Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Prudence and the clothing swap

I was planning to blog much earlier today--I even had some semi-coherent thoughts about various topics I've been meaning to discuss. But that was before I realized this afternoon that one of my least favorite chores, the seasonal clothing swap, had to happen--and fast.

With the daily forecasts into the 70s and 80s (though not, as yet, amazingly, beyond), I couldn't put off the process of lugging into the house two boxes of summer clothes, sorting them, making Hatchick (who is always the most clothes-laden by the end of this process) try many of the items on, rounding up sweats and fleece sweaters from drawers and closets to put into the boxes to put back in the garage, and then tidying up those drawers and closets so all the shorts and t-shirts could replace the bulkier clothes we took out.

The girls help, of course. But it's a long, drawn-out process, in which some favorites in good condition are set aside for some slightly younger girl cousins (yes, my friend, we have one more bag for you!), some other things in good condition are set aside for charity, and those things that were worn to death are tossed altogether; there are lots of pauses ("do I really have to hang this up right now?") and questions ("I like this...but it seems tight when I sit down. Is that okay?") and all in all, the whole day disappears while we get the last stacks of usable items put away in their proper places. And then, of course, I ponder the mystery that at least one daughter always seems to have nothing at all to wear, and make plans for some late night online browsing to see if what can be purchased on our budget.

I once told Thad that my idea of wealth, of luxury, of riches beyond our wildest dreams, would be--a house with closets big enough for all the summer and winter clothes to be stored indoors. At the same time.

Of course, part of the problem is the Texas climate, with its totally strange capabilities. We can, and did this year, have snow--it can be in the teens, sometimes, in the winter--so we do need heavy, bulky clothes, even if we only need them for about four months out of the year. But at the other end of the scale we have triple-digit temperatures, and can be in the 90s by late April or early May, so it's not much fun to go digging around past corduroy and long-sleeved tops to try to find something one won't swelter in, and only realize at that point that one outgrew those things and gave them to one's little sister last summer--as my girls could tell you.

I used to make the mistake of doing this clothing swap far too early in the season. Midwestern me, silly woman, would be fooled by the first wave of seventy to eighty degree weather and would drag the boxes inside and sort, fold, pile, reject, store, hang, remove, box up, and return to storage--only to have the capricious spring weather coyly throw a couple of raging thunderstorms our way, after which the temperatures would drop back into the forties. Then, of course, I'd drag the boxes back into the house so everyone could find a couple of warm outfits, and sometime in June I'd realize that the reason the closets were so packed was because there were still winter garments hanging with impossible heaviness among the wisps of cotton and colorful short-sleeved shirts.

But waiting too long to do the swap isn't a great idea, either--so at some point you have to look at the weather forecasts, make a leap of faith, and box up winter and put it away--with, perhaps, a pair of slacks and a cardigan or two to handle any of Nature's tricks.

Life would be easier if we didn't have to make those sorts of decisions at all, if I had the house with big enough closets to store all the clothes. It would also be easier if I could be certain before deciding to do the clothing swap that the weather wasn't going to change--that, from here on out, there would be increasingly hot temperatures, blue skies, and no need for warm clothes until sometime in late fall. But life doesn't work that way.

God doesn't put us somewhere where we don't have to make decisions. There's no "one right way" to live our daily lives, no shortcut to holiness where all the bothersome decision-making and choices are taken away from us, so that we can let someone else call all the shots and relax, knowing that morally speaking we're off the hook, that we're just following orders.

Of course, we have lots of guidance. We have Christ and His Church, which the Holy Spirit guides; we have the Church's teachings, her Catechism, her doctrines and rules--and these are greatly helpful, especially in keeping us away from serious sin; we have her priests and religious and wise laity to give us advice and counsel.

If I ignore the weather forecasts and take all of the winter clothes out to the garage too early, or fail to bring the summer clothes inside until there's a desperate need for them, I have no one but myself to blame for acting imprudently. The same thing is true if I ignore the Church's counsel and act imprudently in some moral area; the virtue of prudence helps us, the Catechism says, to "...apply moral principles to particular cases without error and overcome doubts about the good to achieve and the evil to avoid." Bringing the summer clothes in too early involves only an inconvenience; failing to apply moral principles correctly to things like abortion, torture, unjust war, illicit sex, pornography and the like has far more disastrous consequences for the immortal soul.


Dawn said...

great post. I was just discussing prudence with my daughter last evening. I'll share this with her as well.

Jeannette said...

Daughters #1 and 2 have huge closets in their room so that winter and summer stuff don't have to be switched out. As a result, daughter #3 has missed out on some outfits that were kept in #2's closet until they were even too small for #3. And even though daughter #1 stopped growing several years ago, it's still a daunting task to go through her huge closet. I've just finished going through the youngest five's clothes for the season, the big ones have to do their own...

LeeAnn Balbirona said...

Here in the PacNW we keep out everything but the snowsuits and parkas year round (in the rare years we really need them). On a summer morning, we still put on long sleeves over a short sleeved shirt and gradually shed layers through the day. It's why we wear shorts with wool socks and sandals. :) I thought my closets were too small too...until I realized we didn't need as many clothes as we had. Try reducing the number of clothes rather than wishing for bigger closets. I tend to sort things in threes: three long sleeve dresses, three short sleeve dresses, l/s shirts, s/s shirts, jeans or khakis, shorts, short pajamas, long pajamas, etc. Of these, one might be the nicer quality for Mass, one everyday, one work-quality that can be stained without tears. Saves time on laundry, too!