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Done Shopping

Done Shopping

I thought I needed a new sweater, but what I really needed was a new outlook.

by

Having recently left a longtime job and returned to freelance work, I felt I needed some new outfits for meeting all those new editors I'd be hitting up for jobs. After all, I couldn't stop spending now, or I would feel poor and deprived.

But a look at my chaotic closets told me I'd better clean them up before I tried to add any more items. It was the usual jumble -- summer and winter clothes thrown together, fancy and casual clothes in the same place. Impossible to find anything.

So I conducted a major closet reorganizing campaign. I filled a huge bag for our local social-services group, Helpline, with everything that was hopelessly out of style, too small, or that I hadn't worn in a long time. Then I put all the skirts in one place, all the sweaters in one place, all the T-shirts in one place. The result really blew my mind.

I was thinking I needed a new sweater, but my newly clean closets held two solid racks of sweaters!

I discovered I have sweaters in three shades of purple and three shades of pink, in white, black, even speckled black-and-white. I have lightweight sweaters, heavy wool sweaters, knee-length sweaters, pullovers, cable-knit, button-up, and zip-front styles.

How could I have thought I needed a new sweater? I realized what I really needed was a new outlook.

Buying new clothes was an attempt to make me feel happier about myself and my life. But with my thoughts properly organized, I saw that my life, just like my closet, was already full!

I have a wonderful husband of nearly 25 years, three children, friends, fulfilling work, a beautiful home in a safe neighborhood. So many people are without each of these things. Sure, I have the usual worries about money and health and the future. But why, overall, couldn't I be simply happy with what I have?

I had to wonder: were new clothes solving a problem by lifting my spirits? Or was the endless need for new clothes a symptom of my own lack of appreciation of how much I already have -- and my lack of acceptance for the standard of living God has selected as right for me?

My self-invented need for a constant supply of new clothes only contributed to my own debts, causing me more stress, and inevitably, spurred the need for more purchases. I was trapped in a cycle of shopping for new outfits that in the end, no matter how stylish, couldn't dress up the real problem: My attitude.

It's not what we have in life -- it's what we think about what we have that makes all the difference.

When my mother was a girl, she had five outfits to her name. A few for school, one nice dress for special occasions, and one casual outfit for the weekend. One coat. One sweater. Her friends likely had something similar. Now, many of us would consider such a bare closet nothing short of a fashion emergency! But I'm sure my mother never thought her clothing was a problem. It simply was what she had, and what she had was enough.

Looking at my sweater-stuffed closet, I felt embarrassed to be fantasizing about new clothes. I should put my clothing-budget money in a tzedakah box and give it to someone who really needs clothes.

Ultimately, I realized, it's not what we have in life -- it's what we think about what we have that makes all the difference.

My new attitude toward shopping was recently put to the test because my oldest son's bar mitzvah is coming up. In my old frame of mind, this occasion would absolutely have required a new outfit.

But now, looking at my racks of dresses and skirt-sets, I feel sure there's something already in my closet that will look just fine on my son's special day. I don't feel deprived that I'm not getting something new. I think even the fanciest outfit couldn't make this upcoming simcha more joyous or special.

Now, when clothing catalogs arrive in my mailbox, I don't even give them a glance before tossing them out. I know there's nothing in them for me.

I've cleaned out the closet of my thoughts. And now that the clutter is gone, I realize I already have everything I need.

Published: February 18, 2006


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Visitor Comments: 7

(7) Rob, March 3, 2006 12:00 AM

Shalom Bayis

I've been trying to convey this message to my Ashes Chayill. Thank you for putting it into words. I couldn't have done it better.

(6) raye, February 23, 2006 12:00 AM

Bless and Dress

It never occurred to me until recently that the pleasure we get out of clothes that make us look good should not be taken for granted. We should show our appreciation and give thanks every day. I have been careless and have lost items that were precious to me, an imported woolen stole, a fantastic windbreaker and always, gloves and small scarfs.
We make blessings over food that we eat. We can do the same each time we dress.

(5) E, February 21, 2006 12:00 AM

i totally understand!

I have been feeling lately the desire to just buy anything I imagined I "needed." I have come to the realization that that "need" is really the yetzer hora trying to get me to give in to every desire which is not what we are in this world for. We must have self control and not buy anything we think we need. Thank G-d I haven't started shopping and just put the items that I need on a mental list for the yetzer hora.

(4) Anonymous, February 20, 2006 12:00 AM

Wow!

I thought I was reading about myself. I am going to give it a whirl and organise my wardrobe in the same way! Could save a fortune. It made me think too about retail therapy which is just a quick fix, tzedakah therapy has great benefits and hopefully lasts longer though! Thanks for sharing your new outlook.

(3) sonia, February 19, 2006 12:00 AM

I'm the opposite

My clothing is exactly as your mother's in her youth, and my mind is exactly the opposite; why shouls I have to buy anything more?
With a loving husband that likes to see an elegant wife, I have to buy new clothes a pair of times a year. It is not a pleasant thing to do for me. It is showing my love to him. I would be happy as Madame Curie, with two dresses, one to wear when I'm cleaning the other. I would have been happy in the China of Mao where there were no clothes special to wear. I know there are women like me out there who care for other things-love, family, work, spirituality. But our "normal" way of life makes us feel like unsocial or something...

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