7 Simple Truths about Dressing with Less

Even when what we want most is change, we resist it. When we hear about an idea that sounds interesting, but uncomfortable, the most logical reaction is to turn and walk run away. At least that’s how I operate. And after all of the resistance and walking away, I always wonder what all the fuss was about after I get started.

People often approach minimalist fashion challenge Project 333 with hesitation and resistance, but after getting started, they are thrilled with the benefits of dressing with less.

Project 333 challenges you to dress with 33 items for 3 months. You can start on your own or take the course for extra inspiration and instruction. I hope the following simple truths about dressing with less will help remove the resistance.

 

7 Simple Truths

1. You won’t die if you wear something two days in a row.

You can wear the same pair of jeans several days in a row, or the same sweater/scarf/shirt/insert item here _________. There are exceptions, but the idea is much less horrific than you might imagine.

2. You can buy it when you get there.

Leave your just in case items behind. You don’t need to plan and pack for every scenario. Unless you are going on a trip into the wild, you can borrow or buy what you need.

3. No one cares what you are wearing.

You think way more about what you wear than anyone else. People may comment on what you wear, but usually those comments are an effort to connect with you in some way.

4. What people think of you is really none of your business.

This quote from Martha Graham always reminds me not to bother worrying about what everyone else thinks. Don’t dress to elicit a reaction or because of what you think people might think about you. It shouldn’t influence the decisions you make while getting dressed or doing anything else.

This is your closet, your heart, and your life. No one knows those things better than you.

5. Your closet is not too small.

When you begin to dress with less, you open up space in your closet, mind and heart. Instead of searching for a bigger closet, bigger home, and bigger life, you can direct your attention to the things that truly matter.

If you are unsure about what’s important to you, don’t worry. Sometimes, to discover what matters, you have to get rid of everything that doesn’t.

6. Your style is not the latest trend.

Your style probably isn’t what’s walking down runways, featured in fashion magazines or even what your friends are wearing. When you start wearing the clothing you like the most and that fits you the best, you will naturally develop a personal style that reflects your needs, your lifestyle, and your desires.

7. Dressing with less is not a sacrifice.

A challenge to dress or live with less helps you identify what enough means to you. It also dramatically shines light on the things that mean the most to you. This eye-opening process is often fun, and always enlightening and not a project in suffering.

You will get so much more than what you give up.

 

If you felt the resistance while reading this post, choose one of these simple truths as inspiration to dress with less. You don’t have part with anything permanently, but putting a little distance between you and the excess for 3 months will give you the information you need to decide what to keep and what to release.

Learn more about getting started or put an end to the resistance and begin with the Dress with Less microcourse for inspiration, support, and extra fun as you whittle down your clothing choices and create your capsule wardrobe.

 

Sign up below for inbox inspiration

Comments

  1. says

    People should realise that most of the time they end up wearing the same. Ok, maybe I’m also like that.
    Lately I’ve decided invest on quality over quantity and your blog is a great inspiration.
    PS: It’s possible to look good with less clothes!

  2. says

    “People may comment on what you wear, but usually those comments are an effort to connect with you in some way.”

    Oh wow, that one really hit me. When I go to conferences and people are complimenting one another on the cute shoes or great dresses, I feel left out if I don’t have some standout piece of my own.

      • Marianne says

        I agree, Brit, Your SMILE is your stand out piece! You look happy, friendly and very approachable. Your wardrobe choices should be basic, not to conflict with the positive essence that is you! You look like a ray of sunshine and not wardrobe piece could ever outshine that.

      • says

        Agreed – I think women are taught to focus so much on how we look that inevitably, we give too much attention to how other women look too. And even simpler, we often find that talking about shoes or clothing is an easy ice-breaker. So I completely agree that it’s just people’s way of trying to connect. Just think of yourself as someone who stands out because you DON’T need to focus on that. Instead of your shoes, let your personality do the talking!

  3. says

    I absolutely love #5! My current closet is the smallest I have ever used (smaller than the one I had as a child) and I split it with my husband. However, by pairing down my wardrobe there is more than enough space for my clothing and his and I don’t need to use another closet in our home for my excess. It’s been a journey to eliminate so many items of clothing, but it has been a rewarding one!

