“Courtney does an extraordinary job helping us address the physical and emotional clutter that comes with our wardrobe.” -
Ryan Nicodemus, The Minimalists
For me, the key to making life simple again started in my closet with Project 333. I’ve learned to not let the things I wear, wear me out. I’m dressing with less, and feeling twice as confident. And for that I’m truly grateful.
Allow yourself the possibility of life transformation by simply starting with your wardrobe.
--Angel Chernoff, New York Times bestselling author of Getting Back to Happy and 1000+ Little Things.
"I opened Project 333 thinking I could use some help scaling down my closet. Little did I know this practical guidebook would lead me to uncover a major source of stress in my life. Within days of practicing the principles in Project 333, I began seeing my life’s clutter and excess for what they really were – unnecessary burdens that have weighed me down for decades and distracted me from what really matters. With wisdom, humor, compassion, and practicality, Courtney Carver teaches us to notice what’s actually serving the life around us so we can begin making sound emotional and financial choices for ourselves and those we love. Because of Project 333, my family is discovering unlimited possibilities created by living lighter and happier with less!
--Rachel Macy Stafford, New York Times bestselling author of Hands Free Mama, Hands Free Life, and Only Love Today
I''ve come to believe that simplicity, in its final form, always looks so simple and easy, but getting there is always hard. In Project 333, Courtney guides you towards simplicity in your closet with doable steps, while also digging to the roots of the problem, beneath the pile of clothes, the stack of shoes, and the mountain of frustration. I shook my head in agreement from cover to cover. I think you will too.
--Melissa Coleman, Author of The Minimalist Kitchen
If you''re thinking about optimizing your wardrobe, let Courtney Carver be your guide. She will show you how to let go of excess stuff so that you can bring more joy, gratitude, and love into your life. As Courtney says, "Simplicity is the way back to love," and this book is full of loving advice and stories. I highly recommend Project 333!
- Tammy Strobel, Author, photographer & founder of RowdyKittens.com
Project 333 became something far greater than wearing fewer articles of clothing. It became about recognizing the value of boundaries. And the value of boundaries reaches far beyond our closets. It begins to spill into how we decorate our homes, the toys we buy for our children, and even how we choose to spend our time, money, and energy. This book is a must read for those who are ready to simplify their lives.
—Joshua Becker, Author of The Minimalist Home and The More of Less.
"Project 333 is not just a fashion challenge, it’s an invitation to live more intentionally. Courtney takes a gentle, heart-based approach to decluttering and provides readers with plenty of support along the way."
-- Francine Jay, Author of The Joy of Less and Lightly
“Courtney Carver understands the unstoppable power of less.” —
Joshua Fields Millburn, The Minimalists
When I created the minimalist fashion challenge Project 333 in 2010, I wasn''t interested in creating a capsule wardrobe. I didn''t want to develop a personal style. (I thought that was a lost cause.) In fact, my motives had very little to do with clothes. I just wanted some peace. I wanted a break from the excess. I wanted relief from running late in the morning after trying on several outfits. I wanted to feel good in my clothes. I wanted to stop obsessing over what I was going to wear to work, to dinner, or to an event.
I wanted to stop feeling like I didn''t have enough . . . like I wasn''t enough.
The average woman owns $550 in clothing that has never been worn. We wear 20 percent of our clothing 80 percent of the time, yet 100 percent of our wardrobe gets 100 percent of our attention, emotion, space, and time. That''s exhausting.
Don''t you want some relief . . . a little peace?
Organizing your closet year after year or season after season is just a Band-Aid for a much larger problem. We have too much. We have way more than we need and have been led to believe that we still don''t have enough. We don''t have the right shoes, the trendy coat for the season, the perfect little black dress, or the latest and greatest handbag. Between constant comparing, attractive advertising campaigns, and ridiculously low fast-fashion prices, we just add, and add, and add. And it''s never enough.
What is Project 333?
Project 333 is an invitation to create space in your closet, time in your life, and love in your heart. It''s a call for less and a chance to completely redefine your relationship with stuff and shopping, especially the stuff you put on your body every day. Project 333 is an opportunity to think differently, dress differently, and learn about what you really want and need in your closet and in your life.
All right, but what is it really?
Okay . . . here it is. Project 333 is a minimalist fashion challenge where you dress with only 33 items-including clothing, accessories, jewelry, and shoes-for 3 months. I''m going to tell you more about the rules later on, but right now, you''re probably either thinking, Cool . . . let''s do it, or . . . That''s nice, but not for me. Or . . . You crazy. Most people don''t fall anywhere in the middle. They''re either all in or all out. At first. What I''m trying to say is, don''t worry about your immediate reaction. By the time you''re done reading this book, you''ll have a better idea of what to expect and how this little challenge might change your closet and your entire life.
