Fewer clothes, greater happiness

Jul 05 2011 Published by under Happiness, Nonconformity, Project333, Sustainability

Is your closet stuffed full of clothes you never wear?

Mine was, too, until I joined the Project 333 wardrobe challenge last fall. For three months, my closet contained just 33 items of clothing—outerwear, jewelry, and shoes included. Everything else got boxed up and stored out of sight. (See my original 33 items.)

I enjoyed the challenge immensely, and at the end of the three months I donated almost all of the clothing I had boxed up. I realized I didn’t need it, nor did I miss it, and I loved the look of my simple, uncluttered closet.

Other people enjoyed the challenge, too, so much so that Project 333 and its creator, Courtney Carver, have gained national attention. The Project 333 Facebook page has more than 1,700 fans, many of whom are looking for ways to happily live (and dress) with less.

I continued with Project 333 through Phases 2 (January-March) and 3 (April-June), making a few modifications to the rules to better suit my lifestyle and Wisconsin’s unpredictable weather.

Over the last nine months, I’ve sorted through every piece of clothing, jewelry, and outerwear I own. I’ve pared my wardrobe down to nearly half of what it used to be. I sold a few of my nicer items on consignment, and donated bags and bags of ill-fitting, outdated, and “not quite right” clothing to charity.

One of my “not quite right” items was a skirt I bought years ago at Anthropologie. It had a large purple iris appliqué on the front, one of my favorite flowers. I love the skirt, but I could never find the right top or shoes to go with it. So, it sat in my closet virtually unworn. I finally admitted to myself the skirt wasn’t a wise purchase, and added it to my pile to donate or sell. There’s got to be someone else out there who will love it as much as I do and actually wear it, which makes a heck of a lot more sense than a pretty skirt collecting dust (and guilt) in my closet, benefitting no one.

Having a simple, functional wardrobe is such a great feeling. I no longer agonize over what to wear, because I can clearly see everything I have. And contrary to what I used to think, “simple” does not equal “boring.”  I can mix things up by combining pieces in different ways, and use jewelry and scarves to add pops of color.

If you haven’t tried Project 333, I highly recommend it. Phase 4 runs July 1-September 30.

I’ve decided to take a break from the challenge this time around, mostly because it doesn’t feel like a challenge anymore. I enjoy my simplified closet so much, I can’t imagine going back to the way it used to be. I think much harder now before bringing something new into my wardrobe, and it’s easier to let go of items that no longer work.

In other words, I feel I’ve learned the lessons Project 333 was intended to teach. If you’d like to give Project 333 a try, go to www.theproject333.com for rules, tips, and advice from other participants.

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Photo by JoshMadison on Flickr

6 responses so far

  • Jen Saunders says:

    33 items? wow – that’s incredible! i am inspired to clean out my closets now…

    • Cheryl says:

      It was a really fun exercise, Jen. My current wardrobe (post Project 333) has more than 33 items, but not by much.

  • Beverly says:

    It has been going on this journey with you! I agree: it is no longer really a challenge, simply a way of life…although I do rely heavily on Pinterest as a substitute for buying cute shoes! I pin them and get to look at them, but they don’t clog my closet or empty my wallet!!

    • Cheryl says:

      Pinterest. I love that idea! I used to have dozens and dozens of pairs of shoes (a topic for another post) but I found there were so many I rarely wore that I had to question why I had them. Your wardrobe has really inspired me throughout this challenge. You have so many great pieces!

  • Clara says:

    I also had a beautiful skirt that I loved, a long, flowy one with light and dark blues and accented with silver sequins. However, I couldn’t ever find the right top for it, so I rarely wore it. When I started P333 (I jumped in during phase 2), I had already begun to narrow down my closet significantly, and that included getting rid of the beautiful skirt that I rarely wore, simply because I wore it only a handful of times and felt someone else might enjoy it more. It was very freeing to donate bags and bags of clothes to Salvation Army to the point of being on a first-name basis with the volunteers who staff the drop-off location :)

    I agree , too, that Project 333 is simply a way of life for me now – I know I have slightly more than 33 items in my total closet, but not by much! I’ve also been inspired by Beverly’s smart wardrobe choices.

    Now, I just wish I had a professional minimalist fashion stylist to help me make some final cuts in my wardrobe and also help me prioritize what my next purchases should be, as I know I need to replace a few items!

  • Rebekah says:

    While I’m a big fan of small wardrobes, I haven’t jumped into an official 333 yet…. maybe next time around?

    Someone out there may fall in love with your beautiful iris skirt— I think of donating Really Excellent things to charity as a way to say ‘thank you’ for all the Really Excellent things I’ve bought FROM charities.

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