Doing Project 333 Without Even Trying

I first took on minimalist fashion challenge Project 333 in April 2013.   It took me literally days to select my capsule wardrobe and I was riddled with intense anxiety as to whether I could actually dress with only 33 items for three whole months.   I even modified the rules of the challenge to make it easier for me, only counting clothing pieces and allowing myself carte blanche to wear as many shoes and accessories as I desired.  That helped somewhat, but I still made a number of swaps along the way and felt both emotionally and sartorially challenged by the process of dressing with less.

Keep it simple - Project 333

Aiming for simplicity, I first took on Project 333 in April 2013.

While Project 333 wasn’t even close to being easy for me, it did force me to grow.  I learned a great deal about myself and my wardrobe through the process, including the valuable lesson that I don’t need nearly as many clothes as I always believed were necessary.  I managed to pare down my wardrobe by close to 100 pieces during my first stint of Project 333 and I liked far more of my outfits than in the months leading up to the challenge.

Round Two – January 2014

I took on Project 333 a second time at the beginning of this year.  Again, I made a few modifications to suit my personal needs.  While I opted to include shoes in my wardrobe capsule in my second go-around, I shortened the time frame from three months to two.  My reason for that was to lessen boredom while still learning more about what I enjoy wearing, my clothing needs, and my evolving personal style.

It’s worth noting that I selected my 33 items for this past January and February within thirty minutes, in sharp contrast to the numerous hours that process occupied the previous April.  Since I had pared down my closet contents by approximately half since I first took on Project 333 – and learned a lot more about myself and my wardrobe, it was surprisingly simple for me to select what I would wear for the first two months of the year.   I still made a few swaps, but overall my second Project 333 stint went exponentially smoother than my maiden voyage with fashion minimalism.

Shifting to a Different Sartorial Approach

Fast-forward six months.  While I haven’t been officially participating in Project 333 since the end of February, I have continued to track what I wear each month (I’ve been doing this since my first Project 333 experience).  I keep a list of all of the clothing pieces and shoes I don during each given month and report the numbers in my monthly accountability updates.  I have seen a general decrease in those numbers, but I didn’t really make that much of it.  I figured I was gradually winnowing down the size of my closet and wasn’t all that surprised to see that I was wearing fewer items as a result.

But last month, I decided to take a somewhat different approach to getting dressed each day. Rather than pushing myself to wear everything in my closet and reduce the number of wardrobe “benchwarmers” I own, I’ve simply been wearing what I feel most “called” to wear.  I started this as a result of feeling uninspired by my wardrobe and experiencing the follow-on temptation to shop more.  Deep down, I knew I had a number of wardrobe pieces that I liked quite a bit, so I just allowed myself to wear those items – without guilt.

In addition, I started journaling about my outfits (an update on that soon), noting what I wore, where I went, and how I felt about the way I was dressed and its appropriateness for the situation.  I can’t recommend this process highly enough, as I’ve learned a tremendous amount from it and have mostly ended up wearing outfits that were at least an “8” on a scale of one to ten as a result.  While I haven’t followed all aspects of the “cunning plan” (outlined at the end of this post) I created to address my style ennui (I shopped too much in July, for one), I have still benefitted greatly from taking a different tack with my closet.

Unintentional Project 333

But back to Project 333…  As I looked at the list of what I’ve worn during August, I noticed that I’ve basically been following Project 333 without even trying to do so!   As of today, I’ve worn 25 garments and six pairs of shoes this month, which adds up to 31 items total.   Since the month is almost over, I think it’s safe to say that I could easily get through all of August wearing just 33 pieces.  But the most incredible thing is that I wasn’t even trying to limit how many items I wore!  I have just naturally evolved over time into a person who dresses with less.

Yes, we’re only talking about one month here instead of three, but I believe I could wear the same 31 items I’ve worn during August for the next two months as well.  Since summer starts and ends late where I live, I’m certain that I could wear the same outfits (most of which I loved) through the end of October and be dressed appropriately and happily for all of the occasions in my life.  I won’t necessarily do this, but I easily could if I wanted to.

True, I haven’t included accessories in the mix, but that rule for the challenge never really jibed well with me anyway.  Although I have pared down my jewelry and scarf collections quite a bit since I first took on Project 333, I enjoy having the freedom to vary my accessories as much as I want.  I definitely don’t fault those who do opt to limit that area of their wardrobe as well, but I don’t feel that need to do so for myself.

How Did This Happen?

I think my dressing with fewer items can be attributed to better understanding my style and becoming increasingly selective about what I wear.  I have also become a lot more ruthless about purging pieces that don’t make me feel fabulous when I wear them.  I still have some pangs of guilt about letting things go, but I don’t let such feelings stop me as much as I used to.  I realize that I feel much happier going about the business of my life when I am wearing clothes that make me smile.  Life is too short to wear anything in which we feel frumpy, unattractive, old, and uninspired!

So what were these 31 items that I loved wearing during the month of August?  They are all shown in the images below (separated out into tops/toppers, skirts/dresses, and shoes), but here’s a list to help make things clearer:

  • 6 dresses (black maxi, b/w stripe maxi, cobalt, brown leopard print, white/grey leopard print, navy embellished)
  • 7 skirts (black maxi, black knee-length, black seamed, b/w print, cobalt maxi, coral/black stripe, zigzag stripe)
  • 6 tops (black sequin tank, black ruffle top, burgundy tank, floral tank, striped tank, teal tank)
  • 2 cardigans (black tie-front, cobalt)
  • 4 jackets (black/grey moto, b/w striped knit blazer, denim blazer, orange knit blazer)
  • 6 pairs of sandals (black/cream heels, black low wedges, pewter low wedges, metallic flats, leopard print wedges, silver low wedges)
August 2014 Tops and Toppers

I have worn these 12 tops and toppers during August 2014.

August 2014 Skirts and Dresses

These are the 6 dresses and 7 skirts that I’ve worn this month.

August 2014 Shoes

Rounding things out, here are the 6 pairs of shoes I’ve worn in August 2014.

