The first time I sat down to read John Mark Comer’s The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, I finished it in one night. I didn’t intend to complete this book in a single sitting, but I simply could not put it down. Yes, I recognize the irony that I hurried my way through it. And yes, by the time I closed the vivid, stop sign red cover, it had changed my entire style philosophy.
Let me begin this post by admitting to you that for much of my adult life, I would consider myself a shopaholic at worst, an avid impulse shopper at best. You might think my decade-plus career as a Certified Image Consultant would have tamed those bad habits and that I would have a well-thought out wardrobe as I shepherded my clients toward making more discerning shopping decisions for themselves.
… You thought wrong.
Of course, I knew the principles of how to dress to flatter my figure, which colors look best on me, and various techniques to maximize the pieces cluttering the shelves in my closet. I did routine closet audits and raised my standards about what I adopted into my wardrobe.
But none of that stopped me from shopping.
And shopping some more.
Enter: The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry.
Seeing the error of my ways
To be fair, some of the lessons I’m about to share with you I had realized at various points along my journey. The problem was, although I might course-correct for a season, I wasn’t convicted to make permanent changes. That is, until I opened the chapter of this book titled Simplicity.
Now, there’s one other tidbit you need to know going into this story. If you couldn’t tell by the title, this is NOT a style book. It’s a book about the countless benefits of un-hurrying your life. The author, John Mark Comer, is a pastor in Portland, Oregon. The steps he recommends to slow down your pace of life are rooted in spiritual disciplines. There’s a lot of talk about Jesus. There are Scripture references. If this makes you squirm in your seat, maybe it’s not the right time for you to read this article. Or maybe you just need to settle into the discomfort and stick with me until the end. At least skim the headings. Because wherever your beliefs stand today, there is so much wisdom and value to be gained from the (I’d argue universal) lessons inside this book.
Bottom line: I hope you’ll keep reading. Because it’s about to get good.
Now, where was I? Oh right. The chapter on simplicity.
This section begins by highlighting the dichotomy between many of Jesus’ teachings and how we tend to think about life.
One particular verse stood out to me. It goes like this…
“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? . . . Seek first [God’s] kingdom.”
Matthew 6:25, 33
I’d heard this section of Scripture countless times before. It never really phased me. I mean, I think about what I wear (obviously!), but I don’t worry about it. I definitely try to put God first. But as I continued reading, I was about to be convicted at a whole new level.
“[‘The gospel of America’] makes the exact opposite claim. In a nutshell: the more you have, the happier you’ll be. . . . But let me say what you all know: the carrot dangling in front of our noses is attached to a stick.“
Oof. That rings true. And it made me think about the many times I had thoughts like: if I can just get THAT dress, I’ll be so happy. Or once I save up to buy THIS handbag, I’ll feel like a real success.
John Mark goes on to add…
“For a lot of people, things aren’t just things; they are identities. Shopping is now the number one leisure activity in America, usurping the place previously held by religion. Amazon.com is the new temple. The Visa statement is the new altar. Double-clicking is the new liturgy. Lifestyle bloggers are the priests and priestesses. Money is the new god. There’s a reason the only other god Jesus ever called out by name was Mammon—the god of money. Because it’s a bad god and a lousy religion.”
I know, I know! You didn’t click on this article to feel guilt or shame. I don’t think that was the author’s intention either. (Seeing how our God is not a god of guilt or shame, but of infinite love and grace.)
But reading this helped me see the error of my ways. My stuff was my identity. My worth was wrapped up in my success. My closet wasn’t just a means to getting dressed, it defined how I saw myself. Yikes.
What now (the Solution)
At this point, I started having some serious doubts about whether I was putting goodness out into the world with my career choice. Am I really called to help women buy clothes? Is this even valuable? Is it sinful?
Thankfully, I kept reading and thinking.
“Jesus and the writers of the New Testament put the number of our material needs at a whopping two things: food and clothing. ‘If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.’ ─1 Timothy 6:8 . . . What if the only material things we need to live rich and satisfying lives are food to eat, clothing on our backs, and a place to live? If you doubt your ability to live that simply and thrive, you’re not alone.”
Now, we’re getting somewhere. One of the two (or three) life essentials is clothing. We have to get dressed every day. Or most days. I won’t judge what you do in the privacy of your own home. 😉
Marrying this thought with the reality that we are judged for the way in which we show up, I know this is an area where I can help cut through the noise and the lies that more is more. I want to help you feel empowered around getting dressed more confidently, quickly, and simply AND to remember that what you wear is NOT what you’re worth.
