Last month, Jodi Cole Meyer filled us in on the beginning of her journey with the book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess (B & H Books) by Jen Hatmaker. Jodi is halfway through her current experiment, which may be one of the most difficult, as she is limiting herself to seven items of clothing. Here’s the update on how it’s going and what she has been learning.
Q. In June, you narrowed your food choices to seven foods for a month. Halfway through, you were still enjoying the foods but looking forward to mixing them with some others again. How is it to be back on food? Does the grocery shopping seem a bit overwhelming again, or was it pretty easy to slide back into the larger range?
A. It was disturbingly easy to jump right back into eating like I always did. Here’s the most surprising thing about ending that fast: I had each one of the seven foods within 24 hours of finishing the fast. I found that I was not at all averse to eating them again; I just enjoyed them mixed with many more ingredients. The great part about shopping is that I can now pick what looks good, what’s on sale, what’s local . . . all the things that generally inform my choice of food.
What has changed is that now I realize what a luxury that is. It’s odd to talk about buying what’s on sale as a luxury, but you realize, when your choices are limited, that it is often more expensive to eat. The challenge at the end of this fast, as I believe it will be for each of them, is to make sure that it makes a long-term change. The short-term change can’t be sustained indefinitely, but the hope is that it will make some permanent change to the way I think about how I live.
Q. This time around you are working on clothing. It seems like a record-hot July would be a good time to wear only seven clothing items. How did you choose what to include, and what are you missing the most?
A. It is nice not to worry about a coat or sweaters! My biggest challenge is that I have routine activities that sort of demand their own wardrobes. I work at a church, which is very lenient when it comes to dress code, but it is an office environment nonetheless. I also participate in leading the services, so there is certainly an expectation about dress in that environment. I try to work out regularly, the pool in our backyard demands attention and attire, and I am a potter, so I spend a certain amount of time getting really, really messy and dirty.
Finding seven items of clothing that satisfy all of those needs was a bit of a puzzle. I ended up with two fairly casual dresses, one pair of jean shorts, one plain pink V-neck T-shirt, a black workout “skort,” a patterned black workout tank, and a T-shirt that I will have to wear when I teach at our arts camp next week.
As with last month, I’m surprised that I’m not frustrated with the things I expected to be frustrated with. I expected to get very sick of what I’m wearing, and to hate the feeling that I’m not appropriately dressed for something. So far, that hasn't been the issue. The issue is that I have started panicking every time I spill or sweat or in any way get the clothes dirty! I’m not used to worrying about things like that—I would just change my clothes. Now I have to either stay in dirty clothing or jump into another outfit that then wouldn’t be available for tomorrow.
I’m also worried that I’m damaging the clothes by washing them so often, or by using them for the wrong things . . . like workout clothes in the chlorine of the pool. It makes me think about my clothes more than I used to, and I really couldn’t be accused of not thinking about clothes before.
I read somewhere (possibly Richard Foster) that the problem with North Americans is not that we love things too much, it’s that we love them too little—they become disposable and not worth our concern. I am starting to love (as in think about and care for) the clothes I have for the month in a much more profound way than I did before. I also worry quite a bit that I will damage one of them permanently and have to figure out how to fix/repair/rework it for the rest of the month.
Q. How has having limited clothing options affected your daily routine?
A. I have to really plan ahead how to have the clothes available (clean-ish, dry) for activities. For instance, if I throw pottery in the morning, I do not have workout clothes for the afternoon. I also have a line-up of clothing items that did not make the short list: pajamas, a robe, a swim cover-up, a sweatshirt (for those rare cool evenings), dressy clothes, jeans, etc. These are things I can do without, but it takes some creativity.
Q. What have you learned from this discipline?
A. For possibly the first time in my life, I have had to decline an activity because I didn’t have anything to wear. It seemed absolutely crazy, and I couldn’t imagine having to do that routinely. “I don’t have anything to wear” used to mean something very different to me than it does now!
I also went through my closet as part of this discipline and got fairly aggressive in getting rid of things I don’t wear regularly and donating them. I was appalled at the number of inexpensive things I bought mostly because they were on sale and wore very seldom. That, combined with the care I took in deciding what to pick for my month, has changed how I approach buying clothes. I am committed to buying far fewer items, and deciding what to buy based on quality and utility rather than price and convenience.