Project 333

Are you ready? I'm about to reveal a secret.  For the past 6 weeks, I have been using and wearing only 33 items of clothing, jewelry and accessories.  That's right, just 33 things.

Why, you may be wondering, would I undertake such a seemingly difficult and bizarre challenge?  I am actually one of many crazy people committed to Project 333.

Throughout my personal journey toward a happier life, the themes of simplification and de-cluttering have appeared repeatedly as obstacles on the road to higher consciousness.  I am continually reminded that material things that we don't need, use, or love (our "stuff") takes time and energy to purchase and maintain.  This is time that takes away from more valuable, meaningful, or enjoyable pursuits such as spending time with friends or family or helping in the community.

With this idea in mind, I decided to try Project 333, which focuses specifically on simplifying and managing your clothing and wardrobe.  33 items, 3 months.   Some call this a minimalist approach, but the idea is not austerity or martyrdom.  The goal is to minimize the time you spend on shopping and caring for clothing, as well as time spent deciding what to wear each day.

The basics of the project, started by blogger Courtney Carver, are simple:

  • When: Every three months (It’s never too late to start so join in anytime!)
  • What: 33 items including clothing, accessories, jewelry, outerwear and shoes.
  • What not: these items are not counted as part of the 33 items – wedding ring or another sentimental piece of jewelry that you never take off, underwear, sleep wear, in-home lounge wear,  and workout clothing (you can only wear your workout clothing to workout)
  • How: Choose your 33 items, box up the remainder of your fashion statement, seal it with tape and put it out of site.
  • What else: consider that you are creating a wardrobe that you can live, work and play in for three months. Remember that this is not a project in suffering. If your clothes don’t fit or are in poor condition, replace them.
I started the project in mid-February, so I have only done the last 6 weeks of the first phase of the challenge for 2013.  Still, I have found incredible benefit to doing the project and am excited to continue into the next phase: choosing 33 items to wear April-June.

Here are my 33 things for the first phase:
  1. Short sleeve flower tee
  2. Navy short sleeve embellished tee
  3. Coral cardigan
  4. Navy cardigan
  5. Stripe sweater
  6. Turquoise long sleeve tee
  7. Red ls tee
  8. Grey ls tee
  9. Light grey crewneck sweater
  10. Tan loose knit sweater
  11. Cream cowl neck sweater
  12. Levi jeans
  13. Tan cords
  14. Skinny blue jeans
  15. Skinny black jeans
  16. Denim skirt
  17. Green short sleeve H&M dress
  18. Brown long sleeve dress
  19. Black wool sweater coat
  20. Sessions all-weather jacket
  21. Grey wool pea coat
  22. Coral ombre' scarf
  23. Turquoise scarf/wrap
  24. Onyx earrings
  25. Silver hoops
  26. Shell flower necklace
  27. Purse
  28. Sunglasses
  29. Navy mary jane shoes
  30. Black mary janes
  31. Grey Converse sneakers
  32. Black Doc Martens boots
  33. Brown boots
If you know me in real life, now that you know what I've been wearing, you probably recognize all the pieces!  I has a bit nervous that I wouldn't have enough to wear or that it would be obvious that I was recycling the same pieces repeatedly.  Instead, I felt like I had just enough to provide variety without being overwhelming.  The time I spent thinking about clothes and how I looked suddenly dropped to a minimum   Take choosing a shirt to wear, for example.  I have two short sleeved shirts.  On a warm spring day, it's either one or the other, or else I have to wear my short sleeved dress.  Pretty simple choice!

I have gained many insights from this first round of the project:
  • I like dresses.  Two pieces in one!
  • I might want more jewelry next round, since I missed having choices in that area.
  • I may not need as many shoes.
  • Scarves are awesome... fashion and function together.  I want to get a nice belt for this same reason.
  • Quality is more important than quantity in choosing clothing.
  • I must keep up with the laundry!!!
  • Choosing the right color palette is key.
  • Creativity and willingness to take a risk is also key.
  • I am shocked at how little time I spend thinking (or worrying) about clothes and appearance now as compared to six weeks ago.  
  • It is easy to see which items I don't love, since I found myself avoiding them even with limited choices available (I'm looking at you, black skinny jeans!  You just don't fit right!)
  • I got just as many, if not more, compliments on my appearance during this last 6 weeks than usual.
The biggest overall lesson I learned is that 33 items is plenty.  It's easier than I expected to choose an appropriate outfit for any occasion. Over the last 6 weeks, in addition to work, I attended a baby shower, had an informal follow-up job interview, and spent the day on a cattle ranch.  While I had to go a bit out of my comfort zone for some of the outfits, each one turned out to be appropriate for the occasion.  One event, however, on which I was not willing to take a risk was a formal job interview.  For this I went outside of my chosen 33 items and even bought a few new pieces.  I still stayed with the spirit of the project, though, and plan to use the items I bought in the next phase, April-June.

Another lesson I take away from this process is that simplifying your clothing leads to simplifying other areas of your life.   Living with less is a change in attitude and perspective as much as it is a change in the amount of things you possess.  Minimizing my wardrobe has allowed me to see excess consumption in other parts of my life, from my diet (I need to work on portion control.) to money management (I am really spending a lot on coffee!) to entertainment (why am I watching the Idol results show, anyway?).  

I am excited to start the next phase of the project, since this time I only did 6 weeks and the real challenge is a full 12 weeks.  I am more confident this time around that I can choose the correct pieces and that I can face any wardrobe challenge.  If the need arises, like it this this during this phase, I'll pull from my "boxed up" reserve or just buy something new.  Now that I've "gone public" with the project, I will probably post my choices for the next phase here, and talk a little bit about what I decided to keep, toss, or donate, and why.

If you are interested in starting the project yourself, even for one phase, now is a great time because the second cycle starts on Monday.  At Courtney's Project333 website, you can find much more information about getting started.  There is also a Project333 community on facebook.  The project has been going since 2010, so there are many more followers than one might expect.  I love that one person's experiment with living with less has turned into a larger movement and community of like minded people.  I am having fun with the challenge.  It was a big risk and WAY outside my comfort zone, but the benefits are more than I expected.


Aquarijenn said…
I love your wardrobe. I started a 333 wardrobe in January, too. I'm on my second wardrobe for the year. I'm doing mine seasonally: Dec-Feb, March-May, June-Aug., Sept.-Nov. I have discovered many of the same insights that you have. Quality counts. I have weeded out a few pieces from my wardrobe that I put in but never wore. I am actually using less than 33 pieces because there are a few empty spots in my wardrobe that I've not filled yet...colorful skinny jeans that actually look good on me. Do they exist? LOL
Sara Stasi said…
A sweet commenter recommended that I reverse my blog from black background with white text to this more conventional format, which is indeed much easier to read. I wanted to thank you, Annie, but I accidentally deleted your comment!
Sara Stasi said…
Thank you Aquarijenn for your comment. I know what you mean about the skinny jeans, aack! When you focus on getting the right thing that you really love, all of sudden you just don't want to settle for so-so anymore.

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