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Tripping the organic and mindful life fantastic

A blogger I really like recently wrote a really fantastic post about mindful, organic and green living. Her journey began with cleaning out her closet, paring down to only what she needs. This is a goal I've had for a long time, but can't seem to accomplish. It's an emotional hurdle I need to overcome.

If Helen Buttigieg (my idol) were here, she'd have some wise words on the matter of why I retain clothing I no longer need (most of which doesn't fit my body or my current lifestyle). After puzzling out that my clothes are the only area of material possessions in my life that are ridiculously cluttered and to which I illogically cling, she'd figure out why.

She'd figure out that I cling to my old clothes because I cling to the past, and am not easily able to let go or transition. Although generally I deposit my memories into stories carefully stowed in my own mind---which is, of course, cluttered---to be pulled out in fanciful moments or as fodder for social amusement (or blogging), I do imbue my clothes with them too, the only objects to which I attach these emotions. She'd know that I feel my clothes are a part of me and that they represent me in certain times of my life that I am not emotionally finished with yet.

Like the business suits. I am not finished with being an ambitious professional career woman yet. Even though I'll never wear these suits again (out of size, out of style), and even though should I need new business clothing I'd have to spend the money anyway, I cling to these clothes, murmuring in my mind, "I might need them sometime..." I think, though, that these would be the easiest to get rid of.

Like the business casual slacks and shirts. I am not finished with my DINK days when I could afford Ann Taylor, Eddie Bauer and J Jill. These are hard to get rid of. I keep thinking I am so close in my weight and fitness improvement to these sizes. I keep thinking I can wear these again, and I'd never be able to afford to replace this quality. But will my body, even down to my happiest possible goal weight ever fit these long slender pants, worn by a not-yet-mom? Perhaps these are hardest because they represent saying goodbye to my youth.

Like the sweaters. I am not finished with living in a climate that requires long sleeves and sweaters. I packed my sweaters in boxers with cedar sachets, but I have sucked up valuable closet real estate with these bulky storage containers.

I could go on and on: the dressy dresses, the fancy blouses, the cute outfits. All are clothing that meant something big to me at an important point in time in my personal past.

Helen Buttigieg would be understanding. She'd pat my shoulder and say, "You haven't quite accepted where and who you are in life now, have you? You're having a hard time letting go of who you were, what you did and where you were. But these clothes won't fix that. They won't bring it back. And they are frustrating you, reminding you of all that, and making a mess in your life. It's not just physical clutter, it's emotional clutter. You need to let it go."

And like all the women on her show she says this to, I'd cry. I'd release a torrent of tears because for me, it's hard to change, hard to get older. As much as I adore so much in my life right now, appreciate my blessings and benefits, love my children and husband, acknowledge the good in the now, it's hard to reconcile...I'm not sure all of what, exactly. Of being here, of being this person, of being in this mode of living.

As the present has its pros and cons, so does the past. But as I admitted in my Bad Day post, I cling to the good just as much.

Letter 9 (the blogger who so motivated me today) went on to say how the clothes were merely her first step into exploring better living. Once she breached that hurdle, her mind opened and cleared and she saw many other ways to live more green, more mindfully.

The point of all this, of course, is health. Emotional, physical and environmental health.

I found myself thinking of all the times I'd launched a campaign for the obvious healthy choices, such as the ones she mentioned: fair trade, local business, organic, etc. I thought of how each time a bit of it stuck, but on the whole I found myself back to economy and convenience.

For example, last year, as this blogger has, we made a decision to look at how we lived, and to make changes. In theory we are committed 100%. In actuality, it hasn't panned out.

If we lived elsewhere, like back in MA where our downtown was one block long and full of independent sellers and great products (pretty much everything you needed actually), I think we'd be more successful.

What I found here, though, was one farmer's market of organic produce, available only on Saturday, from 10-1. Soccer time. Also, extremely limited in produce and very extremely expensive. One apple there equaled a pound of apples at the grocery store.

So now, one 30 minute driving trip plus 30 minute shopping time later, I had produce.

Go to local grocery. This is a local business but carries limited products and no organic. 15 minutes driving, 1 hour shopping.

Now I need organic perishables and cleaning products (Method). 40 minutes driving to big chain grocery or Target, one or so hours shopping.

I can get fresh local seafood driving back from Target, but it's about 15 minutes extra driving out of the way.

And so on. I found myself going through half a tank of gas (at least) and a full day (at least) of running from distant spot to distant spot.

In the end, it seemed to do more harm than good.

When life is good, I can open up my time (and wallet, since all of this costs so much more) and make the choices for healthier---the ones I want to make.

