Can my friend and I dress in only 33 things for 3 months?

(This post has also been published on 1 Million Women).

For years I have been interested in minimalism and the concept of pairing down one’s physical possessions and filling the vacant spaces they leave behind with meaningful life experiences.  I am also attracted to one of the major side benefits of minimalism whereby where one owns less, one wastes less.  Minimalism is usually not intended to be an environmental philosophy but it often is, by accident.  Over time, the quantity of my belongings has yo-yo’d up and down somewhat but I have consistently aimed to avoid worshipping ‘things’ and instead place my focus on the careful crafting of a meaningful life.

Some of you may remember several years ago when I challenged myself to a one month ‘buy nothing’ challenge.  Around the same time I also wrote about my awe of the uniquely Parisian ability to possess very few clothes while at the same time being incredibly stylish.

I was recently re-inspired to examine my wardrobe after learning about something called Project 333.

Project 333 is well known in minimalist circles but was unfamiliar to me.  I investigated it after learning about it in the incredible film “Minimalism” which is available worldwide on Netflix.  With a little research I learned that Project 333 originally launched five years ago as founder Courtney Carver’s personal fashion challenge and has since been taken up by people all around the world.  The challenge is to create a set of clothes, or “capsule wardrobe” as it is often called, that you will live out of for three months consisting of only 33 items.  Included in the 33 items are all of your basic clothing items including shoes and accessories.  Not included is underwear, pyjamas, lounge clothes you only wear in the house, gym wear (so long as you aren’t wearing your yoga pants to do your grocery shopping), or sentimental jewellery that you never take off like your wedding ring.  Everything else is boxed away until the end of the challenge.  Every three months you put together a new capsule, swapping out seasonal clothing from your boxed up collection, and/or purchasing new items if necessary.  The idea is for all 33 items to be things that fit, that you feel good in, and that you enjoy wearing.  Everything else is removed to make mornings easier, cleaning easier, and to help you to feel more confident as you embrace your day.

Everything Stacey donated to charity before starting Project 333, Wow!!

One of my good friends, Stacey, lives in Los Angeles and is a textile designer and former costume designer.  I emailed her to ask if she had ever heard of this challenge and she told me that she had actually also just learned about it through watching “The Minimalists” on Netflix and had started making a list of the 33 items she would choose if she were to do the challenge!  That blew us both away and we decided to take on the challenge together.  This past week, we both whittled our closets down to 33 items each and started the three month challenge on May 1st!

I thought it would be fun to blog about our journey as we go so here are a few thoughts from the both of us on our third day of the challenge.


“What inspired you to take on this challenge?”

My ‘capsule wardrobe’ of 33 items

Carly:  After hearing about Project 333 through “The Minimalists” I realised that I, like almost all women of the western world, had a ton of clothes.  I should have looked great every day for how much clothing I had but I didn’t at all.  So often I’d catch a glimpse of myself in a store window or the mirror in an elevator and be disappointed with how I had put myself together.  Project 333 and the concept of designing a wardrobe with intention really struck a chord.

Stacey: After watching the documentary “Minimalism” and learning about Project 333 I immediately started cleaning out my closet. I began getting rid of things I didn’t like anymore, things that didn’t fit right, things I just don’t feel good in, or things that I hadn’t worn in over a year. At first I thought 33 items was far too few, but it seemed like a fun challenge, so I decided to give it a shot. After going through my closet I realised this is totally doable for me, and may even be a great chance to flex my creative muscles. I also thought it might help prevent me from buying things I don’t need. In this culture of “fast fashion”, we often make impulse buys that in the moment we think we have to have, but then once we get home we realise we don’t have a lot to go with them, so we end up buying more stuff just to go with the other stuff we just bought. I’ve definitely been guilty of this, so I thought narrowing down my wardrobe to 33 items might help stop me from buying frivolous garments I don’t need.


“What was it like it pairing down to 33 items?”

