Why Project 333 is Not For Me │How to Have a Minimal Wardrobe that Works for You

Have you read the book Project 333? The book is interesting and inspiring and the gist of it is this: wear only 33 pieces of clothing for three months. 

Here's the problem: I can't do only 33 pieces of clothing in my wardrobe.

A picture of a clothing closet
This is my closet (there are another
15 pairs of shoes not shown 
here.) There are seven dresses
on the left.

Nope. Can't. 

It's not that I can't physically do it. I am a minimalist, I know what a minimalist wardrobe is all about, and when I read Courtney Carver's book, Project 333, I thought, "Wow, that sure takes some serious minimalistic dedication."

That's coming from me. A minimalist. Someone who's been paring down, minimizing, and choosing slow living for the last seven years.

So, what gives? Why is this such a problem for me? And how can anyone who is looking to pare down their wardrobe be a minimalist if even the minimalist of minimalist (that's me) can't do it?

I'll tell you why. And it's simple: I don't want to do it.

And there's the rub.

I love clothes. I really do. And not only do I love clothing, but I sell vintage clothing. I look at vintage materials with a longing that even my coffee doesn't get. I love vintage fabrics, from quality tweeds, thick cotton, linen that hangs just right, and silk and denim that oozes with depth and patina. Clothing is a part of me.

I realize that this isn't a valid argument for holding onto clothes. We all love lots of things but that doesn't mean we need to keep them. But, for me, this is one area separate from most of my minimalistic lifestyle. It's a minimalism that is average, not extreme.

I love collecting, and I love vintage mugs and jewelry. I love jeans and jackets and I love collecting vintage Pyrex. But most of those things didn't cause me to stand up and say "Hold on now. Let's rethink this whole minimalism thing." I got rid of stuff in all of those categories easily and swiftly.

I'll gladly pair down things that don't belong in my life (even Pyrex one day, I swear... it's thrifting the stuff that I enjoy so much).

But get rid of my denim? Wait a second. Get rid of all of my vintage cardigans? Hold on now.

So here's where I'm going with this: Minimalism is wonderful. It has transformed my life. I've simplified everything, my stress load has diminished, and I feel like I can think and breathe and truly live in my home in peace. I've never felt better. Never.

But minimalism doesn't look the same on everyone. We don't all have to be the same type of minimalist. Courtney Carver was able to do 33 items every three months. That's a wonderful thing! But that idea is almost insurmountable to me.

Here's why I can't (and won't) do Project 333.

1. I need more variety:  I only have about 85 pieces of clothing in my entire wardrobe, including the shorts and t-shirt drawer. This is coming from someone who used to own upwards of 150 in her closet. I've minimized it drastically. But, sometimes, I need a few more sweaters than, say, two for winter. I need seven sweaters because I wear all seven sweaters and I'm happy with that. 

Is that excessive? Not if I'm wearing them. I don't feel bad about it. I love my vintage Aran sweater, and I love my vintage Norwegian sweater and it's sitting right up against my Cowichan cardigan sweater in my closet. They are all different and all beautiful. Variety is the spice of life, after all. 

Now, do I need 15 sweaters? No. I know this because I've pared down to seven from those 15. I find the perfect number of each item of clothing to be, not so coincidentally, about seven (future post coming about that). But I need the variety it gives me. I need to be creative with my wardrobe choices. And 33 items total won't cut it.

2. I love seeing all my options: Hiding away fall, winter, and spring clothing during the summer doesn't work for me either. I need options. I need to be able to take a long sleeve and pair it with shorts. Here in northern California, our day's temperature ranges can dramatically shift. Like over 40 degrees some days.

 It can be 32 degrees in the morning to then hit a high of 78 degrees later. Or it can be a low of 62 and reach a high of 102 later. 

We have to dress in layers. So hiding away my spring and fall clothing when I need them -- even in summer -- is counterintuitive. And this goes for every season. Our winters can be extremely mild, so hiding my short sleeves - the very ones I need to wear underneath my sweaters so I can peel off the sweater later - only aggravates me. I need all of my clothes in front of me. I need to visually see it all.

 Maybe it's a touch of OCD, but I don't care. This is what works for me. 

3. My minimalism isn't as minimalistic as her minimalism: And that's okay! It really is. I could do 33 items in three months, but if I did, it would be like watching a part of myself die. Sounds dramatic when I write it out that way. But as someone who is directly involved in fashion, from the love of fabric, the desire for quality vintage designs and creations, for craftsmanship and quality, to have a closet that hides what I love is like smashing my heart and putting it back into my body. It's just not going to work right.

What makes my mind come alive is having enough choices to create outfits that work for me, but not so many items that my wardrobe is stuffed (and with unworn pieces littered throughout it).

So, at the end of the day, it's about balance. And I need more clothing for my minimalistic wardrobe. If you can do 33 items in three months, more power to you. That is awesome. And maybe for one season (probably summer, since it requires fewer items to wear in general), I'll give it a go. I'd like to try it and see if I'm missing out on something important.

A closet up of shoes in a closet
My shoes
But for me, my minimalism journey looks like 85 items, 365 days a year — and that's not including shoes (28 pairs), jackets (10), or my underthings or yoga clothing drawer or accessories.

If you're interested in minimizing your wardrobe, I would recommend Carver's book. 100%. It's a fascinating read, she's a great author, and her concept hits home in all the right minimalism areas. But, if you're a little bit more like me, someone who showcases their creativity in what they wear, then 33 items for three months is too restrictive. 

Read the book, and find what works for you. If you need to hammer down that gavel in your wardrobe courtroom, then by all means, be ruthless. Pare down to bare bones. But if you need a little more creativity, then don't feel pressured to be so severe. I didn't and I'm happy. This is what works for me.

As always, less is more... but not if you're miserable. Be a happy minimalist. You don't have to be an extremist to be successful (unless that is what you want.)

Remember, minimalists come in all shapes and sizes. And mine looks like Project 85/365.



  1. Love this and 100 percent agree with you, it's all about balance and finding what works for you!

    1. Thank you for your comment! ♥ I'm glad to hear I'm not alone in this. Ha.