A Small Wardrobe for Less Stress and More Happiness

The following is a guest post from Terra Trevor, who is sharing her journey as part of my new “Stories of Recovery” seriesTerra is an essayist, memoirist and nonfiction writer of a widely published diverse body of work. She is also a good bean cook, soup maker, dreamer, and reformed shopper. Visit her weblog where she writes about simple life, the sea, the beach and the joy in becoming more with less, probing life’s complexities.

If you would like to be profiled in the “Stories of Recovery” series (you can be anonymous if desired), or if you have an idea for another type of guest post on “Recovering Shopaholic,” please connect with me to share your thoughts.

Small, Happy Wardrobe

Terra has been able to cultivate a small workable wardrobe. 

Three years ago I joined a community of women and men committed to reducing the amount of clothes we buy and wear. My busyness stopped. The fragments of my life because still. I began to connect to the part of me that craves simplicity.

I’m moderately minimalistic in most aspects of my life. We grow a garden, and I like to cook. The car I drive is an older economy model. I don’t buy a lot of gadgets. My home is decorated in an economical simple style, it’s comfortable and inviting, without a lot of stuff, and it is clutter free. I think of myself as a down to earth, sensible person. But there was a time when my closet told another story.

My Closet of Yesteryear…

In addition to my work as a writer, for a number of years I also worked in a fashionable corporate environment. I also traveled to lead workshops and speak at conferences, and I had fallen into the trap of thinking that in order to be well dressed, I needed a variety of outfits. So at first gaining a collection of clothes, shoes and purses that filled my average-sized closet was fun. Then it became taxing because I had too many choices. Most of all, I found getting dressed each morning stressful. My closet overwhelmed me. I had far more clothing than I needed. And like most people, I had my favorites and everything else just hung on its hanger waiting for a turn to be taken out and worn.

Packing for trips had become torture. I prefer to pack light with a small carry-on bag, and I agonized over what to pack because I had a multitude of options.

Always Searching for Something Perfect

Although I had begun to edit monthly, giving away things I was not wearing, I still had too much, and I kept buying. Always searching for the perfect something, on sale. Since my husband, friends and co-workers shopped, too, and we often congratulated each other on scoring the perfect find, I allowed myself to believe that shopping was an acceptable hobby, as long as I didn’t over-spend, didn’t have credit card debt, and kept within my budget. Looking back, I’m embarrassed that I let my thinking go haywire.

Enter Project 333…

I had begun to edit my closet monthly, giving away things I was not wearing. But cleaning out my wardrobe was an emotional challenge. Then I discovered Project 333.

Project 333 helped me re-evaluate the contents of my closet and gave me the confidence to purge unnecessary items. I began to regain control, re-evaluate my shopping habits, my wardrobe needs, my clothing mood swings, my preferred clothing style, and my consumptive nature.

Although Project 333 allows for flexibility, still, paring down was painstaking.

I had a lot of good clothes that fit me well and were of quality, but I had too much and I spent days trying things on, forcing myself to make decisions.

Many of My Favorite Pieces were Seldom Worn

My previous habit of saving some outfits for special occasions meant that many of my favorite pieces were seldom worn. In an odd turnaround, my closet had begun to feel like a clothing museum. Each morning I studied the contents, weighing my workday (or other occasion) options, deciding if the day and event was special enough to wear my best.

Finally, I decided to let go of two extra large bags of clothes, shoes and purses. It was hard because everything fit me, some of it was new, and of good quality. But I didn’t need that many clothes and having excess was no longer fun and exciting. Instead it had begun to drag me down.

It took a lot of doing, but I forgave myself for making the mistake of using poor judgment in the past. I reminded myself that since I now know better, I will do better in the future. And I’ve reached that success.

Finding My Rhythm with Project 333

Today I have a simple, small collection of clothes I enjoy wearing regularly.  But it was a rocky road reaching the good place where I am now. Truth to tell, I participated in Project 333 twice before I finally found my rhythm. The concept of selecting 33 items and boxing everything else up was daunting. I kept wondering if I’d made the right choices, always second-guessing myself. Thinking that perhaps there was a better choice boxed up and I could swap it out.

