Six months ago, I whittled my embarrassingly vast wardrobe down to nine paltry items for thirty days, on journey with Jen Hatmaker’s 7.

Today, I stomped around town in pink and orange striped flats, bought for a song at our local grocery store.

These flats encapsulate my inner struggle so perfectly that I’m tempted to leave well enough alone and let them do the talking. But in the end, no one can be expected to concentrate when it comes to talking grocery store shoes – no matter how cute they are.

Here’s the deal, I’m not really “that girl”. That girl is off somewhere teetering around in four-inch Louboutins, or at least wearing trendy jeans, right? She’s not you or me.  She shops online under cloak of night.  She stuffs bags in the back of the closet when her husband isn’t looking. She maxes out all her cards. She’s the one who has the big, bad problem. Not this girl. This girl doesn’t shop that often. She always pays cash. She’s not a name-brand sort of girl. She finds bargains that will make a weaker sister weep.

Do you hear that? That’s the sound of rationalizations, or as I like to call them, lies.

Because the real truth is, I just really love buying clothes. Clothes I don’t need. Clothes I don’t even love. I can’t possibly be expected to go to TJ Maxx without bringing home a new shirt. I skim those racks so fast it would make your eyelids twitch and oh, will I ever snap something up. It might be a seventeenth gray t-shirt or a thirtieth striped little number. It might possibly be an ill-fitting prairie-girl blouse that I will never wear but that I must have because I’m stuck in a short-lived cowgirl fantasy. 

What I’m trying to say is, I’m Pavlov’s dog and “clearance rack” makes me drool.

When I read 7, I did what any fashionista (recovering, repressed, or otherwise) would do – I stuck my head under the covers and tried to believe that the problem wasn’t mine. I stayed there longer than you’d think, but every time I poked my head out, my closet stared me down, the stacks of “smart” purchases sneering back, daring me to tell the truth – that I’m consumer-driven. I care more than I should about my image. I’m greedy. I’m entitled.

So, I jumped in. I fudged Jen’s  number (I promise, it’s allowed) and picked 9 items to wear for a month. (You can read all about it here.) In the end, I survived. In many ways, I thrived. And okay, fine, there were isolated moments of muttering unkind words about Jen Hatmaker under my breath as I pulled the hateful red Henley over my head for the umpteenth time.

March came and went but part of me remained changed. No, I didn’t burn my entire wardrobe when the month was up. I didn’t even donate it to charity. But I now take a harder look at the $12.99 wonder making eyes at me. I’m uncovering the unique beauty of being content with what I already have and, even more shocking, what my kids already have (that’s a whole ‘nother post).

I have 30 days of proof that what I wear doesn’t make me happier, smarter, or more interesting. I don’t need three kinds of gingham competing for my attention. Life without stripes is still worth living.

I’m not there yet. I’m still right here, a mess of humanity in frivolous shoes. But my one-month experiment with 7 brought me closer to the edge of less me, more Him. That’s a journey worth taking in any old shoes.

By Shannan Martin

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  1. 1

    Mother Theresa said a person only needs 3 outfits, one for the hanger, one for the wash and one to wear. You can only wear one at t a time.

    Growing up we had one Sunday best a year and only 4 outfits for school and 4 for home. Accessories became necessary. My aunt taught us how to take two outfits plus 2 dresses and make many more out of them, making sure the colors were complementary. One outfit would include a pair of pants, skirt, jacket and blouse. Accessories included 4 scarves, 4 vest and a few fashion pins. With 4 such outfits, one can have an endless wardrobe, mixing and matching. A simple scarf can work for around the neck or around the waist and can chance the basing dress into a different look. Placing a skirt or jacket over a dress also changed the look and gave another outfit.

    When I started to work for a big company and they “required” a certain look, well these old lessons became very handy, as I could not afford the look on my budget without such. When I lost my job due to illness, I have never had more than 4 pairs of pants, 4 blouses at any one time and 2 pairs of shoes, even when I sewed, economy just would not allow for more. I gave up on dresses as often seizures would cause me to be on the ground or floor with exposure, but I did not give up the feminine look.

    Growing up practical, frugal and poor, we learned to focus on the inside character, not the outside looks. This was never easy when attending school or working out, but through it God humbled fleshly desires. My husband is grateful I never desired a lot in the way of clothing and have always been practical, by the grace of God.

