OyChicago blog

Rediscovering My Faith

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How a Loyola University student embraced Judaism again through Hillel
04/24/2015

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Religion. Never in a million years did I ever think I would become more connected with my Judaism. I came from a household of Russian/Ukrainian parents where religion was almost non-existent because of the restrictions on Jews in the former Soviet Union. We celebrated Passover and Chanukah once when I was five. I remember celebrating New Year's as a child, with a tree and the ever-symbolic Grandfather Frost, common non-religious Russian traditions. 

I found it hard to explain how I lost the little faith I was exposed to. Recently, during an interview, I was asked, "How did you get interested in becoming more involved with Judaism?" My response usually is, "I am communal Jew." However, I found myself blurting out, "I lost Judaism, and now I found it here at Loyola."

Not many people know about my past. In fact, I refused to talk about it once I got to Loyola. I transferred here in the fall of 2013 - was it important to really talk about my story? Now more than ever, I think college is the time to talk about one's story. 

From my birth till the age of 10, I was raised in a psychically and mentally abusive home. My father subjected me and my entire family to cruel and traumatizing situations. I recall as a child praying and pleading for all the issues to end. I prayed every single day but nothing ever happened. At such a young age, I questioned why God would let bad things happen to good people. I didn't hear a response, and I lost my faith. When I was 10, my father kicked my mother and me out of our home. I thought, "Was this a miracle or God's way of punishing me?"

I reached my adolescence feeling that Judaism was never a part of my identity growing up. I had such a negative perception about religion, and I loathed the sight of any practice. I naively thought to myself, "Why would they do this? Nobody is listening!"

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Adam Mogilevsky

Fast-forward 11 years. I am now the vice president of Hillel at Loyola, the Jewish student organization on campus. How? Honestly, it was all an accident. I walked into Hillel because a friend invited me, and the rest is history. I felt welcomed, and I was able to participate in Jewish holidays and cultural events and communal activities. I felt uncomfortable at first, but once I let my barriers down and encountered each ritual with an open mind, I became more comfortable, and I fell in love with the Jewish community. As I became more involved, I began to really understand the importance of embracing my religious identity. 

I began my position in the fall thinking about ways to improve Hillel's visibility on campus, and I ended up focusing most of my time building a sense of community among the students. They come from all backgrounds. Each student possesses amazing tenacity and spirit toward Jewish life. They have made me nothing but proud. Siting in Hillel and seeing the soon-to-be leaders and the freshmen having fun makes me hopeful for the future - a future without anti-Semitism, a future where the Jewish population at Loyola will no longer be one percent, and most importantly a future where we become not just classmates, but family.

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Hillel at Loyola

I am also proud of Loyola's diversity. Twenty-seven years ago Loyola reached out to The Hillels of Illinois to begin a permanent collaboration. Wanting to promote a diverse community that promoted mutual respect and knowledge, and encouraging a broad understanding of faith as a part of a transformative educational mission, Loyola brought Hillel onto campus. This bold initiative move for diversity and supporting religious and cultural pluralism is one of the school's biggest strengths.

Every attempt to diversify the campus comes with it the beauty of differing opinions and beliefs, so it comes as no surprise that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement has reemerged on campus.

This time, the resolution brought to the Student Senate requested the university divest from all companies (such as Boeing and Raytheon) that are militarily complicit in human rights abuses toward Palestinians. Their main target, as usual, was Israel. Not Iran, not Syria, not Lebanon, but Israel, the one and only true democracy in the Middle East. The resolution passed 16-15-2, and a week later the Senate President signed it. 

I, along with other anti-divestment advocates, stood up in front of the Senate and told them the ugly truth. With each passage of divestment on college campuses we see a surge of anti-Semitic activity. If the basis of the student government is to promote safety and ensure the well being of the community, how does legislation advancing personal political beliefs accomplish this? 