How it got started
I started this challenge as a personal experiment in 2010 because my closet was completely out of control. I had been collecting clothes (and other stuff, as we do) for decades. When my closet got too full, I''d put things in boxes, drawers, or other closets to spread it all out. I''d do the spring cleaning thing and the "new year, new you" thing and lighten up a bit. Eventually, though, I''d fill up the space. I always needed something new in my closet for a new season or a new event, and often for emotional reasons. Shopping made me feel better. Not for long, but for a minute, at least.
Before I created the rules for Project 333, I looked for a challenge online. I had been simplifying my life for several years, slowly and gently, but I knew my slow-and-steady approach to change wouldn''t work for my closet. I had long passed the opportunity for slow-and-steady change with my clothes. I needed to change the inside of my closet, but I also needed to change the way I thought about my clothes, closet, and shopping habits. I couldn''t find the challenge I was looking for, so I made it. On October 1, 2010, I promised myself (and the internet) that I would dress with less (way less than I was used to) for three months. I didn''t know what to expect. I didn''t have any specific goals. Like I said, I really just wanted some peace. Thinking about what to wear, what to buy, what to keep, what to donate, what to sell, and what looked good was exhausting. Trying on outfits, worrying about what people would think, and taking care of my big wardrobe had taken over such a big part of my life, and I was over it. I''d been shopping my whole life, and I still had nothing to wear.
When I started the challenge, I was working full-time in advertising sales (oh, the irony) for a group of magazines. I remember looking at the tiny capsule wardrobe I had created and thinking, This won''t be enough, and People will notice, and Is this crazy? My work life was back-to-back meetings and events, and my real life (I never considered my work as "real life" because I wanted out so badly) consisted of taking care of my family, hiking, date nights, hanging out with friends . . . and shopping. I was worried, but I knew it was time to change anyway. If I didn''t change, nothing would change.
What Project 333 isn''t
It''s not a what to wear or what not to wear wardrobe formula. People have created Project 333 capsule collections from 33 black items, 33 very colorful patterned items, and everything in between. While you''ll see some different examples throughout the book, the beauty of the challenge is that you get to wear your favorite clothes every day.
It''s not a competition. Even though you''ll experience lots of personal wins, there is no winner of Project 333. In this challenge and community, we don''t compete with each other, but instead support each other. We lift each other up and inspire by sharing what we are wearing, what we are learning, and how we are growing.
It''s not an exact science. I chose the number 33 based on a list of items I made anticipating what I thought I would need for 3 months. The list had about 45 items on it, but since this is a challenge, I chose 33. I wasn''t sure if it would work, but I liked the sound of 33 items for 3 months, 333. I recommend starting with 33, but your number might be different. We''ll dig into that later.
It''s not a project in suffering. One afternoon I was waiting for a train with my daughter in NYC. I was wearing a blue-and-white-striped shirt, one of my 33 items. When I took a sip of my coffee, it dribbled out of the badly sealed lid and landed all over my shirt. After a good laugh, I went in search of a new shirt. I wasn''t going to wear the stained shirt all day in the name of simplicity or to comply with the challenge rules of not buying new things. If something you included in your 33 items gets ripped or stained, or no longer fits at some point, there is no need to suffer through it. Replace or mend the item and move on.
Five things you''ll gain by
dressing with less
There are many reasons to try Project 333. While you can expect your own individual experience and benefits, here are a few things that most people gain as a result of dressing with less and trying this closet challenge.
Money: A commitment to Project 333 isn''t just a commitment to dress with less; it''s also an invitation to call a full stop to shopping for three months. Even if you don''t think you spend much on shoes, clothing, accessories, or jewelry, you may be surprised how those (big and little) purchases add up.
Time: Think about how much time you spent last month shopping in stores or online. How much time did you spend weeding through emails with special offers or trying on different outfits from your current collection? And the time you spent getting ready every morning? Now add the time you spent thinking about a past or future purchase. For the next three months, you get all that time back.
Space: Even though you won''t get rid of the excess stuff right away, it will be out of sight. You''ll gain physical space in your immediate surroundings and mental space by clearing out the clutter.
Clarity: Once you''ve selected your 33 items, you don''t have to think much about what to wear for the next three months. You won''t have to worry about what''s on sale, what you need to buy, or what''s missing from your closet. By reducing those decisions, you can consider what really matters to you and have more clarity throughout the day. Bye-bye, decision fatigue.
Freedom: A closet full of clothes that don''t fit, things you paid too much for, and items you don''t wear weigh on you every time you''re looking for something to wear. Opening my closet used to be a daily reminder of my debt and discontent. There were the clothes that didn''t fit, the clothes I never wore, and even clothes with price tags still hanging from them. Once the excess went out the door, so did the guilt and other emotions I had been paying with for so long. When I let go, I realized I had paid enough. I had paid with my money, my time, my attention, and my emotions. Haven''t you paid enough, too? With only your favorite things hanging in your closet, you''ll experience freedom from the guilt and weight of the excess items you currently face every morning.