  2. 4

    Just read your “Turning 7 into 9.” It’s the same where I live. Northern Minnesota. Snow one day. Rain another. More snow. So, yeah, I’d probably also have 9 things. Or more.

    In all actuality, I never thought of doing this challenge. I probably should have. I still should. My problem isn’t buying for myself (I stopped myself from buying a pink dress about a month after reading this book. I said that was good enough. We’ll see.). My problem is buying for my kids. Especially when I see the clearance racks at Target. Oh, man. They have so much stuff. We’ll be moving in 2 weeks, and I plan to get rid of stuff, to sell some of these clothes, to give them away.

    Thanks for your post. It was a great reminder in that we always have enough stuff. Do I need more? No. Definitely not. In fact, I know I have too much.

    Blessings!

    • 5

      Totally! The kids. Oy. I used to have visions of dressing my girl like a mini fashion plate…but I’m sort of over the whole thing. She doesn’t care about looking a certain way or having certain things I don’t want to be the one to ruin that! It seems like now is a good time to start teaching contentment.

      And I’m guessing it has to start with Mama… :)

      • 6
        Crystal says:

        Shannan, you always find a way to say things that have been swimming around my heart and mind. It DOES need to start with me first, and you are right, my girls don’t care about looking a certain way. I did my best to limit my shopping for both them (and me), this spring. They started a new school just a few months prior, in a VERY poor area. When I learned that some kids only get fed when they are at school, I realized that the clothing on their backs didn’t matter at all. It was humbling to realize that I care so much about shopping for them (ok, and me too), while their classmates are starving over the weekend. When you realize that the world is bigger than you (and your closet), it changes things. I can’t say that I have mastered the no-shopping rule just yet, but I am a work-in-progress.

        • 7

          Thanks for sharing this, Crystal. It really puts things in perspective when you realize there are kids that are starving and I am worrying about what my kids are going to wear.

  3. 8

    this is me. I am a failure at fashion, but a champ at finding a deal (I’m cheap). Only too bad those “deals” often end up hanging in my closet, seldom or never worn. I am learning, well trying, to reevaluate the way I shop. Need vs. want, deal vs. simple enticement.
    At work, they prefer us to wear black. I often feel like I have to mix up my boring black outfits because people see me so regularly and I don’t want to give anyone the impression that I wear the same clothes day in and day out. Why do I do that? Honestly its because I am allowing what other people think more than what God thinks about the way I steward what He has given me. If I took a survey, I’m guessing no one really notices what I’m wearing all that often. Especially in a spa in a gym! Seriously. Our spending is a reflection of our entitlement and when I analyze it, I am ashamed.
    “Surrendered treasure is the measure of your Savior’s worth.” Its hanging over my desk. Today I pray that He will remind me of that every moment I am away as well.

    • 9

      This, I love: ” Our spending is a reflection of our entitlement and when I analyze it, I am ashamed.”

      Oh, and this: “Surrendered treasure is the measure of your Savior’s worth.”

      You’re killin’ me here, Deanna.

  4. 10

    Great post!
    I could easily live in one thing- but my husband wouldn’t find it appealing! Lol I find my go to item is home wear, which is fine for… Well, home!
    This will help me change my attitude on how I view others – whether it’s a new thing every day/season or the same thing every Sunday.

    • 11

      Oh, the judging thing. A whole ‘nother post for a whole ‘nother day. This stuff is such a can of worms. I love that you touched on this!

      See what Jen Hatmaker will do for you? She’ll burrow the truth into your brain and it will start to change the way you see almost everything.

  5. 12

    You are singing my song! I have a similar affliction. ;) I’m reading 7 right now and I’m struggling through this chapter on clothes because I’m so convicted. “What will people at work think if I wear the same shirts……” I’m going to remember this post next time I see a clearance rack and become fixated on the good deal, whether it be for my son or myself.

    ps…today I’m wearing pink polka dot sandals that I got for a steal. *sigh*

  6. 13

    “what I wear doesn’t make me happier, smarter, or more interesting.”

    Thank you, Shannan, for that wisdom!