But when time is tight (and it usually is) and the dollar is short (and it usually is) it's hard to look at the nearly $4 healthy environment dryer sheets versus the $.99 ones. It's hard to decide to schlep around and juggle conflicting schedules and so forth to hit all the different stores with their independent hours of operation. It does require more thought, more planning, more time and often more money.

I keep saying, "When things get better..." such as when the kids are back in school, or we get more income or less bills, and so forth. The problem is, I am likely asking for an ideal, which never comes. On the flip side, I am reaching for an ideal one can never reach: perfection.

As with everything I approach, I want to do my very best, no, scratch that, be perfect at being Green.

It is as impossible as it feels.

So what I have had to do is accept that I am a product of my culture to a degree---like my comforts and convenience---and weigh what I want and can do with what the earth needs.

I'm by no means the best Green person around, but I do a little here and a little there. I wash clothes as efficiently as possible, do not water my lawn, conserve resources as I can, keep lights off, use the right bulbs, do not drive large fuel-consuming cars, minimize driving, buy local when I can, and so forth. I know I leech out resources and so forth in other ways. But I'm trying and that is worth a lot so I have begun giving myself credit.

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
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Kyla said…
Our city just isn't there yet. It makes it difficult. Trying is good. Doing what you can, when you can is good. We are by no means doing all we possibly COULD...but we are doing what in actuality we can.
thailandchani said…
I found a bunch of old clothes hidden in a cabinet above my closet... stuff I would never wear now, especially since I switched to an entirely different style (the thai stuff). Oh, I couldn't get rid of it fast enough! No one else wanted it so I threw it out in the recycle bin. :)

The simplicity idea makes a lot of sense though. Unless something really has some personal significance, I'd rather get rid of it.
Kellan said…
Boy, it doesn't take long to inspire you. I have lots of old clothes that I can't seem to get rid of either. I get rid of my kids' clothes - went through The Princess' clothes just yesterday and got rid of some that don't fit her anymore and moved all her summer clothes out. I don't know why I can't seem to do that with mine - maybe for the same reasons as you, I suppose. By the way, I had to look up "imbue". Do you have to look up these words too, when you write, or are they just stored in your brain. I now know what it means, but I will never remember it to actually ever use it - unfortunately. I enjoy your writing. See ya.
I am exactly like you when it comes to hanging on to things! It is just so hard to accept that I am at a different place now...that choices and consequences (both positive and negative) have brought me to where I am now.

Our town is so backwoods that it is a struggle to do much that is environmental friendly...but, like you....I am trying. Succeeding...not so much...but trying!

GREAT POST! (as usual)
Girlplustwo said…
simple trying. it's a lot.
Magpie said…
i give you credit too.
I say sell all your old clothes in a garage sale or consignment shop and then use the money to buy florescent light bulbs and for other energy-saving purposes. It's like a cleansing win-win.
Snoskred said…
Coincidentally I saw an Oprah show on this just the other day. ;) They said that clutter and hoarding is not about the clutter and hoarding at all. It's about you and what is going on inside you.

I've let go of a lot of "stuff" just lately. I've added a few new things - like growing my own herbs. It is very satisfying to me.

I think it could be important to you to go through that process of removing your emotional clutter. Yes, there will be tears - but on the other side there will be great benefits.

I am really hopeful for you that you can go through that process. Can you have someone take the kids out for the day - perhaps your other half - put on some music and jump that hurdle?

Take digital photos of the clothes that mean a lot. Put them all into a folder on your computer and back them up onto a cd. That way, the memories can go with you, even though the clothes have gone to better homes - homes where they aren't stuck in the closet waiting and hoping to be worn again. ;) After all, your clothes have feelings too. Can you imagine what it is like for them, stuck in the closet, waiting, hoping, wishing? Make their dreams come true. Give them to a second hand clothing charity.

Lesley said…
It's so very funny. I hang on to very little. I even digital photo kids big art projects- because where do you store it all? You have seen my clean outs. How are we so different this way?

And hallelujah- I'm comin' over and gettin after that closet. You are who you are, and right now that's great and super. Plus, even if you are professional again-I would make you buy new clothes -you know me. :)

I also love your point about weighing the 'cost' of being green. i.e. more gas to get to local produce. I miss the farm right up the road in pittsburgh. it's very frustrating. Though, recently I learned I would have done better by the earth to have less children. I am a child polluter, with no moral regard to the planet, appearantly. :)

Anonymous said…
Funnily enough, I read somewhere that dryer sheets are useless so I stopped using them and you know what? It's true.

