Back in early January, up popped Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things on my Netflix homepage. I ended up watching it twice in two days because, as I sat in wonderment the first time around about how truly amazing it was, I knew Mr. LLC had to watch it too.
We’ve always erred on the side of owning a minimal amount of possessions and don’t like a cluttered house. We’ve had regular clearouts and moving to America helped us clear a lot of things out. And, now, living in a 700 sq-ft apartment at the moment means we can’t go crazy with possessions. So, we were probably the right target audience to enjoy and evangelise about the documentary and about minimalism in general.
One of the aspects of the documentary that really intrigued us was Project 333. The crux of the project is to select 33 items of clothing that comprise of everything you’d wear for 3 months.
Mr. LLC was so inspired, he decided to undertake the challenge himself.
Mr. LLC’s approach to the challenge was…
- To include some versatile items.
- To include some nice items.
- Not to discount old items. 2 work shirts and a pair of jeans have been thrown out during the challenge due to holes (although the jeans were almost 6 years old, so that’s a good life span!).
- He segregated all his other clothes to avoid confusion and also made a google doc of the list.
Date challenge started: 10th January 2017
The 33 items
6 work shirts
3 pair’s cufflinks
Hat, scarf, gloves (counted as 1 item)
Other items that can be worn but not included in the 33
- Wedding ring
- Undershirts (t-shirts worn under work shirts)
- Pajamas (trousers, t-shirt, bed socks, dressing gown)
- Thermal top and thermal trousers
- Running clothes
Almost two thirds of the way into the initial 3 months, the challenge is going well and he’s actually living with 30 items;
- The casual jeans that were thrown out were not replaced.
- One tie dropped out of rotation as Mr. LLC doesn’t wear a tie on Fridays’ and so 5 ties for 4 days was more than enough.
- One pair of cufflinks dropped as some of shirts don’t require cufflinks and 3 pairs were 1 pair too many.
- The casual belt isn’t used an awful lot but still remains part of the 33.
As the challenge has progressed, there’s been time to reflect about what’s worked and what hasn’t worked….
It’s important to spend time at the beginning thinking about colours, so you have clothes that go together in many different combinations. At the beginning, Mr. LLC picked smart jeans that were black, his coat was black and his Merrell shoes are mostly black, so at the weekends, he sometimes looked like an assassin!
33 items are more than enough for 3 months.
I’ve been intrigued by the fact even though a lot of the 33 are dedicated purely to work, how there’s still more than enough for the casual downtime. I haven’t noticed him wearing the same causal clothes over and over.
There was a bigger goal of reducing wardrobe items without just unnecessarily throwing good clothes away. I’ve become more conscious recently of the damage that donating old or unwanted clothing can have. I recently read an article that highlighted the unfortunate reality of where those clothes end up that we donate to charity shops. A large proportion are shipped to Africa, which has the negative impact of stifling the local clothing trade as Western clothes become so cheap and abundant. Neither of us are crazy fashionistas who change our wardrobes every season. We both have many items of clothing that are well over 5 years old but doing this challenge really highlighted to us, that even we have far too many clothes. And I do regret donating large amounts of clothing in the past simply because I may well have inadvertently contributed to the problem of the clothing glut in Africa, which disappoints me.
However, you live and learn! Our approach going forwards is to wear things out and then replace with what we have. Once our back stock is depleted, we can choose to buy new if we want to.
Having thought through the process and lived with it for almost 2 months now, Mr. LLC has a pretty good handle on the whole thing and what he’ll do going forward.
- He will have 50 items for 12 months.
- 30 core items comprising of pretty versatile, year round clothing.
- 5 items per season specific to the weather.
We live in East Coast USA at the moment which has very well defined seasons and we’ll be moving back to the UK soon, which again has very seasonal weather. I think if you lived somewhere like California that was pretty temperate year round, it would be easier to create a year round wardrobe with 33 items. But we need clothing that is season appropriate, although the actual base layer of clothing at 30 items isn’t radically different to the original concept.
Project 333 is really easy to do and the great thing about it is, it doesn’t have to be permanent if you don’t want it to be. If you take the plunge and decide to do it for 3 months but don’t really enjoy it and struggle through, then you can either stop it completely or adapt and maybe add a few more items to the list to make it comfortable for you.
Keeping It Going
I think what it’s affirmed to us is, just how little we really do need to live a happy and fulfilled life. We don’t need an overflowing wardrobe, with storage containers containing more clothes under the bed or in the loft. Even though we have been conscious in the past about what we buy, doing this exercise has really highlighted that even we, who think we’re doing well, have way more clothes than we need.
And because we’ve now recognised this, we can move forward with the intention of using what we have and not buying clothes just because. There needs to be a specific reason for us to purchase clothing now. This will not only help us save money (and reach financial independence sooner!) but will also help the environment in reducing clothing waste. No matter how small our clothing waste is compared to the wider problem, if we can limit our contribution to the problem, then that can only be a positive thing.