    I DO know some people who’s CLOTHING is super interesting – but that doesn’t necessarily mean THEY are! lol. And my own boys were very, shall we say, “expressive” in the clothing department during their teen years. I even got a note once from someone at church that basically thought we were bad, nonspiritual parents because we allowed our children to express themselves in what we considered a very safe area – clothing. She later apologized, by the way. :) We just need to get to know people regardless of what’s on the outside. Don’t judge.

    • 14

      My kids often look like circus side-shows in public.

      Example: Last Friday Ruby wore a flowered skirt, a t-shirt with a stain on it, polka-dotted knee socks pulled all the way up, and gingham high tops. I could not possibly get enough of it.

      Viva healthy self-expression! (please read with an Italian accent)

  7. 15

    I have to share this passage I’ve been working on memorizing lately. It so very perfect for this chapter. It’s from “The Message”:

    Colossians 3:12-14
    “So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic all-purpose garment. Never be without it.”

  8. 17
    Lora Loggins Hill says:

    Growing up as an obese child is devastating…but there is one saving grace. I do not have an issue with TOO many clothes. When I was a teenager and a young woman, there were no cute and trendy clothes for my size. I was lucky to find ANYTHING that was reasonable to wear ANYWHERE. Consequently, as I entered my mid 20s, I found Lane Bryant (in the mall) and took my few dollars to place a couple of items on layaway from time to time. Then, I paid them off…30 days. I always had just a few thing I truly loved that fit me and looked decent on me. And it seems that my non-preoccupation with clothing has continued for my adult life. I am 58 years old. When I read Jen’s book, “7″, I went to my closet and counted my pieces of clothing. 38 pieces (and 4 pairs of shoes). Even as I looked through the closet, I realized there were things in there I was not wearing. Even me…who was sure I wouldn’t find anything in my closet I wasn’t wearing…had clothing that I had not worn in over a year…or more. So, I pulled out 15 pieces and sent them to a friend who is literally hurting for things right now. And now, I have 23 pieces….and I’m so good with that.

  9. 19

    Thanks for this post. I just love shopping. Shopping for clothes, for shoes, for my husband, with a friend, anything. I love clothes. I get so caught up in materialism and having to have the new (cheap) version of the in style thing. Then I read something like this article, or a book like Kisses for Katie, and I realize the world is a lot bigger than what I’m wearing, and there are more important ways to spend my money than a new shirt for myself.

    • 20

      Yes! The money thing. I think that’s such an important part of it, and one of the things that I hold on to the most. It is virtually impossible for me to plunk down money for a non-essential these days without really considering the better things that cash could do. I’m not saying I don’t still go ahead and plunk it down now and then, but it goes back to that heart/head issue… My thinking has fundamentally changed. Thankful for that.

  10. 21
    Andrea says:

    I was just scanning the online sales before reading this. I had a full “shopping” bag of bargain items for my girls… and finally decided that they didn’t really NEED any of this stuff right now.
    I also LOVE to buy clothes. I also LOVE to find a bargain. I also buy stuff I don’t necessarily LOVE because it’s on sale so I just have to buy it :-)
    Not sure I’d be willing to go a month with only 9 items… but reading the post was timely for me. :-)

    • 22

      Girl, I had a shopping cart full of J Crew final sale last night. One item may or may not have been a strange/cool hipster bikini bottom. Just the bottoms. I have no explanation for this.

      I do still enjoy what I like to call “pretend shopping”. It could be lethal for a girl who has her debit card number memorized, but I find that after letting it sit there for a few hours, I go back and see things more clearly. And that “itch” is satisfied.

      ps – When does that itch go away? THAT’S what I want to know.

  11. 23

    I definitely agree my problem is more with my kids, not me. Especially my daughter. Her stuff is so much cuter than mine! But every time I spend $30 here and there … I need to realize that’s almost enough to sponsor a Compassion child. And what a difference would that make in THEIR life versus Libbie having more clothes she doesn’t need?

  12. 25

    Okay, I just got done counting – and I’m pretty surprised and shocked! I have 355 items! Not including any underwears. Wow.

    I counted in categories, too, which was also a surprising exercise. I won’t bore you with the details. But I’m going to use those categories and pray and come up with what we (God and I) feel is an appropriate number in each. (I’m not really freaky/spooky – I just mean I want my decision to be Spirit led), I will then be purging and donating.

