Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Pierre Bastien of http://www.pierrebastien.net/
Look at the clothes in your closet or dresser. What do you see?
Most likely you’ll see a mixture of items: some you wear all the time, and others you haven’t worn for years. Some clothes you want to wear more often, and a few you’ll never wear again but are keeping for sentimental reasons.
Now pay attention to the emotional content of your closet. Some clothes you love and wear all the time. Other clothes you remember fondly, but haven’t worn in a while. Usually there are clothes you regret buying, but have never had the heart to get rid of. It’s more than just a bunch of clothes in there.
Cleaning out your wardrobe is both a practical and an emotional challenge. Granted, there are some items that are easy to purge. But going deeper than that, well, it feels daunting, right? At least, it was for me.
Project 333 can help.
Let’s take it back a bit. A year ago, I lived in New York City, land of the small closet. Luckily, I didn’t have tons of room to let my clothes grow into. I was forced to have a simple wardrobe. Then I moved to Philadelphia, and began working from home 4 days a week, which meant I needed even fewer clothes than before. On top of that, I started steeping myself in the concepts of minimalism, reading Minimalist Business by Everett Bogue and theThe Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life by Leo Babauta. All of a sudden I was tracking down minimalist bloggers all over the Internet. I was inspired to free up my energy by simplifying my life in all areas. Yet, I still found it difficult to think about cleaning out my closet.
That’s when I learned about Project 333. On October 1st, 2010, I saw a post from minimalist blogger Joshua Becker saying that he had decided to join the fun. I hadn’t heard of the project or Courtney’s blog prior to that. Even though it was starting that day, I immediately jumped in. This was a golden opportunity to put minimalist theory into practice.
Project 333 imposes some simple constraints: wear only 33 items for 3 months. There’s a bit more to it, a few exceptions, but that’s the basic idea. The numbers themselves aren’t that important. 33 items. 3 months. They’re somewhat arbitrary. Every person’s needs are different. Every person’s habits are different. I knew that working from home 4 days a week, I’d have an easier time of it than most, so I tried to wear even fewer items (I ended up wearing 26 things). The valuable piece of the exercise is not the number of items, though, but in the fact that you’re drawing a line somewhere in the sand.
Why impose artificial constraints on yourself? It’s a means of bringing out your natural creativity. Think of Shakespeare wrangling iambic pentameter. Or if you prefer, Jay-Z bending lyrics into 4/4 time. The constraints are just an exercise to get you thinking creatively.
If your goal is to declutter and become more mindful of what you wear, you could go through your closet and drawers, take account of what you already have, and try to pare down from there. This approach will work for some, but without constraints, you risk being tripped up by the emotional components of the exercise. Oh, I can’t throw out that, I was wearing it that time a supermodel smiled at me 10 years ago. Or, my mom gave me that. Or, I paid $200 for that and I don’t wear it but I haven’t gotten my money’s worth.
Project 333 is not a traditional decluttering exercise. The constraints imposed by Project 333 help you view things on from an entirely different perspective. You are not making a value judgement on every piece of clothing in your closet. Instead, you are asking yourself, what are the absolute essentials? What do I need to survive? Asking yourself what you need to survive is a fundamentally different way to approach the problem.
If you only needed to survive, you could probably make due with just 10 pieces of clothing. You need protection from the elements, and that’s about it. Of course, the remaining balance of your 33 items will consist of what you need to survive in society. This means you’ll ask yourself questions like, will people think less of me if I’m not always wearing something new? Why do I feel a need to vary my clothes to the extent I currently do? If I wear the same thing to work every day, will people look at me funny? Do I care? Should I care? These are some of the deeper questions that Project 333 causes you to ask yourself.
Once you’ve narrowed down your clothing choices and started living with them, you’ll have a sharper understanding of what you truly need on a day-to-day basis. After you’ve lived with a limited wardrobe for 3 months, it’ll be far easier to purge nonessential items from your life. You won’t have quite the same emotional attachment to all the marginal items in your closet. You’ll develop the confidence to break up with your old clothes. After all, it’s easier when you’ve had some time apart. Oh yeah, and you’ll be more careful about buying new clothes in the future.
I highly recommend participating in Project 333. Almost everyone has something to gain from becoming aware of the clothes they own and use. It doesn’t matter if you’re just learning about Project 333 and it’s partway through the 3 months. You don’t need anyone’s permission to join. You don’t even need to stick to the official rules if you don’t want to. The most important thing is to look at what you’ve got, decide what your constraints will be, and jump in.