Nafs: The Arabic term which refers to the self, psyche, ego or soul. The lowest dimension of man’s inward existence; his animal and satanic nature.
It’s been a losing battle. One where my wardrobe is in a constant state of rotation in a hapless effort to build the “perfect wardrobe”. I’m a minimalist at heart, so it’s an inevitable occurrence that when something comes in, something must come out. I’ve never been one to pride myself on a brimful closet since space and simplicity put me at ease, and clutter induces irritation. Yet it’s finally come to my attention that this ongoing flux, my never-ending propensity to buy, sell, buy is a sign of a much deeper problem.
I thought I knew myself by now. At 30, you would think I’d have it down pat; an ability to know what works and what doesn’t. That’s not to say that I don’t have a particular aesthetic in mind when it comes to getting dressed. I innately tend to favor clothing that is unique in a subtle way. Understated simplicity, small, odd details, and billowy, unstructured sillouhettes is what always draws me in. The problem, however, seems to lie in my inability to not only be content with what I already have, but being pulled into the trap of trends and coveting what others with similar tastes are wearing. In my case, discontentment and envy often trumps common sense.
Consignment shops are a blessing and a curse. It’s a great way to get rid of clothes while making a few dollars in the process. Instead of contributing to landfills, there’s comfort in knowing your clothes will be treasured by someone else, at least for a while. For me, once the novelty of a particular item wears off, this is where it ends up. Buffalo Exchange and Beacon’s Closet are places I know too well. At least several times every few months with my haul in tow, I walk into either one of these places with a resolve to walk out of the store empty-handed. In my mind’s eye, I’m creating space both physically
and mentally; clearing out that which serves no purpose and renewing my minimalist vows. In reality, I somehow still wind up with a new addition. And half of the time, that new addition becomes yesterday’s news, a victim of fickleness and lack of foresight.
My nafs is unyielding. It tells me to buy it because it will be the penultimate item, that one thing I just have to have. It tells me to spend hours trolling ebay and etsy for that handmade tote, or that vintage dress, or those weird, asymmetrical pants that no one else has (but in fact someone does). It propels me to waste precious time on fashion blogs, indulging my need to see what’s new and in turn, going on ebay and etsy to find those same shoes so-and-so is wearing. Something so simple as clothing has become a source of spiritual frustration. In my quest to refine my character, I keep hitting the same roadblock–a dangerous attachment to vainglory. Having worked in an industry where self-importance and narcissism reign, I can’t seem to shake that overwhelming need to stand out, to look the part, to garner praise.
God willing, I’ll come to a point where clothes don’t hold so much weight. I’m definitely more scaled down than I once was, but the stench of vanity still lingers. My nafs knows how to cajole me. It knows exactly what I like. It leads me to make imbalanced decisions that at first appear sensible, only to realize that I’ve wasted money on something I really didn’t need or even want. It tells me what I have isn’t enough, isn’t stylish enough, isn’t practical enough while sowing the seeds of unease and frustration. I just want balance. I want to appreciate nice things without covetousness. I want to get dressed without perfect strangers in mind. I want to look decent and remain modest. I want my nafs to shut up for a change.