Always Well Within

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Simplicity Experiment: A Wardrobe of Just 33

I’m beginning a series of simplicity experiments to prepare for moving into a considerably smaller space next year.

That first experiment involves selecting 33 items of clothing plus accesories for the next three months – October through December.  That’s the premise behind Project 333.

I know that may sound extreme, but it’s just an experiment, not a life long commitment.  Unless you love the outcome:  a smaller, focused selection of the best options in your closet and more time, money and space in your mind.

That’s what appeals to me!

Following the Project 333 guidelines, you choose 33 articles of clothing, outerwear, accessories, jewelry, and shoes. This is your chance to get rid of anything you never wear and everything that doesn’t fit – share, donate, or dispose.  Then box up the rest and put it out of sight for the next three months.

I thought this would be easy for me because I’m not a fashionista, I live in a warm climate, and I work at home.  I already ditched all the synthetics a few years ago and arrived in Hawai’i with just two suitcases and two carry-ons.

Still, it was a little tricky to whittle my list down from about 45 to 33 not counting underwear, sleepwear, in-home lounge wear and workout clothing.  But I realize what I have is already so much.  Why not live simply so others may simply live?

I definitely won’t be prepared to go to the Cinderella Ball, but here’s my experimental list for the next 3 months.  Please catch me if it’s not 33.

Sandra’s 33

  • 1 pair of sandals
  • 1 pair of sneakers
  • 1 pair of black leggings
  • 1 sarong (doubles as scarf)
  • 1 computer bag
  • 1 small bag
  • 1 necklace
  • 3 casual dresses
  • 1 skirt
  • 5 sleeveless tops
  • 5 short sleeve tops
  • 3 longer sleeve tops
  • 3 pairs of pants
  • 2 pairs of shorts
  • 3 sweaters
  • 1 turtleneck

Now, the rule is one new item in, one item out!

There are hundreds of people conducting this experiment whose lives are much more complicated than mine.  I have great admiration for their willingness to see that something’s amiss when possessions begin to take over your life.

It’s not too late to get started if you’d care to join!

I’ll be conducting more simplicity experiments in the next 6 months and sharing the process as I go along.

Is your closet overflowing with unnecessary stuff?  What do you think about limiting your wardrobe to 33 items for 3 months?

Thank you for reading and sharing!  If you enjoyed this article please subscribe for free updates by email.  With love,  Sandra

 

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28 Comments

  1. Gosh! Last month I might have been enthusiastic about this wardrobe-paring-down – but not right now 😀 (Just had a birthday, you see). But what I WILL do is give away 33 things every month, at the rate of one per day. I think that might work. I tried that experiment from July 25 to Aug 25 and it was delightful! That was not confined to clothes. I wanted to spring clean and figured that “minus 1” per day is a great way to do it – whatever it was. Living in a largish house is not easy. I often wish for the days when we had a smaller place!

    I am inspired, Sandra! This time around I’ll go a bit slow on the wardrobe! I’ll get giving the other stuff! 😀 Either way, it is a fantastic idea.

    I love your list of 33. If only I could do that! (;-) I know I can, but just don’t want to, right now!) On the other hand, come to think of it – most of us tend to wear a few things all the time. A majority of our outfits simple hang in there. Hmmm.

    Looking forward to your updates on this! 😀 Love, Vidya

    • Hi Vidya,

      What a creative idea to give away 33 things every month, one per day! That would be good for me since I want to ease away a number of things over the next six months or so. That’s OK if you don’t want to focus on the wardrobe right now. Everyone needs to go at their own and pace and do what’s sensible for them. And it seems like you are already far ahead of most of us! Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. This is an excellent idea! I’ve been working to pare down my wardrobe over the past few months, and I like Vidya’s idea of giving away as much as possible. I hate having to dig through piles of clothing (much of which is either outdated, doesn’t fit, or just doesn’t suit me any longer) to find the two or three pieces I really do want to wear. I’m not 100% sure I can get it down to 33, but I can try…

    • Hi Karen,

      I’m glad the experiment is inspiring you and I love Vidya’s suggestion too. I don’t think the number 33 is as important as choosing a number that works for you. It does feel liberating to remove all the items that are outdated, worn, or don’t fit! Good luck!

  3. Just yesterday, my daughter was lecturing me about how many clothes I have and how I don’t wear half of them. And then I read this post. I think the universe is telling me something. The thing I’d have a hard time limiting is accessories. I love scarves and jewelry. And, something tells me I could pare down what I have dramatically. I’ll be curious to hear how this goes for you!

    • Aww. You’re my mirror, Charlotte! 😀

    • Hi Charlotte,

      You could always do your own version of 33 + scarves and jewelry. It’s easier for me because I don’t normally wear scarves and only have minimal jewelry. But it sounds like you could pare down dramatically and still have the pleasure of those items. I love the idea of saving time by having fewer options!