  4. says

    For me, reasons #3 and #6 are the biggest perks of Project 333. It’s true–no one cares what I’m wearing, and since dressing with my favorite pieces (as opposed to dressing how I thought I SHOULD be dressing), I’ve been much happier with my wardrobe and my appearance. Actually, I feel like a rock star all the time. Will definitely be participating in the next go-round–this will be my third cycle. I thought I’d be chomping at the bit to pick my next 33 items, but I’m still quite content with what I’ve been wearing the past 3 months…

    P.S. I have a red scarf that I literally wear twice a week. Recently a co-worker who sees me every day asked if it was new. THAT is how much people notice what I am wearing. :) It was a great moment!

  5. says

    I find that most people who comment on my clothing aren’t remotely interested in what I’m wearing – they’re just fishing for compliments. So I have stopped feeling self-conscious after getting that type of remark. :)

  6. Marianne says

    7. Dressing with less is not a sacrifice.
    A challenge to dress or live with less helps you identify what enough means to you. It also dramatically shines light on the things that mean the most to you. This eye-opening process is often fun, and always enlightening and not a project in suffering.
    You will get so much more than what you give up.

    I purchased the mini-course (worth every penny!). I have gone through the first sweep and eliminated about 75% of things that don’t work for me. What was left (things I love and wear) told me a whole lot about myself. I LOVE what fits me TODAY. I LOVE certain colors (I was surprised that my LOVE grouping all worked together and I didn’t plan it that way) I learned what colors work for me. I learned that I have to have a good base (happy, healthy me) that the wardrobe just accents me. And, Yes, I learned that less is more. It is a huge relief to have more closet and able to do more with less. I am making a shopping list for what I need to buy for spring and what I can sew…and it is manageable both in cost and time as I am not bothered by having to get “quantity” I am very carefully adding quality that is the right style, fit and color for me/my body type. In the whole process I think I learned a lot about myself and still continue to learn. Thank you!

  7. Amy says

    I’ve been living with less clothing for 8.5 years now. I cut down from enough clothes to wear a different outfit daily for 9 months to 14 outfits. A few months ago I cut down again to just 7 outfits. Four of those are work out clothes, one is a summer outfit, one is jeans for winter and one for a funeral. I’m at that stage in life where the older generation in my family is passing away so I decided to hang onto one outfit for that. My husband and I share a small hall closet for our clothes. Even though he has a lot more clothes than I do our closet still has plenty of room left over and it’s only 30 inches wide. All 3 of our children (13.5, 5 Thursday and 3 next Saturday) only have 7 outfits as well. It’s nice not to have to do a lot of laundry each week. I get on on 2-3 loads a week for our family of 5 and our washing machine is a 1.46 cu ft machine.

    • Karen T. says

      Wow, Amy, good for you! I too have cut down to 7 outfits. Since I work part time outside the home, 5 are work outfits (which I can also wear to church or to a restaurant) and 2 are workout/around the house outfits. In winter I add a couple of cardigans, boots, and a coat, scarf, and gloves. I should add that I sing with a professional choir, so I also have 1 concert dress outfit that I wear 8-10 times per year. What freedom! Such a great idea, since you still have young children, to help them learn the freedom of limits (and personal choices) as well.

  8. says

    I don’t officially do Project 333, but have used many of your tips to declutter my clothes.

    To a some extent, I’ve decluttered by attrition (wearing things out and then not replacing them), but once I started paying attention, I noticed how I tend to wear the same things over and over.

    Now I’ve learned that if I keep putting something back or passing it by, that item needs to go.

  9. Joy Carrera says

    I struggle with this project. I live in tropical country and can’t wear things twice in a row. I also work in a job wear I often wear clothes I don’t like or aren’t “my style” because I don’t want to ruin good clothes working as a mechanic or wear my “pilot” uniform on flight days. On the once a week I say home or weekends, I finally get to wear clothes that I like but I don’t think I can say I even know my own style. I admire 333 but seem to have too many hang ups to get started.

    • Susan says

      Good idea to concentrate on non-work clotes first. You will learn a lot about yourself by paring those down to what you really love. And maybe you could tackle workwear afterwords like this:
      Aside from the pilot uniform, which you have to wear, what outfit would make you happier while working as a mechanic? Since like me you probably spend a lot of time at work maybe you could think about one durable but attractive mechanic outfit that is the best style/color/fit you can do. After you figure that out, you could gradually build on that so you are as happy as you could be with your work outfits. Life is short to feel crappy in our clothes!

