May Project 333 Summary & Accountability Update

As long-time readers of “Recovering Shopaholic” know, I have committed to posting monthly accountability summaries throughout 2013 (and possibly beyond).  These summaries help to keep me honest and include the following information:  what came into my wardrobe, what left, how much I spent, and how well I did in adhering to my shopping-related rules.  As I’m doing Project 333 during April through June, I’m also including summary information for that challenge in the accountability updates for those months.

Project 333 – May Summary

As the Project 333 interest level is high for many of my readers, I’ll start with that summary.

NOTE:  If you’d like to learn more about how to do the Project 333 challenge, I highly recommend the “Dress with Less” microcourse from Courtney Carver, the creator of Project 333.

I’ll kick off with my May numbers “in a nutshell”:

  • Number of Garments Worn during May:  33 (yay!)
  • Garments Worn 5 Times:  2  (black jeans, Gap trouser jeans)
  • Garments Worn 4 Times:  3  (cobalt cardigan, burgundy cardigan, Cabi jeans)
  • Garments Worn 3 Times:  2   (black skirt, striped cardigan)
  • Garments Worn Twice:  9
  • Garments Worn Once:  17

Project 333 – Overall Summary So Far

  • Swaps Made:  8  (seems like a lot, I know, but I’m willing to make swaps as needed as long as I keep learning and growing from the challenge!)
  • Garments Worn 9 Times:  1  (black jeans)
  • Garments Worn 7 Times:  2  (Cabi jeans, burgundy cardigan)
  • Garments Worn 6 Times:  1  (Gap trouser jeans)
  • Garments Worn 5 Times:  3  (navy pants, black skirt, cobalt cardigan)
  • Garments Worn 4 Times:  3  (grey cardigan, striped cardigan, white tee)
  • Garments Worn 3 Times:  13
  • Garments Worn Twice:  8
  • Garments Worn Once:   2  (black tank and print skirt swapped in during May)
  • Garments Donated:  (grey skirt and original striped tank)

Shoes and Accessories Summary

Although I did not include shoes and accessories within my 33 capsule items, I did commit to tracking which of these items I wear and how often.  Rather than sticking with a small selection from these categories, I’m actually trying to wear as many of my shoes and accessories as possible during the challenge.  My rationale is that I’ll either discover “diamonds in the rough” that I love to wear or “duds” that belong in my donation bag.  As a pleasant surprise, I’ve found that I love most of my shoes and accessories, even those that I hadn’t been wearing, but I’ve also taken some pieces for consignment or donation along the way.

Below are the shoes and accessories I wore during May, along with the numbers for each category.

Shoes Worn: 17 (two pairs worn 3 times, two pairs worn twice, the rest once,  April repeats = 8)

Project 333 - Shoes Worn During May 2013

Earrings Worn:   18  (five pairs worn twice, the rest once,  April repeats = 7)

Project 333 - Earrings Worn During May 2013

Watches Worn:  3  (one worn 9 times, one worn 8 times, one worn 6 times, April repeats = 2)
Bracelets Worn:   13 (one worn 5 times, five worn twice, the rest once, April repeats = 5)

Project 333 - Bracelets Worn During May 2013

Necklaces Worn:  3  (all worn once, all are repeats from April)

Project 333 - Necklaces Worn During May 2013

Scarves Worn:  7  (all worn once, no repeats from April)

Project 333 - Scarves Worn During May 2013

Purses Used:  Just One (the same one used in April – I think I’m ready for a change for June)

Project 333 - Purse Used During May 2013

Some Observations & Conclusions Regarding Accessories

Tracking the wearing of my shoes and accessories during Project 333 has been very helpful!  Not only have I been able to discern my actual favorite items, I’ve also learned which types of accessories I wear most often.

As an example, I find that I wear my flat and low-heeled shoes far more often than those with higher heels.  As I’ve gotten older, my feet have become increasingly sensitive such that I feel more comfortable wearing a lower heel.  Also, since I’m already quite tall (5’10”), I don’t always want to add inches to my already Amazonian silhouette.  That said, I like the look of some outfits much better with heels.  However, since I don’t wear heels as often, I don’t need to add any new pairs to my wardrobe.

