Living Lightly

Susan Vogt on living more simply but abundantly

Browsing Posts published by Susan Vogt

I don’t know that the photo adequately captures the bulk of this day’s give-aways. I’ve been saving extra bedspreads for kids going away to college, setting up their first apartment, etc. Somehow they are currently settled in somewhere in the world without these items. But maybe they’ll boomerang home and need them? Susan, stop fantasizing.

Under the bed is such a handy place to store things. Out of sight, out of mind. In fact so far out of mind that I found some bed skirts that I didn’t know I had and thus had bought new ones. Mostly, however, I found a stash of purses. Some were nice but I’ve been on the search for the perfect purse for a few years (one tiny one that fits all my necessities but is the size of a wallet) and another larger one for travel (that fits file folders, a netbook, etc.) I now own my two ideal purses and really don’t need these others.

Three questions for today:

  1. Do any women wear slips anymore? Why do I have 5 that I seldom wear?
  2. Does anyone really want to wear my used panty-hose and tights?
  3. Why do I have a bikini that I wouldn’t dare wear anymore and a swim cap nobody but Olympic swimmers wear these days?

I threw away the cap along with some socks that weren’t even good as rags.

I’ve been pondering how pure my motivation should be about giving things away. I have to admit that a lot of what I’m giving away so far is rather satisfying because it’s decluttering our bedroom. It has taken some time and some cleaning, but it hasn’t really been sacrificial – at least not yet. My current policy is not to let the quest for “pure, altruistic motivation” keep me from doing something good. Just start.

OK, I realize these are primarily female clothes again, but I’m reluctant to throw away stuff from Jim’s drawers. Besides I don’t think you’d like to see his drawers. Again today I decided to wash one nightgown before deciding whether to give it away or now. The spots came out. I think I’ll keep it – at least a little longer.

Today was more of a challenge because in order to decide which tops to give away I had to get out many of my contradance skirts and dresses. So much of my clothing is mix and match and that is good but it also means that tops are dependent on which skirts they match. I’m reminded again of family systems and how we each depend on the other members.

I decided to divide my tops into long sleeve and short sleeve. Perhaps I should have combined the categories, but I don’t want to run out of groupings before the 40 days are up. I think this kind of thinking contradicts the spirit of Lent and generosity – but then I’m also giving up guilt.

One of my packing strategies for trips is to take a bunch of scarves so I can make three outfits out of one. Scarves are also a small and light accessory which helps me fit everything into a carry on – a constant goal of mine. In reviewing my scarves, however, I did find some I never wear. Now jewelry like earrings and necklaces don’t take a lot of storage room but do I really wear them all? I decided to keep a couple heirloom pieces even though I’ve hardly every worn them. Some memories are meant to be kept.

Not only do I have the sweaters I wear on a daily basis (layered of course against the winter chill), but I rediscovered a stash of sweaters I had stored under the bed. I like sweaters. Even the ones I don’t wear regularly are so pretty, it’s hard to part with them. There’s the kelly green one that I only wear on St. Patrick’s Day since green isn’t really my color, ditto for the red Christmas sweater. I remember Dan’s question about parting with things I love but others can use. Well, check out the photo.
Two things I learned from sorting sweaters:
1. I got a boost from my husband and our house guest, Isaac, donating several sweaters.
2. After reading some of your posts about not giving away trash, I felt guilty enough that I mended some holes in the sweaters and washed those that needed it. This is taking more time than just choosing what to give away!

Day 5: Slacks

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How many pairs of khaki slacks does one need? Well, more than one I guess since I could only get myself down to three (one dress pair for summer, one dress pair for winter, and one casual pair.) I justify these (plus my two pair of black slacks) by saying they are my all purpose travel/speaking uniform since I can match them with different tops and have a variety of outfits. Sounds reasonable to me. I wonder how it would sound to someone in Haiti. How important is it to a speaker’s credibility to have sharp, modern looking clothes? Your thoughts?

Since today is Sunday (and thus doesn’t count as one of the 40 days of Lent) I’m not giving anything away, but I am still thinking. (Maybe today I’m actually giving away thoughts. 🙂 ) Anyway, this blog has had the unintended side effect of putting me in touch with some lost friends. One of them, Dan Mulhall, posed two challenging questions:

1. Are you only giving away things that you no longer want, or are you also considering giving away things that you love but think that others can use?

2. Are you also giving away non-things , like ideas, suggestions for programs or talks, etc.?

So far, I’ve been giving from my excess. I’ll have to see where this experience leads.

Now it gets a little harder. Although my typical daily wardrobe consists of jeans and a turtleneck, I do need to have some professional attire for speaking engagements. (The fashion police, aka my daughter, informed me that my wardrobe really needed a makeover if I wanted to have credibility with the younger generation of couples and parents.) So, I have a few stock outfits that I use for travel and speaking. Plus, there are some really fine suits that I don’t wear all that often but, hey! you never know when I might need a whole week of professional suits. I also want to keep that black suit that’s perfect for funerals. As my mother says, “At my age I’m going to more and more of them.”

