“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Project 333 Challenge
Last year I read about Project 333. The idea is to wear the same 33 pieces of clothing for 3 months. Then, as the seasons change, swap them out for more seasonally appropriate clothes. Project 333 generally excludes some things from the count. I guess that makes it easier to say we have picked 33 items for 3 months. Anyway, when counting underwear, socks, exercise clothes, and a few other items the total is generally more than 33. I found it to be almost double. Anyway, picking 33 items is really just a target. The spirit of the challenge is to reduce your wardrobe by eliminating all of the things that you rarely, if ever, wear.
I had a closet packed full of clothes, but I only wore a small portion of them. I am a creature of habit; I typically wear the same basic sets of clothes each week. On January 2nd I reduced my clothes to the 33 core items. In reality, I ended up with 61 items including under clothes, shoes, accessories, and some items that I don’t wear often, but knew I couldn’t get rid of. I picked out enough clothes to get me through a week between loads of laundry. This set also included clothes for different purposes (e.g., work, weekend, and special occasions). This is what I ended up with.
5 long sleeve collared shirts
5 white under shirts
6 pair work socks
4 pair sports socks
8 pair underwear
5 pair business casual pants
3 pair jeans
2 long sleeve t-shirts
2 short sleeve t-shirts
2 pair work shoes (one black, one brown)
1 pair tennis shoes
1 pair boots
1 beenie hat
1 pair gloves
2 suit coats
2 pair suit pants
1 pair glasses
1 pair sun glasses
It really wasn’t that difficult to pick through my closet and set aside just the things that I wear often. However, I wasn’t sure how well this experiment would go. I didn’t go all in to begin with.
How Did It Go?
I donated a lot of clothes, but I kept a lot of clothes in a separate closet just in case. It is interesting how we are conditioned to stockpile items as though they are scarce. I realized that I didn’t really need the safety closet. It wouldn’t have been a big deal to buy the things I needed as I needed them. I ended up going to the safety closet five times for six items: I had to replace some pants that ripped and a pair of socks because one sock went missing while doing laundry. Previously, I probably would have never even noticed it. I would have just added another lone sock to the orphaned sock basket. Amazingly, the lone sock showed up a few weeks later. I guess it was just on vacation. I also decided to add a second hoodie, a pair of shorts, an exercise jacket, and a pair of soccer warm-up pants.
After the first three months, I’m pretty happy with how it went. I have now identified a bunch of clothes in the safety closet that I can confidently donate. I also recognized several benefits along the way.
Reduced Laundry BurdenSince I only had enough clothes to get me through a week I was really diligent about doing the laundry every week. I didn’t let the clothes pile up. I ended up doing two or three loads of laundry (my wife’s as well) each week and I didn’t procrastinate. I used to have enough clothes that I could go for two weeks before doing laundry. While the number of loads probably averaged out to be the same, two weeks of laundry is just a larger burden because of the volume of clothes.
Saved TimeI used to get very distracted by the amount of clothes in my closet. Even though I always wear the same basic clothes, I would still spend five or ten minutes each morning picking my clothes for the day. Having fewer items to choose from saves me time every morning. Now it really doesn’t matter what I wear. I just grab whatever pants and shirt are next in line.
More SanityEvery morning I would sift through the same clothes that I never wore. Picking clothes was like an expedition. It was the same thing every morning. The definition of insanity is repeating the same thing over and over, but expecting different results. I can say I’m a little less insane now.
Created SpaceBy reducing the number of clothing items I cleared space in the closet and in my bedroom. I was able to downsize my dresser. I now have shelf space in my closet for Spring & Summer clothes and I moved my socks and underwear to a bathroom vanity drawer. This cleared a dresser from my bedroom which has really opened the space up. I think it’s really important to create open spaces. Its subtle, but cluttered spaces create more mental noise and house work. I feel a greater sense of peace with open spaces.
This is no longer an experiment. I plan to continue with a reduced set of clothes. This past weekend I swapped my Winter items for Spring items. In July I’ll swap those for Summer items. Eventually, I’ll have my clothes culled down to four seasons worth of only the clothes that I like to wear. Everything else will find it’s way to Goodwill.
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