Project 333

As I’ve mentioned before, I love reading “frugal” lifestyle blogs and I’m all about trying to live a simple and mindful life. One of the big stressers in my life is any feeling of excess “stuff.” Every piece of clutter feels like it’s dragging down my calm and needling at me constantly. There’s nothing more peaceful than a tidy room, in my experience!

I’m not sure how we have the amount of clutter we do. I know I don’t need or even want much in the way of stuff and yet my home always seems to be a mess (Not Brad’s fault; my home was that way before we moved in together). A lot of it is papers. Since I’m a novelist and I run a small ebook publishing company, I have a whole lot of paper clutter: drafts of books, chapters with comments on them from my writer’s group, contracts, receipts for advertising services, etc.

Somehow my closet always seems like a wreck too, even though I hardly ever buy clothes and I think nothing of wearing the same outfit for three or four days in a row (gross, I know). When Brad and I moved in together, I cleared out a lot of my wardrobe to get rid of clothes I never wore, clothes that were falling apart, clothes that never quite looked nice so he had some closet space. Then later I also cleared out all “business” style clothes because my job didn’t require me to wear it. I put blouses, pinstripe pants, and a suit away in a vacuum bag that’s now in the guest room closet.

Yet my closet still feels too cluttered and full of junk and I stress about getting dressed. How is this possible?!

Mounds of laundry constantly needs to be put away. There are never enough hangers even after I go and buy more hangers.

The closet is contributing to my stress right now in a big way.

Now I’ve discovered a movement called Project 333, which is designed to help you minimize your wardrobe. Every three months you select 33 items for your wardrobe and pack up all the rest. When three months has passed, you take out all your clothes and redo your choice. That 33 includes jewelry, shoes, and accessories.

I read about that and I wondered if I could do it. I only ever wear one pair of shoes, I only own one handbag, and the only jewelry I ever wear is my wedding jewelry (which does not count, so my mangalasutra, bangles, and rings would not be part of the 33). Undergarments don’t count against the 33 either (I could use a bra shopping trip. That part of the closet really needs an overhaul too).

My issue is I have some wildly different styles of outfits. I have salwar kameez, I have jeans and t-shirts, I have cotton dresses, and I have saris. I also have a hec of a lot of sweaters. That’s how I keep my wardrobe good for all seasons! In the summer I wear t-shirts and in the winter I wear t-shirts with a cardigan over them.

Could I get to 33 and still keep my Indian clothes in that rotation?

Well, it’s worth a try because I can always bring back in clothes that got put away at the end of the three months. I have a ton of gorgeous saris (a couple years ago an entire Hollywood/Bollywood party was outfitted from my closet. Twenty local ladies were dressed up in my saris!), but I realistically only wear saris for holidays and once a week at Sathya Sai Baba group. I could rotate them.

After my purge, check out the mountain of clothes that will not be part of my 33! Where does it all come from?!

One reason I have a lot of clothing is that I have clothes in different sizes, since I’ve gained a lot of weight in the last few years. I’m hanging onto a couple pairs of pants from my size zero days in California. And every time I purge clothes I tell myself to get rid of them, but I just can’t do it. I’m not ready to let them go! My 33 now might include my “fat” jeans, but hopefully in three months when I redo, I can go back to some of my size 6 or 8 jeans! (I’m trying to lose weight just by eating more healthily and mindfully).

The only new clothes I’ve bought to concede to my weight are five cheap jersey dresses from Target’s maternity section. (I also bought them because we had bedbugs at the time and were traveling. I didn’t want to risk contaminating friends’ houses with bedbugs so I brought all new clothes).

But I’ve had all the jeans, those that fit and those that don’t, hanging in the same closet, which makes getting dressed really challenging. I don’t want to figure out which pants would fit me, so I just wear sweatpants!

So, here we go:

My 33 Piece Wardrobe 

  1. Jeans. I finally figured out which ones fit me.
  2. Jean “jeggings.” I know lots of people make fun of jeggings (a cross between jeans and leggings), but I love them. They’re so comfy! I took them from my mom.
  3. Maroon t-shirt. My favorite color for shirts. I have three of them, but this is the only long enough one.
  4. Blue t-shirt. I left in only my super long t-shirts and packed up shorter ones. I like them to fully cover my gut and go down at least to my hips
  5. Black t-shirt that says “Peace, Love, Joy’ in sequins
  6. Red t-shirt.
  7. Maroon floral flannel shirt.
  8. Blue floral flannel shirt. These two flannels are exactly the same except for color and they are great for layering. I put them on under the t-shirts in the fall and winter.
  9. Gray t-shirt.
  10. Lilac t-shirt
  11. Gray Salwar Suit. This one is nice and I feel like it’s really professional looking.
  12. Blue and Brown Salwar Suit. This is the one suit I had made for me when we visited Sringeri
  13. Deep Red Salwar Suit. This was a gift from another family friend given to me at our Vedic wedding. Dark red is one of my go-to colors. (I will probably wear the tops of these suits with the jeggings a fair amount to get the full use out of them.)
  14. Blue and Pink Salwar Suit. This was a gift from Brad’s faux-parents at our Vedic wedding. I love how bright it is and how it flows.
  15. Purple Salwar Suit. The decorations on this are so pretty!
  16. Blue Dress. This is the most expensive dress I own. It’s the one I wore when Brad proposed to me.
  17. Pink jersey dress. This is one of the five dresses I got from Target.
  18. Blue and gray jersey dress. Another from Target.
  19. Blue jersey dress. Also from Target.
  20. Sunset Dress and mini sweater. I’ve worn this dress to two weddings and my own rehearsal dinner. It’s perfect for nice occasions.
  21. Green sari
  22. Pink Sari. The color on this one is so wonderfully vibrant.
  23. Red and yellow flowered sari. Yes, paring down my saris was the hardest part. Three months of bhajan group plus holidays like Diwali require saris!
  24. Fall colors sari. One of my long time favorites. This was a gift from a girl in my dance class in California years ago.
  25. Blue flowered sari. One of the sale saris I got when I was shopping for a wedding dress.
  26. Gray long sweater. Since we’re in the fall and heading into winter I want this big cozy sweater.
  27. Purple cardigan. I love cardigans. I have a hard time with air on my arms, so I love to be able to easily cover them.
  28. Blue corduroy jacket. It’s too bad the pretty pattern is only visible on the inside.
  29. Gray winter jacket. My thickest coat, good for the winter.
  30. Black coat. I lighter coat but still cozy.
  31. Gray boots. Of course, with winter nearly here, I can’t realistically wear only my sandals. Even though I do frequently wear them with socks.
  32. Silver sandals. I only ever seem to wear one pair of shoes every day until it completely wears out. Mostly my mom gives them to me. I buy impractical shoes and she gives me practical ones that I end up wearing constantly until she tears them away from me and gives me new ones. Right now all I’m wearing are these sandals!
  33. Purple hat. Hats don’t tend to look that good on me (I have a very small head), but I do love them.

Three months from now when I reassess, I may be ready to donate more clothes that aren’t working for me.

I decided that my one and only handbag won’t count.

I love wearing color and lots of it. My “little black dress” has always been red. I’ve heard of people whose entire wardrobe is only black or black and white and I can’t imagine doing that! Although, clearly I do have a favorite neutral and it’s gray. My clothes do tend to match as I gravitate to jewel colors and most of my clothes are shades of red and purple with a similar tonality.

It is really refreshing to see this small amount of clothing hanging in my closet. I feel relieved looking at how simple it is.

From the Project 333 Website:

Original rules

  • When: October 1 – December 31 (It’s never too late to start so join in anytime!)
  • 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,  and workout clothing (you can only wear your workout clothing to workout)
  • How: over the next two months, outline your 33 items, by the 1st of October, box up the remainder of your fashion statement, seal it with tape and put it out of sight.
  • What else: consider that you are creating a wardrobe that you can live, work and play in for three months. If you purchase items for project 333, stick with the one in, two out approach. Consider the essentials and stick to 33.

I’m starting in late October so this will take me to late January. I did set aside three plain cotton salwar suits for my weekly dance class. Those are in a drawer so I won’t be tempted to wear them other than as workout clothes.

This is just the start of going through our home and simplifying all over bit by bit!

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About Ambaa Choate

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.

  • http://www.deafdrummer.org Stephanie Ellison

    Wow! Over a year ago, when I had the first inkling that my life was going to change, one of the first things I did was to donate stuff I wasn’t using, and that included my business clothes I used to wear for office jobs, which I no longer worked in as of June 2004, and old/tattered clothes that I was saving as “work outside” clothes, which I ended up not using.

    I decided that my clothes, since I recognized that I was on a path of regressing from a fully civilized state, was going to be functional, and eventually may reflect that concept of regressing backwards in time. I don’t know how the latter will pan out, because I have yet to enter the renaissance/medieval faire circuit, but if that happens, and it works out, you can count on my calling my seamstress up and asking for 3 each of everything I want made for me, not to expand my wardrobe (since I have limited space in my 13′ body travel trailer), but to have replacements available so that when I wear through one set, I will have another set made so I have three sets at all times, one in my closet, and the other two in storage ready as replacements.

    Maybe I’ll go as far back as the Celtic period, depending on the faire I will be working at. I wanted functional because I foresaw that I would be living on the road, working and volunteering here and there. Right now, I’m near the coast in Texas, working as a farm hand, so I have to have clothes I don’t mind getting dirty and damaged, and I have to replace them about once a year or so. For the times when I’m not working on the farm or at faire, I wear “Safari-style” clothes from a safari-niche store which makes and sells long-staple cotton clothes, and I have stuff from REI mixed in from the days when I used to work there. I’m wearing the latter out first, though it’ll probably take 10 years before I run through that stock.

    I have maybe 20-25 years’ worth of clothes saved up, all bought brand new for exactly the circumstance I’m in now, in storage (there’s that artha, only in tangibles instead of gold, since I cannot afford the latter on a volunteer’s stipend), so that whenever I damage or wear something out, I drive by my storage unit on the next opportunity and pull the next one out. That way, I do not have to spend what little money I have, and I’m protected against inflation for as long as possible.

    Still, I am amazed at the amount of clothes that Americans have in their closets that they have hanging in active status (those that could be worn tonight or tomorrow, and not in storage status like I have mine). I have seen closets full of shoes!

    All my jewelry are silver pieces, as I am just not a stone/costume jewelry person. It must be sterling silver. I have almost no pieces of gold, as I cannot afford it. I wear them sparingly, as they are something to be passed on to someone some day. Because of my financial status, I hold silver in the same esteem as a Hindu would hold gold, though for very different reasons.


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