So when the second round of Project 333 began, I decided not to box up or store any of my clothes, other than the things that are seasonal. In order to make decisions on what to keep, I used suggestions from Style Expert, Bridgette Raes, asking myself,

  • “Where am I going http://bridgetteraes.com/in this?”
  • “Am I splitting my wears?”
  • “Do I have something else similar that I would rather wear instead?”

After I made my selections,I gave everything else to thrift stores. When purging initially, I took some of my quality clothes to a consignment store to sell. But the small amount of money I received for excellent quality, lightly worn, clothing and handbags, helped me understand that I’d rather give my things away or donate to a charity that gives the clothing to women in need.

My Wardrobe Today…

Now that I have a smaller collection of clothes, I’ve discovered that having less really does mean more. My closet and my clothes no longer overwhelm me. It is easy to get dressed each day. Most of the time, I find that I have the right outfit for every occasion. And on those rare occasions when I feel as if I don’t, I do not dwell on it. I’ve learned that it is probably just a “moody” day for me, and it has nothing to do with my clothes. Instead of focusing on clothing lack, I journal write to discover what is lurking in my mind and deal with that.

Although I now have less variety in my wardrobe, I’m happier because it includes an outfit or two (or three) to cover all of my basic needs. I’ve learned to limit my colors and now my clothes mix and coordinate well since I stick with a few basic color combinations (black, gray, charcoal, navy, denim, with three accent colors) and I find that everything works well with other pieces to create a variety of options.

It makes packing for trips easy; I’ve become a minimalist traveler. I have less laundry, which is easier for me, and better for mother earth. I have better educated myself about the horrors garment industry workers face, and my responsibility to the planet.

Having Too Many Choices is Stressful

Our human brain is not wired for a multitude of options. Having lots of choices sounds delightful, but being faced with too many choices is stressful.

Now, when it occurs to me that an item of clothing no longer fits me, or if I’m simply not comfortable wearing it, I’ve learned to give it away as soon as possible so that someone else can use it. When I begin to feel like I might need something new, I wait a while to see if I’m still feeling the need in two or three weeks. But oftentimes it turns out to be a spur of the moment want and the urge passes. Yet if a key item I wear often wears out and begins to look shabby, I will shop for a replacement.

Sometimes, but not often, I browse through a store or online, but I seldom buy, at least not right away. These days I take my time before making a purchase. Frequently, I remind myself that what I want most of all is to maintain a small wardrobe.

Currently I’m working in a relaxed office, which provides me with the freedom to wear casual skirts and nice jeans. But if I ever return to working in an environment that requires professional wear, I plan to maintain a 7-piece core wardrobe for work, because I no longer want, or feel the need to have excess.

The Small Wardrobe Lifestyle

I’ve had a small wardrobe for a few years now. It has become a lifestyle for me. Although I’m a believer in Project 333, sometimes I wear more than 33 items within a three-month period, and other times I wear less than 33. I pay little attention to the exact number of items. For me, it’s all about maintaining a small wardrobe of clothing that covers all of my basic needs.

Having less helped me break my habit of saving favorite items of clothing for special occasions, because now I have more opportunity to wear the things I love, and I’ve learned to view every day of my life as a special occasion.

Getting dressed is easier for me with less. I no longer spend a lot of time thinking, wondering and worrying about what to wear. I also no longer shop unnecessarily. Most days I’m happy, happier than I have been in years. I still feel that I probably have too much, and will need to cull again each season, and edit out the things I’m not using. But my load is growing lighter, and my thoughts are lighter.

Project 333 Was Just the First Step

Project 333 was an excellent way to help me release the unnecessary items in my closet. But it was only a first step. I also needed to peel back the layers to understand some of the reasons that caused me to seek an over-abundance of clothes, so that I can make lasting changes.

My desire to connect with others who are also committed to reducing the amount of clothes we buy and wear, led me to Debbie Roes and “Recovering Shopaholic.” Debbie’s honesty and willingness to share her story about her shopping habits and desire for change, along with the wealth of reader comments, provided me with a community of women and men who were candidly talking about clothing issues I identify with.

Now that I have reached my goal of cultivating a small wardrobe filled only with items I love and wear regularly, I must constantly keep myself in check, and not allow excess to creep into my closet.

Ethical Clothing and Powerful Questions

I have also begun to pay careful attention to a company’s ethical stance before buying a garment, and I am willing to pay more for ethics, especially now that I want to live with a smaller amount of clothing.

