Simple & Free: Clothing Experiment

I made it to the end of the 28 days of Simple & Free Challenge to wear the same 7 items of clothing all month long. I didn’t do it perfectly and I took some liberties here and there but overall I would say I stuck to it 95%. As we wrapped up yesterday, I haven’t had that much time to reflect on it but so far, here are two hot takes:

  • Nobody cares at all what I wear. Nobody! And if they do, they aren’t sharing those thoughts with me so why ponder it?
  • I could now easily burn 3 of the 7 items I wore for the 28 days and never look back. I could drop the match and have zero regrets.

My third awareness is a little bit stickier because I likely told myself that other people care what I wear, judge me for what I wear, and the like but the truth is I am the one doing all of that. When I am wearing the same shirt for the third day in a row, I have thoughts and feelings about that. I have beliefs wrapped up in what that means and, to be honest, they are not my best. 

However, if I am being a bit softer about it, isn’t this what social experiments are supposed to provide? Aren’t we supposed to learn something about ourselves, about the social construct in which we live? In this case, I learned how much I attach to clothing? The beliefs I have picked up along the way and also discerning how well those beliefs are opening my life up or closing it down.

I noticed on some days going into the gym where I work, I felt really self-conscious wondering if anyone would notice that I was wearing the same thing I had a day earlier or two days before? I wondered and even worried what they might think of me if they noticed. That forced me to be honest that if I wasn’t discussing this with anyone all of those thoughts began and ended in my head so those judgments, those ideas were mine alone. They lived in me. This led me to ponder how I also likely judge others. We would like to think we don’t but we do. 

We are a superficial society. We attach value to the most unusual of things and we subtract value for equally obscure reasons when you take a moment to examine them. This was uncomfortable at times, many times.

There were also times when it was hilarious. My next-door neighbor saw me wear the same shirt three days in a row. On the third day, she commented that she really liked my shirt. I chuckled inside wondering, did she just now notice my shirt, was she simply being nice or what? It goes to show how wrapped up in our own heads we are most of the time. This wasn’t just an affliction of my neighbor because while I was laughing that she hadn’t noticed that I had worn the same thing three days in a row, I had no idea what she had been wearing those last three days either. Embarrassingly, I likely didn’t notice in part because I was so preoccupied with what I was wearing… again. 

In the midst of this, I also ran a race and went on a little trip. Three days in, I realized I was already running out of clothes to wear and soon my attire was arranged in the order of varied cleanliness. It was slightly amusing to me but I think it’s because I had the safety net of knowing this wasn’t my real life. This was my experimental life. But this is real life for millions and when I returned home, the way I have been considering what I would give away next shifted. I started viewing what I was giving as an act of compassion instead of charity. “Generosity means to give when it’s not convenient,” is a post I saw from Charlie Goldsmith this week. It stuck with me because it resonated as truth and also pinched as a place where there is room for me to grow. I can be stingy and self-centered in many ways. For instance, would I give away my favorite sweater in hopes that it made someone else feel the way I feel when I wear it? Right now, the answer is, no. I am not that person yet. But I’d like to be. 

These experiments haven’t been about feeling good but they are showing us how we can do better and learning to build our generosity muscle. Mine is weaker than I’d like. The only way to change that is to pay attention, to work at it. These experiments are beginning to show us our limits, how we behave under whatever pressure they apply. When I was squeezed in this particular challenge, sometimes it was more akin to getting blood from a stone than juice from an orange. In order to change, we have to take a deep look at ourselves and see the truth of our limits in this moment. Only then can we begin to gently push the edges of what feels possible.

Sunshine & Sarcasm,
Lowi & G

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