7: Possessions, Days 1-4

Day One: Clothes

14 items found their way from my wardrobe to the Clothes Swap. A few of them nearly got stuffed quietly in a plastic bag to come home again, but I held my nerve. I also showed unprecedented restraint when faced with a room full of free clothes (not so much self control with the pink cava though). With Rach’s blessing, I took 6 items home but even these will face a final review before they get hanger space. Tough love: a whole new concept in my wardrobe.

Day 2:  DVDs

This is not really my department in our house. I think there are only about 3 movies that I would consider mine in our entire collection. So I attacked the kids’ stash and cast a critical eye over Jaybers’ (without consultation, a little rash perhaps?). Here is what’s up for grabs…

Bridget Jones’s diary

Election

Ultimate Yogalates

Genius of Britian – The Scientists who changed the world

Nigella Bites

(and 4 kids DVDs, but they were snapped up)

So, if you want them, let me know and we’ll find a way to get them to you. Otherwise, any suggestions, other than Charity shop?

Day Three: Books

Rachel Martin is putting together an event for World Book Night (23rd April) when we will celebrate all things bookish and she, as a designated book giver, will dispense free copies of Dodie Smith’s ‘I Capture the Castle’. This is the second year Rach has done this and it’s a great way to get together all the various book lovers and book club members in our community. Last year we had a table for book swapping, so I am saving the books that I have purged from our shelves (again, minus consultation, oops) to get them into the hands of some avid readers in April.

Day Four: Toys

I am a women possessed, and have become stealthy in a bid to avoid any opposition (tears, tantrums, begging and the like) to my downsizing. This category had no chance of being constrained by the number ‘7’ and 2 large bags came with me to Mother and Toddlers today, set out under a sign saying, ‘Free to a good home’.  The few bits that were left will be taken over to Women’s Aid along with other things from this week. These will go directly to women and their kids who have had to leave home as a result of domestic abuse, often with only the clothes they are standing up in. Women’s Aid offers them a safe place to live for as long as they need it and then helps them find and set up a new home away from their abuser. So that’s where I will also be taking day 5’s Kitchen equipment and day 6’s linens and towels.

It’s not looking good for Day 7; decorative items. I’m not a nick-nacky person and so anything decorative that does make it into the house is dearly loved. Could I donate a child instead, do you think?

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Week Three: Possessions

This week is fairly self-explanatory and goes to the heart of what ‘7’ is about – the excess of ‘stuff’ in our lives. It is also a nice change in gear from denial (food and clothes weeks) to generosity as we will not just be decreasing our ‘stuff’ this week, but hopefully finding it a recipient who may need it. Each day this week we will be giving away 7 items, with a different category of giving each day: clothing, books, music and film, kitchen equipment, linens and blankets, kids’ toys, decorative items. This stuff should be worth passing on and I’m expecting that some of these 49 things will be difficult to part with. I’d also really like to have some of the items go directly to a person we know has a need for it. In other words this is not the week when I take bag loads of crap to my local charity shops.

William Morris once said,

‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful’

This will be the mantra as I delve into cupboards, wardrobes, bookshelves and toy boxes this week. It is these places that will tell me what kind of consumer I have been. Jen Hatmaker talks about, ‘thoughtless, default consumerism: see it, like it, buy it’ and I know even before I start opening closets and drawers that this defines a lot of my shopping.

Probably my worst area for this kind of consumption, and today’s category, is clothes. If it is cheap, fits and looks halfway decent on me then home it comes. There may be a 10 second justification in there somewhere if I already have something like it/don’t really love it/have nothing that goes with it. This usually smooths things over and ensures that said item gets bought, worn once and then retired to a dark, smelly corner of the wardrobe.