Minimizing and simplifying my clothing has also allowed me to see excess consumption in other parts of my life as well, and to make changes. Before I buy anything or bring a new item into my home, it’s important for me to ask myself:

  • “How much do I actually need it, in comparison to what it has taken from the planet and from workers, and from others in order to produce it?”
  • “How long will it last?”
  • “When and how will I dispose of it?”  

The changes I’ve made offer me more freedom, less stress and more happiness. But it’s a gift that requires some assembly. With each new sunrise, and sunset, I must remind myself that what I want most of all is to remain committed to my goal of owning less.

A big thank you to Terra for sharing this wonderful story!  Learn more about Terra Trevor and explore her diverse body of work over at her blog.

33 thoughts on “A Small Wardrobe for Less Stress and More Happiness

  1. I was a young adult in the 1970s fuel crisis and swore I would avoid conspicuous consumption in my daily life. I have ALMOST succeeded — I finally had to buy a car and while I still use public transportation from time to time, I use my car more. Guilty!! But I have been more successful with the other things around me — clothing, household goods, electronics, and whatnot. Having a small but dearly loved and cherished collection of things, including clothing, provides a great deal of comfort and value in my daily life. I don’t pay (mortgage, heating and cooling, property tax, maintenance) for a lot of extra square footage to store things I seldom or never use. As a result, a lot less stress. My wardrobe is small and manageable and I wear nearly all of my favorite clothes on a daily basis. And have done so for over 30 years. I don’t pay that much attention to external purveyors of STUFF. I just decide what I need and want, cognizant of my budget and space limitations and my priorities to spend my hard earned $$ on experiences, not things.

    • Dottie,
      I find it inspiring that you have managed to avoid conspicuous consumption in most areas of your daily life. Someday I hope to live in an area where I can use public transportation more often. But for now, when I do need to drive downtown, I park my car and do all of my errands on foot.

      I wish that 30 years ago I’d had the wisdom to keep my wardrobe simple like you have. But instead it took me 30 years to learn! Most of my early adult years were not focused on an over abundance of clothes, and then somewhere along the way I took a wrong turn, and fell into the line of thinking that in order to be well dressed I needed lots of outfits. Thankfully those days are behind me. Also, like you, I prefer to keep my wardrobe simple, not complicate if with different heel heights and other dictates of fashion that do not harmonize with my preference for simplicity and understated elegance.

      I agree, less does not equal frumpy. Actually, for us it is the opposite, right? Having fewer pieces has allowed us to discover our preferred style and purchase only quality pieces that we love, and bring us joy to wear.

    • Dottie, I was just starting college during the fuel crisis. I remember seeing the lines of cars snaking around the block to get gas near my dorm. I never had the desire to own a car myself. I walked and took the bus everywhere until I got my first drivers license at the ripe old age of 25. At that time I HAD to get a license and a vehicle because my job was a 20 mile commute each way, and there was no public transport. My first car was a tiny used Honda Civic hatchback.

      In my early 30’s I started my own business–a graphic design studio, and I needed a car in order to run my business and service my clients. I always drove small fuel efficient cars. Today I drive only used cars, won’t spend for a new car. My current car is 11 yrs old but I keep it in top notch mechanical shape.

      My friends used to tease me because I was the only person who didn’t start driving at 16, but I saw no need for the expense.

      • Deby, my small, fuel efficient car, in top notch mechanical shape, is also 11 years-old. And before that I drove a 1983 Volvo station wagon for twenty years, filled with three kids and a Newfoundland dog for many of those years. Finally had to donate the car to charity because the interior and the seats had begun to fall apart, whereas it was in great mechanical shape, and it is probably still going strong. But my husband has a fancy car, and I’m guilty because on my less frugal days I enjoy riding in it. Though he is considering selling it, and has begun to think about becoming more frugal.

      • I also drive an older car, a ten year-old Honda Civic. Our second car is a 1998 Land Rover which doesn’t get driven much anymore. We haven’t always been so frugal with our cars, though. We used to have a BMW and a Mercedes once upon a time. But now, it’s more important for us to have our freedom (and not have to work all the time) than it is to have fancy cars and a big house.

