The Dress with Less Challenge

Minimalist Fashion Project 333 participants start month 3 today. While watching the snow come down, it is hard to believe that I had to build tank tops in into my collection of 33 for 90 degree days less than 60 days ago. I think that is a true testament to the ease of  living with less in your closet. What I thought was enough, was clearly way too much.

While the project seems easy to me, there are a few things I miss, and others participating miss things too or wish they had planned differently. I posed the question on Facebook and here is what readers had to say:

Beverly Army Williams Wish I had a trench coat to put on the list. Glad I didn’t put any earrings on it.

Mike Schumacher I have a polo shirt that I could have changed out. Maybe for a pair of gloves, a different shirt, or a heavier jacket.

Mary Barzee I’m also a bit cold. Wish I had a thicker pair of leggings and a thicker/warmer long cardigan. I have two button-up work shirts that I haven’t worn yet, or ironed. :-) But I’ve been having fun with the clothes I do have. I’ve been wearing this skinny yellow belt at least three times a week. Great project. Love it!

See all the comments here:

Project 333 may still be in the last month of phase 1, but we are already gearing up for phase 2! This will include new rules, a new website and many new people to add to the fun. If you’ve been watching, but haven’t been ready to take the leap, now is your chance. I interviewed three people taking part in Project 333 so you could see what it’s all about.

Angie Meeks

What have you found to be the biggest benefit of Project 333?I find less is more; my wardrobe with project 333 includes my favorite most flattering pieces and helps present me in a way that I like.  I have 1/3 of the laundry I had before and I know what pieces I can wear, instead of being overwhelmed by a plethora of clothes.

If you could change or add a rule to Project 333, what would it be? My one rule of project 333 that I would add is, I would want to be able to swap out clothes that are too worn for replacement items.  I have been doing this anyway as I was too rough on a pair of jeans and my knees have bad holes.  I’ve been trying to mend clothes at first signs, but clothes worn too much just don’t repair very easily.

Has anyone noticed that you are dressing with less? No one has really noticed my change in wardrobe.  I still get complimented on clothes, but its different, its not so much about pieces, its more about the overall outfit and me.

Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience? I find that my form of minimalism includes more colors. The only items I really haven’t worn too much are my white button up shirts.  Everything else has been worn, and aside from one pair of jeans I first chose, everything has held up really well.  I think without project 333, I’d still have worn under 33 items just from habit and unconscious trending, but with project 333, the pieces are a lot more cohesive as an overall wardrobe and help represent me in a way that reflects my true self and how I want to be seen.

Keep up with Angie on her blog Angie & Ryan or follow her on Twitter.

Cheryl Breuer

What motivated you to start Project 333? I know so many people that have trouble saving money—I used to be one of them—yet they are constantly buying more and more stuff. When I launched my own blog in September, I knew I wanted to write about how I broke my addiction to stuff. In my research I discovered the minimalist movement and some of the minimalist bloggers out there such as Tammy Strobel of Rowdy Kittens and Leo Babauta of Zen Habits. Before then I only understood “minimalism” as a design term and not a lifestyle.

I’m recently married and my husband and I moved into an older home with small bathrooms and small closets. We had to divide our clothes among 3 closets to accommodate everything. It was inefficient and frustrating. Project 333 made “cleaning out the closet” sound hip and fun, and not like me being a nagging wife.

Have you felt limited in your pared down wardrobe selection? A little, yes, but it’s partly my own fault. There are a few items on my list that haven’t been as versatile as I thought they would be. I’ve also felt limited by the lack of color in my wardrobe. I stuck with mostly black, grey, and tan pieces so I could mix and match. It feels very drab, especially since I don’t have many accessories on the list. If I brought a few more colorful camisoles, scarves, and necklaces back into my wardrobe, I think I could mix things up enough to keep my wardrobe this minimal, or close to it.

Have you considered applying the principles of Project 333 to other areas of your life? Definitely. We recently pared down the amount of furniture in our living room and the space feels so much better. Also, before I put away the jewelry that didn’t make the Project 333 cut, I took out anything I no longer wear and donated it to my coworkers. Seeing them wearing and enjoying the jewelry inspired me to donate some bigger items that I’ve been reluctant to part with. I have some beautiful vintage furniture that won’t work in our current home, but I’ve been keeping it in the basement anyway for “some day.” The truth is, however, we plan to live in this home for many years, and keeping those beautiful things hidden away isn’t helping anyone. Allowing someone else to use and enjoy them seems much more respectful.

Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience?Project 333 is an excellent lesson in humility. You can’t exactly be full of ego and pride when you’re wearing the same pants three days in a row.

