Tomorrow is the last day of clothes month – and I have to admit I am really looking forward to having access to all my clothes again!
In truth, it hasn’t been as hard as I thought it would be. The weather has been kind to me – and I’ve been so busy at work that I haven’t even really had time to get frustrated by my extremely limited leisure wardrobe. So, what have I really learned?
Well, I suppose maybe the most important thing is that I learned I really don’t NEED all the clothes I have. I mean, I already knew that. As I’ve already said, I have plenty of clothes (and no, I haven’t found the leisure time this month to count the number of items – trust me!) What I’ve really learned is that wearing more or less the same thing every day for a month hasn’t really affected anything important: nobody treated me any differently, it didn’t stop me from doing anything. There were some occasions when I felt a bit uncomfortable – but actually confronting that (and realising that it didn’t matter what I was wearing) has made me feel a bit more self-confident.
Of course, it could be that people have kept their thoughts to themselves – or shared them out of my hearing (like the comments about a guy who turned up to a business meeting today in his cycling gear). But it doesn’t really matter, does it? I didn’t change the way I spoke to the guy; what he was wearing didn’t affect his ability to contribute to the meeting. I know this is obvious…but I think it’s something I needed to be reminded about.
Secondly, I’ve learned a lesson in gratitude. I’m very lucky that at the end of tomorrow I can open my wardrobe doors and have all that choice all over again. It’s only clothes – but they are symbolic of a hugely privileged life. If I need a coat this weekend, I have at least half a dozen to choose from (and that’s even after I gave six or seven away to charity last year because they were too big for me). I can’t help but think of those that don’t have even one – or those that have to stick with the one they do have, regardless of whether it’s too big, too small, too old-fashioned, too worn out…
I can’t really pretend that clothes month has given me more than a tiny insight into a single aspect of what it might be like to be without all the ‘basics’. But it’s made me stop to think just a little more about what it might be like to be a refugee, with nothing more than the clothes I stand up in, or what I can carry.
It’s given me a new appreciation of why I’ve read in so many places about the need to provide the homeless with shoes and socks: if you’re on your feet all day, wearing the same shoes day after day means they don’t last long.
It’s made me think of what it’s like to feel uncomfortable and out of place. I was lucky in that I didn’t experience that first hand: my limited wardrobe still allowed me to fit in. But I’ve written before about school uniforms, and I know how children and young people can often feel ostracised because they don’t have the ‘right’ labels. It’s not justified, but it happens.
We all know a book shouldn’t be judged by its cover, but I’ve heard the criticism dished out by employers when someone turns up for a job interview ‘unsuitably dressed’. Sometimes that is about personal choice and sense of style (and I have seen some interesting choices!) – but sometimes it’s because the jobseeker doesn’t have anything else…or has never learned the ‘rules’ about how to dress in the workplace. I think organisations such as SmartWorks have an important role in helping people overcome this barrier – and if any readers know of a locally based charity doing similar work, please let me know. I’d love to get involved.
I’m going to finish off this month of Simplify 7 by identifying at least 7 items from my wardrobe to donate to charity. It’s a small gesture – just a little thank you in recognition for all that I have. Normally, I stick unwanted items in a bag and leave them out on collection day. This time, I can’t help feel it would be nice to know where my clothes were ending up – and not just stock in a charity shop. I’m exploring local options now – but if any readers have any suggestions, please let me know!