      • My 11 year old car is a BMW, which was given to me by a friend who I helped recuperate after a difficult surgery. I’ve been driving it now for 6 years, and I will probably drive it until the wheels fall off because I love it so. Yes, it is more costly to maintain than some other cars, but it is nowhere near as costly as buying a new or used car at today’s prices!

      • I was 22 when I got my license, 25 when I bought my second-hand Beetle, which I owned for about 11 years; I am now on my 4th car (one died in a head-on collision with 238,000 miles on the odometer). I’ve had jobs where I’ve had to drive a lot, but now I go days without driving because I mostly work from home. I just find a simpler life is easier — fewer choices, less confusion, more time spent on worthwhile stuff (friends and family, volunteering, exercise, and so on).

  2. Thanks for sharing your story, Terra. I have not done Project 333, but in other ways my clothing journey mimics yours. Too much stuff that did not get worn and still nothing to wear. And too many choices are indeed limiting and stressful. Stepping into my closet now is like one of those ‘aaah’ moments and I would not have it any other way. Also, now I feel better about owning all these pricey Eileen Fisher knits that I so adore because I wear the heck out of them. And those tops that have seen better days have been moved from office to weekend duty.

    • Cornelia,
      I think my closet now mimics yours. Although I had always wanted to be able to wear Eileen Fisher, I didn’t dare because I thought it was too expensive. Silly me. I’m sure I spent far more money in my effort to have lots of clothes, many of which were seldom worn, when I could have purchased a few great EF pieces for the same amount of money and have been far happier owning clothing I adored wearing.

      The good news is I’ve finally made the leap! Last year I bought (and have been wearing the heck out of) four Eileen Fisher stretch silk jersey tops, and one extremely wonderful EF scarf that seems to go with everything. They are a pure joy to wear, wash and dry easily, and are a packable luxury. And y’all know how much I love to pack light with only a small carryon bag.
      Now that I know what I like and will wear most often on a daily basis I’m saving and budgeting so that wearing EF can take place more often for me. And yes, those other tops that have seen better days, or have lost favor, are now worn when I cook, or spend time with babies, puppies, or when the cat is on my lap.

      I wholly agree, stepping into my closet is now one of those ‘aaah’ moments.

  3. Debbie–Thank you so much for featuring Terra whose writing I discovered here. And Terra–I love your writing, both here and on your own site. Thanks to both of you.

    • frugalscholar,
      Thank you for your kind words. I sincerely appreciate knowing this. One of the best things about blogging has been the people I’ve met over the years (including you) and the writing and comments, thoughts and opinions that have enriched my life and expanded my mindset.

      Thank you to Debbie for publishing my essay, and for sharing your heartfelt stories and journey with us, and for providing us with this forum. I owe much (if not all) of my current wardrobe success to you and to your community of readers who provide stellar comments. You have all given me great tips and have shared stories that have made my journey better.

      • Thank YOU, Terra, for both your wonderful essay and your heartfelt responses to comments. I think this post elicited a lot of excellent feedback and questions, which is a testament to the interesting and thought-provoking content you provided. Many thanks for your contribution!

  4. Thank you for sharing your story Terra! It is very interesting to hear other people’s journey toward simplicity, their own experiences, triggers, successes and challenges. Have you seen Barry Schwartz’s TED talk about “the paradox of choice”? He explains what you are saying in your essay: that too much choice is daunting for the brain and ultimately leads to unhappiness because we have that lingering doubt “did I make the right choice”? That talk was my trigger to reconsider the common idea that more is better.

    Also, it seems the ethical clothing question is a part of the simplification process for many people. Sometimes it is a trigger, sometimes a later questioning, but I think it contributes to overall happiness, at least for me it is a way to reconcile with a more responsible consumption and a feeling to contribute beyond myself. Thanks again for sharing!

    • Kali,
      I’m equally enjoying reading about your journey toward simplicity. I was up rather late last night (it was sizzling hot, even though I’m so near the ocean) reading THE NIFE EN L’AIR. Your journey mirrors mine. Whereas I write simple stories and lead a simple life, I love your style of writing about the thought process that brings some of us to crave a simple lifestyle. And I love that you have debunked the myths. Actually, I grew up simple, or rather as simple as it is possible to be growing up urban American Indian in Los Angeles. Then in adulthood, when I hit 30, I think I went overboard with clothing in order to claim adulthood, similar to how you did, in order to establish yourself as an adult, when you favored that certain style of heals, makeup and jewelry, that you have now grown away from.