While I have other summer closet favorites that I haven’t worn during August, the photos above show some of my most loved items for this season (I rarely wear pants in warmer weather).  I feel great in all of these pieces, which is why I reached for them when I wasn’t trying to push myself to wear everything I own.  Sure, there is some duplication among the items I wore – 3 black skirts, 3 pairs of metallic sandals, etc., but I feel like the capsule I unintentionally created allows me to easily put together a wide variety of outfit options.  I definitely did not exhaust all of the possible combinations during August.

The Power of Project 333 Principles

What’s the moral of this story?  Once you do Project 333, the principles stay with you and guide you even when you’re not consciously focusing upon them.  Here’s a short list of the “dress with less” values that are increasingly governing the way I shop and get dressed a year and a half after I decided to feel the fear and do it anyway with Project 333:

  • You don’t need a large wardrobe to be stylish. In fact, dressing with less often leads to better outfits and increased style satisfaction.
  • Wear what you love!  If you feel good in what you’re wearing, you’re less likely to want to buy more.  In fact, a good practice is to wear your favorite clothes when you shop and only buy things you like at least as much as what you have on.
  • Aim for quality over quantity.  If you’re wearing the same pieces over and over again, they will quickly wear out if they aren’t made well.  Invest in higher quality staples that will serve you well for multiple seasons.
  • Dress appropriately for your lifestyle.  Even if you work in an office, have diverse hobbies and life activities, and live in an unpredictable climate, you can still dress well with 33 items or less.  I’m lucky in that I live in a temperate area, but I know of other women (like the creator of the challenge, who lives in Salt Lake City) who have successfully dressed with less in cities with more variable weather.
  • Select a narrow and cohesive color palette. This practice will allow for increased mix-and-match potential and more mileage out of your wardrobe overall.  If I were selecting my Project 333 wardrobe intentionally, I probably would choose fewer black pieces than what is pictured above, but black is my key neutral and I love wearing it.

I’m sure there are more principles that are now part of my sartorial psyche, but the list above is a good representation.  I know that some of you would never take on something like Project 333 – and that’s okay.  But if you are intrigued by the challenge but fear you’d never be able to do it, perhaps you might want to think again.  I truly believe that if I can do it, anyone can!

Project 333 Inspiration

If you want to dip your toe in the water, here are a few of my past posts that you can check out for information and inspiration:

The “Dress with Less” Microcourse

You may want to also invest in the “Dress with Less” microcourse created by Courtney Carver, the founder of Project 333.  This comprehensive and low-cost course really goes a long way in preparing you to take on dressing with less.  It’s a week long and includes the following:

  • 10 Lessons
  • Project 333 Worksheet (to make your list)
  • 4 Audio Recordings
  • Recorded Q&A Webinar
  • 2 Awesome Music Playlists (to inspire you as you go through the process)
  • Option Access to a Private Facebook Group (where you can ask questions and interact with others who are doing the challenge)

I took this course prior to starting Project 333 and found it very informative, helpful, and supportive.  I highly recommend it!

What’s Next?

I’m not sure whether or not I will officially take on the Project 333 challenge again.  I love that the principles of Project 333 have become more and more ingrained in me over time, and I’m happy that the challenge is there for me whenever I need it.  If I find myself continuously clamoring for more or increasingly gravitating toward quantity over quality, I know that Project 333 would help steer me back in the right direction.  I definitely want to dress with less – and I’m doing it – but I don’t wish to hold myself to prescribed limits at this time.

Limits and challenges have served me well, but I’m really trying to move more toward simplicity and joy (my theme for 2014) and doing what’s best for myself and my life without having to “legislate” my behavior.  I strongly believe that there are reasons and seasons for what we do in our lives.  After a long season (with lots of compelling reasons) of being all about rules and limits, I feel drawn toward giving myself more freedom to do what’s best for me in the moment.  I have gradually evolved to this state of mind – and it’s possible that I may not yet be ready for it, but I want to give it a try.

While I haven’t decided yet how I will approach my wardrobe and shopping in 2015, I’m leaning toward fewer rules and restrictions and a greater focus on building a full life for myself.  I have been wrapped up in shopping and clothes for far too long, and much of it has been a way to avoid other areas of my life that are uncomfortable to address.

I now feel much more courage to walk along the road less traveled and forge a more compelling future for myself.  Project 333 played a very important role in my evolution and I will always be grateful for that.  It’s highly possible that it will continue to become a way of life for me without even trying.  That kind of effortless flow is what I want to create more of in my life at large.  Now that’s simplicity and joy at its finest!

70 thoughts on “Doing Project 333 Without Even Trying

  1. Thank you for this wonderful update! I found your blog over a year ago by searching for Project 333. You have come so far since then. I am going to take your challenge to wear only what I love and see what my numbers look like at the end of September.

    I have been keeping the journal and it has been a godsend! I have learned so much about myself, especially how I feel when wearing certain clothes. I have also learned that some items I bought this spring are wearing out too fast. So now I am shifting from quantity to quality as I purchase replacements. I am sure I will still make mistakes but I am learning to identify quality fabrics and construction.

    It is so fun to share with you and your readers as we navigate our way toward a full life. Wishing you even more joy and simplicity!

    • I’m so glad the journal is working out well for you, Anne, and I look forward to your feedback on wearing only what you love for a month. It really is having a big impact on me and I hope it will have the same effect on you. I wish you even more joy and simplicity, too!

  2. As I mentioned in a previous comment, I too did a “Project” without trying–more like Project 16 or so as I traveled for a big chunk of the summer. Interestingly, I have only bought one item in the month I’ve been back. And I continue to wear the 16 items the most. 33 seems like an embarrassment of riches!

    • What a great experience you had with your trip, frugalscholar! Now that I think about it, I tend to really like all of the outfits I wear when I travel, too. I think that’s because we tend to only pack our tried-and-true favorites. I can see how 16 items could be enough for many people (and probably even me for most situations).

  3. One of the nicest things about Project 333 was feeling confident in my style. It’s so rewarding to know everything in my closet fits not just my body, but my style and values! Thanks for sharing your journey!!