Various student groups have ignored any collaborative efforts to do bridge-building with Hillel. We have been ignored on issues of dialoguing, and some students have had anti-Semitic comments made to them. Even so, we sat through the last two Senate meetings where senators completely disregarded any existence of anti-Semitism on campus. 

Students on college campuses find themselves inundated and indoctrinated with one-sided information. It is up to us as Jews to combat this misinformation and educate the community about what Israel does and does not do. In continuing to educate students regardless of the outcome, and standing side by side, I wholeheartedly believe our Jewish community has grown closer because of this experience. I am incredibly proud of my community. We didn't give up and we fought 'til the end, as we will every single year if we have too. 

I am proud of my efforts to bring our small yet strong Jewish community together. Watching students experience their faith reminds me of how I found my faith again at Loyola and gained something that can never be taken away from me - a stronger cohesive identity. 

As I reflect on my time at the university, I can only thank Loyola for everything it has already done to foster a Jewish community here, and I am confident that Loyola will focus on its recruitment efforts to insure that Jewish life will continue to thrive here.

Adam Mogilevsky is a senior at Loyola University Chicago where he is the vice-president of Hillel and an interfaith advocate. He will be graduating with a B.A in History in May.

To read more posts in the "Repairing Our World" blog series, click here .

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Remembering is Repairing

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04/23/2015

Repairing Our World photo

I think I hit my all-time tikkun olam high when I was 16. For the first time in my life, I left the North American continent and, with 16 other teenagers from my synagogue, traveled to the Czech Republic. I don’t think any of us quite understood the sheer holiness of the task before us, but that would quickly change, and change us for good.

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Our group at the cemetery. I’m in the back right in the dorky Cubs floppy hat.

Our quest: visit the tiny community of Kolin, the original home of a Torah scroll that survived the Holocaust and came into the care of our synagogue in the northern suburbs of Chicago. There stood a Jewish cemetery, overgrown with weeds, the names on the headstones shrouded in rampant vines, a piece of European Jewish history that – like much else after World War II – had been discarded and forgotten.

After touring Prague for a few days, we arrived in Kolin armed with gardening tools and a fierce sense of responsibility. We were the third contingent of youth from our synagogue to make the journey, and it had been three years since the last trip – plenty of time for nature to erase the hard work of our predecessors.

Our focus and determination to clear off as many graves as we could kept much of those days a blur, but I will never forget reading names, names that might otherwise have been forgotten, or huddling together to say kaddish at the graveside of people who had no one left to say kaddish for them. It was on this trip that I learned firsthand the meaning of the Pirkei Avot quote, lo alecha hamlacha ligmor, v’lo atah ben chorin l’hibateil mimenah – “it’s not your duty to complete the task, but neither are you free to desist from it.” The solace in knowing that time would undo all our labor was that another group of teens would come along and continue it, and our legacy would endure.

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The row of graves a few of us worked to clear early on in the day

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The row of graves after we finished clearing

Well, three years later our synagogue teens returned, and what they found nobody quite expected. The cemetery had been completely cleaned up by the proper Czech authorities. When I heard the news, I chose to believe it was the work of our previous trips that finally made the someone take notice and commit to maintaining the cemetery. This was a different feeling than simply engaging in a couple days of mitzvot. This was what raising awareness and affecting change felt like. This was tikkun olam.

As far as making a difference goes, I think most of the 17 of us who unearthed a part of our Jewish identities while cutting, pulling and scraping the cemetery clear of weeds would still rank that trip as the most powerful volunteer experience of our lives. Yet more than a decade later, many of us have chosen difference-making, fulfilling paths. Four of us from that trip, myself included, became youth group advisors (one led a future trip to Kolin), a handful of us work for Jewish non-profits (again, myself included) and a few have chosen helping professions. And that’s just what I know, or what Facebook and LinkedIn tell me.

Reflecting on the trip today, I realize that repairing the world is not about accruing successful and meaningful volunteer experiences, but about making a commitment to the work that needs to be done in this world once you see a part of it that is broken that you know you can help fix. I’m a little sad that the current upkeep of the Kolin cemetery will prevent future participants from sharing in my same experience, but to say it takes away from the tikkun olam value of the trip would be missing the point. Witnessing, experiencing – and in this case, remembering – are all part of that commitment.