Keep up with Cheryl on Twitter or visit her blog, Peculiar Girl.

Thanks so much to Angie and Cheryl for answering these questions and to ALL the amazingly adventurous people dressing with less. If you are up for the challenge and want to join in, now is the time! Join the facebook page, search #project333 on twitter, get started and watch for more information. Email me with questions and connect with others who have decided that life is better, living with less.

Naomi Selden interviewed me for The Times Union in Albany, NY and the interview will be published in Sunday’s paper! You can see the blog version here.

Update: Since I wrote this post in 2010, Project 333 continues to grow and simplify wardrobes around the world. Learn more and join in …


  1. says

    So glad to hear there’s going to be another round. I’ve been interested in joining, but didn’t really find out about Project 333 until the second month, and I wanted to fully learn about it then.

    Will you let us know the details soon? Thanks!

    • says

      Lisa, Most of the core rules will stay the same but I am posting “next steps” on the Facebook Page over the course of this month. Stay tuned and welcome aboard!

  2. e says

    I have been a quiet participant in the 333 project and I am absolutely loving it. I’m glad you’ve posted an update with “lessons learned”. Here are a few of mine:

    1) There are a few (about 6) things out of my 33 I have never worn! Yikes! I don’t want to get rid of them, yet, because I love them and they look amazing on me – but they aren’t quite as convenient to wear, and when it is cold, I want to get clothes on as fast as possible – seconds count!

    2) I need a simple black t-shirt to serve as an undershirt – I didn’t own one before the challenge, and there are many times when I would have worn one of my cardigans, but have lacked something simple to wear under it. So I will be adding that to my closet.

    3) I should have included both my (identical) pairs of jeans, as one is generally in the laundry hamper. Actually, to be honest, I have added in the second pair.

    4) I LOVE shopping for clothes, but my new mantra is “there will be something just as cute next season.” 333 has helped me realize that I already have cute clothes that don’t get enough wear, and so even if I love an item, buying it won’t necessarily help me.

    5) The item that is getting the most use is one I ALMOST didn’t include – a white, knit, cowl-neck dress that I wear either as a dress with tights or as a sweater over pants. It is cute either way, and makes me feel like I have two separate outfits. I can’t believe it almost didn’t make the cut!

    6) My closet looks GREAT with less stuff (though it is still cramped, because I share a single, small closet with my fiance).


  3. says

    I’m SO glad I added my scarves to the mix, because they turn my shirts & sweaters into substitute turtlenecks, which is good now that it’s snowing outside! I’ve worn everything in my collection at least once, and my half the closet looks so roomy and serene ;D

  4. says

    Thank you for sharing the progress with this challenge! I was not at a point where this would be a priority with me, howver I have been purging many areas of my home, books and clothes being a major part of that.
    I may consider the thought of joining in the next round, although I will have to see where my life is at that moment! Even just reading these interviews gets me motivated to see if I can do with less!

    • says

      Keep me posted if you decide to give it a go. I will do a kick off post in January and include bloggers that are writing about their Project 333 experience.

  5. says

    Thanks for sharing your experience with the Project 333. I can relate to the old home with a small bathroom and closets. My own home is a few years short of 100. You can tell that things like the bathroom and closets were an not an importance back then.

    Over this past summer my frustration grew to the point I just donated all of my clothing expect for what I needed for work and a few leisure outfits. I’ve never been happier.

    • says

      I have always donated clothes each season but until I deliberately committed to living with less, my closet was always overflowing. I used to get a little burst of happiness when I brought a bag of clothes out of the house, but now, enjoying a quiet closet and fewer choices gives me happiness all the time!

  6. says

    I’ve been quietly stalking the challenge, following others posts and progress. I absolutely love the pictures and the posts — thanks for sharing your journeys! I am intrigued, but perhaps overwhelmed? I’ve been focusing on decluttering my whole house, and I have taken about 6 trips with trunk-fulls of bags of clothes and personal items to Salvation Army over the last few months. So, I am making overall progress. The more I read, the more I realize it’s about making choices for items that are interchangeable and intermixable, complement each other, and fit great. I am working on streamlining my wardrobe in order to whittle it down to closer to 33 items…but I feel like I need a professional stylist or something! Or actually to just steal a friend for an afternoon who will watch me try on all my outfits and help me decide what stays and what goes in the final cut, lol. Maybe I’ll have a minimalist fashion party? Instead of a clothing swap, everyone pack up their wardrobes and bring ’em to my house, we try things on, make our outfits, and sort out our new wardrobes — then we all donate everything else. Anyone want to come? :)

    • Courtney Carver says

      Clara, It sounds like you are making great progress. My suggestion is to pick three or four “signature” items and then keep the rest really simple and functional. Don’t feel pressured to get rid of everything else, but box it up and see what it’s like without it.