By happy coincidence, tonight is Clothes Swop Night. Rachel and I have invited all the women from our community to come with their cast-offs to her house where we can have some wine, craic and a marathon trying on session of each others clothes. This is a great way to re-invigorate our wardrobes without consuming and has the bonus of being environmentally friendly. I will, however be reigning myself in. This week is not about giving things away to create space for more. The aim is simplicity and so, ‘Do I really need it?’,  will be following me round the piles of clothes tonight. Rach, you can cross-examine and search my bags on the way home, ok? I need all the help I can get when faced with mountains of free clothes, especially if fueled with wine.

7: Clothes, the end

College assignments and sleepless have dominated the past few days, (as has the newly discovered Friday Night Lights box set, so good), and also, to be honest, clothes week has just been a bit….fnuh. It wasn’t awful, just dull. I like the whole process of deciding what I feel like wearing and earrings just make me happy. For a Clothes fast to really start to hit home, I think I would need to go hardcore and, like Jen Hatmaker did in ‘7’, only wear 7 items for a full month. I’m guessing by the end of that month my issues with clothing would really start to rear their ugly heads. But there have been whispers and hints, little questions in the back of my mind that probably could do with some attention. Like, why do you think about who you are going to see in the day when deciding what to wear? Or, why, on a college day, do you think about the outfits you’ve worn in the past few weeks in class before dressing? Hmmmm, who I am dressing for?

There was another, unexpected, side-effect to this week. I had picked up a couple of Women’s mags in the charity shop a few days ago. Juju went down for a nap and I installed myself with a cuppa and a blanket in my favourite chair. Bliss. I don’t really read these kind of mags, simply because they are pretty pricey and I get a good dose of them when I am in the hairdressers, but I enjoy a wee flick. They are both marketed at women like me, with my social background and means and I was really stunned, as I turned the glossy pages, at what I was being sold. Every single article, advert and feature was pitching me a lifestyle way beyond my means and I would guess, the means of about 90% of it’s readers. The fashion spread had dresses at 4oo pounds, coats at 1000, jewellery in the hundreds. Lifetsyle features were in the houses of the rich and D-list famous, ‘getaways’ to far flung parts and cosmetics pages were all about how to keep up with celebrity make up styles. I guess I realised that the purpose of this magazine was to create either discontent or greed within me. To go after what I don’t have or feel worse about what I do. Later in the day, we read these words in home group,

 What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Matthew 6

But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 1 Timothy

I need to hear these words of life, of realignment. The magazines and the thousands of adverts I see every day dangle their bright and shiny things in front of me and, more often than not, I buy into their version of the kind of life I should have, the kinds of things I should own. And I do it at the expense of contentment and thankfulness.

I’m not sure I would have had that reaction, even a few weeks ago, to the magazines. In entering the slightly unhinged world of ‘7’, I am being prodded awake. Or maybe I am weaning myself off the Kool Aid.

7:Clothes, Day Three

This….

…was what I chose for my remaining 2 items. Cosy, comfy and appeases Jayber as he is going through a ‘I-like-you-in-red-phase’. This is progress. He has finally learnt the importance of having an opinion about what I wear.

Again, enjoyed this morning the speed at which I was able to get ready for church. The jumper is new (Benetton 70% sale, oh yeah) so that helped offset the fact that I was not quite as dressy for church as usual. Our church is very casual, but on Sundays I enjoy putting on some clothes that I wouldn’t ordinarily wear for the school run/ doing laundry/cleaning  bathrooms. Sabbath is about rest and play and I like the festive-ness of dressing up for it.

Labour Behind the Label don’t have any info on Benetton, so I headed over to ethicalconsumer.org who have now totally confused me. They use a different set of criteria to judge how ethical a comany is. Whereas LBL focus on the impact on the workers, ethical consumer takes the environment, animals, people, product sustainability and politics into consideration before working out a score. The more you look into these areas of ethics the more confusing and complicated it can get. I just want someone to tell me where to/where not to shop. Ethicalconsumer may well be able to do that but they would like to charge me 30quid per year for the information, which sucks.

On the upside, they weren’t so scathing about Gap, who must vindicate themselves in other ethical areas.

The skinny jeans live on.

p.s Paul has put the text of his sermon on generosity and giving up on his blog.

