Project 333 Week Twelve Update

We’ve now come to my penultimate Project 333 update (I’ve always wanted to use that word in a sentence!).  I’m now in the final week of my first term (but maybe not my last) of this enlightening and growth-producing minimalist fashion challenge.

Week 12 presented some problems for me, but they were more in terms of my life than my wardrobe.  My issues with my Project 333 capsule wardrobe have been well documented in previous updates, so I won’t belabor those points again here.  Suffice it to say that if I had it to do over again or if I ever take on Project 333 again, I would make different choices for what to include among my 33 items.  My thoughts on this and many other topics will be included in my full Project 333 de-brief, to be posted in early July.

But now let’s look at Week 12… This post includes my Week 12 outfit photos, the challenges I encountered during the week, some more thoughts on what’s next for me after Project 333, and a few useful links on Project 333 and other interesting topics.

Week 12 Outfits

Let’s start with the four outfits I wore during Week 12.   Two of these ensembles were repeats from previous weeks and one was very close to a copy of a previous look.  Only the fourth outfit was an original, and that look was my favorite of the week.

P333 Week 12 - Outfits #1 and #2 P333 Week 12 - Outfits #3 and #4

I’m grateful the weather has gotten warmer and I look forward to wearing more of my skirts and dresses in the coming weeks.  I’m a bit tired of some of my Project 333 items, so I am anxious to revisit my other garments that have been tucked away during the past three months.

Hitting a Few Bumps in the Road…

This past week was challenging for me emotionally, which led to some relapses in terms of my shopping.  In “Boring Wardrobe – or Boring Life,” I mentioned that I have “some health challenges for which solutions have eluded me.”  Last week, I finally received a diagnosis for one of my troubling health issues, and this was both a relief and a cause for stress.

What I have is not life-threatening but it can be difficult to manage and requires both medication (which I fear) and some strict dietary changes (which I dread).   I experience a lot of anxiety around taking medication (those pesky side effects!) and my long history of eating disorders makes me want eating to be easy, as it was fraught for me for so many years.  I don’t enjoy cooking, most of what I eat is simple to prepare, and I like to spend as little time as possible dealing with the process of feeding myself.  Now I will have to take more care in this matter, which I accept but don’t like.

A Bit of a Shopping Relapse

My anxiety around my health led me to spend more time browsing both e-commerce stores and brick-and-mortar shops this past week.  While I didn’t spend all that much money, I did spend a lot of time and energy on shopping-related activities.  At first, I didn’t notice I was doing this, but after going to two consignment shops and two standard stores on Saturday, I had to face the truth.  I was using shopping as means of soothing myself and avoiding having to think about my troubling health situation.

Even before the difficult health news, the fact that Project 333 was coming to an end intensified my focus on shopping.  Over the past few months, I knew that any clothes I purchased could not be worn until July, which tempered my enthusiasm for buying new things.  As July rapidly approached, I found myself thinking more about shopping and browsing the online stores more frequently.

I’m Grateful for this Blog – and You!

Clearly, I still have a long way to go in my recovery process.  Fortunately, I have my blog and a wonderful community of readers to support me along the way.  Many of you have shared that my blog has helped and inspired you and I am always thrilled to hear that.  But please know that your feedback and encouragement have benefitted me tremendously as well.  I am grateful for this blog and for all of you!

More Thoughts on What’s Next

In last week’s update, I shared some thoughts on what I plan to do next after Project 333 concludes. Some of you offered suggestions for me either in the comments section of that post or via email.  I very much appreciate your ideas and am continuing to formulate a comprehensive plan for July and beyond.

What I have definitely decided to do is the following:

Review and Pare Things Down Further

This week I will review my complete wardrobe and aim to pare things down further.  I will try on all of my clothes and rate each garment on a scale of 1-10 in terms of appearance, fit, comfort, and resonance with my lifestyle and evolving sense of personal style (which has been shifting quite a bit in recent months).

Anything that is less than an “8” will either be immediately donated or consigned or placed into a “maybe” box to be revisited again in one month (I’ve done this before and it’s been a helpful way of addressing pieces I wasn’t quite ready to part with).

Mid-Year Closet Inventory

After my full closet review, I will do a mid-year wardrobe inventory.  This will help me to assess how I’m doing compared to the January inventory I wrote about in “The Cold, Hard Facts: What I Have.”  I will also assess my progress with “The Wardrobe Benchwarmer Project.”

Bringing Other Garments Back to My Closet

Beginning on July 1st, I will allow myself to access my full wardrobe once again.  However, I will only bring garments back into my closet after I wear them.  This will push me to make a conscious decision about whether or not an item deserves to be part of my wardrobe.

Revisit and Work Through “To Buy or Not to Buy”

I am going to re-read and complete all of the exercises in “To Buy or Not to Buy” by April Lane Benson.  This book really delves into why compulsive shoppers shop too much and how we can stop this self-destructive behavior.

I read the book a few years ago but did not complete the recommended journaling and exercises, which are the most important part of the process.  Two of my readers are currently working through the book and have reported amazing progress.  My experiences with this book will be the topic of a number of future posts.  I encourage you to work through the book along with me and share what you learn.

Other Possibilities and Coming Attractions

The above is my short-term plan for continuing to address my wardrobe and shopping issues.  I’m also considering another shopping hiatus as well as revisiting Project 333 or a similar challenge later in the summer or fall. I enjoy the simplicity and structure of an organized wardrobe challenge and I learned a great deal from my Project 333 experience.

I’m pleased with what I’ve learned and how I’ve grown since starting this blog in January, but I know I have a long way to go in my recovering shopaholic journey.  Thus far, I’ve mostly been focusing on the “full closet” portion of my mission (and tagline), “Trade Your Full Closet for a Full Life.”  Although I will continue to address my wardrobe, I’ll also delve more into defining what it means to have a “full life” and start taking the necessary steps to create that reality for myself.   Stay tuned!

Project 333 Useful Links

Here are some posts from other bloggers on their Project 333 experience:

NOTE:  The next Project 333 term starts on July 1st.  If you’re interested in taking on the challenge, I highly recommend the “Dress with Less” microcourse from Project 333 creator Courtney Carver. 

  • This course is designed to be done over a one week period, so now is the perfect time to start! 
  • It includes both written and audio material, PDF worksheets, and membership in a private Project 333 Facebook group. 
  • It’s very reasonably priced and extremely helpful!  It definitely helped me break through my fears, get into action, and start the project from an empowered state of mind.

May Also Be of Interest…

Included below are links to some other articles that I read over the past week.  I found these articles interesting and informative and hope you will, too!

  • How to Stop Buying Clothes You Never Wear – Although this post is a few years old, the excellent advice still applies!  Included is some excellent advice from popular bloggers, as well as the always fabulous Tim Gunn.
  • Refine Your Style and Upgrade Your Wardrobe:  20 Quick-Fix Ideas – A series of little assignments that can be completed in fifteen minute or less.  I plan to take some of them on in the coming weeks and will share my experience in future posts.  This site includes some other great articles on wardrobe and style topics, so you might want to browse around a bit!
  • Why and Where to Buy Sustainable Fashion – Today’s post on the Project 333 blog provides an overview on what sustainable fashion is, as well as some tips and resources for more ethical shopping practices.

32 thoughts on “Project 333 Week Twelve Update

  1. I only found your blog yesterday but I have spent a lot of time reading many of your posts. You are a thoughtful and courageous woman who has overcome huge challenges. I know that you will face this new health challenge with the same courage and determination with which you have faced your weight issues and are facing your shopping issues.

    Please be gentle with yourself as you adjust to this difficult news. Sometimes we need to do the things that comfort us. It doesn’t mean that we have failed. It just means that we are human. Celebrate that you noticed what you were doing sooner than you might have before this blog!

    I wish you the very best as you adjust your life to meet your health issues. I look forward to sharing the journey with you. Anne

    • Welcome, Anne! I’m so glad you like my blog and I appreciate your wonderful praise. Thank you for your advice and kind wishes! I will do my best to be gentle with myself. That’s something I’m still working a lot on, as I tend to be a perfectionist and exhibit drill sergeant tendencies with myself. But I’m learning…

  2. So glad that the end of Project 333 does not mean the end of your blog! Congrats on all your progress.

  3. I commend you on doing Project 333 despite the struggles. More courage than me, just to start. And I wear a uniform (which I could concievably omit, or at least simplify things). I’m not sure why I’m such a sooky nahnah about even *trying* it… Hmm, something to ponder indeed.

    • Sooky nahnah? Love it! I pondered doing Project 333 for a year before I did it. Well, actually I thought I would NEVER do it. Never say never, I guess! It WAS a challenge, but I learned a lot. I definitely encourage you to give it a try if you’re at all inclined to do it. Modify the rules if that helps you – I did!

  4. Debbie, a big hug to you – I so fully emphatize and understand how difficult and discouraging the health issues can be, particularly if they make eating more complicated for you.
    But based on your posts, you are a great organizer: if you yourself allow a few months of transition (take it easy and like others said, be gentle with yourself!), I’m sure you’ll find a new routine and a new balance. My fingers are crossed that you’ll get no side effects from the medications.

    Treat the relapses as valuable learning experiences. Examine the exposures and triggers; build contingency plans (what else could you have done / will you do the next time when you health worries get you down). You may be a bit wiser next time.

    I’ve learned that perhaps the most vulnerable times for me are the low mood- low energy moments (usually in the early evening around 6 to 7 pm after a busy workday). During those moments, I often feel tempted to browse online stores or go shopping. The key to overcoming shopping urges for me has been cutting down exposure to shopping cues – no browsing, no fashion and style blogs, no shopping threads on online forums, no ‘just looking’ shopping expeditions (virtual or real). I’m building a long list of ‘small good things’ that I can do instead.

    Some of the things are super simple, like sipping lemonade in the garden for a few moments during nightfall or watering my potted plants. Others are more complex, for example last night I made fresh warm bread from hot oatmeal left over from breakfast during the low energy/low mood moment (I like baking and the textures and smells were really soothing). Sometimes it’s something that gets me out of the house, like a walk in the park or a visit to an art exhibition (I actually did this a week ago!). Not sure whether this list might help you but I keep adding to the list and periodically mark every activity I’ve actually completed from it by drawing a flower next to it 😉

    • Thanks for the virtual hug and encouragement! I like your idea of building a list of “small good things” and need to do that for myself. I have some now, but need more. I also like the visual cue of drawing a symbol (for you a flower, for me probably a star…) next to the things you actually do. Great idea!

      I don’t know if I have a vulnerable time of day re: shopping. For me, I think it relates more to my moods and what’s going on in my life. I’m sure I will learn more as I work through the exercises in “To Buy or Not to Buy.” In any event, removing the shopping cues would be helpful. I need to “unlike” some pages in Facebook and unsubscribe from some emails and blogs. The less temptation, the better! Congrats on the wonderful progress you’re making. You’re inspiring me!

      • No, you are inspiring me! And yes, definitely stars for you! Please feel free to email me if you have difficult moments during the early stages of TBONTB and need extra support. (I did: doing some of the exercises in the first chapters released lots of bottled-up hurt, sorrow and disappointment. And it was scary because I’m in remission from depression and really don’t want to relapse! But talking and writing about those feelings helped them to dissipate quickly.)

        Oh, and there is one thing that you are allowed to buy right now: a nice, thick notebook for your shopping journal. I chose mine carefully and enjoy picking it up every day. I felt a bit resentful about journaling in the beginning but it has turned out to be so effective for neutralizing negative moods and understanding what’s going on that I’m thinking of continuing to write a diary even after the 10-week project is over. I’m almost half way through now – and have done 20 different ‘small good things’ so far. I can honestly say that the feelings of void and not belonging are a thing of past, at least for now.
        And because there is no void to fill and I’m healing the hurt by other means, there are also no particular reasons to shop. So simple that I cannot understand why it took me years and $$$$$ to figure it out…

      • Debbie please feel free to email me as well. Like FrugalFashionista said it hasn’t always been easy, but it is so worth it. It has made so much difference being able to connect with people through this blog. It really helps to know that I’m not alone and that others are going through the same things that I am.

      • Tonya, Thanks for offering to connect with me offline as well. I appreciate the support of you and FrugalFashionista (as well as so many others). I’m glad my blog has been helpful to you in feeling less alone. It has done the same for me!

      • FrugalFashionista, Thanks so much for the email offer. I appreciate your willingness to support me both publicly and privately. I’m so glad you’re doing so well and aren’t feeling compelled to shop. What a wonderful success story! I look forward to buying a fun new journal and starting the TBONTB exercises. I hope to have good things to report, too!

  5. Hugs about your health issues! It sounds like the good news is that you have a diagnosis and path to follow. Be kind to yourself as you adjust to the medication and the need to change your diet. I have found focusing on how I want to feel (and hopefully would feel) once treatment was successful was a tremendous help in getting through health issues in the past. And sometimes a good cry is needed so you can move on.

    • Thanks for your suggestions (and the hugs), Juhli! It’s a good idea to focus on how I want to feel instead of on feeling bad or being afraid. I haven’t had a good cry in a long time. I cry at movies (and while watching “The Voice” – LOL) but rarely at my own life. I often shop or keep busy with other things to avoid feeling, but a good cry would probably do me some good!

  6. Hi Debbie,
    I have been on a restricted diet now for too many years to count. It is difficult at first, I wouldn’t want to suggest otherwise but you do get used to it in time. What I found was that it helps to focus on what you can eat rather than what you can’t. It also gets easier when you see how your health improves. I do have to do more food preparation than some people but there are still simple meals I can eat. There are loads of books out there, mainly aimed at allergy sufferers, which can help with suggestions on “eating without.” Remember, you never have to do it alone.

    • Thanks for your encouragement, Marion! It’s nice to hear from someone who has a lot of experience with following a restricted diet. I like the idea of focusing on what I can eat. I’ve been trying to do that and learned that some of my favorite foods are still okay! I plan to order a book or two to help and my husband is being very supportive, too. I’m sure we’ll do a lot of food prep together and it will be less overwhelming that way.

  7. Hi Debbie, I think that there must have been something in the air this week! My husband had a health issue that caused some worry and I was feeling frustrated that the contents of my kitchen are all over my house and my to do list is growing. I spent two days searching the internet for things that I could buy. Like you I didn’t spend much money, but I know that I could have used that time in a much more productive way. The differences I noticed were that I knew right away what I was doing and that I didn’t get as much enjoyment as usual. I think that this is going to be a process. I am encouraged that my attempt to revert back to old behaviors didn’t feel the same. I hope that your health issues turn out okay and that you start to feel a lot better now that they know what’s wrong and they can treat it.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Tonya. I definitely think this will be a process with lots of ups and downs. Not long ago, I was feeling like I was not all that tempted to shop, but then it cropped up again. It’s a coping mechanism for us and we need to learn new ways to cope which better serve us. Shopping doesn’t really help anything; all it does is allow us not to feel for a time, and then it all comes rushing back. Not very useful, but the “high” one gets can be very addictive. Here’s to breaking that cycle! You are on your way, and so am I!

  8. Debbie, I am sorry to hear about your health issues and I hope it is nothing serious and that it can be managed easily. I wanted you to know that I enjoy reading your blog very much, and although I have not done a Project 333, just reading about your experience has caused me to rethink my own wardrobe. I have managed to cut down my shopping, given many items to charity, and have even returned unworn, still-tagged items to the store. Your blog has caused me to realized just how few items I actually wear, and how little is needed going forward. I look to forward to reading of your adventures after Project 333 and wish you the best!

    • I’m so glad you like my blog, Andrea, and that you’re finding it helpful. Congrats on your wonderful progress with cutting down on your shopping and getting rid of unworn clothes. I’m happy to have been a part of your recovery. Best wishes moving forward! Please comment again and let me know how you’re doing.

  9. I can’t believe you are already at the (penultimate — I too like that word a lot) end of your project. Congratulations and you can build from there. Dressing well should not be an excercise of constant self restraint, but neither must shopping be something that fills a void. There is a happy medium, and I am sure you will get there. Also, once you start upgrading, you will find, as I have, that you will like these pieces more, and feel great wearing them again and again. Best wishes for your health. Cooking from scratch is my favorite pasttime, and you might find it very relaxing once you get into it. Now, if only we had some decent grocery stores in my neck of the woods.

    • Thanks for all of your continued support, Cornelia! It is much appreciated. You are so right about the “happy medium” with shopping and dressing well. I look forward to getting there soon… I hope I will learn to love cooking, as it will help me a lot with my dietary restrictions. I will keep an open mind and try it out!

  10. Good morning Debbie!
    I am sorry to hear about your health problem, but I can assure you you’ll make it!! You seem to be very organized and strict regarding your own shopping challenge, so I am definitely sure you’ll have the same approach about your health. Be brave, bold and confident and things will work out wonderfully!!

    Kind regards from France,


    • Welcome, Laurene, and thanks for commenting! I appreciate your kind words and support. I’m happy to know I have readers in France. I love your country and hope to visit again soon!

  11. Wishing you only the best with your new dietary challenge… I know you can do whatever is necessary! My husband & went gluten free about two years ago, and it really wasn’t half as hard as we had imagined it would be. Just take it day by day and be kind to yourself! xoL

    • Thanks for your support, L! I’m glad your diet change wasn’t very hard and I hope mine will be the same. Your advice to take things day by day is excellent. One can do almost anything if they approach it one day at a time.

  12. I think the most interesting result of implementing my version of Project 333 is that I find most recently that I have almost ceased to have the desire to clothing shop for amusement and escape. Through my study of clothing manufacturing practices earlier in my process, I have become much more cognizant of the provenance of the clothing I have in my closet and mindful of what I bring in.

    For the past decades, when I entered a store, I was immediately seduced by the displays, the myriad colors and patterns of the clothing–all of which seemed to hold a sense of possibility for personal style reinvention that would magically transform me into a more exciting or attractive person.

    I got over all that once I read Bradley Bayou’s very informative book called “The Science of Sexy”, which is based on your actual measurements to determine what styles look good on your body type. I saw where I was dressing in ways that were less than flattering to my body type, which helped me part with some of my clothing these past few months.

    Now that I have purged my wardrobe in a calm and logical way, I am in a phase of wanting to replace old items with newer pieces that perform the same function. Recently, list in hand, I went to a major retailer with my seasonal color palette firmly in mind. To my surprise, I found the once-seductive displays to be a distracting visual cacophony as I searched for my specific items. I was not lured to stay perusing and imagining, as I once would have…

    The other thing I have learned, is that there is wisdom in purchasing pieces that are already part of a collection, especially if you like unusual colors like I do–so they coordinate without you having to run to a bunch of different stores (another excuse to shop) looking for pieces that match. I used to think it was part of the thrill of shopping to try to find garments from different designers that coordinated with each other–it made me feel like a real trophy shopper! As a result I spent a LOT of time looking, driving, returning…you know the drill. Yes, by purchasing from a collection at the same store, I might pay (gasp!) closer to full retail than I might have in the past, but I am surely spending less overall because I am not driving all over creation and wasting time (translate: escaping from doing anything truly worthwhile or productive by focusing on something trivial like the perfectly unnecessary coordination of a top to a bottom).

    For me the ultimate bonus of Project 333 is that I feel a whole lot less stressed out by my wardrobe now and and see that my clothes actually look good on me, plus work together as a “team” rather than a bunch of disparate mismatched garments hanging on a rack waiting for their day. Furthermore, I don’t even miss the frenetic shopping of my past–and THAT by itself may be more important long term to success than the actual purging and reorganization of my closet.

    • I love reading about your journey, Deby! You have made such great progress and I love that you created your own version of Project 333. That’s likely what I will do moving forward as well. Still considering my options and I don’t have to figure it all out now! Like you, I am less seduced by store displays and low prices. I want to shop more responsibly for my life, my style preferences (still evolving!), and the planet. I was never one to buy in a collection, either, but your points were good ones. One thing I will do is really focus on quality. I briefly browsed a higher-end department at Nordstrom the other day and felt the fabrics and looked at the workmanship. I could have been buying clothes like that for years now, but chose to buy a lot of lower-quality clothes, most of which are no longer in my closet! Definitely penny-wise and pound foolish! I learn a lot from my readers and love your comments. I’m going to do your “30 seconds to make a first impression” approach in reviewing all of my clothes this weekend. We’ll see how many make the cut!

  13. Thanks for mentioning my post, Debbie. I was glad to be able to share my lessons learned with your readers. This is my weekend to get my 33 item wardrobe in shape for summer, and I’m finding it harder this time around. My previous wardrobe was working great, but I knew I needed to add more shirts. Now that I’ve opened the Pandora’s box of clothes stored under my bed, there are too many summer items I want to add! I’m looking forward to seeing your next 33, especially how you balance work/casual clothes.

    • Hi Sara, Thanks for your comment! I was happy to share your Project 333 post, as I found it interesting and helpful myself. I know many people are curious about Project 333 and I want them to have other perspectives besides mine. The more the merrier!

      I’m not planning on doing Project 333 again right away. I plan to take at least July to wear what I have (I still have so much) and learn more about what I like, what works, and what doesn’t work. I AM doing a full closet audit now, though, and am getting rid of more things. I thought I would finish it yesterday, but there was still so much stuff to try on (and it was hot here). I am going to do another closet inventory and post it here on Wednesday. I also plan to do a full “debrief” of my Project 333 experience next week (probably Monday). Lots of wonderful learning! I hope your selection process went well and I wish you the very best of luck with your next Project 333 term! I’m leaning toward doing a 2-month term August-September, but I’m not sure yet…

  14. I hope the health issues have settled down since this post. I don’t care for cooking, but I really don’t like to eat out, my crock pot and a handful of go to recipes are my saviors for healthy eating. It sounds like you learned a great deal from your first 333 challenge. And I like the idea to only add in items as you wear them. This is similar to what I am doing with hubby’s closet challenge. I used to marvel at how small closets were in older home’s, but as I pair down my wardrobe, it’s easier to see how this is do-able.

    • Sadly, I still have quite a few health issues, which is a large part of why I don’t have a job or get out to meet new people very often. When I feel well, that’s often when I shop, but I’m avoiding that temptation much more these days. I don’t enjoy cooking, either, but I’m getting better at finding easy recipes that I like and which don’t take too much time. A crock pot is a good idea! I agree that having a small closet is do-able. Of course, small is a relative term, but maybe for me it would mean 100 garments or less (and perhaps I could work down more as time goes by). I feel more and more willing to let go of things and will probably get rid of some more cold weather items as the seasons change. It’s a process, but I’m glad I’ve stuck with it!

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