HomeIgnatian PrayerA Startling Experiment

A Startling Experiment

Could you live your everyday life in just six pieces of clothing?  It is the question behind a website called “Six Items or Less.”

In the trans-Atlantic experiment, people around the world volunteered to choose six items of clothing and wear only those six things for a month, at work and at home.  That’s it.  People wrote about their six choices, how they used them and how other people reacted to them wearing the same clothes all month.

The astonishing part of this experiment:  Virtually no one noticed.  People from around the world who participated in the experiment in June, wrote blog updates during the month, reflecting on their experiences.  They wrote that no one realized they were wearing only six items of clothing over and over again. Wives and husbands both wrote that they didn’t mention the experiment to spouses and that not even the spouses noticed it.  One woman said her mother, who sees her daily, didn’t notice.  Her mother shrugged and said she wouldn’t know what any of her children wore yesterday.

It makes me wonder about the image we try to project to the world at large and those around us and how little it really means.  And it makes me consider my own life before God.  Do I spend a lot of time putting on a costume before I come to God?  Do I want to impress God somehow?

Do I even put off coming before God until I can fix myself up?  I’ll really get into my relationship with God when work isn’t so busy.  When my life is less hectic or when my kids are more settled in their lives.  When I am holier.  As soon as I stop being so impatient with other people.  When I can be perfect. . .

It’s a lesson I have to learn over and over again–God is just waiting for and loving me, and incredibly joyful when I finally put aside the six things I think I need to do or be and just open my heart to him.

Maureen McCann Waldron
Maureen McCann Waldron
Maureen McCann Waldron graduated from Creighton University with a degree in journalism and then spent 22 years in corporate public relations. After receiving her master’s degree in Christian spirituality from Creighton, she joined Andy Alexander, SJ, in Creighton’s Collaborative Ministry Office.


  1. all of us probably have to much clothing. I know that’s me, and i still buy more, but don’t seem through out. I hope to change and get some clothes to goodwill, or is there a Catholic charity for this?
    Here is an excerpt from http://www.Zenhabits.com that reinforces this point
    If you prefer, the link is: http://zenhabits.net/simple-wasteless/
    “…… So here’s how to make sure that by decluttering possessions you don’t need, it’s not a waste:
    1. Learn your lesson. This might sound condescending, but it’s not meant to be — if we don’t realize our mistakes, we can’t learn and avoid them in the future. So realize: you shouldn’t have bought the items in the first place. Avoid doing this in the future, by buying as little as you possibly can. Stop being a consumer, and start living.
    2. Realize that keeping the items is wasteful. If you keep stuff you don’t need, it costs you money — you pay for the space to store it (lots of possessions means bigger homes or storage containers), you pay to maintain it, it costs you time (and therefore money) to keep it and go around it, you have to fix things when they break, you have to sort through things to find things, you spend time moving things around, and so on. Getting rid of this unnecessary stuff frees you of this waste.
    3. Find someone who will use it. It’s a waste to keep something when you’re not using it (a good reason car-sharing is a much better use of cars than private ownership, btw). So find a friend or family member who needs it, or give it to Goodwill or some other such charity, or donate it to a library that will let many others use it. Consider starting a neighborhood tool library, or a book-sharing spot in your community. When someone else uses your items, it’s not a waste.
    4. Test the waters. If you’re unsure of whether you’ll need something later, put it to a test: have you used it in the last six months? If not, you probably don’t need it (unless it’s seasonal — then ask if you needed it in the last year). If you’re still unsure, box it up with today’s date, and check on it in six months — if you never needed to open the box, you didn’t need it.
    5. Don’t let your possessions own you. If you hold on to possessions because you feel it would be wasteful to get rid of them, they are controlling you. They are dictating your life, rather than you creating the life you want, living how you want to live. Let go of possessions and be free — living otherwise would be the true waste.
    6. Make better use of your time and space. Once you’re freed of this clutter, don’t waste your freed time on acquiring more stuff. Spend your time on incredible experiences, not on possessions. In the end, get a smaller house, now that you need to store less stuff, and help save the earth while you’re at it (a smaller home, along with ditching your car and becoming vegan, is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your carbon emissions).”
    ‘Don’t water your weeds.’ ~Harvey MacKay

  2. Even before getting to the higher order issues in your wonderful kicker paragraph, I was entranced by the basic premise of stripping down one’s wardrobe — so to speak. Reading participants’ responses served to reinforce my own strong support for things like school uniforms.
    Have a good laugh on me: I, who have always tended toward a limited wardrobe, received the most flak for that when I served on a parish staff. Heard, “lose the black” and “grow out the hair” more than once! Go figure.


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