On Yom HaShoah last week, my old youth group advisor – old as in a long time ago, not old as in age (you’re welcome, Larry!) – shared our group photo from the trip. His intent was to honor the day by remembering the work we did to remember others; what I remembered was how proud I was of that experience, of how it affected me in a way I did not know I could be moved. More importantly I remembered the difference I made that summer, the differences (however smaller) I have made since, and the differences I am still capable of making.

This June will mark the seventh Congregation BJBE youth trip to Kolin, and my cousin will become the fourth member of my family to help keep alive the memory of the Jewish community there. He too will pray in the Kolin synagogue, now a museum, and feel the connection to these people whose lives were stripped away from them. Hopefully, he too will look back on his path 12 years later and realize he’s done more to repair the world than he thought.

 To read more posts in the "Repairing Our World" blog series, click here.

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Making a Difference, L’dor Vador

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04/22/2015

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“Would you be willing to donate to the Muscular Dystrophy Association?” I was taught to say holding a can out to shoppers walking out of local stores. Rather than being the shoppers, like most moms and daughters, this was many times what I would do with my mother on weekends. My parents became involved in the organization when one of their friends had a family member suffering from the disease. 

“Why are we picking up people who are waiting for the bus?” I would ask my dad. “Because it doesn’t look like the bus is coming for a while and they look like they need a ride,” he said, not afraid to pick up strangers. When I learned how to drive, the refrain became, “Go pick up (fill in the name of a person from our synagogue who had no family in the Chicago area) and bring them here for dinner so they aren’t alone.” 

This is how I was taught to contribute to making the world a better place. 

When I was in seventh grade, I asked to borrow our synagogue’s Purim carnival games to host a fundraiser for the MDA (and this was long before mitzvah projects were a bar/bat mitzvah requirement). In high school, I became president of my temple youth group. At the University of Illinois, I became president of Hillel, where I met my husband, Mark. His parents were also involved in leadership roles both in and outside of the Jewish community (a legacy he continues today on the board of Sinai Health Systems and of a senior housing building in our community), and I think that’s part of what drew us together.

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Carla and her oldest son, Jeremy, at a Planned Parenthood rally.

When it was time to choose my profession, I saw my parents, who served as the presidents of many organizations, as examples. I also admired the youth advisors from the organizations I was involved in (USY, NFTY, B’nai Brith). So I decided that my passion was in social work.

For the last 32 years, I have worked for Metropolitan Family Services, one of the oldest and largest non-sectarian agencies in Chicago, and I have the privilege of knowing I’ve helped at least one person every day. The abused and neglected adults with disabilities and older adults that I serve as supervisor of an Adult Protective Services program sometimes say they prayed for help and I came. That is a pretty nice feeling. Like the old saying, “to the world you may just be one person, but to that one person you might be the world.”

I have brought in help for overwhelmed caregivers, cleaned bathrooms so someone wouldn’t get evicted, assisted hoarders in making their homes safer, held the hands of people as they were dying and even participated in the mitzvah of burying someone, all as part of my job to make a difference in someone’s life.  

Social work is not the kind of job you can easily leave at home, so my children have often overheard me talking on the phone to clients. They would ask me how so-and-so is doing and I would tell them (of course keeping everything confidential). But children observe more than listen, so it was important that we go out and volunteer in the community. Our favorite experiences have been working at the JUF Uptown Café on Christmas Eve, putting together and delivering Maot Chitim boxes on Rosh Hashanah and Passover and making lunches for the homeless before Sunday School (ok, not always fun, but a good learning experience …).  

As someone who was once a young adult and who now has young adult children of her own, I have learned the importance of looking to the generations that came before to see what really matters in life. What has been passed on to us is most likely what we will pass on to the next generation. My children took notice of when their parents and grandparents gave of their time and money, and now I am so proud to watch them bring the Jewish value of making the world a better place into practice in their lives.