  10. Flor says

    One thing I found about clothes is you need to also have your own voice when it comes to your style. If you try to be someone you’re not then you will never feel at ease in whatever clothing you wear.

    3 Rules I apply when choosing clothes

    No ironing
    No synthetic
    Not dated

    • megan says

      I also go for non synthetic and classic styles but i find that natural fabrics seem to need more ironing. What materials/fabrics do you wear?

  11. says

    Hi Courtney, I especially like your tip about wearing items more than once. It makes a great deal of sense – saves on our environment (water, electricity), saves personal time and money. This habit also makes travel so much easier.

  12. says

    Hello there! This article couldn’t be written any better!
    Looking at this post reminds me of my previous roommate!
    He constantly kept talking about this. I will forward this information to him.
    Pretty sure he’s going to have a very good read. Many thanks for sharing!

  13. says

    “If you are unsure about what’s important to you, don’t worry. Sometimes, to discover what matters, you have to get rid of everything that doesn’t.” Love this quote. Totally resonated with me…this whole post did.

  14. says

    I guess everyone has theri favourite clothes to wear. I am guilty like most of having more clothes then i actually wear. The problem is I cant seem to throw anything out and I am keeping stuff.

    • Lisa says

      Jo,

      Try the hanger trick. Turn all of your hangers around so they hook backwards. As you wear things, turn the hanger around. After a couple of months, you’ll have a good idea of what you are wearing on a regular basis.

      You can then move the unworn clothes to another location for a couple months to see if you really and truly miss anything. At that point, you can start donating/consigning/free cycling the unworn items.

      This is a process; not a race. It has to work for you.

      Good luck.

  15. Pat Hoar says

    I am not sure whether I agree with all of this concept. Cutting down on clothes is obviously an excellent idea – buying quality over quantity I totally agree with. I think your appearance , hair , make up, does have an place in your feeling of well-being – you have only to look at female cancer patient undergoing chemo and when they have a ‘mini make over’ they report that their spirits are uplifted. Your appearance does count in so many ways – and when you receive compliments whether meant or not – who cares – it makes you feel good. The main point is that from a psychological point of view I think clothes give you a certain amount of confidence .

    • Julia says

      I totally agree. The point is not to dress with what others think of you in mind. I think a lot of people do this even without realizing it. In thought I was just being over critical about how I looked, but in fact I was thinking about what others would think of me.

  16. Carol says

    I am taking you advice and getting rid of clothes that do no fit, I don’t love and haven’t worn in many years. I also have a habit of keeping a piece of clothing because it has sentimental value. I love what you are doing!

  17. m says

    So appreciate this and have been trying this method for the past 2 months. I find, though, that many favorites are showing wear more quickly than I would have ever expected. I don’t enjoy shopping much, so really do like to have/find something that suits me and can keep for a while. But, perhaps ironically, it seems I’m going to have to replace some staples I’ve had for a few years due to the increased use. Anyone else have this challenge?
    [It HAS made getting ready each morning so much easier, so it's definitely worth it for that alone]

    • AnnaJ says

      I don’t hand wash anything so now that I have fewer garments my favorites absolutely do wear out faster. I balance that out by purchasing two of whatever new item I fall in love with. Usually this works for me, but once it backfired and I tired of the item before I wore out the first one.

  18. says

    I am looking forward to starting Project 333 and already find myself focusing on only keeping the clothes and shoes that I love. I am also thinking about how many items I really need.

    I share a regular closet (not a walk-in) with my husband and our only other hanging closet space is my son’s closet. Any suggestions on how to spread the concepts of dress with less throughout our house?

  19. says

    3 months with just 33 items? Heh, that’s an easy one for me! I’ve never fussed much about clothing my entire life. I dress presentable yet simple. I even have a bunch of plain t-shirts and I wear my jeans more than twice!

  20. Tammy says

    I’ve never posted but I LOVE your site Courtney. I have been doing the project 333 for about 2 years now. Since we don’t include workout/pjs I could seriously go down to about 12 items. Now with that being said, I work from home. BUT I just started that this last month – I did the project 333 for the last 2 years and worked out of the home and it went fine. I am excited to try even less now.

