Follow the Clothes, Part Two: The Purge

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It’s been closet-cleaning season at the Tresch house this week. To begin with, last Tuesday I filled two huge bags with clothes and hauled them to the Caring Center, which lends itself to an amazing story, but be patient. Then, last night I went to that pesky book study again that I love/hate. This week we are examining ALL our possessions to see just how tied to them we really are. Of course, I already knew my answer: too much. Not only do we discuss our personal issues with possessions, but we talk about what Jesus has to say about all this stuff-love. Ouch. And then, as if that weren’t enough, we are supposed to come up with a plan for what exactly we’re going to do about each week’s excess. This week, three of us decided to purge 30 items a day. And yes, I willingly signed up for this.

So, here it is, Day One. And what did I decide to purge? Clothes, of course. Honestly, the purging thing is kind of addictive, but you must be careful that you don’t get on such a roll that you start giving away things that you might need (want). I’ve learned this lesson before, and my mother used to chide me for being too “eager to evict.” So I am going to be careful and particular with what goes into my 30-things-a-day pile. Especially particular.

I’m bothered by the idea that we’re giving away clothes that people in developing countries are paying for. My friend Brian did make some good points in the comments section of last week’s post, but I still tried to choose clothing that won’t add to the giant cubes that are making their way to Latin America and Africa. I really want to concentrate on what we (as developed countries) can do to encourage and sustain growth in the market sector of these (developing) countries. That seems fair, right?

But not easy.

I chose 30 pieces of clothing that were good quality and that I hope will be taken by our wonderful clients at the Caring Center. But here is what I realized as I purged: I must give careful thought to what I purchase at the outset, so that I avoid the cycle of buying cheap sale items on a whim that I don’t really care to keep. This is my problem, and maybe it’s yours. Ladies, do you shop at Target and find great deals you simply can’t pass up? Do you buy several of one type of clothing in various colors because it fits? Do you hit the sale racks at 80 percent off and not even try on the clothes because they are such a bargain? If so, chances are those clothes rarely stay in your closet longer than a year. Or if they do, you don’t wear them because you didn’t give your purchase careful thought and consideration. Do you know where your clothes were made? Some countries have lousy labor practices and the person who stitched your adorable tunic might work 14 hour days with conditions you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.

So while I am committed to purging my clothes and getting educated about where they end up, I’m also going to make a promise to myself  that I will stop being ignorant about the process of purchasing clothes. I will find manufacturing companies that treat their employees well, and I will start by spending some time on the Free2Work website.

But as long as I still have this closet full of clothing, I will continue to purge. Maybe great stories like this one will come out it:

Last week, we lost one of our seamstress apprentices in our ACEF Women’s Sustainability Program, and we needed to replace her with another apprentice so that we didn’t interrupt sponsorship. Unfortunately, we needed $100 to pay for the new apprentice’s entry fee. This all transpired on Friday morning, the same day I took my two overstuffed bags of donated clothing to the Caring Center. The good folks who sort clothing there were going through the donations, and they came across a pair of jeans that was in one of my bags. I was volunteering there on Friday, and one of them came out holding up my jeans.

“Are these yours?” Jonalyn asked.

“Yes,” I answered.

“Guess what we found in them?” she asked, and held up what was in the back pocket.

Two $50 bills.

Folks, this does not happen to me. I almost never find a stray dollar in any of my pockets because I am cheap, cheap, cheap. And so $100 in a pocket of my jeans simply does not compute. But this morning it made perfect sense. And if I had not been doing that pesky book study, I would have never cleaned out my closet. And because those jeans are a size I will not wear again, I would have never had occasion to look in the pocket.

And now, Francisca, our new apprentice in Ghana, has started her apprenticeship and is on her way to a new life. By the way, she is 17, has lost both her parents, and lives in a one-room dwelling with her grandmother and five siblings. I think she needed that mysterious $100 way more than I did.

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So I’m thinking that God has something to teach me as my friends and I work our way through this study: Give it away. Trust me. I’ll provide even if you purge it all.

Well, I’m not going to purge it all, but I am unloading 30 items a day for one week. And I’m expecting more great stories as I continue to unload my excess.

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