Stacey’s ‘capsule wardrobe’ of 33 items

Carly:  At first, I was pretty daunted by the whole thing but I read an article about 33 things to eliminate from your closet and discovered that I had a habit of hanging onto sentimental items – think, old running t shirts from high school – and sparkly things that rarely, if ever, actually made it onto my body.   Giving myself permission to let go of these things was really a big breakthrough for me and helped get the ball rolling on my journey down to 33 things.  Now that I have finalised my 33 items I feel like I can breathe easier when I walk into my bedroom and getting dressed in the morning is unbelievably easier.  Pairing down my wardrobe has also inspired me to let go in other areas.  I have gone a little de-clutter crazy this past week, selling lots of things and donating others.  My home now feels much lighter and is easier to keep tidy.  It’s a great feeling.  I must admit, though – the day after officially pairing down my closet to 33 items, I did have a small freak out.  My closet

My only shoes, scarf, and belt for the next three months

looked so bare and I wondered if this was all a big mistake!  It didn’t take much to reassure myself, though, that if there really was some kind of fashion emergency, clothing is never hard to come by and I still had that box of clothing in the other room.

Stacey: So far, it’s been fun! I hate clutter, and nothing makes me feel better than having a well-organised, clean space. Now that my closet is organised and de-cluttered, I feel like I can think more clearly when I go to choose my outfit for the day. The beauty of the challenge is you don’t have to get rid of anything you don’t want to. You can just pack it away for a few months and then bring it out in your next rotation. There have been a few beloved tops of mine that

didn’t make the cut this time, but I know in 3 months I’ll be so excited to swap something out for them.


“What did you struggle with most as you paired down your items?

The measly two necklaces I will be wearing for the next 3 months

Carly:  Jewellery!  I have well over 33 pieces of jewellery alone and I really enjoy wearing it so this is a hard one for me.  It’s been interesting, though, because often I don’t wear any jewellery.  I used to wear lots of jewellery every day but when I started working with wild parrots, that stopped.  I also have so much jewellery that I think it stops me from wearing it in a weird way.  At the start of the challenge I had a hand-shaped ring holder overflowing with rings and bracelets and two little bowls of random earrings and pendants next to it that were right in front of my jewellery box, blocking access to it.  Often, it was easier not to wear anything than to sort through the collection.  I think that after the 3 month experiment is over, I

will continue dressing in a 33 item seasonal wardrobe but may allow myself to still keep a jewellery collection – albeit a paired down one.

Stacey: I think the biggest challenge for me is finding a balance between having pieces I can mix and match, without creating a bland and boring wardrobe. I love textiles, and am obsessed with prints, color and texture. However, those things often create statement pieces that don’t mix and match well. I’ve found I have to be very careful not to incorporate too many statement pieces into my 33, or I won’t be able to creatively mix and match pieces as well. On the flipside, I also don’t want to have a boring mix of solids and neutral colors, so there need to be a few pieces in there to kick things up a notch.
“Did you purchase anything new for your capsule?”

3 of Stacey’s 33 items

Carly:  Courtney Carver, the founder of Project 333 recommends that you don’t buy anything new for your first 3 months.  She says that building your first ‘capsule wardrobe’ using what you already own will help you work out what you really want and need.  For that reason, I didn’t buy anything new for the first capsule but I was very tempted to!

Stacey: Not this time around. I think part of the fun of this challenge is not buying anything new for a while. I think it will really help change my perspective on when and why I buy clothes.


“What are you looking forward to most in doing this challenge?”

Carly:  Quite simply, I’m looking forward to dressing like a grown up for once in my life and finally learning how to put an outfit together properly.  I know I am going to learn a lot from doing this challenge with Stacey – she is so much better than me at the whole fashion thing!  It’s funny that what it took for me to finally get interested in clothing was to get rid of most of it!  I’m also looking forward to contributing far less to the culture of fast fashion by learning how to dress in quality staple pieces that can be mixed and matched, tend not to go out of style, and don’t often need replacing.