In regards to accessories, I wear a watch, earrings, and a bracelet on most days.  Necklaces and scarves are worn far less frequently and are never worn simultaneously.  As I already have an abundant selection of both types of items, I don’t need to purchase new necklaces or scarves anytime soon.  Of course, I’m coming to this realization after buying two necklaces at the consignment store on Sunday!  But now that I’m aware of what I do and don’t need in terms of accessories, I’ll refrain from buying necklaces for the foreseeable future.

What Came Into My Closet

This section is very easy, as the answer is NOTHING!  I stuck to my promise not to buy any new clothing, shoes, or accessories during the month of May.  It felt good to be able to adhere to my word, and my brief shopping hiatus proved that I can exhibit willpower in regards to shopping.  Not shopping also helped me gain more appreciation for what I have and helped me to better understand which types of purchases will serve me moving forward.

What Left My Closet

During May, I purged 22 additional items from my closet (19 garments and 3 pairs of shoes). Some of these pieces are currently on consignment, while others have been donated to a local charity.  As I’ve been going through Project 333, I’ve become more and more willing to let go of wardrobe items that don’t serve me.

The items below were either uncomfortable, ill-fitting, or just not a match for my current lifestyle and personal style preferences.  I don’t miss any of these pieces and I’m happy to be gradually paring down my wardrobe so that only “8”s and above remain.

What Left My Closet in May 2013

May Budget Update

For the first time in as long as I can remember, I am actually under my wardrobe budget for the year!  In most years, I was “behind the 8-ball” by the time June rolled around and had started employing the tactics highlighted in “Shopaholic Lies and Covert Operations” to cover my tracks.  This year, I was able to proudly tell my husband that I’m adhering to the shopping budget we set at the beginning of the year.

As a reminder, my shopping budget is $250 per month.  This amount needs to cover all of my clothing, shoes, and accessory purchases, as well as any necessary alterations.  As of May 31st, I have spent $1111.69, which is actually $138.31 below budget!  I must admit that taking the month of May off from shopping definitely helped in this regard.  It’s very likely that I would have exceeded my budget had I ventured into the shops last month.

Since my yearly average for shopping expenditures during 2003-2012 was $4762.56, I must admit that I’ve done an exceptional job in curtailing my spending this year.  Of course, sticking to my budget is only part of the battle, but it’s an important part.  I also need to do a better job in purchasing “wardrobe all-stars” instead of “wardrobe benchwarmers” and buying for the life I have rather than for a previous or imagined lifestyle.  Yet my success to this point has me believing more and more that I’ll be able to accomplish all of my “recovering shopaholic” goals either this year or sometime very soon.

In Closing

It’s a lot of work to do all of this extensive tracking, but I feel it’s totally worth my time and effort.  I am learning so much about myself and my wardrobe in the process, and my increased awareness is helping to guide my shopping-related behavior.  My rational mind has become much more engaged and my emotional whims are running the show much less frequently.

I have a long way to go before my wardrobe and shopping are where I want them to be.  I still have far too many clothes and my wardrobe lacks the variety and versatility I desire.   Although I complain a lot about my boredom in wearing only 33 garments for three months, I can’t deny the positive impact that Project 333 is having on my life.  I better understand “in my bones” the need for fewer, higher quality garments instead of a plethora of mediocre pieces.  I also realize that I need to cultivate other means of pleasure and excitement in my life beyond shopping.

Those topics and more will continue to be featured in this blog – and I welcome your suggestions and feedback for what you’d like me to write about in the coming months. At the end of Project 333, I will share a complete summary and highlight everything I’ve learned from taking on this minimalist wardrobe challenge.  If you’ve missed any of my Project 333 updates, you can see all of them HERE.