  4. I’m in favor of any and all attempts to simplify and live better by owning fewer material possessions. This method has the added virtue of being easy to remember. Different people will have different challenges in trying to follow it, which is fine. I don’t have a problem with accessories, for example, because I own and wear one watch, period. No rings, bracelets, necklaces – oh, wait, I also own a black tie, though I don’t wear it often.

    On the other hand, I have several pairs of pants and shirts, and a whole drawer’s worth of tees that I haven’t put on in years. I should donate those! Thanks for the reminder, Sandra.

    I’m allowing an exception for medical scrubs used for work. To protect patients we have to change them immediately if we get any blood or other pathogenic fluids on them, so I have 14 pairs. That’s been the magic minimum number needed over the years. I think this exception won’t violate the spirit of 333.

    I also like the symbolic/numerological/spiritual value of trying for a “Triple Trinity”.

    • Hi Mike,

      I’m like you when it comes to accessories, not quite as radical but I have few. I agree, I don’t think the medical scrubs will violate the spirit of 333. Interesting symbolism you’ve pointed out there! I know you’ve already done a lot of clearing out – I remember the book clearance. It sounds like this will be relatively easy for you if you decided to give it a try.

  5. jean sampson

    I doubt that I can pare things down as much as you are, Sandra, but I am constantly going through stuff and taking things to the Good Will. I need lots of Tees because I walk a lot and wear them out—I also get a lot of paint on them—-occasionally one of my friends will say that the shirt is more holes than material and, usually, in a few weeks, I will put the shirt in the painting rag pile! Good luck to you in this project!
    Also, I never have to buy things—-friends give me clothes they are done with. I like that! Mostly I wear jeans, shorts and tees.

    • Hi Jean,

      It sounds like you are already in a good flow of giving clothes and stuff away and thus inspiring us! Whatever we can do, I think feels good, and it doesn’t have to be this exact number. Of course, as an artist you need tees that you can get paint on!

  6. I have been doing Project 333 all year, but ‘my’ way, which means 33 items of clothes plus shoes and accessories. I have a small but much loved collection of shoes (I am a Birkenstock tragic!) and like very casual clothes, but my work demands closed in shoes and a slightly dressier standard, so I just find it easier this way to have basically half my clothes and shoes for work, and the other half for work…it is still a lot less than I used to have, and it IS so much easier. All my clothes are from the same coloor palette so I can mix and match most of it, and that is a must. I have been on a de-cluttering project all year and clothes were definately the hardest but best part of it.

    • Hi Holly,

      I like that you are approaching Project 333 “your” way. I think your approach would certainly make it easier for some of us and still be in the spirit of the project. When I realized the idea was to include shoes and bags, I was wondering if I could really manage it though I knew I could get close number-wise. It’s a good tip to have all one’s clothes in the same color palette. Thanks for sharing your alternative approach!

  7. Joni

    I started Project 333 on August 20th. I knew that I would have a lot to go through so I wanted 11 extra days to do my pare down. What a miraculous feeling! I’ve donated 6 of those blue *Swedish-named store* bags to Goodwill, gave away about half that same amount and sold enough items on *place to sell things* to let me save up for the pieces I’ve always wanted! I have 29 items of clothing + bags (3), shoes (5), scarves (4). In the first month I’ve noticed that I am happier, more comfortable in my own skin and relieved by the outfit choices I have. I’ve gotten more compliments on my tiny wardrobe than I ever did with tons of things!!! I finally found MY style!!!! (and I believe I have 3 more things that can go!)
    My daughter and I did her closet too!!! Not quite the paring down, but still amazing. She’s more confident in her outfit choices. (she sold her extras to make money for some great vintage belts she wanted).
    Project 333 (or “Uh oh, Mommy’s coming to get rid of something”) has helped me to move towards my goal of minimalism. Thank you so much!!!

    • What a wonderful story, Joni! Wow, those are huge sized bags. 🙂 Congratulations! The best part are the feelings you have of being happier, more comfortable, and having found your style. I’m so happy for you and have great admiration for the way you dug in and did it! It’s really neat to see how your daughter engaged in her own way too. Thanks so much for sharing your story. It’s really encouraging.

  8. My two sons tend border on being hoarders. Well, maybe not border. Anyway, every now and then I go through their stuff with them. I will take a stack or a box of things and say, “Okay, pick out three things in this box you want to keep.” Everything else goes.

    My daughters are getting ready to move out later this fall, so I think we will be doing a lot of simplifying for them, and for me, too. A great opportunity to go through all that stuff reproducing in the dark corners of the attic and garage! And the closets!

    • Hi Galen,

      I can hardly manage my own stuff, I can’t imagine what it would be like with a whole family. I like the way you are supporting your kids. It seems like the changes keep coming your way, but like you say it’s an opportunity to shine a light on the dark corners of the attic, garage, and closets too. Good luck!