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The Frisch family at a 2015 Keshet dinner.

My youngest, whose bat mitzvah theme was “Making a Difference,” became involved in activities serving children and young adults with disabilities because of a good family friend with a disability and is now studying to be an occupational therapist for children with special needs. My middle child, an engineer, is on the Junior Leadership Board of Keshet and the Auxiliary Board of Our Place of New Trier Township, both organizations serving those with special needs. Our oldest chose Brandeis University because of its social justice emphasis and worked for Planned Parenthood for four years.

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Carla’s daughter, Naomi, with her zayde, Lester Jameson (z”l), after receiving an award from New Trier Township for her work with people with disabilities.

This is what L’dor Vador is all about: Jewish values being passed down from generation to generation. There is no better way to make the world a better place than by sharing it with family.  

Personally, I can’t wait to see what the next generation brings to the table. 

To read more posts in the "Repairing Our World" blog series, click here.

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My Legs Were Praying

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04/21/2015

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Last month I found myself on the side of a highway outside Montgomery, Alabama, with a group of 300 strangers. We represented three countries, 29 states, and hundreds of personal stories and purposes that brought us together.

The event was the 50th Anniversary Walking Classroom, an immersive educational experience commemorating the 1965 March for Voting Rights. We replicated the 54-mile journey from Selma to Montgomery that 300 activists and faith leaders marched to shed a light on racial injustice and break down the significant barriers to the ballot box that African-Americans faced almost a century after they were legally allowed to vote.

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Photo credit: Albert Cesare

“Like the children of Israel leaving Egypt, we marched toward the Red Sea, and we were on our way, not knowing what was before us,” wrote Amelia Boynton Robinson, one of the organizers of the 1965 marches.

Raised in an interfaith home, social justice is one of the things that ultimately attracted me to Judaism. Reading about how many young Jews flocked to the March on Washington and risked violence on Freedom Rides and at Sit-Ins filled me with pride and a sense of obligation to ensure civil rights for everyone.

I’ve always thought that activists have this moment where they make a choice between what is easy and what is right – and I’ve wondered when my choice would present itself. It turns out you sometimes need to take the first steps of a journey before you realize that you’ve already made your choice.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who marched next to Martin Luther King, Jr. as the crowd swelled to 25,000 upon reaching Montgomery in 1965, connected faith and activism when he wrote that, “for many of us the march from Selma to Montgomery was about protest and prayer. Legs are not lips and walking is not kneeling. And yet our legs uttered songs. Even without words, our march was worship. I felt my legs were praying.”

That line has always spoken to me, but miles into the walk I began to feel it on a deeper level. Deeper than my blisters and sunburn, louder than the spirituals we sang in the pouring rain, I felt in my bones throughout those five days of marching that I was doing something meaningful and holy.

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It was good I had my legs to pray, because I was left speechless more often than I could have ever anticipated.

When a foot soldier who marched in 1965 embraced and thanked me for honoring her march 50 years ago, I was speechless.

When I crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, without danger or hesitation, I was speechless.

When Amelia Boynton Robinson drove alongside us one afternoon on the highway outside of Selma, I was speechless.

When I stood at the memorial to Viola Liuzzo, the only white woman to die while protesting during the Civil Rights Movement, I was speechless.  

When our 300-person march swelled to thousands on the last morning, as we filled block after block of downtown Montgomery and assembled in front of the capitol, I was speechless.

After the formal program ended, I walked up the steps of the capitol, and found the podium King stood at while giving his “How Long? Not Long” speech 50 years before, down to the day. I laid my hands on it, took hold of this piece of history that had supported a man who lived and died for freedom and equality, and prayed for the strength to bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice.

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I work with young people for a living, and I see it as my responsibility to create a world for them that allows them to learn and grow, and where it is safe to be themselves. When I read about Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, I think about the 17- and 18-year-olds that I love, and about the endless potential they have to influence the world and effect change, something stripped from young black men with alarming frequency.