27 thoughts on “May Project 333 Summary & Accountability Update

  1. When I first started to try to shop less and in a healthier way I did a lot of similar things. It really helped me to see how much I was spending, what I was spending it on, and what I was actually wearing. Lately I’ve been getting into the emotional aspect of overshopping. It hasn’t been all together enjoyable, but I think it’s necessary for me to change. That’s awesome that you are underbudget!

    • I need to delve more into the emotional issues as well. I’ve touched on them in the blog, but I need to dig deeper, as I know my shopping isn’t really about the clothes! Another reader recommended “To Buy or Not to Buy” by April Lane Benson. I have the book and have read portions, but haven’t really given it a fair shot yet. I plan to revisit it to see what I can learn. Perhaps it would be helpful for you, too.

      • I have that book. I read most of it, but didn’t write anything down. I just spent a half an hour in a closet looking for it. I found it under a pile of Christmas stuff and old catalogs. The irony of that isn’t lost on me 🙂 We have the makings of a shopaholic bookclub lol. I think that I am ready to use this book more effectively.

      • Yes, quite ironic 🙂 I think I’m ready to use the book more effectively now, too. A shopaholic book club could be fun!

  2. I’m curious why you’re still buying clothes at this point? You have so many clothes that are put away for the Project, yet you’re adding more. I would think it would make sense to go through all three months without buying anything and then reassess your clothes. It just seems like you’re taking a step forward and then taking a step back.
    I’m happy that you’re under budget but maybe a lower budget amount is something to consider, especially since you have realized that you spend a significant amount of time at home in workout or lounge clothes. $250 a month for clothes seems high when you’re trying to reduce the overall total number of items. It basically guarantees that your closet will have a neverending, nonstop revolving door. Yes, wardrobes always change because of various reasons but rationalizing the spending (“But I haven’t spent all of my budget money for the month.”) is feeding your addiction.
    It’s important to have clothes that you feel comfortable and confident in (your 8/10 scoring system) but on the flip side there’s no such thing as a perfect closet. What’s the quote… Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Something I often have to remind myself of. There’s just something to be said for being content with what you have and reducing the pressure on yourself. I don’t know you but I imagine there’s a certain amount of pressure you’re putting on yourself in this area and others and you don’t deserve that stress.
    Just some food for thought from a non-expert. 🙂
    I do want to say that I’m impressed with your introspection and that you consigned or donated so many clothes in May! I’d be interested in another total closet inventory at the end of 333. 🙂

    • Emmy, Your comments make a lot of sense. It’s true that I’ve still been buying too much this year. I set some rules for myself but have bent or broken many of them. I continue to struggle, but writing about it is helping. Perhaps my budget is still too high, but it’s a lot lower than I’ve spent in the past 10 years and I didn’t want to set myself up for failure by setting too strict a monthly target for myself. Part of what I’m trying to do, too, is buying fewer items but higher quality instead of buying a lot of cheap and mediocre pieces. I have gotten rid of far more than I’ve brought in this year, so I still think I’m doing well.

      I agree that there is no such thing as a perfect closet! It will always be a journey and a process. I definitely plan on doing another closet inventory (and an update on my “benchwarmers”) at the end of Project 333. I will likely take another pass-through to see if there’s anything else I can purge at that point and then I’ll do another inventory. I am interested in learning just how well I’m doing because, you’re right, I have taken a few steps back by buying more. I don’t want to do a complete shopping moratorium, but I do only want to buy what I will really use and what fits my lifestyle now (which is a bit in flux, but is mostly quite casual). Thanks for giving me more food for thought!

      • Emmy expressed my own thoughts on why you are still buying — even if it’s “replacement” buying. You still have a $3,000 annual clothing budget — about 63% of what you spent on average over the past 9-10 years. After spending over $50,000 on clothes perhaps you would only need to replace (if even this) worn-out or torn or stained items. I realize that it might be challenging to stop shopping altogether but I too wonder if you could cut your clothing budget in half for, say, June and July and August. You could put the $$ you save towards a cool vacation or other personal goal — I know this would get me out of the stores! I’ve admired your tracking system (I have a basic spreadsheet inventory) but then I can see all of my clothes (except for coats kept in a separate closet) when I open my closet door. I don’t have room for duplicates or near-misses in my house (older house with small closets) so I don’t buy stuff.