      No, I have not heard Barry Schwartz’s TED talk about “the paradox of choice.” Thank you for alerting me to it. I plan to view it soon.

      • I love The Nife en L’Air, too, Terra! I’ve gotten a lot out of Kali’s wonderful articles. I listened to Barry Schwartz’s TED talk awhile back after Dottie posted the link. I highly recommend it and think I will watch it again. I sometimes need to be reminded that I definitely DON’T need a lot of clothes. I still have too many, but I’ve made vast improvements. You are a great inspiration to me, Terra, as is Kali. I love how I’ve met such wonderful women through this blog – I’m very grateful!

  5. Thank you for your story, Terra- it was very inspiring! Maybe I will actually try Project 333. I love your blog, too!

    • Thank you Heather. Hearing that you have read (and love) my weblog makes my heart sing. That is the one thing all writers want most, to know that someone out there is reading. And when readers enjoy it, that’s the cherry on top.

      If you decide to give Project 333 a trial run, be gentle with yourself. Pay little attention to the exact number of items. There is nothing wrong with wearing 40 items, or 50, or 34. What matters most is finding a rhythm that allows you to make the changes necessary in order to bring harmony and more joy in getting dressed.

  6. Thanks for sharing your story. I have also struggled with owning too much, particularly clothing. I have not tried Project 333 but I have tried other challenges and find them very insightful. I didn’t realize how much I owned and was not using, until I forced myself to try using less. Once I got over that initial hurdle, there is no going back. I would no longer be happy owning a closet stuffed full of clothes I do not use often.

    • Lisa,
      I’m also enjoying your stories within your DH Closet Challenge.

      I agree with you, now that I’m past the hurdle and have tamed my closet there is no going back. It has taken me a while to figure out what I wear most and to consider adding a bit more in those key areas. But for the longest time I had to be strict with myself and limit my numbers so that I wouldn’t end up with too many clothes that were seldom worn again. Recently I’ve discovered that I wear skirts and sandals a lot in warm weather, and I’ve added one more of each. There are also a certain tank top I’ve begun to favor because it’s perfect for layering, and I’ve decided that since I love it and wear it all the time it will serve me well to add another. Not for variety, but for practical purposes.

      I’ve also learned that with a small wardrobe there will still be a few purchasing mistakes from time to time. And I say oh well. We just need to do the best we can. Live and learn as much as possible, and be gentle with ourselves.

  7. I’ve never done project 333 but own the total amount that 4 rounds of 333 would equate – 132 items, give or take half a dozen. This is dressing for 2 opposing climates I keep moving between over the last decade as well. I feel it is a perfect amount. But I’m not so sure I would want to separate my 132 items into 4 blocks of 33. Why? If I own the same amount either way – why not have it all at your disposal to choose from, depending on what mood strikes you, ya know?
    At any rate, I do agree that too much choice can be crippling. Just think of those restaurants with 8 pages of menu. Then picture a menu that is one page with just enough of each selection (salad, meat course, veggie selection, poultry, fish, apps, etc) that you feel you have choice but aren’t bogged down by the sheer amount. The same can be said for the wardrobe. Do I need 12 salads (or combinations of tunics over skinnies) or will just 2 or 3 to choose from suffice? 🙂

    • Mo, I agree with you!

      That’s why I decided not to box up any of my clothes other than what is seasonal. I want everything in my closet, available to me whenever I need it. Where I live on the Central California Coast it can be extremely foggy and cool in July, and there have been plenty of times when I’ve needed a wool sweater to wear to outdoor summer picnics. And we can also have sizzling hot days in January requiring a tank top and shorts. But since I don’t have a very big closet I must pack away my wool in the summer and pack away my shorts in the winter. But now that I have my seasonal clothes stores in a small suitcase that tucks into the back of my closet, I have everything handy when I need it. But I needed to do a few test drives with Project 333 in order to find my rhythm, because I had way more clothes than I needed.

      I view the P333 guidelines, along with the current held guidelines for a simple life, minimal or moderately minimal lifestyle, as suggestions, ideas, but not firm rules set in stone. There is no right number of clothes or objects. It needs to be whatever works best for each person, and allow for the freedom and flexibility of not keeping count. For me what works best is to have less, and to have everything available when I need it. But I needed to scale down, and own a smaller amount of everything.