Last week I was leading a Rosh Hodesh group for high schoolers at one of my synagogues. The maintenance staff had turned on the alarm, forgetting we were in the basement, and we set it off while looking for Nutella on a snack break. The alarm blared through the building and alerted the local police. I calmly explained to the responding officer that I was there to run my group, and that I was very sorry that this is the third synagogue I may or may not have set an alarm off at in my four years working with congregations. He took my name, thanked me for my time, and left.

I couldn’t help but ask myself, would that interaction have gone differently if I had been someone other than a 5 ft. 4 in. blond woman? If I were a different race or gender, if I appeared physically intimidating, how would the officer have approached me? If I had been leading a group of five 15-17 year old young black men, instead of white Jewish girls, would he expect one of us to be armed? To have broken into the building, instead of being on a mad hunt for some Nutella? The teens I work with can usually be approached by a police officer and feel safe. They receive the assumption of good will, rather than a weapon drawn on them.

On my first night in Selma, I sat down at dinner across from Harrison, a black 13-year-old. Because I spend all of my time with teenagers, and am socially awkward around my peers – like a 13-year-old – Harrison and I became fast friends, and I spent a lot of miles talking to him. We quizzed each other on Harry Potter trivia. We shared in the woes of being an only child and how we felt it probably wasn’t too late for our families to adopt brothers for us. We raced Fitbits to 10,000 steps each day, and we shared photos of our dogs on Instagram. It was no different than getting to know my teens at home in Chicago.

A week later, Harrison’s mom posted this to Facebook: “Today's homeschool lessons include where to put your hands if the car you are in is ever pulled over and how to ‘yes sir’ even when you know you're not wrong.”

It has never occurred to me to teach my teens deference to authority. In fact, I sometimes worry I’m going to get angry phone calls from parents for helping to raise radicals that I put out into the world with the express intent to make social change. I take joy in teaching them to be agitational when it comes to community organizing – to shake the system until it notices them and can’t help but hear their voices. And I’ve never thought that it could put them in fatal danger.

That is entrenched racism. That is privilege. That is why I walked and thought and prayed my way from Selma to Montgomery; it’s not enough for only my teens to be safe. Emma Lazarus wrote, “until we are all free, we are none of us free.” Repairing the world requires activism on behalf of everyone. Social action is just that – action. It comes from a life of movement, continuing to put one foot in front of the other, praying with our legs, marching toward justice. 

To read more posts in the "Repairing Our World" blog series, click here.

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No Shame

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04/20/2015

Repairing Our World photo

More than one out of every 100 deaths is by suicide. That is more people than die in car accidents. And more than 80 percent of Americans diagnosed with clinical depression are not getting any treatment for it. Studies have shown that one of the key barriers to people seeking treatment is the stigma associated with mental health.  

My name is Miriam Ament and I am dedicated to breaking the stigma associated with mental health through my organization, No Shame On U.

No Shame photo

More than a decade ago, I went through a major depression. I couldn’t get out of bed, felt helpless, hopeless and alone and couldn’t undertake simple tasks. In addition, I faced stigma and isolation from some friends and relatives who didn’t know how to handle me or the situation. When I was at the worst point in my depression, a good friend of mine called. “I only want to talk to you when you’re happy,” she said, “so let’s not talk again for a while.” I never heard from her again. Fortunately, I was able to successfully treat my depression with professional help.

Two years ago, through a charity auction, I had the opportunity to go to lunch with legendary actress Glenn Close. She founded a mental health organization and was very open to talking about it. I had never spoken about my history of depression with anyone who was not already aware of it, but I felt compelled to tell Glenn my whole story. She was amazing to talk to and it was so freeing. In turn, she told me a story about how on a visit to an Ivy League school, a Ph.D student approached her in secret to tell her she was living with severe depression but was afraid to tell her colleagues for fear of the impact it would have on her career.

