33 for 33 – What was I thinking?!

A good friend of mine, Pastor Meredith McGrath, started a Facebook group called “Giving It Away for Lent” a few years ago. She has been the chief cheerleader as those of us in the group have worked on using the season to simplify our lives in a variety of ways.  One year, the challenge was to give or throw away one thing on the 2014-09-06 22.49.48.jpgfirst day of Lent, two things on the second day, and so on.  Fortunately, I had quite a stash of empty prescription bottles, and one tube of Fixodent (a gag birthday gift) so I was covered for close to two weeks.

This year, we are both trying to follow another aspect of simplifying, brought to our attention on a blog called Be More with Less by Courtney Carver.  For several years, Courtney has been challenging her readers to build a wardrobe that will function for 3 months with only 33 items (including clothes, shoes, accessories, jewelry, and coats or jackets).  We both decided to get serious about it this year; we would narrow our wardrobe to 33 items to last for the remaining 33 days of Lent (not counting Sundays, because that’s how the church counts the 40 days of Lent).  I knew it would be a Big Deal for me, because I have way too many clothes. Meredith is already done assembling her wardrobe, and she has blogged about it here. My effort is still a work in progress, due to be done this week.

My first reaction was to pile everything from my closet onto a bed, grouped by type of clothing (pants, jackets, tanks/shells, etc.).  Bye-bye, guest bedroom!  I’m actually afraid to count how many things are on that bed. Then I did what I do when I’m packing for a trip: I made a list.  Here’s how my list looks at this point:

  • 1 dress (basic black)
  • 1 skirt (black again)
  • 6 pair of shoes/boots: 1 pair of dress shoes, 2 pair of “everyday” shoes, 1 pair of casual/walking shoes, 1 pair of ankle boots, 1 pair of tall boots
  • 5 pair of pants: 1 pair of jeans, 1 pair of corduroy pants, 3 pair of black pants
  • 6 tanks/shells/tees
  • 4 tops (to wear alone or layer over tanks)
  • 4 jackets (to layer over tanks or tops)
  • 4 scarves
  • 2 winter coats: 1 long coat, 1 jacket

What’s not on this list: underwear, jewelry, clergy shirts, winter hats/gloves.  According to Courtney’s guidelines, jewelry should be included in the 33 items; but I’m giving myself a little grace this time, since it’s my first venture into limiting my wardrobe this drastically.

2014-09-01 19.36.52The secret, I decided, is to pick one or two colors and make sure everything coordinates with those colors.  This time the color of choice is (liturgically correct) purple. I’m already impatient for the lighter brighter colors that I can bring back in the spring. And I’m resenting the fact that winter coats are taking up two precious slots in my allotment.

My task this evening is to put the lucky 33 items back in my closet and store the rest away somewhere (bye-bye guest room closet). I’ll take a few pictures to mark my progress. Beginning tomorrow, I should be ready to start wearing only those 33 items.

I’m surprised at the level of anxiety I feel about doing this.  It’s amazing the kind of “stuff” that gets triggered by messing with the status quo. I’m reflecting on how truly I am my parents’ daughter.  Mom and Dad both grew up during the Depression; one of the effects that had on them is that they could never throw anything away. Everything was kept, “just in case.”  When we cleaned out the house, first the workshop and garage after my father’s death, and then the rest of the house after Mom died a few years later, I was overwhelmed by all of the things that were being saved. Small bits of scrap wood from various projects, because you never know when you might need something exactly that size or shape or thickness to shim a cabinet door or prop under a wobbly table leg, boxes of greeting cards that had been received over 40 years or more, plastic containers in the kitchen with straightened-out twist ties from bread sacks.

Somehow I thought of myself as being so much more enlightened than that. But what I’ve come to realize is that I do exactly the same thing, just in different parts of my life. I don’t have a woodworking shop, but I have knitting and weaving supplies. I don’t save greeting cards, but I am a confessed office-supply junkie. My security blanket might not be the boxes of checks from decades of bank statements; instead, it’s the accumulation of clothing.

One of the attractions of doing this “33 for 33” program is the hope that this new minimalist thinking might become contagious to other parts of my life.  Could it be that I might build up the courage to tackle the stash of knives, peelers, and other gadgets in my kitchen? Or the shelf full of cleaning supplies I buy, somehow thinking that’s the same as actually cleaning? Or the boxes of who-knows-what that have moved with me to 3 different homes in 10 years? I’m not sure whether I’m excited or terrified.

It’s going to be an interesting Lent.


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Barbara Bruneau

Barbara Bruneau is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. She is semi-retired, having previously served congregations in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Barbara enjoys knitting, reading, cooking, and weaving. She shares her home with cats named Abigail and Bijou.

One thought on “33 for 33 – What was I thinking?!”

  1. Heartily approve of the [liturgically correct] colour choice 🙂
    My plan had been to ‘take something on’ … did you note the past tense? Actually, really just trying to be more mindful about being kind – practising a random act of kindness each day of Lent. That I’ve not noticed much difference says something of my rather churlish nature, I suspect!!

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