You know you’ve said it.
Standing there in the closet, arms crossed, pursed lips, frustration steaming out your ears, you sigh. You flick a shirt or two with your index finger, shift your weight from your left to right leg. You’ve been in this closet for twenty minutes. You glance out at your bed, covered in clothes, possible pairings strewn like pizza toppings across the covers. No matter how many times you look, nothing new magically appears. Finally, you stomp out of the closet, throw yourself onto the bed, and sigh again, loudly. A hanger poking into your hip, you say it perhaps only in your mind, maybe aloud, probably quite loudly so your parent or spouse or roommate will recommend shopping. You say:
I have nothing to wear.
Those inexperienced in the I have nothing to wear dilemma will certainly be confused. I imagine someone living in a homeless shelter, for example, might think, “So, you’re standing in a closet full of clothes, but… you don’t have any clothes?” Similarly new husbands, still naive in the perilous waters of women and their wardrobes, have been know to say, “You have a closet full of clothes. Just pick something.” And while their words may reveal a lack of compassion and empathy, they still sting, because somewhere deep down we know they’re right.
How is it that we can look at so many options—shirts and dresses and whatnot, all personally selected—and not find a single one to fit our expectations?
There’s a long answer and a short one. For the long answer, read my book. The short answer is this: We have too many options.
The more options you give yourself the harder it is choose.
It’s true. People have written books about it, given Ted talks, written articles for the New York Times. Psychologist Barry Schwartz says, despite what culture tells us (maximizing choice maximizes freedom), “choice has made us not freer but more paralyzed, not happier but more dissatisfied.”
He says 300 varieties of salad dressing make us both less sure of our eventual choice and less likely to make any choice at all.
This year, I basically wore what was clean. I had four outfits to choose from and a rule prohibiting me from enlarging my pool. I never, not once in 354 days, felt like I had nothing to wear. And yet, I had less in my closet than I ever have.
It’s weird, and it doesn’t make sense, but this year, I had confidence in my clothes. I didn’t sit around whining about how nothing worked. They worked. I felt appropriately dressed for every situation I encountered.
This single truth, that I could be content with four outfits, was worth the price of admission. In limiting my wardrobe, I had freed myself from the tyranny of second-guesses, doubt, and dissatisfaction.
I think of Jesus when he gets onto us humans for worrying about our clothes. He says, “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.”
I love how He compares us to flowers here. Have you ever seen a flower change its clothes? Never. Every morning the flower wears the same outfit, and every morning its beauty surpasses even Solomon’s. Forty outfits don’t increase our chances of looking beautiful. One beautiful outfit is all we need.
When you find yourself saying, “I have nothing to wear” the absolute best thing you can do for yourself is to limit your options. But you have to really limit them. You have to make buying something new absolutely off limits. You have to promise yourself that the clothes in your closet are the only clothes you will wear and you have to reduce the number of clothes in your wardrobe. It sounds crazy, but I can tell you from experience, it works.
This year, I’ve chosen ten outfits. I’d planned to go for eight, but I’m human, people, and I caved when I saw these two dresses at Buffalo Exchange (tangent). Anyway, just like last year I’ve decided to limit my shopping to a two month window during which time I buy the clothes I’ll need for the year (I’m also letting myself shop in June for summer essentials like a pair of capris and flip flops). I’m doing this not as another project, but as a pattern for my life. I look back at this year, at my level of contentment and intimacy with God, and I can’t help but admit that it worked.
You know, Solomon, the best dressed chico to ever live, looked at his piles of expensive duds and said, “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”
I don’t want to be a Solomon. I want to be a flower.