Wearing Only 33 Items for 85 Days

My desire to live with less began several years ago, but I recently joined Project 333 – a minimalist fashion project from Be More With Less. The results of it are pictured above.

I realize not everyone desires to live with less, but that isn’t the point of this post. For me personally, living in a society where bigger, better and more is the norm, the idea of less can seem scary, something that is forced on you through poverty and recession.

I decided to try this project to learn a few things about myself. I wanted to find out:

What it feels like to limit my choices. Will wearing only 33 items feel good, bad, empowering, defeating? I’m not sure, but I’m curious to find out.

How this project will affect my perspective on fashion and spending money. I really have no desire to go shopping right now, except to replace a thin, cheaply made t-shirt that is pretty much useless to wear on it’s own. I have a feeling this project will help me make smarter (and fewer) shopping decisions.

How to let go of imagined social pressures. One of the driving forces behind fashion is that you don’t want to get caught wearing the same thing twice. It’s why women feel they need a new dress for every wedding or spend hours staring at a closet full of clothes with “nothing to wear.” With this project, I’m forcing myself to eliminate that fear. It’s a liberating feeling, actually.

Interested in trying the project with me?

  • When: Now until December 31, 2010
  • What: 33 items including clothing, accessories, jewelry, outerwear and shoes.
  • What not: these items are not counted as part of the 33 items – wedding ring, underwear, sleep, in-home lounge wear,Β  and workout clothing (you can only wear your workout clothing to workout).
  • I also didn’t count: snow gear, swim wear and (if applies) work uniforms
  • Extra credit: minimize the things in those categories, too.

Add them up – here are my 33 items:

  • Jeans (5)
  • Shirts (8)
  • Scarves (2)
  • Coats (2)
  • Gloves
  • Shoes/boots (3 pairs)
  • Earrings (2 pairs)
  • Belt
  • Hat
  • Purse
  • Sweaters (7)

Choosing the items was not easy, but felt like a big accomplishment. If you decide to join the project, here are some tips to keep in mind as you whittle your wardrobe:

Choose things with dual purpose. I made sure all my long-sleeve t-shirts matched with at least two sweaters so I can keep some variety. My only jewelry – two pairs of earrings – will match every single outfit.

Go neutral for shoes and accessories.

Realize you can switch-a-roo as needed. If an item isn’t working out, I can simply replace it with something else. This is a learning experience, not a competition, so be kind to yourself.

Be prepared to feel a little sad moving your (almost) entire wardrobe into storage. When the feeling first hit me, I stood still for a moment to recognize it. Wow! I was emotionally attached to my clothes! I didn’t fight the feeling, but I didn’t let it stop me from lugging those bins down to the basement, either.

Be prepared to feel awesome about it the next day. Getting ready this morning never felt so stress-free. I’ll share short monthly updates on how this project Β is going, but until then, I’m loving the way my closet looks. I’m loving that I no longer have three bins full of clothes under the bed.

I’m loving living with less.

If this post helped or inspired you, please share it. Thank you!

Check out Arrows by Melissa Gorzelanczyk, coming January 2016 from Delacorte Press/Random House. Visit her author site here.

{ 1 trackback }

How to Fix Your Broken Relationship with Stuff
November 8, 2010 at 9:33 am


1 robyn October 7, 2010 at 8:05 am

yay! glad to see you on board with this project! so far so good for me, as i hope it is for you. and it’s good to hear you talking about being kind to yourself through this process, and allowing for switching up of items – i think it’s so easy to turn this type of thing into a competition against yourself {at least, for me it is!} and to recognize that this is a process, an experiment, is such a great mentality!

2 Melissa October 7, 2010 at 6:47 pm

Hi Robyn – Thanks for stopping by. I am competitive, too, and I started feeling pressure right away not to deviate from my selections. I decided I didn’t want to put that kind of pressure on myself after all … Be well, love your blog.

3 DEEG October 7, 2010 at 3:20 pm

This made me chuckle out loud because it is so you!! You have so many nice clothes that I bet it was hard for you. This will definately give you something to write about. One thing that came to mind for me is that are you being less thrifty by not wearing youR other clothes? I mean, you’ve already bought and paid for them. I can see not buying any new clothes. I’ve decided to not buy any new clothes and wear what I have even if it’s not the latest fashion. So, this did speak to me. I totally agree that we do let the world dictate how we should look. I printed off the article and passed it around for the girls at work to read and a couple of them took copies. Keep up the great work. Love you

4 Melissa October 7, 2010 at 6:45 pm

Hi – That’s so cool that you passed out my article – thank you! One thing I noticed as I was packing up my clothes is that I hardly ever wear a good majority of them. I’ll be sure to keep you updated! Love ya!

5 Jessica October 13, 2010 at 8:11 pm

I would love to be able to do this, but I don’t think I could. My routine life as a mom/wife/career woman needs a little sprucing up with a variety of clothes and accessories πŸ™‚ Can’t wait to see what your final thoughts are on this experiment.

6 Meg November 8, 2010 at 1:12 pm

I love that greenish/yellowish (can’t tell the exact color on my computer screen) jacket. Mind me asking who makes it?

7 Melissa November 9, 2010 at 11:40 am

Hi Meg – I believe I bought that 4 years ago from Target. Thanks for stopping by!

8 Ali November 8, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Thanks for the visual. Love the gray boots. Who makes them?

9 Melissa November 9, 2010 at 11:39 am

Bare Traps. They were on clearance at Younkers last year. πŸ˜‰

10 Ashley Laurent November 11, 2010 at 1:27 am

This post was great! Looking at the rules and requirements, I’ve always thought wearing only 33 things is still too many options in the morning. I really hate thinking about what to wear, so I basically wear the same two outfits every week. I feel fortunate as a woman that is not obsessed with jewelry, make-up, shoes, etc and don’t wear them much anyways.

11 Melissa November 11, 2010 at 9:07 am

Hi Ashley – While it may sound like a lot, 33 items isn’t that much when you factor in jackets, shoes and accessories like belts. Sounds like you have a good grasp on minimalist fashion on your own! Thanks for stopping by.

12 Nancy Berger March 24, 2011 at 8:48 am

Hello Melissa – I think this is a brilliant idea! I’ve always wondered what a working ‘capsule wardrobe’ would be … can you update this pretty please? I’d be interested to know how you’d change the 33 items if you did it again … DID you do it again????

13 Melissa March 24, 2011 at 9:06 am

Hi Nancy,
I wrote about my experience a bit in this post: http://www.peaceandprojects.com/blog/2011/03/enough/
I felt constricted within 33 things, but adding just 10 extra things makes a world of different.
Thanks for stopping by!

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: