This post is part two of my “debrief” on my Project 333 experience. On Monday, I shared all of my Project 333 numbers, including how often I wore the various pieces of my wardrobe capsule, how many shoes and accessories I wore (I didn’t include these items in my 33), and my favorite outfits worn during the challenge. Today I’m highlighting the top lessons I learned from my minimalist fashion experience.
Project 333 “Back Story”
If you’re new to this blog or my Project 333 journey, here are some links to help bring you up to speed:
- “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway” – my guest post on the Project 333 website in which I shared my top 4 fears about taking on the challenge and how I planned to address them.
- “Why I’m Taking on the Project 333 Challenge” – my first Project 333 post on this blog, in which I shared my reasons for opting to dress with less for three months.
- My Weekly Project 333 Updates – Each week, I shared my wins and challenges, as well as photos of my outfits.
- “Project 333 By the Numbers” – The first part of my Project 333 debrief.
- To learn more about Project 333, visit the project home page or check out the “Dress with Less” microcourse from Courtney Carver, the creator of Project 333.
Lessons on Many Levels…
When I decided to do Project 333, I was definitely nervous. I knew dressing with only 33 garments in my closet wouldn’t be easy, especially considering that I started this year with 272 items of clothing! However, I was willing to experience this anxiety and discomfort, as I knew that doing the challenge would produce a great deal of growth and learning. What I didn’t anticipate was how much I would learn and grow! I experienced benefits I really couldn’t have foreseen, and I likely wouldn’t have believed anyone else if they told me about some of these “plusses” of Project 333.
Listed below are what I view as my “Top 8 Lessons” from doing Project 333. These benefits fall under the categories of physical, emotional, and spiritual and are not listed in any particular order. I’m sure these are not the only benefits of the challenge, but they are the ones that came to mind upon reflection. If you have done Project 333 and have anything to add, I welcome your feedback!
Lesson #1: Less Wardrobe Anxiety
I used to stare into a jam-packed closet each day, struggling for something to wear. Although it seems unfathomable that one could think “I have nothing to wear” when looking at 272 garments, I swear it happened to me on many occasions. What I now realize was that it was virtually impossible to make sense of so many clothes. The “tyranny of choice” was driving me crazy and causing my head to spin!
With only 33 garments to choose from, getting dressed became a breeze. I was able to compile outfits in minimal time and with very little stress involved. I was late to far fewer appointments because the getting dressed portion of my morning routine had been streamlined.
Interestingly, as I opened my options again to my entire closet (now pared down to 174 garments) at the beginning of this month, the stressed-out feeling returned. I had happily become accustomed to the ease and simplicity of fewer sartorial choices. For that reason, I am strongly considering doing Project 333 again very soon (I’m currently writing down what I wear and will see what’s on my list once I reach 33).
Lesson #2: Wardrobe Decluttering on Steroids!
Since the beginning of 2013, I have reduced the size of my wardrobe by approximately one-third (98 garments). While I was gradually paring things down during the first three months of the year, Project 333 sent my wardrobe simplification process into overdrive. Although the rules of the challenge specify that items not in one’s 33 be put away until the end of the term, I found myself going through my boxes every few weeks. Just knowing how much I had irritated me and I wanted to downsize my wardrobe sooner.
The experience of dressing with only 33 garments showed me that I don’t need nearly as much as I once thought I did. Once I really got this concept “in my bones,” it became much easier to release the ho-hum pieces that really weren’t serving me. I’m sure I will pare things down even further as the weeks and months progress.
Lesson #3: Raising My Standards
For years, I adhered to the philosophy of “more is more.” I was constantly shopping and buying an overabundance of clothing to fill my closet. In order to continue the flow of buy, buy, buy, I often skimped on quality. I purchased a lot of knit garments made from synthetic fibers and with shoddy workmanship. While I usually shopped at better stores like Nordstrom, I was always looking for a “good deal” and ignored the higher-end departments for the ones with lower-priced merchandise.
In selecting my 33 garments for Project 333, I tried to incorporate many of my favorite pieces. However, as I wore these items over and over again, I noticed that their quality was not optimal. I started to crave more special pieces made from natural fibers which would feel better against my skin. I also began to pay more attention to where my clothes were made and consider the ethics involved in the manufacture of what I’m wearing (reading “Overdressed” really opened my eyes to the downside of “fast fashion”!).
I now choose to purchase fewer garments of higher quality that are made with ethics and sustainability in mind. I still have a lot to learn about this topic and plan to share what I discover in a future series of posts. I also welcome suggestions, resources, and guest posts on this and other topics!
