Project 333 brings more joy with less clothes

Katia Faroun | Features Editor. Carissa’s wardrobe: 33 items, including tops, bottoms, dresses, shoes and a hat.

Carissa Haslam | Ad Manager


Imagine getting rid of every item of clothing you own except for your 33 favorites. This is the challenge presented by minimalist fashion trend, Project 333. In a world of overflowing closets, Project 333 proves that less really is more.

For decades, American consumerist culture has been preaching a consistent message: the more you have, the happier you’ll be. It’s a message that continues to echo from the endless advertisements we see each day — every one assuring us that our ultimate inward satisfaction lies just beyond our next purchase. Many of our parents bought into this message, and now we go home to find our childhood bedrooms turned into storage rooms, inundated with the miscellaneous items they’ve collected over the last half-century. Watching them buy into the message without finding the promised satisfaction has made our generation far more suspicious. We’re beginning to question the narrative: is our happiness really tied to the stuff we have?

The modern minimalism movement arose in response to questions like these, arguing that our overflowing basements and garages are actually getting in the way of our joy. Individuals who practice minimalism seek to live fuller, happier lives by simplifying their material possessions. Proponents of minimalism recommend simplification in all areas of life, from your phone’s home screen to your wall decor. Throughout the past two decades, thousands of books, films, blogs and organizations have been devoted to documenting this movement and helping individuals successfully practice a lifestyle of simplicity.

As college students, we don’t exactly own many material possessions. In fact, most of us live like nomads, forced to pack up all of our belongings and move every few months — a lifestyle doesn’t allow us to hoard tons of stuff. However, I would argue that many of us still buy into the consumerist narrative, and the evidence can be found inside of our brimming closets. This was certainly true for me, before I began Project 333.

Project 333 was started by Courtney Carver, a notable figure within the minimalism movement. Carver imagined the project in 2010, and began blogging about it. Over the next 10 years, Project 333 interested thousands of participants and garnered attention from numerous national news outlets.

The premise of the project is simple: for three months, you limit your closet to only 33 items. This includes all of your clothing, as well as your shoes, accessories and outerwear. The only items you don’t include in the 33 are undergarments, pajamas and work-out clothes — essentially, you only count the things you wear out in public. Then, after three months, you are able to fill your closet with a new selection of 33 items.

I began participating in Project 333 in June of this year. The first step was to significantly purge my existing closet — when I started I was a long way off from 33 items. I have to admit, since I didn’t exactly leave my house for most of the summer, the first three months were rather easy. My initial 33 consisted of five pairs of shoes, six dresses, four pairs of shorts, one pair of jeans, 10 tank tops, five short sleeved shirts, my jean jacket and my beloved felt hat. During those first 3 months, I had absolutely no issues sticking to my Project 333 limitations. All my feelings toward the project were positive, and I pretty much told everyone I know that they should join me.

Coming back to school, I was very eager to choose the new 33 items that would comprise my closet for the fall semester, though it was definitely much more daunting when I considered how much Pittsburgh’s weather was going to change between move-in day and Thanksgiving. It was painful to leave some of my favorite sweaters at home, and even more painful to give some of them away. Nevertheless, I was able to cut my typical late summer/fall wardrobe down to 33 staples. My current closet includes four dresses, one romper, two pairs of shorts, four pairs of pants, four jackets, 12 shirts and sweaters, five pairs of shoes and of course, the hat.

Carver recently released a book on the project titled, Project 333: The Minimalist Fashion Challenge That Proves Less Really is So Much More. In the book she claims, “You can remove a significant amount of stress from your life simply by reducing the number of items in your closet.” My experience with the project confirms this statement. Though it doesn’t seem like a huge life-altering change, limiting the amount of clothes in my closet has allowed me to experience freedom from the quiet stress of having too much. It feels good to know that every piece of clothing in my closet is worn frequently, and that I’m actively fighting against the insatiable desire for more that consumerism has taught me.

Not only does Project 333 simplify my morning routine and ease my mind, it also helps my budget. During past semesters, after a stressful exam I would most likely be found scrolling through all the beautiful sweaters on Aerie’s website, and then purchasing one — or maybe five. Participating in the project keeps me from indulging in this not-so-healthy habit by forcing me to choose my clothing very intentionally.

Further, capsule wardrobes like the Project 333 wardrobe are far more sustainable than the typical American wardrobe. When you’re purchasing less clothing, you have the freedom to buy higher quality, ethically-sourced items that also last much longer. It helps you to view purchasing clothing more like an investment: you give your money to a worthy company and you receive an item that will last you for years to come — goodbye fast fashion!

If you’re overwhelmed by the state of your closet or you’re tired of living with unnecessary excess, Project 333 is a great way to start on the path to simplicity, and challenge the message that you can’t be happy with less.

In the words of Carver, “The less you own, the less that owns you.”