Communal Identity and Acquisition

After five months of this, I still hang on to my clothes as though they're a part of me.

Remember the clothes I put in bags near the beginning of TME? (It Begins... Gradually.) I haven't missed those clothes, and when I have, I've gone through the bags and found whatever I was looking for. So in the recent move (from one part of Decatur, GA to another) I decided that no matter what, I was going to give those clothes away. I had originally planned to just deposit the bags at Goodwill or wherever, so I didn't have to see what I was giving away. I didn't trust myself not to keep pieces if I actually had to look at them.

I got to the drop box, and the damn bags wouldn't fit.

So I had to take out the clothes, a few pieces at a time, and cram them in the slot. I actually had to look away to stop myself from keeping stuff, even though I hadn't worn these clothes in over five months, and some items hadn't fit me since I was in undergrad. I was shocked by how sad I felt. I was afraid that at any moment, I was going to burst into tears.

Part of it is that I hang onto clothes that are too tight while telling myself that as soon as I lose weight, I'll wear them. Yeah, the only time in all my memory that I've lost weight was six months after I was laid off in NYC and was forced to move back to Tampa. Before I moved, I had to stretch all my food, so I ate a lot less. In fact, I didn't even realize I had lost weight until Mom commented. I didn't get to actually enjoy the weight loss either because to me, I looked the same-- and it had been achieved because I was in a really difficult place.

Gawd, I always made light of how sad and lonely it is when you realize that some clothes are never going to fit you again, to have to give up on the way you used to look. I didn't realize it would be this hard, and I feel terrible now for acting as though letting go of how easy it used to be to look... well... young... was a small thing that people should just get over. No wonder the weight loss industry makes so much money.

Giving stuff away is tremendously lonely. Shopping feels like building community, but stepping away from all that feels like I'm totally alone (even though I absolutely know I'm not, and I have the support of you all, too). I still need to give away a lot of items, because I don't actually want to have all this crap cluttering up my little apartment; I've tried to do it alone and I can't, so I'm going to call someone and have her come over to support me.

I don't think it's a coincidence that we find something we need-- community-- in acquisition. I'm not just talking about shopping, but about the way we identify with our possessions. I mean, we're conditioned day in and day out to equate our very souls and personalities with the things we buy and own (do you have an iPhone? Why? Is it because it works better than other phones, or because of how it makes you feel about yourself?). And sometimes making the decision to give these things away feels like seeing pieces of myself slide into a huge metal box, and I can barely watch. Again, Shane Claiborne:

"I know plenty of people, both rich and poor, who find themselves heavily burdened by the lifeless toil and consumption we put upon ourselves." - Irresistible Revolution

Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

It's also important to remember that these changes are not made in a spirit of, "Having stuff is evil because the world is a bad place," or "Wanting to look nice is selfish and wrong." The issue I have with the market economy is the ways in which true human needs are connected with things that are not only unnecessary, but actually hurt people, and the planet itself, in ways that just aren't worth the cost anymore.

In other words, I could go shopping with my girls to feel like I'm part of a cultural community (easy to spend money); I could go online and buy clothes that make me feel like I'm part of a trend (even easier); or, I could have my friends over for coffee, or make dinner with them. All of these fulfill a very real and irreducible need, but one costs me more, and the universe less. Do you know what I mean?

If after five months of self-denial in the service of letting go of my attachment to the way I look I still have trouble giving clothes away, what does that tell us about the strength of the forces I'm trying to free myself from?

Cause it really shouldn't have cost me that much just to give away a bunch of friggin clothing.


  1. Getting rid of clothes is super super super difficult. 3 years ago I helped my sister clean out her closet and even though she had asked for the tough love, it was extremely emotionally taxing. Especially the shoes, there were tears for the shoes.

    Good for you for pressing on and doing it!! Let no one call you a hypocrite, Lauren.

  2. Girl, you are coming over for dinner after you get back and I'm all moved in. We'll veg, cause the last time we vegged it was AWESOME.

    Miss you!!