Stacey: I’m looking forward to coming up with new and creative outfit combinations. I think it will be really fun and will help me get out of the pattern of just wearing the same pairings over and over again. I’m also looking forward to sharing my outfit pics with Carly, and seeing what she comes up with! She’s very creative herself, so I’m sure I’ll be stealing some of her ideas from time to time.

These pants were in the donate pile because despite how much I love them, I rarely wear them.

Late one night I decided to re-purpose them instead.  Goodbye pants, hello pillow cases!


.. Is there anyone out there that would like to join us in this challenge?  Let’s do it together!

Homeless no longer! But keeping it simple.

Thank you to all who have followed me over the past year and a half on my journey to a simpler life. You encouraged me as I de-frumped my wardrobe, had several attempts at buying almost nothing for various periods of time, and eventually gave up any kind of structural residence and lived out of my car for three months. I went over a year with virtually no furniture to my name (just a book case) and learned that it is possible to be happy in life without all the ‘stuff’.

I also learned that I am more resourceful that I ever realized and I was surprised by the way that I really didn’t miss the many boxes of possessions that were safely stored while I ventured into volunteer homelessness. I also realized that despite all I had learned along the journey, I actually really do like having somewhere to live.

For most people that would be an obvious thing to know about oneself but for me it really wasn’t. I had always harboured this romantic notion of living life out of a car with no strings and the wind at my back. I soon realized though that the sense of liberation wasn’t worth the general annoyance. For instance, it’s not always easy to find a shady place to park up at night that is reasonably safe, close to a public toilet, and not out in the complete sunlight. It doesn’t take many hours of daylight, as I discovered, for the Australian sun to COOK a human woman inside a Subaru forester.
I also found it incredibly challenging to find a way to complete all the writing of my master’s thesis that I was in the middle of writing when I started the volunteer homelessness challenge. Libraries were very helpful but I seem to be one of those people that strangers want to have long, in-depth conversation with for no apparent reason. I don’t usually mind that but when the library closes at four or at one on Saturdays and then doesn’t even open on Sundays you really don’t have time to socialize. Luckily my friends came to my rescue in this respect and a couple of them offered me their homes to stay and write as needed. I really don’t know what I would have done without them.

I normally wouldn’t have attempted such a full-on challenge with a major assignment so nearing its due date but I didn’t realize when I first started the challenge how much writing I was going to have to do for my thesis (I didn’t realize for a long time that a substantial literature review was required). When I embarked on the challenge I was also expecting to get a lot more away-work than ended up happening. I am usually away for weeks on end, happily living and working out of hotel rooms but ironically just when I got rid of a permanent structure over my head our company experienced a lull.

In the end I did end up moving into a smallish (though plenty ample for me) apartment which for me was the right move. The apartment is literally about 100 metres from the beach. Even with the windows closed I can hear the roar of the sea as I drift off to sleep. I don’t know what it is but there is something about seaside living that just perfectly lends itself to someone such as myself who is searching, amidst chaos, for a simple life.

Since moving in I have allowed myself the freedom to furnish the place but in keeping with the spirit of minimal consumerism for the sake of the environment I have purchased almost everything secondhand from Gumtree (the Australian equivalent of Craigslist). The place is by no means sparse but I am trying to maintain and employ many of the lessons I have learned in my dabblings into minimalism. I am trying to keep the space uncluttered and relatively – though not obsessively – organized. I want there to be room to breathe, room for the sea breeze to flow freely and not become stagnated and stale by getting caught on tchotchkes or other random objects with no use, purpose, or meaning.
uncluttered bookcase
I also want to have a purpose for every room and to not let other purposes infiltrate those spaces. For instance, I am going to make a serious effort to keep the guest room as a sanctuary for friends and family and not let it become an overflow storage space for myself (admittedly I have already commandeered the closet though … sorry guys).

restful bedroomMost of all I want to use what I have learned over the past year and a half to allow my new home and any future homes to be a place that you can enter after a long hectic day and find respite from the many troubles of the world.