    • I have loved reading about your journey, too, Beverly. It’s been so inspiring, especially the 52/52 project (for those reading this, Beverly wore only 52 items for 52 weeks and is just now finishing that up). I am not quite where you are yet, but I know I will get there. Thanks for the inspiration!

  4. An encouraging post – this means that you have made real progress!

    I’ve always kept a rather mechanical diary of outfits (eg I attend a few annual events, so a record avoids wearing same thing 3 years in a row), plus a summary spreadsheet of ‘what goes with what’ but have started to make more thoughtful notes of why I liked it. As you say, it’s much more helpful than I realised and provokes some real thinking, e.g. was it just because e.g. somebody admired my jacket?

    I also think that project 333 by stealth is a good idea, and realise I more or less did this over the summer. I just wore things I liked and noted them down, until I had assembled enough outfits to feel comfortable with, then kept on wearing those. Looking back, it came to 40 garments, excluding shoes (a lot more than the 333 concept, but less than my current ‘summer’ clothes collection). Picking those 40 in advance would have been much more difficult. I’m going to try the same this autumn – in fact I may for 4 seasons, and then have a long hard look at ….whats left!

    Many thanks again for all the tips and inspiration, and your honesty

    • Your process seems like a really great way to go, Alice. I especially love this part: “I just wore things I liked and noted them down, until I had assembled enough outfits to feel comfortable with, then kept on wearing those.” We really don’t need as many outfits as we often think we do. I used to try to wear a different combination every day, but really, why? It’s far more important to love what we’re wearing and most people don’t notice if we repeat outfits, anyway (I can hardly remember what I was wearing the last time I saw other people). Best of luck with your autumn wardrobe! Please report back and let us all know how it went.

      • I certainly don’t remember what other people wear, and wouldn’t really notice if they repeat clothes.. but if I did, I would probably just admire them for having a defined style of their own. So I completely agree, we don’t need different combinations all the time. I’ll report back on my autumn experience.

  5. Very interesting! Project 333, whether it be official or “accidental”, is an excellent barometer of your progress! I’ve never done Project 333 myself, but I imagine it’s rather like packing for a trip. In the past it would take me hours of planning, and I’d end up going out to buy something new because I had “nothing the wear”, but since paring down my wardrobe it’s so much easier to pack. I like your approach of wearing what “calls” you. It’s the opposite of trying to wear your benchwarmers to figure out if you want to keep them or not- if something doesn’t call you, then you can be fairly confident that you can do without it in your wardrobe.

    Looking at my statistics for last month and this month so far, including shoes and accessories, I wore 28 items last month and I’m at 30 for this month, with a total of 37 items for the two months. Considering I’ve already purged a couple of these items and wore some only once, I think it would be quite easy to do Project 333 at least for 2 months (in summer anyway, not sure how I’d go in winter).

    • I think your analogy of preparing for Project 333 being like packing for a trip is right on, Kayla. In fact, Courtney (founder of P333) has made that connection in some of her posts. Packing is also getting easier for me, but I don’t travel all that much. It will be interesting to see how it is the next time I go somewhere, as I haven’t traveled since I started the outfit journal. How great that you have also created a capsule wardrobe without really trying! I didn’t think to count how much overlap I had with July, but I’m going to look at that, too, and see if my experience is much like yours.

  6. I love seeing that you picked that lovely floral top, red jacket and cobalt skirt! The top especially is so vibrant. It sounds like you truly know what you like to wear and may in fact be burdened by all the other items in your closet and the time spent thinking about them.

    • You know what’s interesting about that top, Juhli? I’ve had it since 2008! That is a long time for me with how often I’ve shopped. It actually got a bit lost in the shuffle when I had a packed closet, but I’m loving wearing it now. The jacket has long been a favorite and it’s still going strong after 3 years. Your last sentence is right on. I still feel a bit burdened, but it’s improving more and more over time. At the end of the season, I will likely let go of a lot more things. If I’m not wearing them and don’t love them, why keep them around?

  7. What I love about this is how coherent the whole thing looks even though it wasn’t put together in advance. The finished collection wouldn’t look out of place on The Vivienne Files. Like you I have been choosing tops with embellishment of some sort. If I’m not wearing a topper (it does sometimes happen even in the North-East of England) I like some detail in my tops otherwise the whole outfit just looks a bit flat. I know some people can wear all basics and look great but it never works for me. I feel as if I have been evolving my own style as I have followed your style journey.

    • What a high compliment, Marion! I know that Janice puts a lot of hours into putting her collections together for The Vivienne Files, so I love that you think my collection would fit right in there. I’m on the same page as you about wearing all basics. I do like to have some special details on at least one piece in my outfit, but I often admire the all basics outfits on others. I’m happy to hear that you have also been evolving your style. Good for you!

  8. As I said: Buying fewer but the right garments will make each one more special. Your floral tank is a case in point. This probably would have been “lost” in a large and disjointed wardrobe — and maybe worn only a few times. But with the smaller, curated wardrobe you show in this post, it’s a star than can be worn a number of interesting ways — always keeping it fresh and fun (and “edgy”). Plus with a smaller but well-thought-out wardrobe, dressing is some much easier, effortless even. More time for other things and people in your life. Clothing should enhance who we are, not dominate us.

    • That floral tank DID get lost in my large wardrobe, Dottie. As I mentioned to Juhli above, I’ve had it since 2008, which is a long time for me. It was actually a “benchwarmer” at one time, but now I’m enjoying wearing it. I am enjoying having fewer clothes in my closet and it IS making it easier to get dressed each day. I look forward to refining things further and having more time and energy to put elsewhere.

      • I’ve loved that floral tank ever since you first posted it–so glad you are enjoying it again. I can’t resist mentioning that it echoes part of Brigitte’s advice to you about using bold accent colors. You could pick any one of the colors of that top and get an accent piece to go with it: shoes, earrings, a bag. That you love the top tells me that her advice in that regard is spot on.