    And I thought I didn’t have a problem.

    • 26

      Step away from the unders!

      I have so many unders. Makes no sense.

      I never did a full count, but I don’t find your number terribly shocking, if that in any way indicates my closet situation. I’m doing the same thing you’re doing – giving some good, hard thought and prayer to what is reasonable. (Then again, who ever said Jesus was reasonable??? Uh oh.)

      :)

    • 27

      I am awaiting Jen’s book in the mail….with fear and trepidation, apparently it may change me and will I be up for that? I don’t know, guess we’ll see! These thoughts have been swimming in my soul for a little while now so obviously God is up to something. I’m desperate for things to be pared down and simplified…with 6 kids running around we have soooooo much stuff and it is way too much work to clean it all up!!!

  13. 28

    After reading 7, my husband and I decided not to buy any more clothes for the rest of the year. It has shown me several things.
    1) I have way more than enough to wear.
    2) I am vain vain vain and have pangs of remorse over the decision when I am walking through Target.
    3) I feel compelled to buy clothes with each new season, just to “freshen” things up a bit.
    4) Saying no is Hard, but Good
    5) I still am not sure what to do about the kids’ clothes. Oh my.
    Thanks for this reminder that it is, indeed, a heart issue, and God wants our hearts.

    • 29
      Crystal says:

      Carol, I think I am your long-lost twin.
      #5 is the worst for me, it is something I struggle with daily. My kids could wear a different outfit every. single. day., for a couple of months without any repeats. I guess I just want to give them what I always wanted growing up, a huge closet and too many choices!!! What can I say, I’m a work in progress :)

  14. 30

    Justification? Who me? Because hoarding up treasures from Goodwill is SO not my problem. I mean, could YOU walk away from another 1.oo milkglass vase when it begs you to take it home to it’s family of 20+ vase siblings that are gathering dust in your cabinet? A cabinet, which by the way, was an incredible deal from Habitat– even if I had absolutely no purposeful use for it other than to display stuff that I never needed in the first place. See! No problem here! :(

  15. 31
    Michele G. says:

    What is it about you, FPFG? You inspire me. You truly are a gifted writer. I laugh…I cry. I have signed up to be a bone marrow donor, just want you to know. You inspired me to do that and I linked on over.
    You rock and so do your grocery store shoes!

  16. 32

    Crap. I’m a sucker for the thrift store…Maybe I need to take up this challenge.

  17. 33

    Hmm, timely for me as well! I’ve just moved back to Canada from Australia, where I in no way had enough clothes, I possibly could’ve had the 10 or so not including unders… I’ve recently lost a bunch of weight and don’t want to buy new clothes because I’m still losing (see that positivity there, huh?!). However, I’m determined to find a job here that I love and so will need clothes, that actually fit and are work-worthy, so in the last few days I’ve been scouring those clearance racks too. And buying stuff. And today putting the 3 new tops in the drawer without hubby seeing them. Slippery slope. Very slippery slope. So until I have said job, I’m saying enough again and unless its from the second hand shop, it ain’t coming in. Once I’m in said job, well I’ll have to reassess slightly – I cannot do laundry every two days and I do not own more than 3 pairs of pants (non-jeans), 1 of which has two safety pins to tighten in the waist.
    Thanks for your thoughts and wisdom!

  18. 34

    “what I wear doesn’t make me happier, smarter, or more interesting.”

    amen

  19. 35

    i am waiting for 7 to arrive in the mail, I’m excited and terrified. the shoes are super cute BTW!

  20. 36
    Beth Williams says:

    Growing up I was middle-class. We never had a lot of money & so I didn’t have a huge supply of clothes, since marriage I have more money & more clothes. Most of the clothes I own are either hand-me-downs from friends or garage sale items.

    I try about once a month or so to go through my clothes and see what I don’t wear or doesn’t fit & give that to charity for someone less fortunate to have. This thrills me to no end. I feel a little like Jesus when I help the needy & less fortunate.

  21. 37

    Wow! Your stories are so inspiring. iLife to shop as well. I am going to try something similar.
    But, I did want to say that I love those shoes! I would wear them. I teach pre-k the kids would love them too.

