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This Borderline Genius Challenge Is Great For Editing Your Wardrobe

Courtney Carver
January 11, 2020
Courtney Carver
By Courtney Carver
mbg Contributor
Courtney is the author of "Project 333" and the blogger behind Be More With Less. Her work has been featured on BBC, CNN, Real Simple magazine, and O, The Oprah magazine.
Minimal but lived-in bedroom with personality
Image by Yasmine Boheas / Unsplash
January 11, 2020

Until I whittled down my wardrobe, I had no idea that my closet contained more than just clothes and hangers. It was full of guilt and stress too. Every morning, I had to sort through my poor purchase decisions, clothes people gave me that I never wore, and items I paid too much for (that usually still had price tags hanging from the sleeve).

Like most people, I'd end up wearing the same things I always wore but held on to the other stuff too. I'd promise myself I'd wear the other stuff and shop for new additions that would make me feel more successful or confident or cool. And then I wouldn't wear that stuff for very long either.

All of that changed when I decided to dress with less—33 items, to be exact—for three months. I challenged myself to not buy anything new and see what happened. I expected I'd save money and create a little space in my closet but had no idea just how transformative this challenge would be.

Here's what happened when I started the 333 minimalist fashion challenge.

The challenge was relatively simple: For three months, I chose 33 items (including clothing, accessories, jewelry, outerwear, and shoes) to wear and didn't buy anything new. Wedding rings and other sentimental pieces of jewelry that I always wear, underwear, sleepwear, in-home loungewear, and workout clothing were not included as part of the 33 items.

I didn't throw away or donate any of the items that didn't make the cut. Instead, I put them in a box, sealed it shut, and put it out of sight. Hiding the rest of my closet was an important part of the challenge. As I said, I had no idea my closet was full of stress until it was gone. Once it was, I immediately felt lighter and better. And each morning, instead of unknowingly absorbing that stress every time I got dressed, I simply put on my favorite clothes and started my day. Here are some other unexpected benefits I took away from the challenge that convinced me to keep it going indefinitely:

1. I had more time.

Since I wasn't shopping or spending extra time getting ready, I had more time for my morning routine (journaling, meditating, and enjoying breakfast) and other things that matter to me way more than clothes.

2. I discovered more clarity.

When I wasn't spending my mornings deciding what to wear, or my evenings and weekends online shopping or trying thing after thing on at the mall, I experienced less decision fatigue and more clarity.

3. I felt more confident.

I always thought I needed to wear something new or special to prove myself. I needed the right heels to feel powerful or a new dress to feel sexy or a trendy jacket to feel put-together and prepared. Once I started dressing with less, I found confidence in who I was instead of what I wore. Today I feel powerful, confident, and prepared from the inside out instead of the other way around.

When I stopped focusing on what I needed, I became more content with what I own. I learned that I need way less than I think to be happy.

Ready to take on the challenge in your own closet? Here's what you need to know.

If you want to save money, have more attention for what really matters to you, and clear out the stress hiding in your closet, I'd highly recommend giving the challenge a try for three months and seeing what you think. I outline the entire process in depth in my upcoming book, Project 333, but here are the questions I get asked the most about it:

Is a pair of shoes one item or two?


Can I have 33 pieces per season so 132 items in my closet?

You could do it that way, but I don't recommend it. Fifty to 90% of my seasonal 33 moves forward to the next season. There isn't one magical number, but this challenge will help you decide what "enough" means to you.

Do you ever regret donating or getting rid of things?

Not one time. That said, I didn't get rid of everything all at once. It took time.

What do you wear to do chores?

I don't do chores. Just kidding! If I'm cleaning, I'll usually wear a T-shirt and sweats, but if I'm putting laundry or dishes away in between work, I just wear whatever I have on.

How do you do this when you have extreme weather shifts?

I plan for weather shifts when choosing my 33 items. There are some items I only wear at the very beginning of a season and some I only wear at the end.

What about special clothes like a party dress or ski clothes?

I'd consider a fancy dress part of the 33 and ski clothes as workout clothes.

You could come up with more questions or reasons why this challenge might not work for you, but once you get started, I think you'll find it's less complicated than you might think. By removing items from your wardrobe, you'll create more physical space in your closet and more mental and emotional space in your life.

Courtney Carver author page.
Courtney Carver

Courtney Carver writes about dressing and living with less on and with @bemorewithless on Instagram. She is the author of Project 333, The Minimalist Fashion Challenge That Proves Less Really is So Much More. She co-hosts a weekly podcast called Soul & Wit with her daughter Bailey. Courtney's story and Project 333 has been featured by BBC, CNN, Real Simple magazine, and O, The Oprah magazine.

Courtney first simplified her life to reduce stress after being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2006. She lives in Salt Lake City with her husband and loves to ski and hike.