Thankfully, John Mark pulled a few practical philosophies out of the Bible that I think you might embrace just as much as I did. Again, no matter your religion or lack thereof.
❶ Keep it simple.
I would not describe myself as a minimalist by any means. I like to have options. But I can get down with the idea of a clutter-free closet (and life).
John Mark offers this thought, “The goal here is to live with a high degree of intentionality around what matters most […].” Sound familiar? If you’ve been in my orbit for any length of time, you’ve likely heard me say, “The reason you have a closet full of clothes with nothing to wear is because you’re likely shopping on impulse rather than with intention.”
Now you know the source of that epiphany. And yes, that’s me preaching to the choir. 🙋♀️
My first order of business became sharing the reality that a building a wardrobe you love comes down to having more intention about what you bring into said wardrobe. It sounds so obvious now, doesn’t it?
❷ Evaluate the (total) cost.
To that point, I’ve started asking myself what the true cost of an item is before I buy it ─and I try to instill the same habit in my clients. It sounds something like this… Can I actually afford this? How often will I use it? What’s the cost-per-wear and is that a worthwhile investment? Will this add value to my closet and life or will it add clutter and complications?
❸ Shop more responsibly.
This is different from intentionality. John Mark harps a lot about the dangers of fast fashion, including the environmental impact of non-biodegradable materials like polyester, “which is now in a startling 50 percent of our clothes” and the “dark underbelly of globalization”. He further explains…
“I had no clue that a huge chunk of the items in my home and life were made unjustly, if not with full-on human trafficking and child labor. . . . One in six people in the world work in the garment industry. That’s just south of 1.5 billion people. For those who care about feminism, approximately 80 percent of those workers are women. Fewer than 2 percent of them make a living wage. No wonder we call a cheap item a ‘steal.'”
I’m not going to tell you I haven’t bought a single piece of polyester or shopped only from sustainable brands since reading this book, but I have made strides. I love to recommend resources like ThredUp and consignment store shopping. I’m always on the hunt for more affordable and ethical clothing and accessory manufacturers to share with my clients and email community.
And I’ve made a personal commitment to donate 10% of HER Style, LLC profits every year to EDEN, a non-profit, anti-trafficking organization restoring freedom to women held captive in the darkness of Asia’s trafficking hubs. EDEN provides shelter, education, and a full-time wage while giving women an opportunity to work only part-time making beautiful jewelry representing the hope of their futures.
I still have a long way to go, but I largely credit this book for helping me see the importance of taking steps in the right direction.
❹ Less, but better.
Over my 15+ year career, experiences with my own wardrobe, and ─you guessed it─ reading this book, I’m convinced that quality beats quantity when it comes to clothing.
Not only do I encourage us all to shop with greater intention, but to invest in the best quality we can and to fill in the gaps of our wardrobes first. Adopting these “needs before wants” and “less, but better” philosophies has enabled me to invest in pieces that last longer, kept me from shiny object syndrome, prevented buyer’s remorse, and helped me learn to live (contently) with less.
Does this mean you should never treat yourself to things you don’t need? No.
John Mark shares this rule of thumb from English designer William Morris…
“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
If you set THIS standard for your wardrobe, how much more satisfied would you be?
❺ Our worth isn’t in what we own.
Deep down, we know this. But it’s so easy to get wrapped up in the materialism of today. Between ads and influencers, none of us are immune to envy and self-serving aspirations. There is a God-shaped hole in each of us that can never be filled by accumulating more stuff.
Whether you share that belief or not, I think we can all agree we are more than what we wear.
I’ve learned to put thought into my wardrobe without defining myself by my wardrobe. I know happiness doesn’t come from a Pinterest-worthy shoe collection or toting designer handbags. My joy isn’t in having a well-appointed wardrobe with the perfect outfit for every occasion. Although, curating my closet with intention and discernment does make it a whole lot easier (and more fun!) to get dressed in the morning.
Believe it or not, I’ve only skimmed the surface of this single chapter from The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry. As I said, there is endless wisdom, relatable humor, and sound practices inside this book. You can see how much it’s shaped the work that I do today. I can’t recommend this read highly enough and I encourage you to pick up a copy. It just might change your style philosophy ─and your life,─ too.
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