      Uh, I also do not care for those restaurants with menus that read like short story. Three or four soup and salad choices is plenty!

      • I feel the same way as you now, Mo. Even though I live in a temperate climate, there are a lot of unseasonably cold or warm days from time to time. I like to have access to my entire wardrobe, especially since it’s gotten a lot smaller. I think it’s still a bit larger than yours, but I haven’t counted in a while. I did find it helpful to limit things for a while, as it showed me that I could get by with much less. I also had SO many clothes when I first did Project 333 that I really needed to clear out my closet so I could better use my favorites. I also needed to determine what my favorites actually WERE!

        I agree with both you and Terra about the restaurants with huge menus. When I go to Cheesecake Factory, I feel like my head is spinning from all of the choices!

      • I tend to eat at home or at locally-owned restaurants with small menus but occasionally when I eat at a restaurant like the Cheesecake Factory, I always order the same thing — at the Cheesecake Factory it’s fish tacos. Talk about a paradox of choice — I don’t even look at the menu!!

    • I had some of the same questions about P333 that you do, Mo – if I have a reasonable number of pieces for the small space I have available, why limit myself even further? why box up perfectly good things to reach an arbitrary number? But I tried it anyway, and the limits forced me to consider whether I really did love my things, or just liked them, or took them for granted.
      Most people doing P333 don’t necessarily end up having 132-ish things total because there is usually a lot of overlap. The jeans and skirts you can wear for 3 seasons, the tees and tanks you layer under long sleeves in winter and wear alone in summer. Some people box up a lot of stuff, other people only have a small pile of seasonal things that they’re not currently wearing. It depends a lot on climate, storage space and personality. I hold on to quite a lot of extra stuff, but each season allows me to reconsider. As I get some distance from things, I see them more clearly.
      But it sounds like you have found your optimal sized wardrobe and that’s awesome. This comment is not meant to suggest that you have too much or that everybody needs to do P333. I just wanted to to say that I had some of these same thoughts, but now my feelings are shifting because of my experience.

      • Makes sense! I have a unique situation – I keep moving from very hot humid FL to the cold snowy Sierra Nevadas and back. 6 times now over 12 or so years, so it’s not a fluke. It’s safe to say I have very different need in July in FL than Jan in Tahoe. lol I won’t wear pants again until maybe Sept here in FL this year (I actually only have 3 pair with me here and the rest are back in my CA closet). And no skirts or shorts will be seen in winter in Tahoe. But I get that I’m not the norm.
        I am totally happy that I have as little as I do now, compared to 5 years ago when I’d never really purged and had a couple decades of stuff piled up. And yes, the point is for everyone to find their Goldilocks wardrobe size – just right!

  8. Paring down has been something I have been struggling with for a long time. There are so many components to deal with – emotional attachment, the amount of money your spent, investing the time to examine and cull out what is really necessary, confidence in putting together outfits with what you have. Each year, I whittle down more. I have adopted a one in one out attitude and stick by it. .I still have a long way to go. I enjoyed reading this post.

    • Barbara, paring down was a struggle for a long time for me too. For me the “thought” of wanting to own less clothing and to have only what I loved and needed came first. It was a thought that kept returning over a period of years until one day I knew for certain that it was a goal I wanted to obtain. And like you are doing at first I whittled down slowly, as much as I could, as best as I could. “Slowly, but surely” as the old adage goes, is a good process. The most important thing is that you have a desire to pare down, and you have already begun.

  9. Terra, I came to that same realization about those “moody” days when nothing feels right and I don’t want to wear what I have. It’s not about the clothes – it’s about body image, or insecurity, or the weather. It wouldn’t matter if I had 100 tops to choose from some days. If I’m pms-ing and feeling fat and frumpy and ugly and I have to go out in the cold and rain with the cute girls who look like they should be in a Nordstrom catalog, I’m going to feel like crap. So I just throw on old faithful favorites and do my best not to show that I’m grumpy or self conscious. If I know that my wardrobe is full of things that work for me, I can be pretty sure that what I pick on those bad days actually looks good. Back when I had a bunch of extra “so-so” things, there was more chance that I would actually try too hard and end up wearing something genuinely unflattering or not-me.

