Project 333: Lessons from an Experiment

Project 333: Lessons from an Experiment

Remembering the Beginning

Where it started

About 4 months ago I posted a blog about my participation in a personal experiment known as Project 333.  I asked my readers, and myself, could you live for 3 months with only 33 articles of clothing?

I was all for it. I had quit my corporate job in July and put away all of my slacks, suits and dress shirts in favor of shorts, jeans and t-shirts for my new job.  I had been in that new job for 4 months when I made the decision to pack away the majority of my clothes and settle on just 33 items.

“That’s EASY” you might say, especially considering I could pretty much wear to work what I would wear on the weekends, so not much variety or creativity was really necessary when it came to picking out 33 items, or so it would seem.

December 31st, New Years Eve is when I sat down, went through all of my clothes and filled up around 8 large storage boxes full of clothes, shoes, jackets, hats, etc.  It was liberating, but at the same time a little scary.  Not only was I planning out the clothes I would wear for the next 3 months, I was also planning out the clothes I would wear in California for work, where at the worst it was 50* and raining.  I also had to plan for a trip to upstate New York, as Juliet and I were leaving on January 4th for Rochester and 20* (and below) and snowing.

All in all, the decisions were not hard, but I wanted to be dedicated to this and prove to myself that I could do it.  Little did I know how my life would change and how much this would help me through it.

Changes in Latitudes

We're not in California anymore, Toto

Not 7 days after packing up all of my excess clothes, Juliet accepted a job that would move us back to upstate New York, a little faster than we anticipated.  When she accepted the job, we were thinking March 1st or even March 15th.  Perfect, 2 more months in Southern California, 2 more months of shorts, t-shirts and sandals.

Then the news came.  Juliet starts her new job February 7th, which means we are on a one way plane to New York on February 3rd.

So I quit my job and started realizing that I wouldn’t really miss it.

When it came to moving, we were moving into temporary housing, so we didn’t have to move everything, just our essentials to live in a hotel for 4-6 months.  The last few weeks leading up to moving were quite stressful, packing, planning, booking airfare, renting cars, figuring out just what in the world I was going to do.

“But what does this have to do with Project 333??”

Thanks to Project 333, while my wife packed all of her clothes for work, casual, gym, etc, and filled 5-6 boxes, my clothes fit in 1. This was somewhat due to the fact that Juliet was packing for work, casual and everything else, where I did not have to pack for work, however, the only thing I altered in my Project 333 clothing list when we moved was the addition of 2 pairs of shoes and a few sweatshirts.

Lessons Learned

After reading more from Courtney Carver of Be More With Less, the originator of this challenge, as well as reading more from others who were participating, this “challenge” is not so much of a challenge to force yourself into “living like a poor person” as some people like to put it, rather, it is a challenge to the mindset of what is really needed in life.

The major takeaway I have from this is a shift in the mindset of choosing clothes on a daily basis.  I cannot honestly recall one time, from January until now, where I have uttered the words “I don’t know what I want to wear today?”  I can pick out matching clothes with absolutely no effort, whether that is going out for the night, running errands or hanging out with friends.  I can worry about getting busy living my life and not worry about what clothes I am going to wear.

Current Numbers

Jumping into the 2nd round of Project 333, we are encouraged to update our wardrobe and switch out any items we want for the next 3 months and put away others we wont need.  While I applaud those who do it, I have taken more of a permanent approach to the lifestyle.  While I might not live with 33 items, I keep the number low and have limited my spending on new clothes.

Here is my current tally of all the clothing items I have with me in NY:

  • 38 T-Shirts (16 I consider “outer-wear”, 7 undershirts, 15 shirts for around the house)
  • 5 Collared Shirts
  • 8 Sweatshirts/Jackets
  • 14 Workout shirts
  • 2 Workout shorts
  • 4 Jeans
  • 3 Shorts (1 I consider “outer-wear”)
  • 1 Sweats (loungewear)
  • 2 Slacks
  • 4 Collared Work Shirts (will only wear to work)
  • 6 Baseball Hats
  • 3 Beanies (loungewear)
  • 4 belts
  • 7 Pairs of shoes (1 pair snow boots, 2 pairs running shoes, 4 pairs causal shoes)

Quite the far cry from 33 items, isn’t it?  By my count, for Project 333 numbers, I am at 45 items, as although I have “work clothes” I have not had the need to wear them, nor do I see the need in the foreseeable future.

I have gotten more comfortable wearing my workout shirts instead of t-shirts when heading out, as they handle the dry and wet a little better.  Out of the 14 I have, there are 6 that I will wear out.  I could (and probably will) put about 20-25 items into a storage box, as I am not wearing them, so don’t really need them right now.

Conclusion

The more options you have in your life, the more opportunity you have to be indecisive and waste your time hemming and hawing over the correct decision. I have chosen the path of reducing my wardrobe to quality, versatile pieces that take away the “what do I want to wear today” question out of the mix.  I can now worry about more important things, such as where I am going, who am I spending time with and how I am going to make the most out of my life. I can concentrate on living my life and spend less time worrying about things completely within my control.

 

Have you ever done anything like this? Consolidated all of your clothes into a backpack to see the world? Just downsized to simplify your life?  I would love to hear your insights on what paring down your wardrobe taught you about yourself. Let me know in the comments below!

 

Justin Hamlin

Justin Hamlin is the founder of <a href="http://www.justinhamlin.com">Get Busy Livin'</a>, a blog founded on collaboration and story telling, dedicated to inspiring himself and others to get busy living their lives. He is a writer, photographer, computer nerd, story teller and world traveler. He calls New York home when him and his wife are not hunting down adventure, exploring the east coast or jet setting around the world. You can follow Justin on <a href="http://www.justinhamlin.com">Get Busy Livin'</a>, <a href="http://www.twitter.com/justinhamlin">Twitter</a> or <a href="http://www.facebook.com/GetBusyLivin">Facebook</a>.

  • That’s a great experiment, although I WISH I had 33 pieces of clothing – I can’t fit that many in my backpack so for the last 2 years I think I’ve probably lived with around 20 or so.

    I agree with you though, it is much easier. Picking out what to wear takes no time at all. I thought this whole idea of living on just a few items of clothing would be difficult, but it’s actually easier – and much more freeing.

    • Yeah yeah yeah. You backpackers you. I got a similar response from Ayngelina on my first Project 333 post. I guess if I was traveling the world, the amount of clothes I had wouldn’t be a problem, but comparatively, I do not really have many clothes, in fact, I just put 1/3 of my clothes away in another box, so I am down to about 2 small drawers of clothes and a few pairs of jeans/shorts. Its amazing, and I still feel like I have more than I use!

  • So the challenge would be easy for me since I live out of a backpack but I totally agree its best to have fewer options. I only buy things I love and it takes much less time to find something to wear. If I ever go back to having a closet I’m taking this lesson with me.

    • Yeah, you guys are not great comparisons 🙂

      It is a great experiment to learn more about yourself and what you consider a necessity.