        Also, you really seem to love wearing skirts and dresses and have a hard time finding pants you like. Why not just continue to wear dresses and skirts? There are ways to dress them down with shoes and accessories–in fact, I saw a picture in a recent Garnet Hill catalog that reminded me of your aspirational style: a woman wearing a lightweight dress with a jeans jacket with the sleeves rolled up.

        Of course, in the summer, bare legs make skirts and dresses easy: in the winter, tights might be too constricting for you or not warm enough–but have you checked out wool stockings? They are made like pantyhose but feel more like a leg sweater. SmartWool makes some fabulous ones. They are pricey for stockings but cheap for an accessory with bang for the buck. More comfy than pantyhose (70% merino wool) and have actual arch support.

        Just random thoughts as they occur to me. . . I promise I’m not trying to sell you anything.;) I just see things when I browse and imagine how they might work with a given friend’s style. . . Not trying to be obnoxious.

        Congratulations on hitting a “33” without even trying! You have come so far from the time, just over a year ago, when you first started 333. Enjoy your new freedom with your wardrobe.

      • Thanks for the suggestions, Amy! Interestingly, I just bought a denim jacket like the one in the Garnet Hill photo, with the same idea in mind – to dress down my skirt and dress outfits. I would definitely be open to buying tights like the ones you linked to (love the subtle chevron stripes), but my one big question is around shoes. I don’t know what type of shoes to wear with tights, as I always go bare-legged when I wear skirts and dresses. Other than tall boots, what other types of shoes could I wear? I have some low boots, but there is too much of a gap between the boots and my legs, so they only look good with pants. I know it looks “off” to wear tights with any sort of open-toed shoe, but what about closed-toe shoes like ballet flats and the like? If you or anyone else could provide guidance there, that would be great. I’m sure I can also ask Bridgette about it.

        I do like to wear pants sometimes (even though they are trickier for me), but I’d love to wear skirts and dresses more in cooler weather. I don’t like that I always wear pants in the cooler weather and I’d like to mix it up a bit more. That will be one of my style goals for the coming seasons.

      • Here are some ideas in your wardrobe colors, including bright accents. Lots of people wear flats with tights: black flats and black tights are a classic. There are suede/tweed combos that bring a look into fall and winter. Like your new jeans jacket, chunky heels, short boots, menswear details, animal prints, hardware like studs or buckles, all help to dress down skirts and dresses while giving them an edge. Some of these examples are expensive, but I know you have trouble finding good shoes; also, these are merely inspirational. You might consider:

        Menswear style in bright red.

        Animal print in black and grey with chucky low heel

        Comfy shoe in brighter blue

        Menswear details in muted purple with a more feminine shape. I can see these looking lovely with gray wool tights.

        Cross between an open clog and a short boot: the texture and leather cutouts would look sharp with black, grey or inky blue wool tights

        Another nod to menswear with these nifty loafers, but in a vibrant wine. Canadians know how to make nice warm winter shoes.

        A more sophisticated loafer, in sleek silver

        Low chunky heel in black and sapphire with buckle

        These look like slippers–but details say they are shoes, leather and waterproof.

        How about a Chelsea boot? Good to wear with skirts and pants, the hardware a slightly more edgy touch.

        Happy hunting!

      • Thanks for all of the suggestions, Amy! No problem about the higher prices. I have fussy feet and am willing to spend more for good shoes. Plus, I’m really trying to move into a quality over quantity mindset. I especially like the last two shoes. I have some boots similar to the last ones, but I only wear them with pants because they gape too much at the top. I’d like to find some boots that are more fitted around my ankles, as I think that looks better with skirts and dresses. I haven’t thought of buying a menswear-inspired shoe, but it wouldn’t hurt to try some on and see what I think. I have to get into a whole new mindset around wearing dresses and skirts in cooler weather. We do get quite a few unseasonably warm days here and I always take advantage of those to wear my skirts and dresses, but it would be wonderful to be able to wear them year round, even when it’s cold!

      • Thanks, Saltbox! I will keep this in mind, as I definitely want to be able to wear my skirts and dresses in the cooler weather this year.

      • I live in the cold and wet Pacific Northwest and wear skirts and dresses year round. Last winter, black leggings or colored wool tights worn with knee high black riding boots were my go to uniform. I hate cold feet and legs and this kept me warm and dry! This worked with my casual clothes and my office clothes.

      • Thanks for sharing your tips for wearing skirts and dresses year-round, Stephanie! If you can do it in the Pacific Northwest, surely I can make it work in San Diego. I wonder, though, if some of my skirts and dresses are too “summery” in style and fabric. But I know that I have SOME that I can “winterize,” at least enough to wear them in the temperate climate in which I live.

      • Most definitely, Dottie. I don’t discriminate based upon how long I’ve had closet pieces. In fact, at least half of the items pictured in this post are at least 3 years old (which isn’t that old in the grand scheme of things, but “old” for me based upon how much I’ve shopped in recent years).

      • I think half the fun of getting dressed is to experiment with new ways of wearing “old favorites” (and some I’ve had for years and years) and “new purchases.” I do this in my head before and while I am purchasing a garment (to make sure it goes with a large number of the stuff I already own) but the real fun starts back home — adding an unexpected color, scarf, jewelry, etc. There has been a definite design “thread” working over the years among your purchases but less visible because of the number and “disparity” of clothes in your closet. Isn’t it refreshing to know that the “edgier” you has always been there but just not as visible and as “unfettered” by other clothing distractions? But now your personal style can be fully expressed. Must feel pretty good to be in your sandals just now!! Love the red jacket too – a red jacket has long been a staple in my wardrobe too. I also have some cobalt — a sweater I bought 3-4 years ago; nice pop of color that is much needed for a largely black-white-gray-red wardrobe.

  9. I find myself doing a similar thing, as I now allow myself to reach over and over again for the clothes that I want to wear, and have stopped trying to always wear different garments. I expect that I now wear less than 33 items in any given month, but I’ve never done the formal challenge. I meant to do it in June, but life got in the way. Oh well. I am very gradually getting rid of the non-reached for clothing, but I really should step it up and get on with it! I’ve never tried the journal – perhaps that would finally help me to release the old clothing that is not being worn.

