My wardrobe (and blog posts) have fallen by the wayside during the holidays. I’m also in a season of feeling easily overwhelmed, so if you are a praying person, any petitions for grace on my behalf would be so much appreciated.
Despite not being fully complete, I would say that in between my last post and now, I have been living the (hashtag) capsule life. I’ve sectioned off a portion of my closet for the 30-40 items that make up my winter (read: weird Ohio fall/winter/spring hybrid) capsule, not counting shoes, underthings, socks, pajamas, athletic wear, and coats. It’s been very easy to go into my closet and choose what to wear, with naught a thought nor a worry about it. I can even think of one or two items I’ve only worn once since November, so sometimes it still feels like too much clothing. So what’s still left to do is: finalize my list, count all my clothes, lay them out in piles, and sort them into seasonal capsules. Luckily, nearly all my laundry is done at the moment, so I have a rare opportunity to do this if I get it done soon!
In the meantime, I want to tell you about another great experience that has come out of this process. The natural byproduct of narrowing down my wardrobe (and Brett’s!) amounted to three large canvas grocery bags, one garbage bag, one large box, and one laundry basket of clothing and shoes to give away. Gross, I know. I couldn’t believe how much stuff we had and how much space it was taking up. We learned from our apartment complex managers that they used to have a community garage sale here every year, so we eagerly signed up for the next one. But, when the time came around, they didn’t have enough people signed up to make it worth their while.
In the 7 group study, Jen Hatmaker encourages all experimenters to donate their unwanted possessions in a way that means something to them. Dumping bags at Goodwill can be as impersonal as leaving a Bible tract on a doorstep. The message isn’t received like it would be with face-to-face or heart-to-heart contact. So, without the garage sale, and with a desire to do more than just facelessly donate, our stuff sat around in our second bedroom for months.
We live in a neighborhood of apartments that are clearly a living space for low-income people. Many of our neighbors that we see out and about are foreigners, there are tons of kids around always riding their bikes and playing games outside, I’ve met a few with clear mental and physical disadvantages. And, of course, we’re not wealthy, and most of our money goes to student loans, so we know the rent is cheap, and our neighbors must have reasons of their own for living here.
For the months our stuff sat there, I wanted to have a “garage sale” of my own. But would I have permission to do that? Would I get in trouble for posting signs on the buildings? What if the people who put a bullet hole through a window of the apartment across the parking lot showed up? What would I have to give them if they came and didn’t find what they needed? …What if they didn’t like me?
Thanksgiving rolled around, and I heard of Giving Tuesday for the first time. Give thanks on Thursday, stampede the stores on Friday, buy local on Saturday, order online on Monday, and give on Tuesday. It seems the world has it all worked out how we should spend our money and our holidays, and giving comes last. It did for me, too. Giving time came, at last, when on Monday I had had enough waiting, made posters, and put them up at the entrances on the apartment buildings here. They said come on Tuesday night for hot chocolate and free stuff. Here’s the sizes we have – take anything you want for free.
Sidenote: Before you go and commend me for actually doing this, I want you to remember how I sat on this idea for nearly a year. Since we moved here in August of 2013, I’ve had a sense that God has Brett and I living here for only a season, but for a reason and a purpose. Meanwhile, I still waste my time. There are other things I’ve been talking about doing here to serve my neighbors, and whenever I put that out into the universe, some form of encouragement comes along. God’s been pretty clear that I’m holding all the cards to start something He’s going to honor here, and I just need to take action. So, again, if you’re a praying person, I think maybe the reason I’ve been feeling easily overwhelmed by a lot of other things in life may be a distraction from this, and I could use some prayers!
The results? They came.
Actually, we got a knock on the door the night we put up the posters. A young woman came to say that she worked the next night, so could she look through things tonight? We told her to come back in thirty minutes so we could set it all out, and she gave me her phone number. As she was pulling out clothes to look at, she said she’s tried to be neighborly by giving people cookies, asking for a cup of sugar, proverbially, but nothing was reciprocated, so she gave up. She’s lived her for three years.
After that, I was pumped for the next night. Oh my gosh, you guys. I just fell in love with everyone who came through our open door.
A Muslim man from Morocco looked for things for his wife and two daughters. Brett got his phone number. A senior in high school with a mental disability looked through all my dresses and lit up at a pair of glittery red shoes. They were the last piece she needed for her Dorothy costume for this Halloween. Her dad opened up to us about some of his recent medical setbacks, which are part of why he hasn’t been able to pursue a job in his field of study – tourism! Two tall, beautiful young girls came in very quietly. A man was standing in the doorway, keeping an eye on them, and I asked him how long they’ve lived here. He said, with a heavy accent, “Oh, they have just arrived from Africa eight days ago!” He had been here for eight years without them.
I kind of want to just leave that there and let it sink in, but I want you to think about this – what can God do with your possessions? Everything we have is an asset, and everything we have is God’s. If God can use a long-regretted, $13.99 purchase of a pair of too-small ruby red slippers to love a struggling high school senior with size 6 feet, what can He do with your unwanted possessions? Your home? Your pot of chili? There’s a lot of folks to love out there, and as possessors of the knowledge of Christ, we have an unending supply of love to give.
I hope this story was encouraging to you! If you have stories of how God’s blessed others through your giving/simplifying/taking a step, please share!