Late in 2018 I decided to challenge myself by undertaking Project 333. For those of you not familiar, it’s a minimalist wardrobe challenge created by Courtney Carver, where you reduce your wardrobe to 33 items for 3 months. You can get the details here.
There are a few rules, the 33 items are to include outerwear, shoes, accessories and jewellery but do not include underwear, sleepwear and exercise gear (for actually exercising in). When I read these rules I was sure this was an exercise in deprivation and I wondered what could really be gained by reducing your wardrobe to so few items. I was sure it would breed feelings in me akin to those of my maternity wardrobe – months of wearing the same few things which had me wanting to burn them as soon as I was out of them.
What I didn’t expect to uncover was a desire to curate a capsule wardrobe and a change to my shopping habits for good. But I’m jumping ahead of myself.
After a few agonising (and I mean agonising – Sunday afternoon with a gin and tonic or two to get me through kind of agony) hours of choosing my required items, I packed the rest away. They were not thrown out, just not easily accessible. All that hung in my wardrobe was a small selection of items. It reminded me of how a hotel wardrobe looks once you’ve unpacked, with just the bare essentials. How on earth was I going to do this for three entire months.
Now I’m no fashionista. I don’t follow trends as such and aren’t a compulsive shopper but I do LOVE variety. I have always had my clothes on slow rotation, meaning I don’t like wearing the same outfit too frequently. I guess it was this notion which led to me having so many clothes in my wardrobe in the first place. That and the fact that I have a large walk-in wardrobe so I have plenty of space to fit them all. I felt justified in having so many clothes because they were still neatly organised and I wore a lot of them. Which made the task of narrowing it down to just 33 so much harder.
Confession time – I didn’t even get it to 33. I had closer to 40 items, including a few pairs of shoes, one belt, 3 pairs of earrings, 3 hats, 4 dresses, 2 pairs of jeans, 2 jackets and the rest in shorts/ skirts and tops.
I realised the reason it took me so long to narrow down my clothes was because I owned a lot of one-off pieces. Items that only worked in one outfit or with only one other item. When you are looking down the barrel of 3 months in the same clothes, by heck you are looking for items that you can mix and match to keep you sane. This process of deciding was traumatic enough to have a lasting effect on the way I now shop. If I can’t think of a few of my existing pieces I could wear an item with, then it is most definitely not coming home with me.
Once I got started I was honestly surprised at how easy it was to find something to wear every day. I am sure I gained at least an extra 10 mins every morning not standing staring blankly at my wardrobe wondering what to wear. The decision fatigue was just non-existent. The simplicity brought clarity. I had more than enough to take me from day to night and casual day at the beach to dinner out with friends. The only time I needed to wear something fancy (to a function which I hadn’t foreseen when planning my wardrobe), I resolved by borrowing something from a friend. Brilliant. The whole sharing economy is massively underrated but that’s a rant for another day.
During the 3 months we went travelling for a bit and packing was a breeze because I just took everything I had. More time saving!
And by far the best bit was that I completely LOVED every item in my wardrobe. There is something truly magical about standing in front of a wardrobe and all the clothes staring back at you are things you love and you know you look good in. This point had me wondering, why then did I keep other clothes in my wardrobe which I didn’t have the same feeling about? Surely life is too short to be wearing clothes that don’t make me feel as great as others can.
One concern I had was that people would see me wearing the same thing day after day and judge me. Firstly, some of my friends which I hadn’t told about the challenge didn’t even notice I was living with a reduced wardrobe and the others said I was wearing such variety they couldn’t believe it was less than 40 pieces. But can you recall what your friend has worn the last 5 times you’ve seen her? I bet you can’t.? The truth is, no one that matters is looking or caring what you’re wearing and what rotation schedule it’s on.
As the 3 months ended and I unpacked my ‘gone but not forgotten’ clothes I looked at them with fresh eyes. Anything that didn’t make me feel excited to wear it again was immediately let go and donated to charity. I am definitely a work-in-progress, I still have many belts, scarves, earrings and necklaces to make decisions on but like most things, space and understanding makes it so much easier to make rational decisions.
I am excited by the prospect of owning less, but better. Of having fewer items but more joy in choosing. I am hopeful that the simplicity of my wardrobe sparks some creativity with mixing and matching. And I finally get why the concept of the capsule wardrobe (few items that mix and match) has been coming back into fashion every decade since the 70s. It is genius. I am a capsule convert!
Here is a sample of my outfits from my Project 333-