“The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry; the coat unused in your closet belongs to the one who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the one who has no shoes; the money which you hoard up belongs to the poor.” (source)
This is a quote from Basil the Great that I’ve been thinking about lately, specifically in the clothing area. I have so many clothes that I don’t like or don’t fit properly; why don’t I give them away?
This quote, paired with a minimalist-style desire for less “stuff” in my life, led to the ultimate overhaul of my entire wardrobe.
As I was sorting things, I was having a philosophical discussion with myself (as often happens when I’m home alone; the cat is not much of a converaationalist). Here’s one point I discussed:
Why do we give less fortunate people our junk?
The initial answer seems obvious: they don’t have much, so they’ll be grateful for whatever we give them. But what kind of attitude is that… as if the invisible “they” don’t know any better and don’t realize they’re getting our junk?
Now, let me add that I come from a very secondhand and third hand family… we love Goodwill and thrift stores, and about 90% of my clothing is already secondhand. I’m not a stylish gal. But! We as a community of privileged need to change our attitude.
There were several times I caught myself holding back on donating a dress or pair of shoes… “I paid a lot of money for that! I should hang on to it!” …even though it doesn’t fit and I haven’t worn it in 3 years.
Why should I keep that dress from those who are less fortunate? They are humans just like me and deserve nice things for nice occasions- maybe a wedding or funeral dress? …Does it even matter?
A second excuse I used for keeping clothing was this: “Second-Cousin-Once-Removed-Euphronia-Fitzherbert gave me that top. I should hang on to it.”
The real question I should ask is this: would sweet little Mrs. Fitzherbert be offended if that shirt was given away and worn by someone who needs it multiple times a month (or week!), or would she prefer that it hangs in the closet for another 2 years until I decide that a lime green turtleneck just isn’t going to come back in style?
I had to break the hearts of a few distant and not-so-distant relatives today, but they are no worse off for not knowing and I can clear my conscience. Just don’t tell my family!…
Altogether, I got rid of 5 bags of clothing! Five!! I intend to take them by our local thrift store in the next day or so. It’s been over 2 years since I pared down my wardrobe to the things I like and I still will wear, and boy, does it feel good to be free of all that excess!
And thus ends a lesson in combating greed and pride for the sake of the needy people of my community.
What are you holding on to that a neighbor needs? Extra food? An old pair of shoes? Excess spending money?
Where are you being challenged to surrender your wants in order to help the needs of another?