      • Not to be piling on, but I have had the same question as Emmy and dottie…

        I am not doing Project 333 myself, but my closet is really pared, and I’ve just pulled a couple more things. Just over two years ago I read The Joy of Less, which started my path to minimalism, and Not Buying It by Judith Levine, which has changed my whole way of life when it comes to shopping. I committed to a “No Buy” for three months, and not just clothes and shoes and accessories, but not to buy anything except groceries and necessities like gasoline, etc. This means no makeup, no books, no music, no fragrance, no candles, no kitchen gear, no anything that wasn’t absolutely essential. And it worked. We made it for three months, and DID NOT cheat once, and it went so well that we extended it for another three. I ended up going for 451 days, when I caved and had to buy a new summer cardigan. I still haven’t bought any makeup, or nail polish or skin products. (well, except for mascara, which is my one exception. I change my mascara every three months religiously, like changing my toothbrush). And one big motivator is how much money you see yourself accumulating when you stop shopping!

        Those two books changed our lives. We embraced minimalism so well that we downsized from a 2000 sq ft loft to a 700 sq ft condo. And I rarely shop, and only with a real particular NEED in mind.

        You are doing great! But I think you are really close to making that next step. You made it through May but I felt like you were just biding your time until you could shop again, and were actually still mentally shopping through the month. If you could really turn it all off for a couple of weeks, cold turkey, no emails in your in-box, all shopping sites banished from your bookmarks, staying out of all malls and brick-and-mortar shops, it could maybe jump-start your real recovery.

        I wish you well.

      • A clothing budget is a very individual thing and what’s right for one person might not be right for another. While it’s true that I spent close to $50k on shopping over the past 10 years, much of what I bought were the wrong things and have left my wardrobe long ago. I shopped more out of emotions than for true needs. My lament about the money was more about wasting it than about the amount itself. As this point, I am working on sticking to a budget that is reasonable for my life and financial situation and buying the RIGHT things for me. My husband and I feel good about the current budget number. Perhaps it will change in the future, but for now, it will stay where it is (Deby made some good points below with which I agree re: still needing to shop). I feel I have made tremendous progress and I am happy with the track I’m on. It’s true that I still focus too much on shopping, but I know this and am working on finding replacement activities to give me the same kind of good feelings I get through shopping. I am gradually unsubscribing from magazines, fashion-related emails, etc. and that is helping me to want less.

        I really appreciate your feedback, Dottie and Roanne. It sounds like you have both made great strides in your own lives and have found things that worked well for you. I will definitely check out the books you mentioned, Roanne. My husband and I have done a lot of downsizing in recent years as well and are proud to be living in a smaller apartment with less overhead. It feels really good! The shopping and clothes are some of the final steps for me (as well as paper and online clutter – working on those things this year, too). I know I will be in a better place by the end of the year. I’m already doing much better than I would have thought by now!

  3. Wow, your readers are really challenging you. It’s great that your blog has attracted people that will push you beyond your comfort zone. I must concur with the three readers above. Now that you’ve started this blog, try to push yourself a little further than what you’re comfortable with. I think taking a bigger leap in the beginning will help you take greater control for setbacks in the future. I got the same sentiment as Roanne when I read this post: that you were counting down the days until you can shop again. This means that you focused on when you can shop instead of concentrating on no shopping. I hope you know that none of this is criticism, I think we are just all pointing out areas that are setting you back from making real change. It’s unanimous that you are very brave for starting this blog and your progress is fantastic. I also think the most important posts are honest ones like this post, so your community of devoted readers can bring up the blind spots and help you get through it. You are certainly wise enough to sort through the critical comments vs. the constructive ones.

