Taking the Capsule Wardrobe Challenge

Do you think you could wear only 33 items of clothing for three months? How many pieces of clothing, necklaces, jackets, pairs of shoes, or earrings do you think you actually wear each season?

You probably don’t know. I had no idea, so I participated in an experiment recently that I found quite enlightening.

Project 333

Courtney Carver and Me

Courtney Carver inspired me when our local National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) Chapter hosted her this past August. She discussed her “Project 333” minimalist fashion challenge, that invites you to wear only 33 items of clothing for three months, including shoes, jewelry, scarves, outerwear, and even sunglasses!

I was intrigued by her message of creating a simple “capsule wardrobe,” and how this act of simplifying spills out into other areas of our lives.

So on September 1, I selected what I hoped would get me through the next three months and packed the rest of my clothes and shoes away in the attic. What Courtney does not include in the count of 33 items are undergarments, workout wear, pajamas, or lounge ware.

I did pretty well, but I ended up having to cheat a little bit, too. (Courtney makes it clear this is not a project in suffering, so “cheating” is my word, not hers.)

My confessions:

  • The primary reason I cheated is I realized too late that I should have started my challenge on October 1 instead. Some of the pieces I selected initially (for example, a pair of shorts, two pairs of capris, two short-sleeve t-shirts, and a pair of sandals) were not worn again after early October.
  • Same with outerwear. I didn’t include it in my final count, because when you live in New England, it just didn’t seem practical to include outerwear and keep to the number 33. I have different jackets for walking the dog depending on the temperature; which are different from what I wear out and about on a daily basis; which are different than what I wear when I visit clients.
  • Also in this timeframe, we had a wedding to attend so I included a dressy dress and pair of dressy shoes in my initial count, but I also wanted to wear a different dress to an unexpected funeral. I just didn’t feel a single dress would accommodate both events, so I ended up adding one to my initial count.
  • I also didn’t include jewelry in my initial count like Courtney recommends. Instead, I wanted to track how much I really wore over the three months. As it turned out, I ended up wearing eight pairs of earrings and five necklaces. When I consider how many of each I have, well let’s just say that surprised me.

Courtney Carver speaking to NAPO-NE

At the end, on November 30, I added up 48 items – that included clothing, jewelry, shoes, and scarves. Even though I was 16 items over my initial goal, I was amazed at how easy it was. One of the points Courtney made during her talk is that her suggested quantity of 33 is just a guide. She admitted to selecting 33 for three months initially because “Project 333” was easy to remember.

What I experienced during my “Project 483” (catchy huh?):

  • It was much easier to get dressed each morning. I only had a few outfits in the closet and they were my favorites. So whatever I put on, I liked and was comfortable.
  • I didn’t waste time making decisions about what to wear. I have been known to put on one outfit, change my mind immediately, and change into something else. There was none of that.
  • I’m clearer now about what I like wearing the most, and the types of clothing that complicate my wardrobe unnecessarily.
  • All the clothes that didn’t make the initial cut were not just hanging there every time I walked into my closet – only the items I liked were there. But I do admit there were a few items I wish I had been able to include.
  • I clearly have more jewelry than I need!
  • This experiment was just another reminder of the fact that I have too many choices in clothing, which isn’t efficient or necessary. Just like the 30-day minimalism challenge, reducing the stuff that surrounds me can make more room for the important things.
  • Finally, I realized I can participate in any crazy experiment for three months – and survive!

In early December, I added most of my winter clothes back into my closet. But I was discriminating about adding items that I actually like. To further challenge myself, I hung all the hangers “backward” and as I wear something, I switch the hanger around. I’m curious to see if there will still be some hangers hanging backward once spring arrives.

This three-month experiment is just one of the things that led me to select “simplify” as my word for this year. I plan to work on simplifying every aspect of my life – work, extracurricular activities, relationships, and yes, my wardrobe.

Does simplifying your wardrobe sound appealing to you? You can learn more about Courtney’s journey here and why simple is the new black.

Ta-Da Tip of the Month

Are there items of clothing lurking in the back corners of your closet/shelves/drawers that you haven’t worn in years?

When was the last time you emptied everything out of your closet and truly identified the items you enjoy wearing the most? If it has been a while, consider challenging yourself like I did. Project 333 may be an option or there are other capsule wardrobe approaches out there.

Courtney Carver

Courtney’s Capsule Wardrobe

Before you completely discount the idea, consider doing this:

  • Identify the items in your wardrobe that you love and limit yourself to only wearing those items.
  • Pick a three-month period of time that works for you. Keeping within a single season will allow you the most flexibility with your clothing choices.
  • Once you start spending less energy on your clothing choices, notice the time and energy you are placing on more important things.

Aren’t you curious about what your number would be?

It’s only three months – what you value most may surprise you. Ta Da!

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