Project 333 is a challenge where one dresses for three months with only 33 items of clothing, shoes, accessories and jewelry. Everything needed to get dressed in the morning (besides socks and underwear) is counted in the 33 items. All additional items of clothing are boxed up and stored.
Courtney Carver, founder of Project 333, is a Salt Lake City native. Carver was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2006 and began simplifying her life in all areas to help her condition.
“While the stress and busyness did not cause the MS, I think it exacerbated my system,” Carver said. “I began to get rid of stuff and de-clutter when I realized the biggest stress in my life was from my closet.”
Carver developed Project 333 through her blog in 2010 as a way to help her maintain a minimalist lifestyle. The idea of dressing with minimal items of clothing is called a capsule wardrobe. Each article of clothing is chosen to be able to mix and match with various other items in the wardrobe.
“It’s not about the number, its about a way for people to establish boundaries and set rules for themselves,” Carver said. If the number 33 seems scary or like too few items, people can still give it a try by coming up with a different number of items to dress with. Or, one can start ‘minimalizing’ by getting rid of 33 items in their closet that are unused or unwanted.
Michelle Boushka, a sophomore who returned home from her mission in February, said she felt like she practiced Project 333 for her 18-month mission. She, however, did not enjoy having a limited selection for dressing in the morning.
“Having only a few options to choose from made me feel stressed. I would look at my closet and wonder what I could do to not feel so bored and tired of the few things I had,” Boushka said. “Now that I have more options I feel like deciding what to wear isn’t such a chore and I can happily express myself everyday.”
While Project 333 does limit the number of items in a wardrobe, there is room for statement pieces and for items one really loves. Carver gave her opinions about statement pieces and offered some advice for deciding what to keep in a capsule wardrobe.
“Maybe one signature item that you really love and that will last a long time,” Carver said. “The first three months is figuring out what you need and don’t need, and what you want and don’t want.”
Some individuals such as Boushka enjoy the freedom of a full closet. But others who prefer the minimalist lifestyle have helped the project in its success and popularity. According to Carver, individuals from 46 states and 50 countries have taken the challenge and tried Project 333.
When Carver started the project she began a blog writing about her experience. Her blog is wildly popular, and new people start Project 333 every day.
“Surprisingly there were more people wanting to try it than thinking it was crazy,” Carver said.
Marie Urie, a sophomore studying public health, estimated she has about 60 items in her closet. She said she feels overwhelmed almost every morning trying to get dressed. Her stress comes from not actually using the majority of items in her closet.
“I get sick of the ones I’m wearing constantly but I never actually use the other shirts hanging in the closet,” Urie said.
Carver has had five years of experience perfecting her capsule wardrobe. Cutting out the majority of one’s closet may seem intimidating, but if given some time she said the benefits can change a morning routine for the better. Carver offers some advice for students who are considering creating a wardrobe on a budget. She recommends purchasing fewer, more expensive items that will last longer.
“People overspend on cheaper items because you’re wearing the clothes out so fast,” Carver said. “Instead of buying new for every event, maybe there is a smaller investment you can make that will last many years.”
Carver said tracking expenses will help students to allocate funds and see what they can really afford. Oftentimes, students will overspend on little, inexpensive items because they do not assess their habits correctly. A capsule wardrobe worn for years can be more cost effective in the long run than a closet full of cheap clothing.
Carver has practiced Project 333 for so long now that she has built a wardrobe of all of her favorite pieces, which she said is the aspect she loves most about Project 333. She uses her favorite 33-item wardrobe for each season.
“My first goal was figuring out what was enough, and eventually my goal changed to wearing my favorite things every day,” Carver said.