    • Yes, my readers are challenging me and I definitely read and consider all comments. I know that all of the comments come from the place of wanting to help me and I appreciate that. But in the end, I have to decide what’s right for me at any given point in time. I actually feel like I HAVE pushed myself beyond my comfort zone – by doing Project 333, posting all of my outfit photos (I am definitely not comfortable with that!), and not shopping for a month, to name a few things. I WAS counting down the days until I could shop again, but only towards the end of the month. I will likely do another shopping hiatus later in the year, but for now I’m focusing on buying things I will actually use and which fill gaps in my closet (instead of my previous M.O. of buying whatever catches my eye). I will continue to challenge myself in various ways and I am open to suggestions from readers. I am already thinking of new challenges for when Project 333 is over and have some good ideas. Stay tuned…

  4. I too had the thought that you were just biding your time until you could shop again. Also I appreciate the need for a budget but the monthly amount is almost like giving yourself permission to spend that much. I wonder if you might do better to focus on the number of items rather than a fixed dollar amount each month. My challenge to you would be to buy items one at a time. You could then enjoy each new purchase for a while and assess how it fits your wardrobe before you add another item. I know it’s a struggle and I can see how far you’ve come already. I think the breakthrough might be near.

    • Good idea, Marion! When I started this project in January, I set the “rule” of buying one item of clothing and one accessory per month, but I like your idea better. I think it might really help me to just buy one thing at a time to see how it works out for me.

  5. I love reading your blog & appreciate your honesty in documenting your struggle to change. You are really organized and efficient in caring for your wardrobe & I am learning a lot from what you do. You have been so successful already so please stick to it & keep on blogging about.

    • Thank you, Katy. I’m glad you like my blog and are learning a lot from it! I have no plans to stop, so you can expect a lot more posts from me moving forward.

  6. I might as well throw my hat into this discussion about whether Debbie budgets too much money for clothes and then sets herself up to shop, etc. I think its great that you have come in under budget, Debbie!

    A few things I’ve noticed about the outfits you post online is that you tend to have repeating motifs which I think may bore you in a subconscious way, causing you to think you need to shop for something new. I bring this up because I have observed the tendency in myself to “stock up” on styles and colors of garments I think I will wear, only to find that I don’t wear them after all because I had too many items that were similar and hence feel jaded by always looking the same.

    I see you wearing the repeating motifs of: striped tops/cardigans, bottoms that are too similar in color, cardigans of similar style (but varying colors), and pewter leather accessories.

    Not a wardrobe consultant by any stretch, but looking at your outfits over the past number of weeks I would advise you to switch out some of those stripes for different patterns to give your eye some variety, get some bottoms (skirt or pants) in a different color than black or dark denim, and add some burgundy to your wardrobe. When you wear that burgundy cardigan, your face just lights up! I think you should get a scarf at least with that color as part of the pattern–maybe with some orange and green in the pattern too. You look fantastic in royal blue, and I’m positive you would look great in emerald green as well.

    I am not going to criticize your budget amount or your shopping technique because there is one thing I have learned in my own culling process. You have clothes you take to consignment stores and thrift shops because they no longer work for you. Then you have clothes that do work for you but maybe they are looking a little tired or outdated (especially if you are like me and tend to hang on to favorite items for 5-8 years!)

    Silhouettes and tailoring details change and you need to look current, especially if you are in business. I’m in marketing and I used to think that if I wore older clothing that my customers would think I was sensible and frugal, therefore not wasting their money. The truth is, for all my clothes, I looked frumpy. Customers are happy when they see us looking well put together, because then we give the impression of being on top of things, and thereby offering better service.

    Finding that once I culled, there were garments that needed freshening– I replaced, item for item, certain key pieces throughout the month of April and May. Because I did this, I felt better about my wardrobe because my clothing looked current rather than the same old tired silhouettes I had worn for 8 years. I didn’t add on to my basic wardrobe, because as soon as the new garment came in, the old garment left.

    The process has been fun too–trying on different styles that I hadn’t considered before–like pencil skirts! I discovered newer styles that looked better on me, and consequently I feel more confident when I get dressed, even though I am choosing from a pool of fewer garments.

    • Deby, good comments! I’ve fallen into some of the ruts you mention and I appreciate your suggestions.

