"Project 333 is the minimalist fashion challenge that invites you to dress with 33 items or less for 3 months."
-Courtney Carver (Creator of Project 333, writer, photographer, and incidentally, individual living with Multiple Sclerosis)
Project 333 likely needs no introduction by now, having been covered by both Oprah and The Today Show. I have not completed the challenge. Instead, I adapted Carver's concept into a new challenge: Rather than limiting my wardrobe to 33 items, I began donating 33 items.
Since I had to give up having a home of my own in order to afford my new lifestyle as a travelling musician, my stuff ended up in my parents' basement. Slowly but surely the piles of clothing are being whittled down to my most essential items using this variation on Carver's technique:
First, wash a big pile of laundry. Whether items are kept or donated, they will have to be clean. Items that have stains or holes that cannot be repaired are immediately thrown away. As I fold and inspect items, I create three distinct piles.
1. 33 items i am Ready to donate now
2. ANY items i Will donate within 3 months
3. Any items I will give to a specific person
When I do this, I like to have non-transparent bags for piles #1, #2, and #3. This way, the items are out of sight as soon as I make my decisions, and I do not have to relive each choice again later. As Marie Kondo, author of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up says, “Discard anything that doesn’t spark joy.”
I advise anyone trying this to fill up bag #1 first. When I am sitting with my big pile of laundry, it is easiest to count up at least 33 items I am prepared to release immediately. The remaining pile is still substantial enough to demonstrate I can truly afford to donate these 33 items to people in need. Before I continue, I tie bag #1 shut and put it by the door, in the car, or whatever place that reminds me; These 33 items no longer belong to me.
Bag #2: While it is wonderful to be able to let go immediately, I know- for me and the friends who I have helped use my method -the challenge of admitting I will never use an item again often stops the process before it has began. For this reason, Bag #2 allows a gradual release. As I pick up each item that screams maybe, I casually put it into this bag, knowing full-well that it will be retrievable over the next three months. As soon as there are at least 33 items in this bag, I tie it up and put it out of sight, in the back of my closet. I do not pressure myself to say goodbye now. Items in Bag #2 are not all destined for donation*.
Bag #3: We all have clothing that reminds us of a friend or family member. Why is that? Would it fit them? Is it their style? Does it say something about your relationship? Perhaps you feel attached to an item in a way that prevents you from releasing it into the world beyond your sight, but you would entrust it to the care of someone you know. Whatever the reason, these items are sitting in your closet, waiting to be shared. I think of the joy they may bring to my loved ones, how the gift might present an opportunity to set an overdue lunch date or dinner. Then suddenly, I feel excited about sharing my treasures.
Everything else goes back into my wardrobe. I mindfully place items where I will see them and remember to wear them. I am keeping them because they bring me joy! I am reminded to make getting dressed a joyous occasion. All these lovely choices and only one body to clothe each day!
*Over the next three months, be more mindful of whether you enjoyed the clothing you kept. If you forgot about Bag #2, sitting in the back of your closet, then it is most definitely ready to be donated. On the other hand, if you caught yourself digging into Bag #2 to retrieve items, did you try to maintain the 33 item count? If you took something back, replace it with another item you would prefer to give away.
My efforts to downsize my physical belongings continue slowly. I would love to hear from you, if you try my Project 333 reboot. Let me know how it works out!