  10. Joanna,
    I can relate one hundred percent to this. Years ago on my “moody” days I was an outfit-changer. I’d try on one thing after another, nearly late for work, trying to hang items up, leaving things on the floor, putting on another outfit, and then finally because I wasted so much time and second guessed myself so much, I really did end up wearing something that was funny looking, because I got into such a worked up state. Fortunately it didn’t happen to me all the time, but it was awful when it did. Also, when I tried on too many outfits, in a hurry to get out of the door on time, or when I simply had too many choices and couldn’t figure out what goes with what, I ended up hating my body.

    I no longer feel this way and it is delightful to be past all of that. Looking back I can see that in trying to figure out what to wear every day and having too many options, caused me to be critical of my body because I didn’t own clothes that were easy to coordinate together, and I spent too much time looking into the mirror and not liking what I saw.

    Like Deby mentioned, I’m still a “moody” dresser. But now my moods mostly have to do with things like – am I in the mood to wear black today and pull my hair back and showcase great earrings? Or am I feeling more like wearing red?

    Of course even with a small wardrobe of things I love to wear I still have “off” days once in a while. And like you, I reach for faithful favorites, knowing that I look fine, even if I’m not feeling fine, and usually within a few hours my grumpy mood lifts. Music helps too, along with a really good cup of coffee.

    • I can really relate to the “moody” dressing, too, Terra and Joanna! That’s part of what makes it hard for me to do P333 or to pack lightly for travel. I still have a lot of body image issues (a post on this to come soon…) that impact both my shopping and how I dress from day to day. It helps me to dress in clothes I feel good in when I’m feeling less than about how I look, but it tends to be a bit of a moving target. What I’ve realized is that I need to have a capsule in my wardrobe for my “fat days” and the days when I’m hormonal and retaining water, especially since those days have become more frequent as I get closer to menopause. Why try to force myself to always wear my more form-fitting clothes when they are snug on me due to bloating? But on the other hand, why wear clothes in which I feel like a “frump.” I’m trying to find the middle ground now so I can feel good about my clothes and the way I look most of the time!

  11. I really enjoyed reading your story! I never participated in project 333 but I want to! I’m just afraid to do so! I feel I never will be a 333 purist because I have a (smallish) jewelry collection and don’t plan on ever changing the fact that I like to alternate them frequently. A p666 with shoes and accessories though would be ideal, because I use a large portion of my clothing year round despite living in upstate ny where we have 4 seasons and a temperature variance from -30+ with windchill to 105 F or more!

    • Meli,
      That’s what held me back too. But then I got to thinking and realized that everything in my life that has been a true success and has changed me for the best are the things that I set out to do without worry of failure.

      In my opinion there is no reason to be a purist (with P333, or with any pursuit, or any path in life) unless you “want” to be a purist. For some people it is very important that they follow and conform to the nth degree. Yet others, including myself, are less likely to be drawn toward extremes, or become a purist, with anything we do. And this is OK. Both ways of living and being are the right way.

      But I’m enough of a rebel rouser to know that I needed to adhere to a strict limit of around 33 items initially, in order to rein me in, to help me release excess. So I followed along, almost to the letter, with the exception of jewelry. As a Native American woman my small collection of earrings (nothing expensive, nothing flashy) and the silver bracelets that I never take off, is connected to my culture, a link to the family, friends and Native artisans who created it, and it is not a fashion statement.

      But this does not make me an exception. Every woman has certain items that are a part of her personal style, it might connect to culture, ethnicity, or have other intrinsic value. And this should not be removed. So, Meli, I’m cheering for you. Your jewelry is part of your essence.
      Please feel welcome to wear your jewelry collection and join along with P333.

      And “Do not fear mistakes—there are none.” –Miles Davis

      • I’m a fellow “rebel rouser,” Terra, so it helped me to have the limits, too, at least the first time around. I also think I will do stints of Project 333 (or a modification thereof) from time to time to help keep me on track. I may include shoes in the capsules, but I think I will always leave jewelry out. I love my jewelry and I definitely feel it is part of my essence!

        Terra, your responses to the comments on this post have been WONDERFUL and I’m very grateful that my blog has been in such good hands while I’m away. You can do a guest post on “Recovering Shopaholic” anytime!

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