Everything I own fits in 5-foot-tall, 2-foot-wide, 1-foot-deep locker. Of that space, about 1 square foot is devoted to my clothes. I’ve been wearing the same pair of sweats for three years. I’ve finally decided that I need to buy another pair of sweatpants so that I can work out in the cold and not get my sleeping pair dirty. The main thing holding me back is that I don’t know if I have enough room in my so-called closet.
It’s funny how easily we adapt to our environments. When people upsize to a larger home, they look at all the extra space and wonder how they’re going to fill it. Then a few years later, seemingly out of nowhere, the rooms and closets are filled, and they’re wondering where to put their extra stuff. It works in reverse, too. When they downsize, if they learn to let go and prioritize, they can limit themselves to the number of items needed to fit in any space.
At first, I used to stop myself and think how pathetic my life had become. I had only one pair of sweats that I wore day in and day out. Even though I could have spent $15 to buy another top or bottom, I didn’t even have the room in my locker to hold them! But then, over time, that bewilderment turned into amazement. It’s been three years, and I’m still wearing the same pair of sweats, and it’s OK! The world hasn’t ended.
A New Perspective
I’m not a pauper, and no one has commented on my lack of sartorial options. Though they’ve thinned out a bit, these trusty gray sweats are still completely functional. I look back to five years ago, when I was in the position of not having enough space because of an abundance of clothes, and I am amazed.
I was never a hoarder, and I firmly believed in the “if you haven’t worn it in the last year, then get rid of it” principle. Yet I still had mounds of clothes, and by extension, things in general. When I think about the “last year” principle, I realize how silly that is, too. If I wear something just once in a year, is it worth keeping in my closet? Go look in your closet.
Even if you follow the “last year” principle, how much in there is really worn on a regular—or even occasional—basis? Probably little. Yet we can’t let go.
I look at my single pair of thinned-but-still-functional-and-worn-in sweats—I’m wearing them right now, and I’m thankful. I’m thankful that I’m back at a stage in my life where everything I own can fit in my (hypothetical) car. I’m thankful that I’m beholden to nothing material. I’m thankful that I’ve reached a point in my life where my possessions in no way own me.
I think back to all the items I once had that just took up space, and now, with so much less, I’m thankful for what I do have. That being said, after twisting my own arm long enough—and with a little incentive from some freezing mornings—I’ve finally decided to buy a second pair of sweats.
This Christmas, consider giving yourself a gift of less. Give away all those items you don’t need to someone who can use them, and you’ll be giving yourself a present as well.
G.A. Hernandez has been incarcerated for 10 years. He says his work with the Church in Captivity and his own spiritual growth are due to the ministry of the Capuchin Franciscans. This piece first appeared in St. Anthony Messenger.