Project 333: How 33 Items of Clothes Can Change a Mindset

If you’re at home, peak into your closet. If you’re not at home, take a mental inventory of all the things that are in your closet. Chances are, that thing is packed. You most likely have things on hangers, shelves with folded items, shoes covering the floor, drawers stuffed too full to close, and maybe even extra containers holding tee shirts or old pairs of jeans.

You don’t need all of this stuff. You just don’t. It doesn’t make sense to have so many things. So why do it? Why continually buy clothes that, logically, you don’t need? Here’s what I think:

We lack boundaries. There is rarely someone in our lives that will tell us we CAN’T buy something. Maybe parents or a significant other will try to deter us from buying something, but once we have our own money and can make our own buying decisions, we take full advantage of that freedom and buy, buy, buy.

We love trends. Trends are made popular because a certain number of people makes them popular. It’s as simple as that. Trends are perpetuated because people keep buying into them. If a trend fits into your already established sense of self, chances are you’ll have a pretty hard time resisting the trend.

We feel secure. Most people would agree that when they own things, they feel more secure about themselves and their place in society. Not owning things is generally look at as a negative thing today. Not owning things can give off the impression that you’re poor, that you don’t care about yourself or your appearance, that you aren’t in tune with what’s cool and any other number of reasons.

We think more is more. A lot of people claim to go by the adage that less is more, but their lifestyle says differently. For most people, a life of excess is a lot more normal than a pared down life of just the necessities.

About a month ago I started reading about minimalism and a life of less. In fact, this blog was almost called The Art Of Less. While I switched focus about what I wanted to concentrate on and write about, the thought of minimalism has been creeping back into most things I’ve been doing in my life.

As someone who really likes clothes and accessories and shoes, the first place I looked when I was thinking about weeding out the excess in my life was in my closet. I remember seeing a Twitter post about Project 333 and thinking “THIS IS IT.” Project 333 is a 3-month long experiment in personal fashion created by Courtney Carver. I didn’t make the full commitment to only wear 33 items for 3 months at the time because a lot of transitions were happening in my life and I didn’t think I could handle one more. Looking back, I realize that it would have been THE PERFECT time. In fact, any time is the right time to start simplifying your life.

A month ago, I did go through my closet and pull out items I hadn’t worn for a month. Those items got instantly bagged up and donated. Then I started counting my clothes. 40 TEE SHIRTS!!! 40. Wow. How could I get my entire wardrobe for 3 months down to 33 things when I had more than that number just in tee shirts.

I gave up.

So, a month has gone by, and I’ve still seen Twitter posts with #Project333 or people saying that they are participating and I can’t hide the fact that I’m envious, and I want that to be me. Because of those reasons I listed above, it seems like a big deal to get rid of over half my wardrobe, but it’s really not when you think about how ridiculous those reasons are.

I made an initial list of the things I was going to keep in my closet for the next three months that I NEED. I need jeans, I need tees, I need hoodies, and I need shoes. Total, I came up with 28 items. I HAD 5 BONUS ITEMS!! This blew my mind.

I should take time to mention here that all clothing, accessories, jewelry, outerwear and shoes count in that total of 33 items. Things that don’t count are wedding rings, underwear, pajamas and workout clothes. You can find the complete guide to getting started on the Project 333 site.

Here are my 33 items:

Jeans (3)
Shoes (4)
Tees (8)
Longsleeve shirts (6)
Hoodies (4)
“Nice shirts” (4)
Watches (2)
Earrings (1)
Jacket (1)

Just looking at that list, and that picture, I can see how this is going to be a challenge. Everything fits on a loveseat, neatly folded and unimposing. It’s hard to not care about what other people think at all times, so I can see myself wondering if people are thinking “didn’t she just wear that shirt last week?” The answer will probably be yes. I’ll eventually become proud of this instead of slightly embarrassed.

Project 333 isn’t just about the challenge of limiting myself to 33 items for 3 months, it’s more about changing my mindset and the way I think about all of the components in my life. There are people that are perfectly content with the more is more mentality, buying into trends, and letting their clothes define part of who they are. I’m not necessarily knocking that, I’m just saying that it’s not for me anymore.

I’m excited to live my life inside the constraints of Project 333 and document some of the things I’m feeling over the next 3 months while I’m doing this, so check back for future Project 333 posts. Even better, if you are down to join me in the challenge, shoot me an email or Twitter and we can be awesomely minimalistic together!

About the Author

jenfromal Jen Fromal is a writer and traveler, working on a career that allows her to do both of these things. While writing for her blog The Smashed Planet, Jen is constantly on the lookout for new and exciting opportunities in travel and business. When not writing, Jen can be found planning her next big trip, frolicking outside with her dog or watching documentaries.

  • anotherkindofdrew

    Great post. I am glad to see you discover so many things in Project 333 a well as in yourself. You are so right in that if we all took a few minutes to really explore ourselves and what we “need” versus what we want or what we think we are supposed to have, we would have a “this blew my mind” moment!

    Welcome to the project!

    • Jen Fromal

      Thanks Andrew! And I totally agree that there is a huge difference between “need” and “want.” A lot of my friends that I told about the Project were like “I could never do that.” I’m like “Yes you COULD, you just don’t want to because it’s hard and it makes you uncomfortable.” Project333 is a great way to reevaluate yourself.

  • Justin Hamlin

    Congrats for starting the project!

    I have been a part of this for coming up on a month now. While most people see it as living within some constraints or boundaries, I really do not see it that way. I am not limiting my individuality, my personality, I am just lowering the total amount of items I have to wear. When you look at it though, you are only really reducing your choices. In reality, those 33 items are probably the 33 items you would have worn the most ANYWAYS.

    I think what Courtney started was not a way to limit people, but rather a way to teach people that the concept of having less clothes is not as scary as it may seem. In fact, it can be quite liberating. You get ready faster in the morning, you know most, if not all, of your clothes will work together.

    The one thing that has stuck out for me is that I have not found myself sitting in the closet or in front of my dresser before work asking myself “WTF do I want to wear today” while having so many choices. Now, it literally takes me 10 minutes total to get ready in the morning and get out the door. No hemming and hawing, no indecision. I have removed indecisiveness from my wardrobe, and it has helped out!

    Best of luck on your journey, and definitely check out the other people in Project 333 who have blog posts up about their journey!

    • Jen Fromal

      Thanks Justin! It’s definitely cool to be a part of a sort of movement towards simplicity and reevaluating what is truly important. It is really liberating to completely simplify one part of your day by solving the “What do I wear?” question, which is usually one of the first choices of the day. I also like that I can almost pack all of my 33 items in a carry on bag.. like everything that I need can be taken with me at a moments notice. That’s pretty cool.

    • anotherkindofdrew

      Great to see you around Justin. So, is today the last day of you working full-time? I can’t wait to read more about that adventure! Funny how the two guys of Project 333 represented to a newcomer! hahahahahah

      • Justin Hamlin

        Next friday is my last day. One more week of this!

  • Anne

    I think this is awesome, and I can’t wait to clean out my closets…my family should join me!

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