      And Debbie, I think it is wonderful that you have come in under budget. You are making great gains in all aspects. The reader comments on this blog keep me on my toes. Not only are your readers challenging you, I’m feeling pressure to make changes too.

      • Thank you , Terra! I’m glad the comments are helping you, too! They are definitely making me think and giving me a lot of useful ideas.

    • Thanks for all of your feedback and suggestions, Deby! I have more variety in terms of colors and styles in my full wardrobe than in my Project 333 wardrobe. I would definitely make different choices if I was starting P333 over again! While my wardrobe at large (and yes it’s still large but getting smaller) is more variable, there is still too much “sameness,” as I did do the “stock up” thing that you referenced. I appreciate your color suggestions! I love burgundy, royal blue, and emerald green and have several garments in each color. I agree that some different color bottoms would go a long way to making more wardrobe more exciting and versatile, so that will be a focus in the coming months. I know it won’t be easy (especially for pants), but it will be worth it.

      I am getting rid of FAR more than I’m bringing in and my focus is to buy the RIGHT things (still hit and miss in that regard but learning) as well as adhere to my budget. It feels good to get rid of the things that don’t work and to do more targeted buying that engages my brain instead of my emotions. It sounds like you are doing great and are in a good place with your wardrobe now. I am getting there… I will do another wardrobe inventory post soon, after Project 333 is over and I do more culling at the end of June. I know the numbers will be much better this time around!

  7. Very good post… I currently have 55 items of clothing (an all time high number after years of clothesorexia!) so when you account for out of season items I pretty much live in project 333 mode. I have to say, after years of doing it I imagine being happiest with a slightly larger wardrobe for more individualistic and whimsical ‘theme & variation’ riffs on my personal favorite looks. Right now I think my magic number is right around 75 pieces that can be rotated through seasonal capsules. Small enough to feel tightly edited and ‘collegial’ insofar as everything gets worn enough with one another, but also large enough avoid feeling like I’m just hiding behind a basic uniform and to accommodate an occasional quirky item like a skull sweater or a tulle skirt… Going over 100 items would make me uncomfortable. I would definitely feel, for my personal lifestyle, like I was misusing my funds and my time at that point and it would really frustrate me not to be able to wear my clothes often enough to make them feel really ‘mine.’ I really enjoy your blog! You are mining some really great insights here!

    • Sounds like you’re doing really great with your wardrobe and know where you want to be in the future. The ideal wardrobe number is individual and I’m not sure what mine is yet. I know I still have too much, though. In a previous post, I gave 150 as a target for the year, as that sounded reachable, but I’m not sure if that would just be an intermediary number. We shall see! Glad you like my blog and are enjoying my insights! Best of luck to you with your continued wardrobe curation!

  8. I know this post is older, but I think $250/month would be hard to stick to, at first! Those thinking it may still be excessive probably don’t share the challenge of always (emotionally) needing the next fix. You’re doing great, Debbie!

    • Thanks, Domina! It HAS been difficult to stick to my budget, some months more than others. I am used to spending much more, which is why I didn’t want to lower the bar too much this year. I hope to become one of those people who only shops at the beginning of a season and buys just a few new pieces. I’ve always wanted to shop all the time, but that never served me well. I’m feeling more hopeful now, though!

  9. Interesting recap. With wardrobe tracking, I have found it very interesting how small the number can really be, for items I feel I am sporting all the time. In the past 4 months, I’ve had some ‘workhorse pieces’ and they were only worn about a dozen times each! I felt like I was wearing them everyday, but that wasn’t really the case, more like once a week, every week. Go figure!

    • I think wearing pieces a dozen times in four months is excellent! I doubt I ever reach those numbers, but then again, I don’t leave the house on a number of days (or only leave to go on a walk or to the gym wearing “gear”). Project 333 really enlightened me to how infrequently I wore things, even those pieces I thought I was wearing “all the time.” I plan to continue tracking until I’m happy with my wardrobe and how often things are getting worn. I think I’ll be doing it at least through 2015.

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