It’s good to be home 🙂

Looking back through a mirror

Voluntary homelessness – progress update

Hi everyone,

Some of you have been asking me about my adventures in voluntary homelessness.

It’s been both good and bad. For some reason I had always had this romantic notion of what it be like to live out of my car – or in a van if I could be so lucky (which I am not although I love my little Subaru, not complaining!) The lifestyle had always seemed to me so delightfully gypsy-like and etheric. It’s so free. Nothing to hold you back. The world at your fingertips. No rent. The reality, however, has turned out to be somewhat different.

I’m a month away from submitting my master’s thesis which is a bit of a daunting thing. I have been making a lot of use of libraries which has helped but as much as I love libraries they are not always ideal. They are only open for limited hours and not at the times when I do my best work (aka at night). They are also only open for a couple of hours on Saturdays and virtually never on Sundays. I won’t rant on about this but I really don’t understand the point of that and why so many other institutions that we all need (the post office, the bank, etc.) are never open on weekends when people are actually free! Anyway … oh and you tend to run into a lot of colourful characters in libraries which isn’t always fantastic – especially when they want to tell you their life story and you really just need to get some work done. Despite this, libraries are truly incredible places, though. Especially considering that they are air conditioned!

That’s the other thing .. sleeping in your car is messy business when you live in Queensland, Australia and it is SUMMER! My car bed is actually really comfortable because my car is long enough that I can put the back seats down and stretch completely out. BUT shady parking places are not easy to come by which means you often have to park out in the open and will wake up COVERED in sweat. Suffice to say, I don’t imagine I will keep up with this lifestyle much longer. I have been impressed, though, by how possible it is to live this way. A good friend of mine has been living the lifestyle for over eight months, now. I love her, she taught me that you can always find a hot shower at a truck stop because the truckies need to have facilities. I had never thought of that before but it makes sense. I am also grateful for the experience in the way that it has hi-lighted for me what it would be like to be actually homeless – aka homeless because there was no other option. I have options. I am actually choosing to live this way. And I have a car. That’s a major, major thing. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to wander the streets with nothing and no-one. I was never one to judge homeless people but I especially never would now. People tend to judge homeless people as being lazy and wonder ‘why don’t they just get a job?’. Well I imagine they have tried. I imagine there is much, much more to the story.

Oh well .. I don’t really want to get into a rant about that either. .

I will just say I am grateful for the experience and even more grateful for friends who will extend to me the use of their couch. For now I am house sitting for a friend who is away for a couple of weeks. I’m so appreciative for that as it gives me a bit of an opportunity to work hard at my thesis and get it all squared away. I don’t want to move into a place of my own just yet because my day job situation is up in the air at the moment and I haven’t quite worked out what state I am going to be settling in. But I’ll work that out soon enough.

Blessings to you, everyone 🙂

Extreme simple living – voluntary homelessness!

Some of you would remember when I did a personal experiment on simple living and vowed not to buy anything for myself (sans the usual grocery items) for a month. It was a challenge but really helped me to identify the luxuries in life that were free or that I already owned. I saved quite a lot of money that month and it put me on a path of thinking harder about the financial and environmental consequences of my daily purchases. I realized that I had fallen into a pattern of absentmindedly buying stuff to ignore the feelings of boredom or glumness that were showing up in my life. I also realized that the practice wasn’t really accomplishing anything. I had fallen into debt and I was becoming irritated by all the clutter, further adding to the rather shitty emotions I was experiencing.

Even shittier, I started feeling really guilty about what I was doing because I knew I didn’t want to be so actively participating in our culture’s emphasis on constant acquisition. It was costing me a lot and I knew it was stupid to get sucked into the modern day acceptance of credit card debt. I was also feeling guilty because we live in a world of finite resources and it felt selfish to be consuming so much when so little of it was necessary and almost none of it contributed to a more fulfilling life.

