Have you heard of Courtney Carver’s Project 333?
In a nutshell, you select 33 items (clothing, shoes, jewelry, and outerwear) and wear them for 3 months. At the end of the 3 months, you re-evaluate. Keep anything you want for the next season, rotate in seasonal items needed, donate things you thought you’d wear but didn’t, and so on.
It’s not a capsule wardrobe, although it can sort of turn into one. It’s not really seasonal swapping. It is, but it’s about challenging yourself to go with only 33 items instead of 75 winter items that you unboxed for the season.
But it also ISN’T an exercise in deprivation.
I found Courtney Carver many years ago (I think maybe even a decade ago!) and while I loved the idea of her Project 333, I never took the plunge. Why? No clue if I’m honest. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right mind set.
But 3 months ago I did it. And it felt so good.
Project 333 had me enjoying walking into my closet every day. I found relief having a smaller selection of clothes that I loved – and it made for easier decisions on what to wear in the morning as well. And no one (not even myself) noticed that I had pared down my wardrobe.
In fact, I was so unfazed by this that I didn’t even realize Oct 1st (when I was scheduled to re-evaluate for the next season) rolled right on by. I didn’t notice it at all until Oct 27th when it got chilly and I didn’t have long sleeved items in my 33!
So, I’m a month late but November 1st, I finally did my swap and figured it was a good time to outline what I did in case anyone else wants to try this also.
I’ll walk you through how I did this the first time around (3 months ago) and then how I did the swap.
How to tackle your first Project 333
If this is your first time attempting Project 333, make things easy on yourself and start by removing any items you know for a fact you won’t be wearing in the next 3 months. If you’re feeling particularly motivated, you can begin decluttering clothing. But if you’re short on time or the motivation is just lacking (we’ve all been there!) just start by simply removing items you know you won’t need and put them in a box.
When I first started Project 333, it was July 1st so I knew that I would have no need for my Winter coats or long sleeve anything. I live in Texas after all. In this heat, I barely needed clothing! But, ya know, societal norms and all.
Once you’ve removed everything that isn’t necessary for your current climate, I found it easiest to start with my dresses. [Men, you can skip this part.]
I kept one fancier one for any weddings or dressy events that might come up and then I kept one casual summer dress. I will admit, this was easier to do because we’re in a global pandemic and no one is really going anywhere. If I was still going to the office every day, I might have kept another dress or two.
Then dig into your bottoms (jeans, shorts, skirts, etc).
Think about what you truly like to wear. For me, I don’t really reach for skirts much. It’s always jeans or a dress. So the 2-3 skirts I owned at the time, just didn’t make the cut.
Next, move to tops.
After bottoms were finalized, I moved to tops and kept things that would match with the bottoms I had selected – which was pretty easy. To be completely transparent though, while easy, I did still have to go back and forth on a few to get down to the right number.
Finally, I moved onto shoes and jewelry, again looking at what matched with items I had already selected.
One final tip I have for you if you’re wanting to try Project 333 for yourself: hang your clothes up in your closet with the hanger hook backwards. When you wear an item, flip the hanger hook to the “normal” direction. That way, when you do your first swap, you can easily see what you didn’t even wear once and decide if that means it needs to be decluttered or if there was a valid reason it wasn’t worn.
Your first Project 333 swap
You’ve made it to your first 3 month milestone and you’re ready to swap out your clothes. What do you do next?
Start by looking at your hangers and seeing which hooks are still facing backwards.
For me, I had 2 items that hadn’t been worn in the past 3 months.
The first item, was the fancier dress I had for weddings and the like. This wasn’t unusual as the wedding I was supposed to go to had been postponed due to COVID concerns.
The second item was a white shirt. When I tried to wear it previously, the button in the back was too small and too difficult to close that I gave up and put on another shirt. Once I realized that I hadn’t ever gone back and tried to wear it again, it was an easy decision for me to donate that shirt.
Next, look at the remaining clothing for any items that you only wore once or twice.
I had these pants that I really wanted to like. They were a beautiful baby blue, chino type pant that in my mind, looked effortlessly chic.
In reality, I wore them once and felt uncomfortable all day long. I never reached for them again.
Side note, if you’re not the most stylish person in the world – like myself – you will never look effortlessly chic if you feel uncomfortable in something you’re wearing. It takes too much… well, effort… to go about your day-to-day. It’s just not worth it.
So, off to the donate pile with those pants as well. Someone else will love them more than I did.
Once that’s done, remove any seasonal items that will not work for the next 3 months.
Another easy step to complete that takes little mental energy is to think about what the next 3 months will look like – climate wise.
In Texas, we were going from a hot Summer to a “sometimes warm, sometimes cold” end of the year. So it was an easy choice to remove most of my tank tops, shorts, and flip flops.
Finally, shop your closet.
Once you know what for sure you’re removing, the fun begins. You can shop your closet, shop your boxes (with clothes that didn’t earn a right to sit in your closet for the last 3 months) and fall in love with your clothing all over again.
In my case this Fall/Winter swap, I kept a few basics (a black tee and a white tank top for example) and then brought in all my 3-quarter sleeves (for fall) and light winter items (long sleeve shirts that weren’t very heavy) etc. I also brought in two Fall jackets for cooler days and swapped out my sandals for booties and closed toed flats.
I did end up with slightly more than 33 items. The grand total was 44. While not “perfect”, that’s okay. I had more jewelry in Fall then I did in the Summer and I will see at the end of the quarter what didn’t get worn.
Here’s a list of everything I ended up with for my Fall/Winter 2020 Project 333 closet.
- 3 pairs of jeans
- 2 fall jackets
- 1 blazer
- 1 cardigan
- 2 basic tanks
- 3 basic tees
- 3 long sleeve blouses
- 2 3-quarter sleeve sweaters
- 2 tee style blouses
- 3 tank top blouses
- 1 flannel shirt
- 1 3-quarter sleeve tee
- 1 fall/winter dress
- 1 pair of runners
- 1 pair of flip flops (because, Texas)
- 1 pair of black flats
- 1 pair of high heels (for my fancier dress)
- 1 pair of black booties
- 3 pairs of earrings
- 5 necklaces
- 3 rings
- 1 pair of sunglasses
- 1 black purse
- 1 gold clutch (again for the fancier outfit)
I also kept necessities that aren’t meant to be counted in your “33” like pajamas, undergarments, socks, workout clothing, and house slippers.
And there you have it folks. How I approach Project 333. There are many ways to do this so get creative and take an approach that works for you. I had 33 items my first time around and after my first swap, I ended up with 44. You make the rules. The important thing is to challenge yourself. Challenge yourself to, as Courtney Carver says, “Be more with less.”
I promise, you won’t regret it.