As you may have seen from my social media accounts or even in person, for the past 7 days I wore only 7 articles of clothing as part of the #SimplifyHopkins #7for7 clothing challenge. I did this along with students at Hopkins in response to Jesus’ call to live simply and give radically in a culture of excess.
This was done in solidarity with much of the world. Especially on the global scale, our closets represent great wealth. Half the world lives on less than $2/day, while Americans spend on average $3/day just on clothes to add to our overfull closets! I’ve already done this challenge on a much larger scale – I’ve now spent 3 months in China with only 2 sets of clothes. I hand-washed them every few nights, and wore the same things over and over again. But I couldn’t even consider that experience a “challenge,” because all of the locals only had a few sets of clothes too. And since it’s what everyone was doing, it was easy. So I was surprised to find that wearing only 2 sets of clothes in America is much more difficult, even for just 7 days. The norm around here is to have a different outfit every day for weeks on end. More importantly, every day I was tempted by my own closet. I’d love to wear that other shirt! It would be nice to put on a different coat today. That hat would really look cool! I didn’t have all of that in China, and I didn’t think about it. But at home in America, I’m always thinking about all of my stuff.
Yet even 7 days was enough to start chipping away at my own materialism. The idea behind this challenge is to loosen our grip on our stuff, and its grip on us. I cared less and less what others thought about me, and I discovered that in fact they don’t! No one noticed I wore the same thing for a week. The only people who asked about it asked because they heard that I was doing a challenge. Clearly, my closet is a LOT bigger than it needs to be. I spend so much of my time worrying about how others will perceive me. I spend so much of my money on the perfect clothes to help craft that perception. I feel vulnerable and under-equipped when I don’t have my full wardrobe. But Jesus wants us to spend our time thinking about him and how we can serve others. He wants us to spend our money on those who truly need clothes. And he assures us that as we let go of our self-absorption, self-protection, and self-spending, he’ll care for us just as he cares for “the lilies of the field” (Matt. 6:28).
Share your own thoughts and lessons in the comments, especially if you did the challenge!