A few months after the month long experiment I completed a three month experiment which I called a ‘consumerism detox’. Even though this challenge was three times as long I found it easier. I had sort of realized by then that it’s actually ok to sit and wait and want something for a while and that you don’t have to just immediately rush out and buy (or charge) whatever it is that you’re wanting. I had also started to get used to enjoying what I already owned – my books, my movies, my internet connection. In the end I was more excited about getting rid of stuff than getting new stuff, especially on the day I de-frumped my closet.

Well it’s now been nine months since I completed the three month challenge. Since then I’ve continued to live a more simple life although I haven’t had any specific ‘rules’ to live by. I paid off my car and almost all of my consumer debt (just about one more month to go on that) and have just began a new experiment, this time with no specific end date in mind. I am sure it will seem extreme to many of you but I have actually become willingly homeless.

I have moved out of the house that I shared with two friends and into a storage unit with no plans to get another place any time soon. My friends were going to be moving out of the house we shared anyway and since I am away most of the time with work I don’t really want to waste my money on rent when I could pay the same (or less) and just get a hotel for a few days or camp out somewhere. I usually only have a week or so off in between work assignments so my plan at this stage is just to cruise around when I am off work. Go visit people, travel, volunteer, work on the film that I have been needing to head up to the Atherton Tablelands to get footage for, stuff like that.

The only problem that I can see with it is that I am one of those people that loves to be at home. The idea of not having a home is a little confronting but I do think that this experiment will be character building and will (hopefully!) allow me to save up to actually buy a little place somewhere in the next year or two – hopefully somewhere peaceful in the hinterlands and not to far from the beach.

I shall keep you posted!

To see how I’m going with this, click here

perspectives on minimalism from remote locations in Australia (90 day consumerism detox – day 41!)

Hello everyone!!

I haven’t had a chance to keep up with this blog for a while – way too much going on! I’m doing about 80 hours a week of fauna spotting at the moment in a remote site in Central Queensland. It’s been pretty epic and there hasn’t been much time for anything else. I wanted to update you all, though, on my progress with the 90 day consumerism detox. Today is day 41 so just about half way there!

I honestly can’t believe I’m only halfway there, seems like ten years since I’ve bought anything! With my new job, it’s actually proving very easy not to buy crap because I get sent out for 4 weeks at a time to remote locations where there really aren’t any opportunities to buy stuff, anyway. The only ‘stuff’ anyone seems to buy around here is beer and cigarettes. At the end of each 4 week stint they send us home for a week but a lot of people out here (at least the ones who aren’t married) don’t even have a ‘home’ to go to. They just stay with friends or zip of to Thailand or Fiji for the week. Some of them have stuff in storage but a lot of them don’t seem to own much of anything. It’s pretty amazing and a great practical lesson on minimalism.

I’ve spoke before about the strange phenomenon that occurs when you take a break from buying crap. It seems that the less you buy, the less you want for things and that’s definately what’s been happening for me lately. For example, yesterday I went to a mall. It was crazy. Save for a few field guides and odds and ends I needed for work, I haven’t bought anything for myself in six weeks and up until yesterday, I hadn’t even seen a shop in weeks, let alone an actual mall. We were only there because there were two of us that desparately needed a new phone plan. Telstra seems to be the only phone network out here that serves the area we’re at and yesterday me and another girl got seriously lost for like three hours and were totally incommunicado from the rest of the world because neither of us had Telstra. Anyway, so me and this other girl were waiting in line at the Telstra store yesterday trying to solve our communication issue and realised that we actually had access to stuff! We found ourselves just standing there, wracking our brains about what we might want to buy but neither of us could actually come up with anything. Well, Lauren did buy some granola but that was it.

Usually, after a month of isolation you’d think you’d be desperate for stuff but we weren’t. It’s amazing what a break from consumerism does for you. It really puts life into perspective.