Courtney''s first 333
Before I take you down this path of life-changing closet reconstruction, I should probably tell you who I am (the very short version). First, I''m married to the love of my life, and mom to a twentysomething daughter who also happens to be my favorite person. Next, I''m an author, blogger, speaker, creative, and introvert. I spent many years working in sales, marketing, and advertising, but after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2006, I released the majority of the stress from my life (including getting rid of my clutter, debt, and house) and left my secure career path to do work that makes me smile. I have a blog, bemorewithless.com, which most people discover after googling Project 333. I wrote a book called Soulful Simplicity to share my story and included a short chapter about Project 333. Now I''ve written this entire book about Project 333, including a short paragraph about my story. That''s usually how it goes when I mention Project 333-it takes over the conversation!
I''m going to tell you much more about how I did it, how you can do it, what obstacles I faced, and how other people are changing their closets and lives with Project 333, but here''s a quick breakdown of what I included in my first collection (the detailed list is at https://bemorewithless.com/minimalist-fashion
21 articles of clothing
2 pieces of jewelry
4 pairs of shoes
My 33-item collections have changed and evolved over time, but I usually end up with a similar category breakdown. In the beginning, the simplicity factor was only limiting the number of items in my wardrobe, but now I apply a lens of simplicity to the individual items I include, too. Is it easy to care for? Does it play well with others? Does it fit my body and my lifestyle, maybe even many facets of my lifestyle? Keep reading to find out how to build your own capsule collection for the challenge and why it matters. I''ll make suggestions about what to include, and tell you what you don''t have to count in your 33, too.
For many years, I bought into the idea that there was a perfect little black dress for me. I was sure a new scarf would complete a look, and maybe even complete me. I thought those shoes (that I could barely walk in) made me look powerful. What I didn''t know before I tried three months of dressing with less was that I am not what I wear. People don''t care what I''m wearing. And, most important, I need way less than I think I do to be happy. Simple is the new black.
If you''re reading this book hoping for a recommendation for the perfect pair of jeans or a little black dress that you don''t want to live without, do a quick review of your wardrobe history. How many pairs of jeans have you owned in your lifetime? How many little black dresses? How many stylish bags? How is that working for you?
The truth is, there will never be an item of clothing that changes your life or convinces people you are someone you are not. Shopping won''t fix the past or secure the future. More is not the answer. Before I discovered the power of less, reduced stress, and simplified my life, I thought the answer to all my problems was more. I thought I would be happier with more money, more closet space, more shopping, more spending, and more stuff overall. I thought people would like/love/respect me more if I did more for them, and proved myself by doing more in every area of my life. But more, more, more didn''t result in more happiness, closer relationships, or better health. It did the opposite. My quest for more resulted in stress, depression, and strained relationships, and it eventually led to exhaustion and illness.
My favorite place for more was my closet. If I gained weight, I bought more clothing. If I lost weight, I bought more clothing. If nothing seemed to fit, I bought more shoes instead. If I had an upcoming event, I bought more clothes, and more accessories to dress up the clothes. If I had a good day, I''d celebrate with a shopping trip. If I found a shirt I liked, I bought more of them, in different colors (and then wore the black one all the time). If I had a bad day, I''d medicate with more shopping. Seeking more was one way to go, but it wasn''t a good one, because it contributed to my sense of discontent. Something wasn''t right, but I didn''t know what it was. Instead of trying to figure it out, I turned to more; more stuff, more busyness, more shopping. When things are broken but bearable, it feels easier at first to stay at "bearable" rather than address the problems.
As I began to let go of things in an effort to reduce stress, I felt something I hadn''t felt in many years. I felt light. I also began to feel happier and healthier, so I kept going. Soon enough, less replaced more as a new direction and solution that I hadn''t expected. Less was the answer. I noticed that when I had less to take care of, worry about, and think about . . . I felt lighter. I removed things from my diet, my calendar, and my budget. Then it was time to consider my stuff. At first I didn''t think my stuff, the clutter I had collected for decades, was stressful, but eventually I realized it was. It weighed me down and kept me distracted. Once I saw the stuff as stress, I wanted to give it all away. Luckily, I didn''t (otherwise this might be called Project 33 instead of 333). At first I back-burnered the "more" in my closet because I didn''t want to go there. I had some pretty solid reasons for holding on to the stuff in my closet. After all, I had spent a lot of money buying it all, and some of it had sentimental value; I also thought people judged me on what I was wearing. I had all kinds of identity issues and emotions tied up in my wardrobe, so it was hard to think about. I worked on simplifying other things first and then decided it was time to go into my closet and start Project 333.