  21. Jerilyn says

    I’ve been moving this way for a while. It started when none of my clothes fit after my last pregnancy! And two years later, i’ve gotten rid of the clothes that don’t fit well or that i dislike. I still have a handful of pants I would like to fit in (mainly because they were brand new when I got pregnant :(. ) I have used pinterest, my current closet, and this website to make a “summer capsule.” I will fill in the gaps using my birthday money at a thrift store. I plan on most of my wardrobe being layer pieces so shirts can work in the warmer days and the colder days. :) I am unsure of what to do with my “skinny” clothes- after two years of trying to fit in them should i just donate them?

    • Marianne says

      Hi Jerilyn:
      I just purged my closet..I am still in the process but I got through the first “wave” and reduced about 75% of my clothes. I, too, struggled with what to do with the “skinny” clothes. I think that is a universal issue with women. What I personally resolved for myself is that most of my “skinny clothes” are at least 2 years old. I thought about it and even though I am actively trying to lose that 10-20 pounds, if/when I finally do I will want to treat myself to some new things so I purged everything that doesn’t fit me today (kept a couple things for weight fluctuation…but just a couple of things). As far as the skinny clothes issue goes, I have kept that as an incentive to myself to do what I need to do to get myself in the most healthy optimal shape/weight for me at my current age I’ll never be 20,30 or 40 again but want to be the best 50 something I can. Assembling a wardrobe for the “present” me was very liberating because even though I will always try to improve on myself, accepting myself TODAY and having a wardrobe that represents who I am today is a really big step. I find myself much happier every morning when I get ready for the day because everything in the closet represents who I am today. In a month I can change it up to reflect who I am then. But I love living in the present.

  22. Jerilyn says

    Thanks Marianne.
    I want to live in the present too. I find myself struggling with this especially because this was the pregnancy and baby that changed so much for me. I felt like I was thriving before and now I struggle just to survive. My health has declined, my energy levels stink, so on and so forth. I think the clothes are the last link to the life I used to have (i sound so dramatic as I have other older children) — probably time to let them go. I was also in a season of life that I was okay with spending money on that stuff. Now it feels like a waste since I only got to wear them for about a month.
    Clearly, my clothing (or stuff) brings/represents baggage- and dealing with that is all about what simplicity means (at least to me).

    • Marianne says

      Jerilyn:

      I’m a mother of three and they are all grown now. I can tell you that your life will never be the same as it was pre-motherhood. In many ways it is so much better. It is up to you to embrace the changes that happen in life. The process of eliminating “baggage” in life clears the way for you to take care of what really matters..your health and family. As far as energy levels…I remember about 10 years of my life that are kind of a blur…thanks to lack of sleep. Looking back what I would do differently is really pay attention to what I ate (nutrition wise) and exercise more..It would have really helped with the energy levels. I was so busy taking care of everyone else, that I forgot to take care of myself and that wasn’t good. If I had taken better care of myself…I would have had so much more of me to offer my loved ones. It’s like on an airplane…they tell you in case of an emergency for you to put the oxygen mask on you first, so you will be conscious to put one on you children. I always thought that was a good metaphor. Best wishes, from another mom.

  23. Tracey says

    Courtney you are so right! It’s none of my business what others think of me and I can’t change that anyway. It really is a huge waste of time worrying about it. I’d rather spend my energy being confident in my authentic self:)

    • Laurie says

      “I’d rather spend my energy being confident in my authentic self.” Tracy, thank you for that! It resonates with me. My authentic self likes pants, boots, and simple tops but I let myself get rattled sometimes by the “more feminine” dressers I work with. Yet I am what I am, and that’s a gal who likes, is comfortable in, and looks just fine in pants and boots (even though I live in Hawaii!) vs. dresses and heels. I just need to remember my authentic self. :)

      • Tracey says

        Kudos to you Laurie! Once I wrapped my head around that concept, things became so much easier moving forward in all aspects of my life. My husband & I have been researching Hawaii for retirement- which island do you live on?