My immediate reaction was “that needs to change.” I knew it was time to take my experiences and the challenges I faced and become a force for normalizing the mental health conversation.

Shortly after our meeting, Chicago media was buzzing about then Chicago Bear Brandon Marshall; not only on the field, but also off it. He was using his platform to share his story and raise awareness for mental health. The Brandon Marshall Foundation was looking for volunteers, so I started volunteering and loved being a part of making such a difference in mental health. From that I knew it was time to change careers and devote myself full time to mental health awareness.

After receiving a Fellowship from JCC PresenTense Chicago, I launched No Shame On U so that no one should be ashamed to get help in the Jewish community and beyond. My goal is for the people who need the help, to seek it, for family members and friends to know how to provide proper support and for lives to be saved.

Last October, I was interviewed by WGN News for a segment they were doing on National Depression Screening Day. For the first time, I talked publicly about my mental health history and as scared as I was to open up, I knew that my story had the potential to impact an untold number of people. The segment led to a cover story for another Chicago publication, helping further the reach of my story beyond what I ever imagined.  I never would have thought 12 years ago that I would be where I am and have the confidence to speak out.

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As a result of the media exposure and NSOU’s social media presence (more than 10,000 Facebook followers), many, many people have reached out saying the impact No Shame On U has had on them. One of the more touching comments I have received after responding to someone was, “Thank you, so much, for your informative and potentially life-saving reply!”

No Shame On U is disseminating information daily to raise as much awareness as possible. In addition, we are planning an inaugural event this fall where we hope to reach even more people. If you or someone you know is going through a rough time, please know that you are not alone.

Here are some free resources: If you are in crisis, or know someone who is, please call 24/7 hotline: 1-800-273-(TALK) 8255 OR text 741741 for a 24/7 crisis text line – a live, trained crisis counselor receives the text and responds quickly OR go to www.imalive.org for 24/7 online crisis chat.

For additional resources, go to:
www.feelingkindablue.com (online support network 24/7)
www.7cupsoftea.com (FREE anonymous and confidential conversations with trained active listeners)
www.helpyourselfhelpothers.org (online self assessment tool)

For more information, please go to www.noshameonu.com, Facebook.com/NoShameOnU or @NoShameOnU

To read more posts in the "Repairing Our World" blog series, click here.

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How to Be a Good Roommate

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Three key words to remember while living with another
04/16/2015

How to Be a Good Roommate photo

The melodies notifying you that your laundry is dry and your dishes are clean ring like a relaxing chime. Although there are machines to empty, you feel in no rush because you’re on your own clock. That’s one beauty of living alone: You don’t have to worry about emptying a laundry machine, so your roommate can clean his or her week-old dirty garments. I’ve been living this way for two years.

Well, kind of.

Ever since attending college in the city, I convinced my parents to let me live in their city pad until my graduation. So, this time in my life is very bittersweet. I recently graduated from college, but I’ve been asked to vacate the premises by mid-May. I guess you could say I’m part of my parents’ spring cleaning.

In all honesty, I’m looking forward to moving out. I love seeing my parents when they come downtown on the weekends, but I can’t wait to have a place I can call my own.

Well, kind of.

I’m moving in with one of my dearest friends who I’ve known since birth – literally. I haven’t lived with someone for a while, so, naturally, I’m a bit nervous. Since I’ve been living alone, I haven’t had to worry about someone else’s needs. And I’ve heard the horror stories about best friends who become roommates and now they’re no longer speaking.

To avoid a friendship meltdown, I’ve compiled a list of words I want to live by during this very exciting adventure.

Respect

I read on one of my favorite career websites, The Muse, that you should immediately complete a task that would take you approximately 30 seconds. These tasks include washing dishes, taking out laundry from the washer and dryer and taking out the trash. By doing these small tasks, you’re – for one – doing your part as a respectful roommate, but you’re also acknowledging that your roommate has chores he or she needs to complete. There’s nothing worse than having a roommate who never takes out the trash or takes days to empty the laundry machine.  