  22. 38

    After clicking here, I was thrown for a loop a little— I was initially like, “Oh! FPFG got a redesign!” I’ve never been to (in)courage before and have to take a look around.

    First, those are pretty stripey shoes. I am currently enamored with the orange/fuschia combo.

    Second, your whole experiment with 7 had piqued my curiosity and still, I can’t take that step! It’s awful— I have next-to-nil-but-just-a-smidgen interest in 7 (and not because the title makes me think of that movie) because less still isn’t more… but I’m thankful for inspiring stories like yours that encourage and challenge me to move out of my comfort. Maybe one day.

  23. 39

    Sooooooo good this: “I have 30 days of proof that what I wear doesn’t make me happier, smarter, or more interesting.” It’s really true. All the best parts of us remain perfectly intact even in the midst of a pared down wardrobe. THANK YOU for this lovely piece to go with this lovely book club. For some reason, I am super encouraged by it this morning. XOXO

  24. 40

    Just had to pop over and say I just love this post. I did Summer of 7 and found that the clothes week threw me for a loop as well. Also, I just love your writing/tone. Going to subscribe to your blog!

  25. 41

    your thoughts here are Quintessential Shannan, which is to say wildly poetic and a shot of truth to my ticker. and lady, you have the best commenters (and the occasional me)…i’m now off to enjoy the comment section. double score!

    ps this. ‘I’m still right here, a mess of humanity in frivolous shoes. But my one-month experiment with 7 brought me closer to the edge of less me, more Him.’ oh, this.

  26. 42

    I finished “7″ a week or so ago, and as I read it, I too was convicted. I haven’t counted my clothes yet, but I know I have more than I need. I’m in a tricky spot right now, though, because I’m a nursing mother, so the clothes I wear are things I bought that are more conducive to nursing. I know I won’t be nursing forever (not that I’m not “mom enough” ;) ), so I hesitate to get rid of the clothes I’m not wearing right now. And yet, I’ve found myself wearing the same 10 to 12 items for the past 10 months and being perfectly fine and happy in them. They’re cute, they’re comfortable, and I have just enough to mix and match, lest anyone judge me for wearing the same top two days in a row (not that I care). I’m all about simplifying my life, and this is one very easy step in the right direction.

  27. 43

    Farmgirl, I love this post so much!

    Love, love, love.

    Gonna buy the book.

    Gonna try this.

    We don’t need excess to make us happy. It’s what He’s been saying to me lately. I’ve been in the mood to simplify. To make room for more, like relationship and life.

  28. 44

    Oh my, you read my mail. So convicted. Loved this and your humor about it all.

  29. 45

    Such a lovely, challenging post! Thought-provoking. A lesson that the Lord has been slowly kneading into my soul. The excess of American culture. We have six children and live on my husband’s salary. He’s a police officer. Not a sergeant or lieutenant with a fancy salary to go with the title……just a regular patrol officer. We haven’t had a line in our family budget for “clothing”…….ever. But at present, all of my children’s closets are BURSTING with great clothes. Every season, there are more than one family in our church that passes on BAGS of beautiful clothes for our children. I have bins and bins of more clothes for them to grow into. Our neighbor also passes along bags of boys clothes. I seriously haven’t had to darken the door of a department store for children’s clothing in years!! I say all this because it has changed me. I don’t even want to have to shop for kids clothes. $5.99 is not cheap enough for me. My children outgrow some of their clothes before they even have had time to get to it in their stuffed closets. And yet, down the street from us is a homeless woman who has been living in her car for months. In our town……right here in America. What else could we be doing with our “clothing budget” money if we were just content with what the Lord gives us?

    • 46

      I LOVE hand-me-downs! We also have been blessed with some great ones and we are thrifters…but I’m still finding that it’s too much – especially where the kids are concerned. I don’t buy a ton of stuff for them these days, but it still won’t fit in the closet!

      As much as it IS about the money, God has been working in my heart that it’s MORE than just the money. It’s stuff. It’s the amount of stuff. I’m starting to wonder how many items my kids really NEED. (We call this trickle-up contentment. ha.) :)

      Thanks for sharing your heart here. I love being a part of what everyone is thinking!