7: Clothes week, Day Two

I must be getting into this, I haven’t even gone for option 2 yet.

Rach and I have persuaded our home group to join us on this Lenten journey through 7, but obviously we are not expecting everyone to do the hardcore version. Here are some things that other people are doing in Clothes Week:

  • Wearing clothes from a specific country for one day and praying for that country.
  • No make-up (not a chance)
  • Making an item of clothing
  • Taking note, for the week, of the clothes they actually wear and downsizing their wardrobes accordingly
  • Finding out how ethical their favourite clothing brand is

 

We are hoping to have a Clothes Swop Night this Friday. We’ll be asking our female friends to hunt through their wardrobes and bring their lightly worn cast-offs to swop and share with each other. Rach ran an event like this a few years ago as part of Sandelfest and it was a really fun night which had us all leaving with new treasures.

So if you are up round these parts this Friday at 8pm, bring your wardrobe plunder and come and join us for some wine and new threads.

7: Clothes, Day One

And the winner is….

Outfit A

 
This won the poll hands down, the rest were a draw – except the denim maxi pinafore, on your own there Jayber. So with 2 items left in the bank, I’ll see what I feel like tomorrow.
Obviously this week will be a bit different to the experience of restricted food – I think it will only be towards the end of the week that I will really begin to get fed up. At least in food week I could make up ever increasing ways to serve eggs and bacon, where as this week there is no room for manouvre. Having said that, this morning I was both marvelling at how easy it was to get ready and grieving my bare ears. I fought hard to get those ears pierced – my sister had to wait until she was 14, but all my friends were getting theirs done when we turned 12 and it felt like the great injustice of our time. So I rallied the troops and got everyone I knew to sign a petition which I presented to my parents. The people had spoken, what else could they do but cave. I spent the next few years wearing the most outlandish earrings I could find, (some homemade from Fimo, yikes). We recently unearthed a small sample of them from the attic and they are truly shocking – perhaps my parents let me out in them as a way of getting their own back….
 
Anyway, clothes. This week could go in a few different directions. For all my chat about the things I love about clothes and dressing, there is definitely a shadow side to my relationship with them. Vanity, competitiveness, social pressure and greed can all rear their ugly head in this area of my life. Clothes is also another topic where beyond the till, behind the label, a great deal of injustice and abuse can hide. So, for each of my items I’ll be looking into where it really came from and how ethical the company is who sold it to me.
 
This will come up again in ‘7’, but I confess I am a compulsive bargain hunter. I deeply resent paying full price for anything and at this time of year I can sniff out a 70% sale at 50 paces.( I was recently seen doing daily laps of our town’s one-way system, simply to be first through the door when Benetton finally switched their Sale sign from 50 to 70%). Most of my clothes come from Gap, Benetton, H&M or Zara because their sales are so good. 
 
Labour behind the label are a charity who campaign for the rights of garment workers all over the world. They challenge clothing companies to provide better working conditions and a living wage for their workers and, through their campaign Let’s Clean Up Fashion, ask companies to submit evidence to support their ‘ethical’ claims. They score each company and I was gutted to find that Gap, who made my skinny jeans (and half my wardrobe), scored ONE out a possible five. Here’s what they have to say,
‘ For several years GAP was one of the companies leading the way in innovative, thoughtful programmes to address serious workers’ rights issues, including wages. It has now decided to revert to getting suppliers to ‘self regulate’ and ‘avoid audit fatigue.’ Its move away from active engagement with ethical issues back towards compliance is bad news for workers, who are unlikely to see any kind of gains from such an approach.’
 
Pretty grim. I thought Gap was one of the good guys. ‘7’ is all about putting your money where your mouth is so I have e-mailed Gap to register my disappointment and and give them some feedback. If you’re interested, the e-mail is here.
 
