My adventure with Project 333

1 August 2016

Maybe you’ve heard of Project 333 It’s the brainchild of Courtney Carver of Be More with Less. She designed this challenge for herself in 2010 and encouraged her blog readers to follow suit. It swept the nation and is going strong. It dovetails nicely with the current interest in minimalism.

Essentially, Project 333 challenges participants to dress using only 33 items of clothing for 3 months. You can read the details at the link above, but here are the essentials.

What’s included in the 33 items:

  • clothing
  • outerwear
  • jewelry
  • accessories
  • shoes

What’s not included in the 33 items:

  • underwear
  • sleepwear
  • workout clothes/uniforms
  • sentimental jewelry you wear every day (like your wedding ring)

You choose the 33 items you’ll wear for that season, then pack everything else up and store it. Courtney does not ask you to discard everything else, just pack it away. (Of course, you can discard items that don’t fit or you don’t love.)

Courtney Carver came to St. Louis in June as part of her Tiny Wardrobe Tour. I attended her talk and was inspired to give Project 333 a try. While I was listening to Courtney’s talk I decided that the workout clothes I wear when I lead organizing teams would not count in my 33 items, nor would the shorts and t-shirts I wear on my daily dog walks. (This was based on the answers I heard to the questions the audience asked.)

Sunday, July 3, was the big day. First, I jotted down the trips I was taking and the events I was planning to attend in the coming three months, so I could plan my wardrobe accordingly. Then I took a hard look at my hanging and folded clothes.

I brought some bins into the bedroom and started binning up the items that didn’t make the cut. I had already pared down my wardrobe over the last few years, but I still had plenty to store. In all, I ended up taking four 66 quart bins to the basement. One was for the items I thought I’d want to pull out first when the three months was over and it was time to select my fall collection of 33. The second bin was for clothes that came out of the closet and the third for clothes that came out of the dresser. (Minus the ones that went into the first bin of course.) The fourth bin was for shoes and accessories.

Selecting the 33 items wasn’t all that hard. The truth is that I wear the same things most of the time anyway. The whole process was definitely made easier by the fact that I didn’t have to choose to keep or discard clothing. It was just about a short-term commitment not to wear certain items.

Here’s what I ended up with in the main part of my closet:

  • 2 pairs of dress pants
  • 2 pairs of jeans (blue and white)
  • 2 jackets
  • 1 cardigan
  • 5 long-sleeved blouses/shirts
  • 6 short-sleeved shirts
  • 1 tank
  • 2 dresses (not pictured)
  • 2 ponchos
  • 1 shawl
  • 1 down vest (for late September, just in case)

Experimenting with Project 333

I selected three pairs of shoes: sneakers, sandals and dress shoes.

Project 333

In addition, I selected three favorite pairs of earrings and one necklace:

Project 333

And I included my favorite animal print scarf and black belt with faux tortoise buckle.

Project 333

It’s been a month now, which has given me time to reflect on the benefits and pitfalls of the experiment. Overall, it’s made life much easier. Here’s how:

  • It takes me no time at all to figure out what I’m going to wear.
  • It’s really easy to find and put away clothes.
  • I don’t worry about whether or not someone has seen me in the outfit because they probably have.
  • I don’t have to give any advance thought to what I might wear. (And I can think about more important things!)
  • I can do all my laundry in one load.

The down side? I’m starting to get a little sick of my options. And I worry a teeny tiny bit that an occasion will come up for which I don’t have something appropriate to wear. I’ll let you know at the end of September whether that happened.

By the time this three-month period is up, I will have gone to one conference and taken four other trips. I will have had first appointments with probably 20 clients. (Those first-appointment clothes come from the 33-item collection.) And, of course, I will have gone to social events. I’ll do all that wearing only things from my tiny wardrobe!

It’ll be interesting to see how the selection process goes when it’s time to pick out the 33 items for the fall/winter season. I suspect I’ll be anxious to make the switch.

This has been a fun experiment. Have you tried it?

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I’ve been trying it for a while and I really, really like it. While I limit myself to 33 clothing items, in my case, I do not include shoes & I do not include jewelry (I rationalize jewelry this way — it’s tiny and all mine fits into a small chest that sits on my dressing table).

What I love about it is this — the only things hanging in my closet and sitting on my shelves are things that I really like. So, when I get dressed, I’m always putting on stuff I love. There are lots of different outfits I can make — one khaki skirt can be paired with 8 different colored tops; my print capris can be paired with 4 or 5 ot these tops —- heck that’s a dozen different outfits already (enough for almost 2 weeks!) & I haven’t even talked about the other skirts or capris I have. So I think it’s a genius idea and I like the idea of being able to get dressed quickly, without frustration!

Tina 08/15/2016 01:51 PM

While I am not ready to do Project 333, I pare down constantly. It is so liberating to be able to wear everything in your closet.

Ellen Delap 11/25/2016 05:37 PM

When I think about it at night, I realize I can rarely remember what my work colleagues wore that day. Thus, I don’t worry anymore about repeating an outfit during a week, or even the next day if circumstances call for it. A cute outfit is great & may be complimented, but memory is short! This 333 idea is great—thanks for getting me thinking, Janine!

Marilyn McClaskey 07/05/2017 04:16 PM

You’re exactly right, Marilyn. No one notices when you wear the same thing!

Janine Adams 07/05/2017 05:39 PM

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About Janine

Janine Adams

Hello! I’m Janine Adams — a certified professional organizer based in St. Louis, and the creator of Peace of Mind Organizing®.

I love order, harmony + beauty, but I believe that the way that you feel about yourself and your home is what truly matters.

If you’re ready to de­clutter with a purpose and add more ease to your life, you’ve found the right blog — and you’ve found the right gal.

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