Project 333 and me
Could you live with only 33 items of clothing? Including jewelry and other accessories?As part of my ongoing decluttering journey and forays into minimalism – I discovered Project 333. I was in the process of clearing my closet out. At the time I had no idea that a year later I would be living in a much smaller house with a cupboard for a wardrobe and only one chest of drawers for me and my husband to share.
Good job I got rid of so many clothes then.
The tricks that do not work (but help)
Like many others before me, I had done the ‘turn the coathangers around so if you don’t wear an item you will know’ trick. I then hung all newly laundered on the left so that it was obvious that items on the right never got worn, and then I arranged by colour. And while some of these techniques helped identify what I didn’t wear they didn’t leave the closet, because.
Like someday, because is a dangerous word
Because I may lose weight and they will fit me again.
Because they cost a lot of money.
Because they are beautiful, even if I can’t wear them.
Because it may come in useful.
Because I may need it someday.
Because insert your because here.
Then I discovered Project 333. No way, only 33 items of clothes allowed in 3 months. I can’t do that I thought.
Well, yes I can. The organising by colour had helped, as had the moving of clothes that I wore all the time to the left hand side of the wardrobe. It was obvious that most of the time I only wore two colours.
The Barack Rule – stick to one or two colours
My son had unwittingly, and because he is essentially a minimalist by nature (no idea where he got that trait from), applied the Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg/Barack Obama rules of dressing years ago. He only wears one colour (blue) and has exactly the right amount of clothes to get him through the week. Washes them once a week, and begins again on Monday.
When packing he packs by outfit, ie jeans and top per day/two days, plus socks etc for the amount of days he is away. He only has three pairs of shoes. Until recently he only had one pair of shoes, some trainers. The other two were acquired when he had to wear formal shoes for work and new trainers when he started going to the gym.
I reckon he has 29 items of clothing and that number has increased only due to having started work and not being able to wear jeans there. Let me tell you he has one tie and that comes off the minute he leaves work. Nothing is replaced until it wears out.
Both Phil, my husband, and I had/have too many clothes. The DH gets tempted to buy a shirt every time he goes to Asda. Insomuch that he has identical shirts (see The Barack rule above).
With him I have to insist on the one in two out rule, which makes him think very hard about buying a new shirt. What worked for me was that I looked at the colours I wore, my favourite and most worn jewelry, and got rid of almost everything that did not meet the criteria.
Some were easier than others. Work clothes, quite formal ones, kept in case I ever got a proper job again (see that is someday creeping in there) were put in the first bags to go to charity. I was never going to get a proper job again. Never would I return to corporate life. This clothes cull was before I interviewed for my last job, which was proper, but not proper in that I needed to be suited and booted nor conform to normal. Goodness, a normal person could not have done my last job. Which is why it suited me and my clothes.
Many of the clothes held very negative memories. Corporate polo and sweatshirts from my PwC days. A job I ended up loathing, a job that made me ill. Why did I keep them? Because I could wear them to do decorating in. Wow, getting rid of them was so good. All the negative energy was gone.
Yet purging my wardrobe was hard. I have made some mistakes. Maybe got rid of things I regret. Kept things I will never wear again. It is a work in progress. And of course Project 333 is not about only having 33 items. It is about choosing 33 per season. And the regrets, well that is where I use the 20/20 rule.
To cope with the smaller closet I put non seasonal clothes in a vacuum bag. However, when I went to Sorrento and Skiathos earlier this year, many of those got culled because I realised I did not need 5 pairs of linen trousers. I kept one pair and bought a new pair (see Buying New Clothes below). The top I loved and was beautiful and cost a lot of money (see the becauses above) was falling apart. Gosh, it was painful throwing it away. Cost per wear though? I reckon it was almost 20 years old. Worn every summer without fail, so £5 per year or about 25p per wear. I have many items that I have had for a number of years and still wear.
As I write, I am wearing the t shirt I got in NZ in 2011 which I wear every week, all year round, and a sweat shirt I got in Cornwall in 2010. Ditto – wear it every week, all year round. They have both seen better days and because I have packed too much (the irony of admitting that in a post about Project 333 is not lost on me) it may not continue to be in my suitcase after September. We will see.
Buying new clothes
I also bought new clothes once I got on board with Project 333. What? Let me explain. I had a long period of Not Buying It. I didn’t buy a coat or boots, even though the cats had peed on my boots. That was my initial way to cope with the clutter – do not let anything new into the house.
Then I started a new job and although I could wear jeans, my sweat shirt and t really did not cut it at meetings with church leaders, although in the warehouse they did. So in came the tunic dresses and leggings. Once I had leggings I needed boots. I found some new linen trousers that were better quality than the ones I got rid of, that wash and wear better, and look smarter. For every new item at least two old ones have to go. What is good for the goose is also good for the gander. If I expect that from the DH I have to practice it myself.
And the coat I loved and had not cost a lot was falling apart (cost per wear less than a penny). The duffel coat that was my mom’s and was warm that I dragged to a 2015 Melbourne winter, looked tatty and was heavy. I needed a warm, lightweight coat, and warm boots.
Practical and smart. And neutral to fit in with the clothes I choose for Project 333. Black, both of them, when all my other clothes are blue – with a splash of coral in the summer – mostly jewel colours.
And that is what works for me. As undergarments are replaced they too are either jewel colours or neutral. I have one turquoise scarf and a coral coloured jacket that was on sale crept in recently. I reckon it goes with turquoise. And purple (foodbank purple particularly).
So two new coats – but five old coats have left the closet and went to charity. One, beautiful and expensive camel coat, worn half a dozen times had been kept due to the becauses above. I hated it. My black widow coat, bought when my now 23 year old was in a pram and it was practical with a hood, was falling apart. It was kept because (see above) well who knows why?
It could not come to the new small house.
Two beautiful velvet jackets bought on sale over 20 years ago, worn one season only. Donated. They fitted my colour criteria but were too small. A suit from Planet purchased in the sales, which was too small for me when I bought it, still had the label on it and kept because someday I may lose weight for 20 plus years also left the closet and went to charity.
Even after the move I am continually finding clothes I did not wear or like. I have a bag by the front door and daily I take something to the charity shop.
I found the most beautiful cardigan in December 2015. Not only beautiful, it met my colour criteria and is ethically made.
The two I had put up with for a couple of years that were made of acrylic and worn only because they were all I had, went.
When my mom died I had the job of tackling her closet. Incredibly organised, tops in one wardrobe, trousers in another, jewelry in bags and labelled, yet 99% of it she never wore.
She had 4 Burberries, two duffel coats and numerous jackets. All top notch brands. It was the process of dealing with her highly organised clutter that made me realise that I needed to deal with my hidden hoarding.
And 333 helped. I look back over the past year – and I am happy with my pared down wardrobe. And it is meeting all my requirements while I house sit in Melbourne. Once on the road, travelling, most will be packed in compression bags and out will come the shorts and linen trousers as the weather (I hope) warms up. And some may go to the op shop.
Update December 2016. 12 kilos of clothes were donated to the Op Shops of Melbourne. Since coming home, more clothes have left the building. Including two more coats. Two jackets were bought in Melbourne – down jackets that are very light and pack up very small. Perfect for travelling, needed very much so in the NT at night and in Tassie. Perfect for English winters, English weather all year round tbh. Minimalism and decluttering and Project 333 are not about not buying, nor about going without for me. They are ways to simplify and streamline my life and not having things in my life that no longer serve a purpose.