 

Week Two: Clothes

For the next seven days I will be restricting my wardrobe to 7 items. No jewellery, no accessories. A coat is one choice and 2 pairs of shoes count as another choice. Which leaves me 5 items to survive a week on (jammies and undies don’t count, phew). I am not a career woman currently so all I have to do is please myself. Easy right? You’re thinking jogging bottoms, a hoodie, a t-shirt – big deal. Except me and clothes have come a long way, and I think I’m going to find this a bit tricky.

In my teens, most of my clothes were either dodgy charity shop buys or stolen from my older sister’s wardrobe. She had pretty good taste and they were inherently cool because a) she was older and b) I hadn’t asked. It was even better when she headed off to uni, leaving at least half her wardrobe at home vulnerable and unprotected. But when I headed off to Uni I ended up spending most of my days either on a bike or disrobing in practical classes (I studied physio, you just learnt to buy better underwear)- there was no point in dressing up or making an effort. Work life meant navy trousers and a tunic, and when I left work to enter the world of motherhood, the item with the least poo or puke on it won. So, after my third child was past the pukey stage, I sort of decided to start dressing for me. I wanted to find my confidence in choosing and accessorising clothes and in some ways dressing was stealing back something of myself that was getting drowned out as a stay-at-home-mum.

I love both the femininity and the creativity of dressing. I am not a fashion queen by any stretch, vaguely contempory will do fine thanks, but I get a kick out of the art of putting an outfit together. It’s all about the earrings,the scarves and the belts, people. Which is why dressing simply this week will be a bit of a challenge.  Since we started thinking about ‘7’ a few weeks ago, this has been the week occupying my mind most. I keep just opening my wardrobe and staring, trying to make those 5 items magic themselves into 5 outfits. It isn’t happening.

So, here’s where I need some help. I have narrowed it down to a few different outfits and I’d like some assistance with the final cut.

Outfit A

Outfit B

 
 
Outfit A:
Pink and blue stripy shirt, navy v-neck, skinny jeans
 
 
 
Outfit B: Leggings and red jumper. 2 items
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Option C

 
Option C: Denim maxi pinafore with navy crewneck. 2 items. This is where it starts to get tricky – looks a bit Amish without neckerchief and dangly earrings…
 
 
 
 
Option D: Shirt, grey cardi and skinny jeans. 3 items. Except, does the belt count?

Option D

 

Option E

 
 
 
Option E:  Grey pincord dress with aubergine cardi. Again, cries out for scarf and earrings..
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Vote below for your top pick. And do it quick – some of these look like they need a good iron before tomorrow!
 

7: Food, Day Six

Tomorrow will be taken up with thinking about week two and The Great Clothes Dilemma, so this will be my last post on Food.

There were 40+ eggs put away in one form or other this week by Jayber and I and neither of us will want to see an apple again for some time. I was hungrier than I thought I’d be but, on the other hand, meal time planning became very easy and I definitely didn’t spend as much time thinking about what I feel like eating.

I think the take-aways for me this week, (ah, a take away would be nice), are:

  • that I am incredibly priveledged to have the power to eat whatever I fancy, whenever I fancy it. The variety of foods available to me as a first world consumer is staggering and I am really aware that that is not how the majority of the world lives. In the words of Spiderman (well, all truth is God’s truth, right?), ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ and I am really challenged to use the power I have as a consumer of food wisely. I shop like food appears by magic in the supermarket – the reality is that everytime I put something in my trolley I am influencing the lives and the land of the people who produced it, for better or worse.
  • to set aside time to feast, with really good food and treats each week. In order to make this meaningful and a proper celebration, I need to curb my appetites a bit the rest of the week and not reach for food thoughtlessly or as entertainment or comfort.

It really helps to be doing this experiment in the context of community. We got a chance tonight at home group to all share our experiences of this week and how we think God is challenging us to think differently about food. So if you are crazy enough to be considering having a go at ‘7’, find a few people who you can plan with, moan to and exchange thoughts with.

Kudos to Jayber, a whole week without caffeine. Starbucks Coleraine has issued profit warnings and I’m bracing myself for a hyper husband on Friday, but what a trooper, eh?