Empathy

Right now I’m reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. According to the book – and, I’m paraphrasing – we believe that by bringing up every issue we have with someone, we’ll feel better. In fact, we’d feel better by doing the exact opposite. By focusing on the good in life, we feel good.

Your roommate might be doing something that’s frustrating you. He or she might be, for example, leaving his or her work projects everywhere on the kitchen table. You think he or she is being passive aggressive by leaving the area so dirty, but they might not know it’s even an issue. By politely asking your roommate, let’s say, if they don’t mind reorganizing their work before going to bed so you can eat your breakfast at the kitchen table, you avoid an argument over a misunderstanding.

Fun

This is the most important word to live by. You chose to live with this person because, hopefully, you have a lot in common and enjoy each other’s company. Make sure to enjoy the time you have with your roommate because before you know it your lease will end. Take walks around your neighborhood to discover restaurants, parks, stores and markets. Spend a night on the couch eating takeout and having a drink while watching a movie or TV show you both love. By spending time together, you learn about each other and grow a bond that lasts past the lease date.

Now, all that’s left is a mezuzah!

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Wear. Share. Repeat.

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04/16/2015

Wear. Share. Repeat. photo

When spring rolls around, we all get that itch to clean, spruce and purge our clutter. I’m so busy these days, I scarcely have time to update my spring wardrobe, let alone clean out my already too-packed closet. When cleaning out our homes, our first instinct might be to donate clothes or household items to Goodwill, a local resale shop or another charity, which I often do when moving — donating tons of items in bulk. However, the task of cleaning out one’s place can be made easier with small cleanses every few months.

My grandmother grew up during the Great Depression. I’m convinced her experiences somehow translated to how she raised my mother, who basically can’t throw away anything. This resulted in my mom’s insistence when I was young that I get use out of every article of clothing my older sisters outgrew. It has also resulted in a storage unit containing far too many of my sisters’ and my childhood relics. To this day, my mom can’t even bake without grabbing every granule of sugar dropped onto the counter while measuring.

While I find my mother’s baking habits endearing, she has also instilled in me an irrational fear of throwing away anything. The promise of good friends, cheap wine, and free loot in the form of a friends clothing swap, however, somehow temporarily shakes me out of my hoarder’s neurosis every few months.

I have a group of seven or eight girlfriends with whom I gather every couple months for a clothing swap. We alternate hosting at our various apartments, and much like with a book club, the host provides treats and wine. Each of us contributes a bag (or several) of items we want to swap, and we take turns auctioning off our old treasures for verbal dibs.

Admittedly, there are some heated debates over certain articles of clothing, but we all go home with tons of new things and some satisfaction that we’ve gotten rid of the old. Often, I end up going home with more than I got rid of, but at least they’re new items I’ll be wearing or using in the next few months. Older clothes, shoes, books, or movies aren’t helping me at all if I’m not using them. If I receive a new dress, pair of heels, sweater, or even a kitchen whisk that I really needed, at least it’s taking up space in my apartment with purpose.

Evidently, we don’t limit our swaps to clothes. We essentially bring anything we’re trying to get rid of, from jeans to evening gowns, as well as purses, coats, shoes, books, DVDs, music, kitchen utensils, electronics, and even strange items, such as jumper cables—my favorite latest score in our April swap.

As someone who hoards a bit, I actually find it really satisfying to give my beloved possessions to a beloved friend. Plus, it’s really fun fighting over new finds. Not to mention, members of our swap group unabashedly re-swap items once we’re tired of them, so I’m never stuck with something for too long if I don’t want it.

If you love a good bargain (and there’s no better bargain than “free”), or you just can’t part with all of your favorite clothes at once, I definitely recommend the clothing swap route. You can part with your oldies, but goodies, slowly and you get to hand them off to a great new home where you know they’ll be cherished and used.  

I don’t know where I’d be this spring without a bunch of new tops from my girlfriends –and those ever important jumper cables.

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