Getting rid of old stuff is hard. Sometimes, you can’t sell it or even give it away. The green, papier mâché parrot that was my whimsical (but unappreciated) gift to my dad, the square end table (itself purchased at a yard sale decades ago and refinished by moi), my daughter’s dresses from Forever 21, books on world mission and spiritual formation….all remain in my garage awaiting the next leg on their journey.
Since I can remember, I have bought much of what I wear at yard sales, consignment shops, or places like the Salvation Army or Goodwill. Why? I include here a short essay I wrote some years ago about that very topic.
“Why do you worry about clothing? Think about how the flowers of the field grow; they do not work or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these! And if this is how God clothes the wild grass, which is here today and tomorrow is tossed into the fire to heat the oven, won’t he clothe you even more, you people of little faith? (Matthew 6:28-30, NET Bible)
Six years ago I lost four dress sizes, which happily necessitated buying a whole new wardrobe. The joy of the hunt for perfect clothes at the lowest prices often took me to my favorite stores; Goodwill, the Salvation Army, and St. Vincent de Paul. There, amid the faded, the out-of-style, and the polyester hid Jones NY suits, Talbot skirts, Ann Taylor dresses, Eddie Bauer hiking shorts, and even a genuine tartan kilt from Scotland. Linen, cashmere, and silk of many colors moved into my vacant closet at ridiculous prices. Who offered up these treasures and why? Did these women likewise lose (or gain) weight? Did they suffer from over-consumption and guiltily weed their closets of shopping spree excess? Did they trade power suits for maternity tops? I bless them for their generosity, these good sisters, who passed on their bounty to me.
In younger years, my elder sister passed down her mother-sewn clothes to me, who passed them down to my three younger sisters, but more tired-looking than they began. Hand-me-downs were, to us younger sisters, unwelcome stewardship in cotton and bonded knit. Embarrassing, obvious hem changes announced our diminished family fortune to classmates and neighbors. Now grown, I dress myself, but always with the voice of my mother pointing out the hidden stain, feeling the weight of the cloth, checking the top stitching, and avoiding mismatched plaids.
My cherished find? A one-of-a-kind, Chanel dress sample from Paris in the lightest, most supple black wool known to woman or sheep. A refugee amid granny dresses and shoulder padded rayon, it leapt into my arms for five dollars and the recognition of its hidden heritage. When shall I wear this dress? To a job interview, perhaps, or to attend the funeral of someone near and dear? It still awaits initiation to an event worthy of its lineage.
I pray my donated bags of clothes brought joy to my larger sisters, who likewise, love the hunt.