  24. Amy says

    As a store manager and buyer of a large scale clothing boutique, I am surrounded by fashion everyday. After 11 years at my job, the constant preoccupation with acquiring the latest and greatest is starting to weigh on my soul, and I’m beginning to ask myself more often then ever…wouldn’t I benefit from spending less time thinking about clothes?! I am so happy I stumbled upon this inspiring website, and look forward to beginning to de clutter not only my closet but my self.

  25. Ginny says

    Dear Courtney,

    Could I ask what area of the country you live in? I am outside of Phila. PA and have pared down from 77 to 63 items. The weather changing so drastically that I don’t know if I can get to 33. We do not really have spring weather here very long, so I don’t buy for spring; just use a couple of scarves.

    Thanks,

    Ginny

    • Linda Sand says

      Ginny,

      I live in Minnesota. I have short-sleeve shirts for summer, long sleeve shirts for fall and spring, then I layer one each for winter. With a couple different jackets I can dress for anything with those combinations. I am retired and live in an RV part time; my closet in it is only 2′ wide yet it holds all my clothes including coats and underwear (including silk long underwear for when it gets really cold.) You can do this once you get your mind wrapped around the concept of layers. But some silky t-shirts and see where they take you.

    • Courtney Carver says

      Hi Ginny, I live in Utah. Our Spring will be temps in the 30’s up to 80’s 90’s and Fall can get even cooler and warmer. Some of my 33 items are only good for the first or last few weeks of the season.

  26. Julia says

    I have been a minimalist for a long time, but still learning! The Minimalists taught me to only own/wear what I love. I was being way too utilitarian in the past. That you so much for #3, 4, & 6. I practice #1 and it is easier if you don’t work, but if I did return to the workforce I would stick with it. So much less stress.

  27. Astrid says

    I didn’t do this project, but started about 4 years ago, trying to find out which clothes work for me and which don’t.

    Like some of the posts above, it’s definitely about stuff that fits me. That’s a biggy as I’m petite and not all stores sell XS sizes. I learned to wear stuff that was way too large, growing up in in the 80s, with the oversized fashion.

    So I got rid of everything that wasn’t my size. Then I made stacks of each type of clothes, and would cycle through each and every one of them for a day. If I had to put something back because it wouldn’t work that day (other than colour matching) then it got labelled as suspect, and a second time it just got disposed of.

    Later I learned to judge much quicker if it just didn’t work at all, and most of the time when I wanted to put something back, there was something inconvenient about it. Like the sleeves are three quarters, so they get bunched up when putting on a coat. Just stuff I didn’t want to deal with.

    All those got eliminated, and nothing with those characteristics got bought back.

    Much out, very little in. And I have learned so much. I know my colours, and I know my styles. I end up with body hugging, plain styled stuff, and that I like stylish prints or colours to compensate the simplicity.

    I’m in awe of those who can make outfits. I never learned the skill and have been wanting to do that too. I have a lovely set of clothes put forward for the Summer, and don’t need to buy a single item, as far as I can tell. I can’t say I’m making do with 33 or less, but the space in my closet is growing, and the usefulness of what’s left is also growing.

    The one that struck me in your post was: “to discover what matters, you have to get rid of everything that doesn’t.”

    This is a biggie. I’ll be pondering on it for a while. It feels like that’s what I’m trying to do to my living environment (tossing unused stuff) and my clothes (only have what works) and my activities (not be sucked into things that aren’t me anymore). It’s a Long Long road, but I want to discover what matters, so I’m still eliminating.

    Thank you.

    Thank you!

  28. Toni says

    I donated a lot but cannot get to 33 yet. I work in an office & the females are always talking about what everyone is wearing, but I no longer care. It feels great!! But I have my office work clothes, church clothes, and running around clothes. Then I have “work around the house clothes”. I also have summer & winter clothes. This is really difficult. But I love it.

  29. says

    Switching out my closet from winter to summer today. Just saying that implies waaaaayyyy too much stuff! But the good news is that I will be keeping you and your blog in mind as I do so! Glad I found you!

  30. moya says

    A Frenchwoman I worked for as an au pair had a really tiny wardrobe-a black pencil skirt,a navy pencil skirt,a white t shirt and a light blue t shirt shaped top, a coral silk blouse a stone coloured cardigan,a black dress and a mac coat. In her summer hamper she kept her black bikini her muslin ethnic sundress and a straw hat. That was it!!