clothes that fit me well, I feel confident. And when I’m feeling confident, that positive vibe bleeds over into other aspects of my life. I perform better at work and I’m happier. Also, you know what happens when you wear fashionable and flattering clothing? People compliment you. That’s also an ego booster.

Shopping makes me happy
There were many a times that I decided to ‘treat’ myself after a bad week or bad breakup or just because it was Saturday and The Gap was having a 30% off sale. Something about buying something new makes me feel special. And what girl doesn’t love a new pair of kicks or a top for the weekend?

I’ve used each of these reasons to justify purchases. To tell myself it’s okay to charge a couple hundred dollars on new clothes because I ‘need’ them. Or that a new shirt here or there really 'isn't that much.' Or that I've 'worked hard for nice things' and that I 'deserve it.' 

Jen Hatmaker said something in the 7 experiment that sent me reeling:

Do you think of your income as a potential source to battle injustice or more like your personal blessing (and reward for working hard)?

I can't get that question out of my head. I realized all my reasons for owning 500+ clothing items didn't even matter. They are just excuses that allow me to self-indulge and look for affirmation in material things. And that money I felt justified in spending?

Let’s put a number on that.

Perhaps I spent, on average, $20 per item. That’s $10,000. Even more realistic, let’s say I spent $35 per item. That’s $17,500. That's enough money to buy a new car. 

Granted, I’m required by law to cover my body when I go to work and Midwestern winters require some extra layers. However, do I really need 4 camel colored skirts? 3 pairs of black dress pants? 15 pairs of jeans? Probably not.

Jen also says:

We enjoy rank and privilege globally; we are the apexes on the pyramid scheme. Acknowledged or not, this position creates an entitlement so entrenched, it is nearly impossible to even imagine we bear responsibility to the poor.

Ouch.The truth hurts.

How could that money I spent on clothes to ‘make myself feel good’ have been better used to ‘battle injustice’ in the world?

What am I trying to convey with my clothing? Am I seeking human affirmation for a spiritual matter?
And more so, how does what I’m wearing reflect my heart?

These are some questions I’m still working through over the next week. In the meantime, I picked the following fasts:
  • 1 pair of pants, 1 skirt, 1 pair of jeans and 1 pair of leggings for the 2 weeks. I have 2 professional jobs and some social events happening so limited to what was acceptable for those things.
  • No makeup except mascara and a little blush/bronzer combo.

Oddly enough, I made a goal this year to not buy any clothes and so far, it’s been pretty easy. I wake up and delete 15 emails from retailers offering me 15-30% off if ‘BUY NOW!’ and go on with my day. I haven’t felt an overwhelming urge to shop and honestly- feel more at peace not trying to always have the latest and greatest.
(Side-note: I accidentally bought one t-shirt from my new favorite yoga studio. I know, I know, how do you accidentally buy something? But I did. Said yes, dropped off my money and then a week later realized that although it wasn’t from an actual store- I still bought a clothing item. Sigh.)

We are one week into this and so far I don't mind having limited outfits. It’s been a lot easier than I thought. And just like Jen said…no one has noticed that I’ve worn the same skirt or pants for the past week. 
AND- I've already purged a Rubbermaid full of clothes and accessories I don't wear. 

I'm gearing up for purging during Possessions week!

Would you consider yourself a 'clothes junkie'? If you took the leap and counted your items, are you surprised about the number of items you own?