  30. 47

    I have been blog stalking you for a while now, and I appreciate your views on… well everything. Especially this topic. Jen Hatmaker has been rockin’ my world since last fall when I first read 7. I’m rereading and it’s challenging me all over again. A few years ago, my sister and I, (who both love thrifting and looking cute) decided to start a semi-annual consignment sale for women. So twice a year, I do a deep purge of my closet and home, sell a bunch of stuff I’m not wearing or using, buy some things that are new to me but reasonably priced and usually still end up making some money in the process. We have loved how many women are taking this approach to shopping in our community! Our motto is reduce, reuse, resell. I still come home with things I don’t need and have a long way to go in the department of entitlement and contentment. But it has been a healthy first step for me… and it’s been fun running a business with my sister! Wish you lived closer… You could stop on by! Thanks for this post.

  31. 49

    I dont know you or jen hatmaker or any of the other women whose books and Bible studies I read, but I just thank the Lord for the community that yall have become for me and how your thoughts are changing my thoughts and opening my eyes. I have always wanted to constantly grow in what and who He wants me to be, but I just plain stink at actually growing on my own. I need people who show me and push my with their amazing examples and brilliant, serving hearts. Thank you for putting your thoughts here and letting me change and grow because of you, even though I do not know you. Thank you for letting the Lord grow and stretch you beyond what this world thinks we need to be.

  32. 50

    Thanks for this. My first thought when I pulled up this post? Honestly? “Man, those are cute shoes. I’d wear them. I wish I had those.” Very spiritual, me. :) I like them because they say “I’m a free spirit.” I’ve gotten SO many clothes like this–I had this orange and green flowered peacoat that I used to wear all the time in high school and college, the wide-leg hippie jeans (hello, 1999), big old dangly gypsy-ish earrings, etc. It’s a little ironic that I would be buying clothes to tell people that I’m a free spirit–how free is that spirit exactly, when it’s tied to jeans and coats and shoes?

    My husband and I recently took three weeks to move from North Carolina to Southern California, where we’ll be living, and I wore about 7 or so outfits (not pieces). When I got to California, I opened the boxes and found tons and tons of outfits that I had not missed one bit. God (and the budget) are telling me to stop shopping for a while, wear the things that I have until I need new ones. It was a bit of perspective…not quite 7 pieces for a month, but still, a useful reminder for my forgetful soul. Loving 7…and this book club.

  33. 51

    I did the 9 items along with you. I recently cleared out 2 bags of clothes that don’t fit (my body), but most of what’s left doesn’t fit (my lifestyle).

  34. 52

    your truth telling about yourself is SO incredibly contagious.

  35. 53

    Oh my goodness thank you. You speak my language to a T! After reading all the comments on the intro post I thought there was nobody doing this book club thing like me, a bona fide retail therapist. I have stopped all the buying and it is HARD. I can’t do the pretend shopping thing. My credit card number is still stored in the cookies of my computer for all the retail sites so it would be too easy not to click “purchase”. I had to unsubscribe from endless retail emails. I cringe when the weekly Kohl’s flyer or the Boden catalog comes in the mail. I blogged about cheap fashion…I was known for my shopping videos for pete’s sake! These changes have felt like changing my very identity. But they have been so important. What I’m most struggling with now is where to redirect my energy and money. Some is going towards our adoption. One more Compassion kid sponsored so far. But I know there’s more I should be doing.

  36. 56

    Don’t need 3 kinds of gingham? Life without stripes is still worth living? Who are you? ;) I kid. I’m loving this journey.

    I weeded out half of our plastic plates/kids dishes and discovered I have a serious problem buying that stuff when it’s on clearance! I started to toss it when my (tightwad) husband said, why don’t you just save those in case you’re tempted to buy new ones? Hmmm. So I tossed some and saved the gently used ones in the attic. Yes, I had so many kids dishes I could save some in the attic. Sheesh kabobs.

    It’s a journey. A process, really. Thanks for trailblazing here, FPFG.

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  1. [...] really necessary when you’re preparing for something like that. That’s why this post by Shannan really spoke to me when I read it yesterday. I’m guilty of falling into the trap [...]

  2. [...] The Particular Problem of Stripey Flats by Flower Patch Farmgirl [...]

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