    • It seems like you are gaining the benefit you’d experience from Project 333 without officially doing it, Sarah. That has been true for me, too. I just realized that on Monday, so I had to write this post to share that good news. I’m glad that you and others have had similar experiences. The journal IS helping me to release so-so items. If I wear something and write negative comments about it in my journal, I often end up letting that item go, especially if it’s about the piece in general (too fussy, clingy, uncomfortable, etc.), not just how I’ve combined it. I encourage you to try it, even for a month, to see if it is helpful for you.

  10. I am in the process of recovering from abdominal surgery and in the process can wear only bottoms with a soft elastic waist which in my case are three pairs of slacks and three pencil skirts all from Eileen Fisher. I pair them with fluid tops rather then button downs to keep the overall look of a soft drape. These are the dog days of summer, so I do not wear scarves but only very tailored jewelry as accessories. One month into recovery I know that I look pretty much the same everyday, but I am amazed how much mileage I can get from this paired down wardrobe. And most days I feel pretty good what I am wearing to the office. So, yes Your thoughts make a lot of sense.

    • It sounds like you’ve compiled a nice capsule wardrobe to wear during your recovery, Cornelia. it sounds quite chic. I love Eileen Fisher clothes and plan to buy more of them. The soft drape look you mentioned is very fashionable right now and I’m sure it looks beautiful on you. You may find yourself continuing to wear these clothes a lot even after you don’t need to anymore. I wish you a speedy recovery and more style happiness!

  11. I have been following your posts for ages and we have been on similar trajectory. Being a data geek, I have approached this from a much more technical standpoint, analyzing my wardrobe via an Access database- but my conclusions are the same. Mindfully curating my wardrobe and then letting myself choose freely from these items- I too have discovered I do a Project 333 without trying! Kudos to you for the insight!

    • I would still be interested in trying our your database, Pam. It sounds like it’s working quite nicely for you. I am happy not to have SO many items to track anymore. I used to spend FAR too much time just managing my overloaded closet, but it’s nice to have less in there now. I look forward to paring down more and increasing my style happiness. I wish the same for you!

  12. Me too. I’ve done Project 333 so many times over the years that I always use less, even when I’m not trying to cut back. I skimmed my closet and was easily able to eyeball what I’ve worn in June, July and August and my numbers are shockingly low, only 43 items including shoes, jewelry, sunglasses, a hat, and other accessories. This proves to me that even with my small wardrobe I actually wear far less of it than I always tend to think I will want and need. A couple of times while getting dressed this summer I’ve imagined hearing my shoes say, “Hey, you wore that pair three times this week, and you’ve forgotten about me, I want to go out too.” My skirts and dresses are talking to me too, saying, “It’s not fair, you always pick her.”

    Good post Debbie, and wonderful progress you are making. Like you, I’ve also begun to lose my previously extremely high interest in always thinking about clothing. My focus has turned to what I’m “doing” and how I’m “feeling” and where I’m “going” and who I’m “with” while wearing clothing I love and feel happy wearing. I feel like I’m shedding my skin, with a new starting point and goal, of letting it be about other things more, and the clothes less.

    • I love that your shoes and clothes are “talking” to you, Terra. I feel like mine do that, too, and sometimes I feel guilt about not wearing things. But if I really don’t love those things, I often opt to pass them on to someone who will. It’s tougher with some of the fancier items, as I kind of hope I will have occasions when I can wear them. But it’s probably not all that likely, so I’ll probably keep just a small capsule and pass the rest on. I’ve already gotten rid of so much, but in doing so, I’m increasing my wardrobe happiness. I have continued to buy too much, but I really think that’s going to slow down now that I’ve honed in a lot more on my style and what is most appropriate for me to wear for my life. For the first summer in as long as I can remember, I haven’t felt like I look like I’m going to church in most of my outfits (not that there’s anything wrong with such outfits if one actually IS going to church or a similarly fancy occasion).

      I love what you wrote in your last paragraph. I still focus too much on the clothes, but it’s lessening. Now that I’m much more aware of what I love and have a smaller wardrobe, I get fewer unhappy surprises (like fussy clothes, uncomfortable shoes, and the like) when I’m out and about. It’s nice to be able to relax a bit more and focus on what I’m doing instead of the clothes I’m wearing.

  13. Bravo! You do know you are really inspiring, right? It’s never about the clothes; it’s always about the joy. I applaud you! xo

    • Thanks so much, Thimblelina. I’m very happy that my posts inspire others! You’re right that joy is paramount. I didn’t “get it” for far too long, but I’m glad to be learning what really matters more now.

  14. Debbie can I ask a question? When you go shopping do you buy a top knowing it will go with something and because you’ve identified you need more tops or do you see a top and fall in love with it and ‘have’ to have it or do you buy a top because tops are always useful?

    I ask because I’m really starting to understand that I buy clothes because I need to have clothes in a wardrobe to wear. I didn’t think I ever ‘fall in love’ with an item, I just seem to buy things because they’re useful. Your outfit journal has been really useful to me and it proves that I buy things to have things rather than because I want or love them. Not sure that makes sense now I’ve written it down!

    • Sorry if it’s too personal a question, I realised (too late) after posting that it might be quite hard to answer!

    • This question is not too personal, Saltbox, and I don’t mind answering it. However, I don’t have a cut and dry answer. I used to only buy tops that I fell in love with, but that left me with a lot of the same types of styles as well as some tops that didn’t really go with anything else I owned. Since that way of doing things wasn’t working for me, I started to get more strategic about it. I started to keep a list of the types of items, tops included, that would round out my wardrobe and wouldn’t simply be an overlap of what I already had.

      When I go shopping, I still feel drawn to certain styles, but I usually won’t even try them on unless they are on my list or aren’t a virtual duplicate of what’s in my closet. That said, I’m not always perfect about this yet! I have fallen prey to buying what I’m drawn to and sometimes will return things if I get them home and find they won’t work with what I have or will leave me “splitting my wears.”