  7. Ryan Mitchell says

    I love this concept. I’ve recently starting making more trips to Goodwill with books & other stuff from my 1,000 square foot home. My wife donated all of her shoes except 11 of them. Yeaaaa for earthquake path living in San Diego is great. Anyhow wonderful concept. Thanks. – RYAN

  8. says

    Clothes are my Achilles’ heel. I can remember when I was 14 thinking how great that I had seven (7!) days worth of outfits to wear to school without repeats. Now I have two closets full of clothes wearing me down, not to mention sweaters, etc., in dresser drawers! I’m probably long past due to pare down, so I will be following your new challenge closely…hopefully participating!

  9. Keira says

    I considered doing the 333 Challenge when it was originally proposed, but realized that I had no desire to go without access to my jewelry for that long. Most of the jewelry I wear is sentimental or symbolic. The feeling behind not wanting to give it up for 3 months wasn’t so much an unwillingness to be unadorned as it was an unwillingness to forgo the happy nostalgic feelings I get when I wear most of my pieces.

    I used to have one of those big jewelry armoire things to hold all my pieces, and it was a pain to lug with me whenever I moved. So I do understand how some people with a lot of jewelry might consider it part of the clutter. A few years ago I sold the armoire on Craigslist and put all my jewelry in one of those hanging organizers . Now it all hangs in my closet with my clothing and takes up practically no room at all.

    I will probably try the Part II Challenge when it gets rolled out, but I’m definitely going to exclude the jewelry! :)

  10. says

    I’ve been quietly wearing my 33 items for two months now. Wow, laundry is so easy! I admit I’m getting a little bored with my clothes even though I have lots of color in my t shirts. One thing I didn’t plan for–I’ve lost weight in the past two months–I simply had to change out one pair of casual slacks for a new smaller pair. I’m hoping I’ll make it another month without having to change out my dressy slacks for another size. You asked if people noticed–if they do, they’re not saying anything to me :)

    • Courtney Carver says

      Willow, Congrats on your weight loss! That’s a big accomplishment, especially this time of year.

  11. says

    This is such a great idea! I just had foot surgery on both feet but as soon as I’m mobile I’ll be inspecting my wardrobe to find out which outfits are going to cut it! Count me in!

  12. e says

    Project 333 CRISIS! :)

    Hee, hee. Not really a crisis, but let me share a story and get some advice…when I started project 333, I boxed up a LOT of clothes. I told myself, “it’s OK, you can take them out in January if you want.” Well, during project 333, I realized that I absolutely love having an emptier closet and that I don’t want to go back to ALL THAT STUFF. However, some of the things I boxed up were both sentimental AND look good on me – vintage t-shirts that belonged to my dad, dresses that were gifts from my fiance, etc.

    So here’s where I made a mistake. I KNOW I was supposed to keep the boxes closed and donate everything, but I couldn’t bear to do it. So last night, I opened them up with the intent of setting aside the bulk of the clothes to donate before the New Year.

    It didn’t go so well. So far, I’ve managed to get rid of about 1/3 of the clothes – or one large box – but that means 2/3 of the clothes are still there. Which is a LOT of clothes.

    I know opening the box was a mistake, but I remembered there were things in the box that I wanted to get out. And then I found myself wanting to keep almost everything. Any advice from other 333-ers?


    PS: I donated more stuff than I would have if I HADN’T boxed it up for three months, so progress is being made. Just very slowly.

    • Courtney Carver says

      Breathe E!

      Slow progress is an awesome accomplishment so don’t get down on yourself. My recommendation is to incorporate some of the meaningful pieces into phase two, box up the rest and see how you feel about it in March or April.

      Please remember: This project is not about being miserable. Have fun with it. You might get more feedback from other members on the Facebook page, so drop a line there as well.

      Hang in there, you are doing great!

      • e says

        Thanks, Courtney!

        Don’t worry – I’m not miserable! I love the project. :)

        I think I am having a general mini-holiday-meltdown trying to get everything in order for guests, finishing up work projects, etc., and I just wish I could have trashed everything in those boxes guilt-free. I have been working on a journey towards minimalism for a while, and some days I feel great, and some days I feel like I am not really getting anywhere.

        Today I am going to try to get rid of a few more pieces and then start thinking about my 33 items for January 1st. I’m definitely staying in the challenge and looking forward to the next three months! Wheeeeee!