Day 3: Skirts


OK, I admit this is more of a female give-away item, but don’t worry, you guys will have your chance. Since I’ve primarily been working from home for the past six years, I don’t need to get dressed up very often and that’s fine with me. It saves time and money spent on a professional wardrobe. But…I’ve never pruned the clothes I used to wear to work from my closet. Skirts are the beginning. Although I have sentimental attachment to some skirts, I have to admit choosing to get rid of some was not a difficult decision. They were pretty outdated anyway.

Day 2: Shirts

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I’ve discovered that it’s hard to pick just one category like “shirts” to get rid of. Some shirts or blouses go with particular slacks or skirts and I shouldn’t decide one without knowing if I’ll keep items that coordinate with it. Although I’ll write about these in discrete categories, I see that clothing is like a family system. Each piece has a relationship with other pieces. No shirt is an island.

PS: In order to put some order to my choices, I’ve decided to go room by room starting with our bedroom. That’s probably where our closet and drawers are most in need of pruning. Besides, that’s where the shoes were.

PPS to Kathleen who promised to match me shirt for shirt: You only need to give away 5 shirts since one of those pictured is from our house guest who is joining in the give-away.

I decided to start my Lenten give-away with shoes. I thought this would be relatively easy since I’m not a big collector of shoes – or so I thought. According to  Soles4Souls, the average American owns 13 pairs of shoes. I figured I was probably under that and could go lower. Wrong. When I added up all my shoes (including slippers and boots), it came to 30 pairs. I was horrified! I pruned it down to 13 but I’m not happy being average. In a typical week I only wear 5 pair. I’ll have to think about this. Soles4Souls can direct your gently used shoes to a good home.

Days 365+24a MousseToday is Mardi Gras (French for “Fat Tuesday”). Traditionally it is the last splurge for Christians before Lent. This brings up the question of splurging. Is it OK? Is it weakness? Should it be avoided? My own experience with splurging is that it’s a lot like keeping a good diet. Occasional splurges are good for the psyche and soul. By splurge I don’t mean binge eating, drinking, or buying, but rather allowing myself occasional treats so I don’t feel deprived. If I make a private agreement with myself that two cookies at lunch is OK then I don’t feel deprived and tempted to eat more. As you can tell, I’m a pretty frugal person (our kids have a less positive term for it) so sending flowers to someone is a stretch for me when I see what I consider to be exorbitant prices. But I’m training myself to let go of my stingy impulses because sometimes it’s good to splurge on someone out of love – or even splurge on myself, lest I become a dour, bah humbug, self-righteous, stick in the mud. (For those with a spendthrift personality, ignore the above.)

Conveniently, the Lenten calendar provides us with automatic splurge (or respite) days, known as Sundays. Sundays are not counted as the 40 days of Lent so I will not choose anything to give away on Sundays. I may, however, still write a blog reflection.

What’s your favorite splurge?

Being responsible is good. Being prepared is good. But – is it possible to give too much away? Is it irresponsible to give away savings and then be dependent on the government or charity for help if you lose your job or get sick? My first impulse is to say, YES. If I have a choice, that’s irresponsible. Yet I find myself challenged by the scriptures:

He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics.” (Mk 6:8-9)

“If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” (Mt 19:21)

Should we take these words literally, or more as a reminder not to accumulate too much – and what is too much? When I travel (especially with young children) I consider taking along provisions for them to be responsible. It’s hard to know how much is enough and how much is too much? Giving everything away? – Is it irresponsible, or is it dependence on God. How do YOU decide where to draw the line?

Today is Valentine’s Day (obviously not Ash Wednesday) but human needs don’t wait on the liturgical calendar. Today there’s a shower for our pregnant teenage friend. She needs EVERYTHING! Although I had been saving a lot of baby gear for our own grandchildren just in case our own young adults might want them, I keep telling myself this teenager NEEDS this stuff now. I’ve decided that this immediate need trumps the “just in case” principle. I have some emotional attachment to the baby outfits and know that I’ll probably not see them again (like the maternity clothes I gave her), but I’m trying to let go. Too bad I can’t count this for one of my 40 Lenten give-aways; but then, who’s counting? 🙂

I value time. I’m always trying to save it. You may remember that Jim and I are helping a teenage expectant mother with transportation and other daily needs. Yesterday I took her to a doctor’s appt. and grocery shopping which took most of the morning. The day before we made complicated arrangements so I would have a car to pick her up from a hospital appt. (which turned out to have been cancelled but she didn’t know it since her phone is out of minutes). A couple days before that we made two trips to the emergency room after midnight because she thought she was in labor. (Turned out she wasn’t.) I’m happy to do this for someone in need but most of these trips turned out to be unnecessary and all together it equaled a day of work. Since I’m self-employed, if I don’t work, I don’t get paid and I’m bumping up against a writing deadline. I wish it were already Lent so I could count this as a day I gave away TIME.

The other side of regretting throwing something away, is being happy I saved something – for a brief moment. Last Sunday our parish had an African-American Culture Mass. About 10 years ago (when my daughter was a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa) we had matching “complets” made. (A complet is a brightly colored woman’s outfit common in West Africa.) I thought it would be nice to wear it to the Mass. I searched and, voila! there it was in my closet. I wore it. Nobody noticed. That was OK. I decided it just wasn’t me and I probably should have given it away years ago. Lesson? Is this something I would replace if I lost it? If not, it’s probably safe to give away. Anybody have other rules of thumb for what to save?