      I think there’s a place in our wardrobes for things we simply fall in love with, but we have to be careful that we don’t keep buying the same types of styles and silhouettes over and over again. I had to learn that the hard way! I hope this answers your question, but feel free to ask follow-on questions if I wasn’t clear. I’m glad you are finding the outfit journal useful. I would often buy things just to have them (or because they were on sale or on someone’s “must-have” list, etc.), too, but it’s far better to be more strategic about what we purchase.

      • Thank you for that, it really highlights an area I need to work on. I actually go shopping for ‘tops’ or ‘bottoms’ without any regard to what I have. I just feel I need more so I have a choice in my wardrobe. *blush* I need to change that thought process first.

      • I think what you do is very, very common, Saltbox. Don’t feel too bad about it. Just try to take a bit of time before you go shopping to review what you have and see what will give you the biggest bang for your buck, so to speak. It’s helped me a lot to do that, even though I still make some mistakes.

  15. Every day I wear what I feel “called” to wear. I’ve noticed this season I am wearing a fraction of my summer wardrobe most of the time, with the remainder being worn as the mood strikes me, –or not. It doesn’t bother me to have some items hanging in my closet that are out of rotation. It doesn’t mean that I don’t like them anymore–I actually do like them and they continue to survive my ongoing culling, but I just don’t feel like wearing them right now. My choices mostly have to do with the weather and the types of activities I’m engaging in, so some clothes just don’t get as much wear–but that’s OK. I’m just happy not to have so many clothes!

    That being said, I’m not entirely happy with some of the redundant choices I’ve made this summer. Specifically in the case of SHOES. I have a dog, and we go for a mile long walk every morning before I start work. At that time, the dew is still on the grass in the park near my home, or else it has rained in the early morning before daylight as it often does here. Because I don’t want to wear my “good” sandals to get wet, I default to Crocs sandals. Because Crocs have such an anti-fashion reputation, I chose a style that has a streamlined look in black, so that unless you are really studying my feet, they don’t even look like Crocs. I can slop through all manner of puddles, mud, etc. without ruining my better shoes. All I have to do is rinse them off when I get back home and they are good to go again.

    My goodness, these shoes have made me lazy about wearing my nicer shoes! So comfortable and indestructible, I find myself putting outfits together that will coordinate with my Crocs so I don’t have to be bothered with changing my shoes for the rest of the day! I even have a pair of “dress” Croc sandals (the straps are embellished with black grosgrain ribbon) that look good enough to go out to dinner in at night. With a nice pedicure, no one notices I am wearing Crocs!

    My epiphany moment occurred the other day, as I was visiting a new TJ Maxx store that opened mere days ago. Wearing my Crocs as usual, with regular casual business attire–I saw the most perfect classic pair of Coach pumps with 3″ heels in black embossed leather, sitting alone on the shoe rack, in my size. They practically smiled at me!

    Now I haven’t worn heels in 5 years, following a fall down the cellar steps that broke my foot in two places. All this time I’ve been wearing Birkenstocks, Clarks and my beloved Crocs. I looked at the pumps, and said to myself, “go on, live a little–try them on”. To my astonishment, they fit like a dream. I took a few tentative steps. They were so well balanced, I didn’t feel like I was going to tip over at all. I felt lightweight and elegant, I felt like I could dance gracefully or stride purposefully down the street.

    In that moment I made the snap decision to buy those pumps and learn how to wear heels again. Since then I have been wearing them in my office, walking around in short shifts, and I think I can do this–learn once again how to navigate gracefully in heels without my feet hurting! I know its a small thing for some of you, but I feel like I made a life changing breakthrough!

    • I understand that convenience thing. I often find myself wearing things that don’t need ironing – I’m a Brit, I sincerely believe we have an inbuilt gene to iron everything including sheets and teatowels. My non-iron stuff is mainly teeshirts and jersey things that I hang immediately after tumble drying.

      I’m making a decision to think about what I wear instead of what’s convenient 🙂

      • No, ironing is a German thing too. When I was a child my grandmother used to make me iron the bedsheets!

      • No wonder my mom was always so into ironing. She’s half German and half Dutch! As for me, perhaps the Irish, French, and Italian from my dad’s side have mitigated things a bit. I avoid ironing like the plague!

    • I’ve come around to feeling like you do about keeping some things that aren’t currently in rotation, Deby. I know I call such items “benchwarmers,” but some of my previous years’ benchwarmers are now closet favorites and I’m glad I kept them. I do think it’s good to ask ourselves why we’re keeping things, though. I don’t think it’s good to keep things just because they were expensive and we feel guilty about getting rid of them or they’re things we want to love but just don’t. If we do still love something but just aren’t wearing it at the moment for some reason (weather is a good one, as well as lifestyle changes that may be temporary), it’s not a bad thing to hang on to it. We just have to be honest with ourselves, which I know you are.

      I think it’s wonderful that you fell in love with a pair of Coach pumps and bought them! I actually have a pair of black Coach pumps myself and they are an example of one of those things I love but haven’t been wearing (due to my lifestyle being so ultra-casual as of late). It’s surprising how comfortable they are given the high heel. Good plan to wear them around your home office to gradually get used to heels again. I do similar things at home, but also to determine whether a shoe is comfortable enough to keep. I hope your new heels will serve you well and add a nice boost to your style.

      I have seen the newer pairs of Crocs that actually look quite nice. Crocs get a bad rap, but they saved me the last time I was in Hawaii and was getting blisters all over my feet from walking in the uncomfortable shoes I brought with me (I didn’t know they would be uncomfortable because I never walked in them all that much). I got a pair of black slides that didn’t look like at all like what people think of when they hear the word “Crocs” and was able to walk all around Hawaii without problems. So today’s Crocs are not all like yesterday’s gardening shoes.

      Interesting about the ironing. My mom is half-German and was always such a stickler about things being “pressed.” I’m exactly the opposite! I usually either buy things that don’t need to be ironed or I sweet-talk my husband into doing it for me 🙂 Luckily, most of my clothes are knits and rarely need to be ironed!