You're doing WAY more than a lot of people are, and every little bit counts.
Lesley said…
oh and Kellan- Julie does not have to look up any word, ever. She is a freak of nature WALKING Dictionary.
And don't even get her started on grammar. Imagine in a real conversation having to ask the person what in the world they are talking about. Yes, this is what i grew up with.
S said…
of course you deserve credit for all the things you ARE doing!
Julie Pippert said…
Flavia, dude, hie thee to my house (for those who need translation: Flavia, my friend, please come join me at my home and help me clean my closet.)

Kyla, it really is not as possible as I'd like here. You can make the bullet points happen BUT end up consuming more gas, so it's not a good trade. We keep trying things locally, like a veggie co-op, a town community garden, the farmer's market, and so forth. But it's fledgling.


Chani, it's a timing thing I am sure. I didn't cling to clothes this way always.

Kellan, I not only have words like imbue in my head all the time, I use them in casual conversation. I read the dictionary for fun as a child. I'd finish my schoolwork for the year oh sometime around November and had to find things to do other than get in trouble, a real challenge. Hence, I've read all the encyclopedias and dictionaries. I play a mean trivial pursuit.

Luckily for everyone though, I am better at concepts than straight facts and suck with my long term memory. Also am horrid at strategy. ;)

Queen, that is a fantastic way to put it. And credit to both of us for doing what we can. Like Slouching Mom, Jen and Magpie said (thanks ladies).

Jeff, garage sale? I'd rather chew my left pinkie off with my teeth. ;) I'll donate the work clothes to the women's shelter, maybe with some time helping them get resumes together.

Snoskred, do NOT tell me my idol Helen was on Oprah and I missed it? I'll do it in due time.

Mayberry, it's interesting...with the wrong detergent they are essential but with the right one (such as Method, which is environmentally friendly) not so much. Hmm...a conspiracy???
Aliki2006 said…
I try too, and often feel like I'm not doing enough. I am good about clearing out my clothes and passing them on, but not good about other things. We are trying to be better about waste, though, and conserving resources.

Wonderful post!
Christine said…
doing our best is all we ever can do. every single thing helps--even when we think it isn't. maybe i'll write that "green" post after all--you've inspired me!

and i am finally getting rid of LOTS of clothes. I have a couple businessy type suits (i have no idea why) that i think i am going to donate to a program for low income woman who need nice clothes for job interviews.
Julie, I loved this post. You are so right about how we hold on to memories with tangibles such as clothing, things, etc., when in reality the memories are still there - in our minds. We have to accept that they are memories, and can no longer be brought back.

- Heidi :)
Anonymous said…
I'm with Mayberry -- dryer sheets do nothing, so I no longer use them.

And, keeping all those clothes is a green choice if you do end up needing them again, because you won't need to buy more!
Lawyer Mama said…
We have a similar problem buying locally. We can only do it if we drive an insanely far distance to do it. Which makes no sense. So we do it when we can and don't sweat the rest.

I've been trying to simplify my life too. I feel so, so, so overburdened with stuff. But cleaning the closet has been hardest. Like you, I associate memories and periods of my life with my clothes. I unpacked my old winter clothes from the garage yesterday and boxed up sweaters to go to Good Will. That was hard. Not that I mind living where I hardly ever wear sweaters, but I remember a wonderful evening wearing this sweater and finding out I was pregnant wearing that sweater.

It was hard, but I felt much lighter after I did it. Next, the shoes....
Anonymous said…
Julie, thanks for the thoughtful response. I'm totally there with you -- I've been down this road so many times before. I'm a reformer. But at the same time, I've never before thought of it in terms of being thoughtful instead of being perfect. Usually I get all gung-ho and want to be perfect -- the perfect little consumer, the perfect environmentalist. When I can't be perfect I stop thinking about it. And then I end up all thoughtless and the whole cycle repeats.

If you get to the store and you look at the "green" dryer sheets and the "regular" ones and you consider the purchase and still decide that the "regular" ones are best, at least you can feel good that you've weighed your options. So often I think we buy without even thinking and I believe that we can do better, you know?

My husband and I had a long debate in the car this weekend about buying locally. He played devil's advocate and got me really thinking about why I do and don't believe in buying locally. I'm going to write about this soon but suffice it to say that sometimes, the big chain store really is the better option. But when I just go to the big chain store because it's convenient and when I buy stuff there that I'm just going to throw away within months anyway, that's foolish, wasteful, and thoughtless.

Hmm. I guess I see why you replied in a post. There's a lot to be said here. : )

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