  9. Hi Sandra,

    I love the way that you are embracing this experiment! I also love the diversity in the comments..each person honoring their individual “way” and affirming the idea of simplicity with their own expression of it. *Love* that!

    When the kids and I moved onto the boat, we had a huge storage unit inland. When we didn’t visit the storage unit for three years, I finally chose to donate it. Living in a warm weather place, and choosing to keep only what I find comfortable and/or fun to wear means that I have minimal clothing on hand..but being comfortable with minimal took quite a few years for me! I felt the same about my books, but just recently donated most of them.

    I feel this has energetic implications as well…I cannot yet see in my life how it manifests energetically, but I can imagine as we embrace simplicity in one area, we are tapping into the essence of simplicity in all areas 🙂

    • Hi Joy,

      I think the adage “out of sight, out of mind” applies when it comes to storage unit. Your story of living in the smaller space of the boat is a such a great illustration that less can be just great! Books will be one of my next simplicity projects.

      It will be interesting to see / hear how you find this effects you energetically. It seems like people generally feel much lighter. I love the idea of tapping into the essence of simplicity. 🙂

  10. Wow! To simplify as you have described above would certainly be challenging for me. I discarded a bunch in my move to a smaller house, but I still have three closets in fairly full in this house.

    However, even with this little bit of simplifying, I cannot tell you how many times I have gone to look for something only to realize “Oh yeah. I got rid of that.” Then, I have to go buy something. Is this not creating more waste in the end?

    Your post has inspired me. I am going to move my winter clothes into my room and move the summer out. In doing so, I will discard anything I have not worn this past year.

    Let us know how the 333 works for you. It will be interesting to hear.

    • Hi Debbie,

      I actually participated in the Project 333 Quick Start Course and lots of people had 3 closets full of close. It’s been quite a journey for many people, but it turned out to be exciting and liberating for most of them. Just separate your winter and summer clothes should make life easier and a good chance to pare down a bit. Good luck!

  11. hey Sandra – not sure if I should be proud of this or not but I think I’m participating in this experiment without even trying. Especially of late, I’ve taken on a few small projects so working jobs in different areas for a few weeks a a time. I have a duffle bag of clothes – I’m wondering what’s all that other stuff in my closet at home?? If I can live out of a duffle bag with about 30 articles of clothing, I probably don’t need that tshirt from high school, jacket from college, shorts that were given as gifts 20 years ago, etc etc. Since I’m already in this experiment, i think i’m going to start getting more conscious about it!

  12. Congratulations for engaging in this worthy project. Like a number of others have commented, I’ve been in the process of trimming down my possessions, especially clothes. I’m not ready to join in Project 333, but I’m definitely little by little giving away items I no longer use or need.

    The irony of it is, with all the clothes and accessories I own, I probably only wear a few of them on a regular basis, probably even fewer than 33.

    • Flora,

      Isn’t that interesting about probably only wear a small portion of our clothes! Well, I admire you for slowly giving things away one piece and one step at a time. Whatever way we go about it, I think there’s benefit to be had by simplifying! I appreciate your inspiration.

  13. Diane

    Thanks for sharing your story & allowing everyone to tell their stories in the comments! Great post & comments!

    I know that I mostly always wear the same things, no matter what’s in my closet. I’ve been working on eliminating things I don’t like enough to wear, though it’s tough at times to get rid of perfectly good things that just aren’t my first choice. It simply makes no sense to keep them.

    I’ve finally figured out which styles & colors work for me in terms of looking good & being comfortable, so I’m gradually weeding out things that don’t work. It makes getting dressed much easier if I stick to the colors that I know I like & everything goes together.

    I tried the reverse hanger trick, to prove to myself that I really wasn’t wearing all that stuff. That eliminated a number of things! I’ll have to do it again when I change out the seasonal items.

    In reading the comments I think I could go with 33 items of clothing, if I exclude my jewelry & accessories, as some people mentioned. I don’t have tons of extras, but I do wear a small variety of jewelry & scarves & bags for different purposes, which would leave me a bit short on clothes if I count them 😉 Maybe someday I’ll get to that point!

    One big bonus is that having less clothes makes it so much easier to pack for trips! That has been one of my struggles, as I need business casual for conferences, but work at home in very casual wear most of the time. We’re planning an 8 day trip to Amsterdam in November, & I’m planning to make it with one 22″ suitcase & a carry on tote.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Diane. I like the way you are whittling away at your wardrobe. I haven’t figured out my best color or comfort scheme like you. What a helpful move. That will be next. I know it’s hard to give away perfectly good items. Perhaps we can imagine how great they will look on someone else. It seems like many people find 33 doable if they count the accessories separately. I have very few pieces of jewelry so I do wonder how necessary or useful it is to set them aside for a season to meet the 33. I’m reflecting on that. It helps having your perspective!

  14. Hi Sandra,
    This sounds like a fantastic and fun experiment, however, I think it would be difficult for me to follow as I’m always too undecided on what to wear… lol!

    Great reading!

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