      • Hahaha!! I’m German and can confirm that everybody here irons nearly everything! For me it’s a waste of time and I stoped ironing years ago (unless it’s a blouse or trousers that are not meant to have wrinkles, but I avoid wearing those clothes). I tell people that I think ironing is overrated and don’t do it. It seems that they think I’m weird 🙂 Well, I can live with that LOL

        I noticed that my irish friend also irons a lot, when she was younger she even ironed her knickers and socks – haha.

      • Yes, that WAS a great line, Tonya. Deby writes very well and I really got a good sense of her experience in the store.

  16. I never did project 333. I think that I could have benefited from it when I had a closet that housed about 500 things. Now my entire spring/summer wardrobe including shoes and jackets is about 55 items and I wear it about 8 months out of the year. I guess I got to a similar place just by getting rid of what didn’t fit, I didn’t love, or wasn’t a good color on me. The “narrow and cohesive color palette” was one of the biggest and most rewarding changes that I made. I’m happy with my clothes and I like what I have.
    The last few paragraphs I really related to. I think next year I’m going to cut my budget by a 1/3. My “rules” will be don’t go over it, spend it wisely, and just wear the clothes-stop thinking about them so much. I think I am ready to be done with organizing my closet, making sure to wear benchwarmers, counting number of wears, etc. They served a very valuable purpose, but I think that now I use them to avoid other things. I am wearing just about everything I own and I have almost no true needs. When ever I overshop now it’s never about the clothes, it’s about something emotional. I am ready to move on to the next step.
    I’m glad that you’re happier with your clothes and what you’ve worn the past month looks like it all goes together very well. Love that red skirt 🙂

    • You seemed to get many of the benefits of Project 333 without actually doing it, Tonya. Even the creator of Project 333 says that the number 33 isn’t really what’s most important. Some people will do best with less and others with more. The important thing is to have a wardrobe one loves and wears and which doesn’t occupy too much time and energy. That last part is key for many of us, including you and me. I feel like all of the time and attention I gave to my wardrobe since I started this blog (and even in the two years before when I was tracking how often I wore things) has been helpful, but I am also ready to decrease my focus on such things. I have also noticed that I focus a lot on my wardrobe as a way to avoid other things, and I don’t want to do that anymore. Time to look more at the emotional issues, no matter how uncomfortable that may be! I’m not sure how that’s all going to translate to the blog. I will likely still write about a variety of topics, but the focus will probably shift away from numbers at least somewhat in the coming months.

  17. Awesome! I think a lot of people would be surprised at how close they are to 33 things if they tracked what they really wear! Not the stuff that they pull out to try on but never actually wear out. And not the stuff that they wear “all the time” once or twice a year. I think most of the difficulty in P333 is psychological – choosing the things, being scared that we have chosen the wrong things, being scared that we’ll get bored, seeing an empty closet and panicking that we don’t have enough. But as you have discovered, it’s not so bad when you let it happen organically. And I’m at the point where I don’t think the exact number matters so much as the spirit of it. I think maybe next season I can build a small workable wardrobe without worrying too much about the exact number (although the counting does help in some ways).

    • I love what you wrote about people thinking they wear things “all the time” when it’s really just once or twice a year. I know I used to believe I wore things far more often, but the numbers don’t lie! I totally agree with you that the main difficulties with doing Project 333 are psychological. We want the seeming security of having a lot to wear, even if we only wear 20% of what we own 80% of the time. I remember last year when someone in the P333 Facebook group recommended doing the challenge in reverse, that is writing things down as one wears them and working up to 33 items that way. Ever since then, I’ve been tracking what I wore each month. It was often more than 33, but it was less than I thought I’d need to wear in order to have the variety I craved. The counting has been helpful for me, but the number 33 isn’t as important as the spirit of the challenge and what we learn from it. You are right on there!

  18. I stopped keeping such a critical eye on wears, but am sure if I tracked back, I too would be in the camp of accidental 333. I was debating doing a minimalism challenge but when I got in there and started choosing I came to realize that a) I already have a fairly minimal wardrobe here with me in FL (about 80 items including shoes) and b) I don’t want to unnecessarily limit wearing of items that I already have. I understand that it works for others to see you can get by with less, but I think I’m already there mentally. Also, I want to go by all this a bit more organically instead of forced and structured with rules. I started to feel this last month after my hiatus from shopping and although I have bought stuff since, I seem to have flipped a switch. I want to continue to go with the flow, so to speak. It feels so much more freeing than always thinking about what I have and what I need, which I suppose is a reason others do 333. I guess I just got there another way? No matter, it’s a good place to be! 😀

    • There is a lot to be said for going about things organically, Mo, especially when one gets past the buy, buy, buy and packed closet mentality. I am wanting to move more away from rules, too, and I’m actually seeing that as a sign of growth in me. I think Project 333 can be very helpful, but it isn’t for everyone and it isn’t necessarily right for the same person over time. You seem to be in a very good place with your wardrobe and it’s remarkable given your shifting between two very different climates all the time. Congrats on flipping the switch and being in flow with your wardrobe and shopping now! I hope to be in that place soon, too.

  19. I never did project 333 either. I’m a layering lover and doubt I would keep it to literally 33 things in 3 months- but an overall 132 or less for a year is beginning to be doable! I own 152 items (clothing, shoes, accessories) total right now so I’m getting close. I am enjoying the smaller closet and despite my recent behaviour (shopping- see todays August Budget post) I feel truly inspired and FREE. I’m certain I can stop the overshopping for once and for all now. i read ‘Lessons from Madame Chic’ after all this shopping mess and it struck a chord in my soul. Since then, every time I browse (and holy goodness new items are rolling out daily) I’m thinking about that smaller, fabulous closet and find that 99% of things I would have bought no longer hold that appeal. I want a fabulous cashmere sweater- not 5 average ones. I want a beautiful silk blouse, not 10 random ones. I want to stop consuming and slowly upgrade from here out, and purge the stragglers.