Lesson #4: Dressing Better & Evolving My Style
I’ve been taking photos of my outfits on and off for several years and shared my favorite outfits from the first three months of 2013 on this blog. The purpose of the photos was to help me learn what I like and don’t like and assist me in evolving my style. As part of my Project 333 experience, I committed to photographing all of my outfits and sharing them in my weekly update posts.
While I felt extremely self-conscious in sharing all of my looks, I’m now happy I stayed the course. I noticed that I liked a larger portion of my outfits during Project 333 than in previous months and years. Because I was forced to dress with fewer pieces, I became more creative in how I combined garments and in my accessorizing. I was also wearing the things I liked most instead of pushing myself to wear my less beloved “wardrobe benchwarmers” (many of which are now gone – update coming soon!).
Seeing all of my outfits in front of me also got me thinking more about how I want to dress and the style statement I’d like to project. Although I’ve helped a lot of other people in developing their style, I have descended into some of my own personal style ruts. Doing Project 333 helped me to identify these ruts and better understand how I ideally want to dress moving forward.
Lesson #5: Noticing Patterns and Identifying Priorities
My outfit photos also allowed me to see patterns and areas of repetition in the way I dress. I began to see how often I dress in a type of “uniform.” As I wrote in “The Ups and Downs of Uniform Dressing,” there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with dressing by means of a formula. However, I now desire more variety in the way I dress and feel the need to add a few more uniforms to the three standards I’ve been wearing in recent years.
I’ve also noticed that I wear too many dark colors and knit pieces, so I’ve placed a moratorium on buying these types of items for the time being. Instead, I plan to focus on finding higher quality pants, skirts, and dresses, as well as a few blouses to incorporate more variety into my looks. I’d also like to lighten things up a bit by adding a couple of light or bright bottoms to my wardrobe.
I don’t think I would have reached the above conclusions without the “pause” I gained through doing Project 333. The challenge allowed me to take a few steps back and consider what I have instead of continually looking for what is cheap, compelling, and readily available to buy.
Lesson #6: Appreciation for What I Have
Although I have identified a few priorities for my future shopping trips, I’m also appreciating my current wardrobe more as a result of Project 333. My wardrobe is far from perfect, but I do have a number of pieces I really enjoy wearing. I was excited to pull out many of my summer garments and start wearing them this month. Many of them feel almost new since they’ve been out of my view for the past three months (and I haven’t worn them since last fall).
In addition to appreciating my wardrobe more, Project 333 has helped me feel more gratitude for other areas of my life. After the first few weeks of anxiety around my pared down closet subsided, I began to focus less on my wardrobe and more on the rest of my life. As dressing became easier, I had more time and energy to focus on other things. I started to take more pleasure in the simple things in life, such as reading a book, listening to music, petting my cats, and taking long walks by the water with my husband.
Lesson #7: Shifting Focus to “A Full Life”
When I started this blog in January, I came up with the tagline “Trade Your Full Closet for a Full Life.” However, the majority of my posts thus far have centered on the full closet part of the equation. It was difficult to consider much else when confronted with this each and every day:
As I grew more accustomed to my much more minimalist Project 333 closet, my focus started to shift to the “full life” portion of this blog’s (and my life’s) mission. I saw that I was bored more with my life than my wardrobe and started to consider what a “full life” really means. I now feel ready and inspired to cultivate a fuller life and share my insights on this blog. I’m excited to build a more fulfilling life for myself and hopefully inspire some of my readers to make similar changes.
Lesson #8: Increased Connection
Many of my readers found me and my blog through the Project 333 website and social media channels. If I hadn’t taken the leap to do Project 333 despite my trepidation, I may not have connected with many of you. I would have missed out on a lot of great interaction through the comments sections of my posts and on Facebook and Twitter. I truly value connecting with my readers and I’m grateful that Project 333 increased both my readership and my interaction with like-minded people around the world.
Three Short Months, Many Benefits!
As I wrote this post, I was struck by the many, many benefits I derived in only three short months of Project 333. I’m reminded that growth and learning are frequently accelerated when we put ourselves out there and take on challenges that push us out of our comfort zones. I’m glad I decided to “feel the fear and do it anyway” surrounding Project 333.
I know that many of you have also done Project 333 or a similar wardrobe challenge. I’d love to hear about your experiences and what you learned from dressing with less. Perhaps you’ll remind me of yet another benefit that I experienced but neglected to mention!
For those of you who haven’t done Project 333 but are considering taking it on, I highly recommend it! I would be happy to answer any questions you have either before you start or along the way.