Taking on the original capsule wardrobe challenge

What is it about completing a challenge that feels so damn good?

Is it the illusory sense that an uncaring universe is giving you a pat on the head?

Is it the feeling that you’ve somehow got one over on your usually lazy, fickle or easily distracted nature by dazzling it with arbitrary goals?

I’m not sure. All I know is, I seem to love gauntlets being thrown down on me so much, that I’ve taken to chucking them on myself.

The MinsGame challenge? Mastered.
Eat my five-a-day for a straight month? Gobbled.
Go to a meditation class once a month for a straight year? Tackled.

But this month, I realised there was one canonical simplicity challenge I’d overlooked. Goddamn.

Project 333 is so mainstream now, you find it getting a mention in all sorts of places, from documentaries to magazines.

If you don’t know, it’s a challenge invented by Courtney Carver of Be More with Less, which involves wearing just 33 items of clothing for three months.

This includes shoes, accessories and jewellery, but excludes a wedding ring, undercrackers, nightwear and exercise clothing. And no, you’re not allowed to cheat and just wear pyjamas or gym clothes around the house, sadly, which means I will seriously have to rethink my weekend wardrobe.

Perhaps I hadn’t ever bothered with Project 333 before, because I had a sneaking suspicion that it wouldn’t be much of a challenge. I don’t have a huge wardrobe and tend to wear the same outfits over and over again already.

At least that’s what I thought. I got out all my clothes and counted up the items I’d have to whittle down to 33. I got to nearly 80 items before I even started on my jewellery collection.

All my clothes
All my clothes…
All my shoes
…and all my shoes. Now for some difficult choices. Heels or wellies?

Then came the tougher-than-expected job of selecting my capsule wardrobe. I had to plan ahead for what I’d need to wear in the next three months.

This will include a foreign holiday somewhere very hot, requiring shorts and sandals I’d be unlikely to wear much at home.

It will also cover a family celebration involving not one but two fairly dressy parties on back-to-back nights. Two dresses, two pairs of fancy shoes, two sets of jewellery…my allocation was going to get eaten up pretty fast at this rate. And I definitely can’t wear pyjamas to work, you say?

In the end, I selected 30 items, and left three slots empty, which I’m calling my ‘wildcard’ slots. It means if my initial choices turn out to be terribly misjudged, I can choose another three items I might find I desperately need as the months go by.

The shoes I opted to include
The shoes I opted to include
The rest of the clothes I chose
The rest of the clothes I chose. As an aside, can you guess which side of the bed the minimalist sleeps on?

That was ten days ago and I seem to have been doing okay (although I’m regretting not including a scruffy pair of shoes to walk the dog in). I’ve also told a couple of non-minimalist friends and family members about the challenge I’d taken on, and they all replied with the same baffled question.

‘Why?’

I guess the honest answer is, I like arbitrary challenges and completing them gives me a sense of control over my life in what appears to be an increasingly chaotic and dangerous world. I can’t intervene in international diplomacy, so instead I can wear the same clothes for quarter of a year and pretend it’s an achievement.

But I thought that answer might be a bit too heavy for a brunch.

‘Just to see if I can,’ I replied.

The rest of my clothes packed away until July
The rest of my clothes packed away until July

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6 thoughts on “Taking on the original capsule wardrobe challenge

  1. Karen (Scotland) says:

    Fancy events are a challenge. I have a miraculous dress that my sister gave me ten years ago. Miraculous as it has fitted me from size 18 down to 10 and back up to 14 (it’s like a silky Lycra and just sort of drapes), it doesn’t need ironed, it’s a classy geometric black and white. I swear to goodness no-one has noticed or, if they have, they don’t care enough to mention it! 🙂

    I like random challenges too – they let you focus and test yourself.
    And, yes, gives you a vague feeling of control when opening the News app has your stomach clenching every morning…

  2. Chistine says:

    I’ve also never done project 333, though I think my wardrobe is already a capsule wardrobe. I’ve never counted everything together and I guess I should just to see.

    I’m not sure swapping out 4 times a year is the right system for me. I’m curious to count, though, just to see.

    1. That’s a good point, is it better to have a slightly larger wardrobe if it lasts all the year round? I can see that storing out-of-season clothes might be an issue in a smaller living space.

  3. Nat says:

    Your posts make me chuckle.
    Like yourself, I’m wearing the same clothes all the time. I like that I don’t need to stand there and choose for ages. It’s pretty much a mixture of black, white, grey and occasional colour. I hate shopping with a passion, I only buy something if I really need it.
    Regarding holidays, before we went to Italy last summer I read an article about a couple who travelled many countries and took only one outfit each. I though, hmm, I want to try this as I always take more than needed. I took two outfits, a very light dress that doesn’t need ironing, a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. It was so liberating! I spent zero minutes thinking of what to wear. My husband and two children took only a few things too. As s result a family of four travelled for a week with two tiny hand luggage bags. Good luck with your new challenge!

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