    • You are really growing a lot, Meli, and I enjoy reading about your progress, both here and on your blog. If you are aiming for 132 total items, I believe you will get there before too long and probably even before the end of the year. But the most important thing is that you are feeling inspired and free! I think that’s where we all want to be, those who overshop and those who just want to have a cohesive and workable wardrobe. I haven’t read “Lessons from Madame Chic” yet, but I subscribe to Jennifer L. Scott’s blog and find her process inspiring. I totally agree that it’s better to have one amazing item than 5 or 10 ho-hum versions. I struggle with trusting myself to find that great piece and know which is the right one, but I’m getting there. Your goals are similar to mine and I believe we both will reach them!

  20. I have also been keeping track of what I’m wearing and I am also doing some kind of accidental P333. Per month I wear 23-25 clothes (about 35 including shoes and toppers), but in the past 3 months it was 70 including shoes and toppers, as I do not participate in P333. If I would, I could do with less, but I also want to wear more of what I have (especially my shoes and jackets, as I love all of them!). I’m sure I will try P333 sometime in the future, but not yet. Right now I also want to wear what calls my name. However, I usually wear things over and over again and everything else is neglected until I change my mind and wear something else over and over again.

    Debbie, I can see a style in your favourites of this month! And everything seems to mix and match well. Your style is evolving. Congratulations!!

    • I think it’s great that you’re wearing and enjoying what you have, Sandra. It’s okay to have more than 33 core wardrobe pieces. There really isn’t a right number, but there may be a right number for each individual and you seem to be finding a “sweet spot” for yourself. I wish you continued wardrobe bliss moving forward. Thanks for what you wrote at the end. I appreciate that you noticed my evolving style. It feels like something has finally kicked in after all this time and I feel like things are more cohesive and workable!

      • Thanks Debbie! I feel that I eventually am getting more satisfied with my wardrobe. It took a lot of research, culling and purchases, but my style also changes now that I’m in my 40s. Moreover, I think that I wised up a little, because I learned to accept my very female hourglass silhouette. I do not hide it anymore and learned how to dress it best. I bought skirts and dresses this year and it took a lot of courage for me to wear them outside, but now I love them. I’m not there yet, but I think it will not take that long anymore. We will get there soon!! Your blog also inspired and motivated me a lot, so a big thanks to you!

        I’m sure as soon as we are happy with what we have, we will move away from that topic and feel more balanced.

      • I’m happy my blog has inspired you! Accepting the way we’re shaped is SO important, I think. I have been fighting against my curvier hips and thighs for forever it seems (not to mention my wavy/frizzy hair!), but I’m finding some styles that aren’t about hiding but aren’t about out and out showing them off, either. I know some women love to accentuate their hips, but I don’t think I will ever be one of them. But no need to wear super baggy clothes and also hide the parts I DO like, either! Congrats on loving and wearing skirts and dresses! They are my favorites, as you know.

      • I love wearing Jeans, but I cannot find any which are not tight at the hips and thighs, otherwise another person could share it with me around the waist… But I also like trousers like this one We call them Marlene trousers inspired by Marlene Dietrich. But I need to wear high heels with them, because I’m quite short (and I have fuzzy feet as well – polyarthritis) . Because I’m short and a little overweight, I have to keep skirts quite fitted or I will look even bigger. That seems to be the big difference to your shape 😉

        Don’t mention hair – lol. I always had my hair cut very short, because of my curls. 3 years ago I started letting it grow and for 2 years now I also accept and embrace my curls (and halo / frizz!), too. That was the first big step of the change!

        I also think it’s very important to accept what we’ve been given to be able to shine and give a good impression to others. Maybe the hiding is also linked to an introvert? As this is what I am, too, an introvert…

      • The pants you linked to look very nice. I would like to find some wide-legged trousers like that, but all I see around here are cropped pants and skinnies… More variety would be nice, and I have to find things in talls, which adds another layer of complexity to the issue. About the hair, congrats on embracing your natural texture! I am very scared to do that, as I feel my hair looks terrible if I don’t flat-iron it. But it’s quite damaged now and I may need to make a change soon even if I’m not ready. I sometimes contemplate cutting it short, but that would be pretty major! I’ll just focus on the clothes for now and maybe will get the strength to address the hair later. I’m an introvert, too, as I’ve mentioned previously. I think that hiding is related to introversion. If I were extroverted, I’d probably be more okay with standing out (which I already do because of my height).

    • I don’t want to make you shop, but I know how hard it is for you to find pants, so you might want to check this one out: I hope it’s ok for you that I linked to it…

      Yes, focus on your clothes first, the hair is really a major step if you want to go natural and needs a lot of energy, time, research and trial. Please don’t cut it short, but try to save the lengths first. I can highly recommend the Curly Girl method. I have never tried the Deva Curl products, but some curly girls recommend them. I love my Giovanni Direct Leave-in Conditioner, which I just re-ordered from iherb in the US. It makes the hair really soft and prevents frizz (without any silicones :-)) A gel is needed afterwards to define the curls. Who knows, maybe your wavy hair is actually curly…

      Here’s a link to the book

      I’d love to get a haircut in one of her salons, but it’s quite far for me just for a haircut – lol.

      • Thanks so much for the pants link, Sandra. I worry about ordering pants online, as the likelihood that they will work out isn’t very high, but I haven’t seen wide-leg pants ANYWHERE in the stores, despite the fact that they are supposed to be back in style. Perhaps the trend hasn’t trickled down the masses that much as of yet. I will keep the Asos pants in mind and may opt to order them next month.

        I appreciate the hair advice, too. I have heard of Curly Girl, but I never really considered my hair to be curly. It’s wavy (and mostly frizzy!), but I now understand that the Curly Girl method can work with wavy hair, too. According to my hair stylist, my hair is frizzy because it’s damaged from all of the flat-ironing I’ve done for many years. I’m trying to do it less and to use lower heat so my hair will be less damaged. It would be nice to not fight against my hair anymore. I’m not sure I’m ready to embrace “big hair” (which I often like on others but not on me), but maybe in a year or two. I will keep the link and book you recommended in mind for when I’m ready to make the leap. Thanks again!

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