33-item wardrobe

September 16, 2014

Last week I shared that I started doing Project 333, a program that has you choose 33 items of clothing to wear for three months. You can read a little more about it here. I promised to share my list of 33 items that will carry me through to the beginning of December, when I can re-select 33 items for the following three months.

clothing to be donated
It took a while to think things through and get my picks down to 33! 

I chose a basic color palette of three neutrals (navy, gray, and white), with pink and lavender as my colors.  So here's The List:

2 wrap dresses
1 gray skirt
1 cobalt blue skirt
1 navy twill pants
1 jeans

1 long-sleeved navy silk blouse
2 sleeveless blouses to go with cardigans, white and gray
4 cotton, 3/4 length sleeve cardies, pink, pale lavender, multi-colored (cobalt, periwinkle, and          lavender), and gray
2 long-sleeved knit tees -- navy striped and gray with ruffled front
1 blue and white striped sweater
1 gray stretch knit blazer

1 long white sweater (can be used as light fall "coat")

2 scarves, pink and lavender multi

1 heels (pewter)
2 flats (blue suede and multi-colored)

strand of pearls (anniversary gift)
diamond and white gold necklace (another anniversary gift)
diamond studs (ditto)
my grandmother's pearl earrings
2 pair of  silver earrings
long lucite and silver necklace made by a friend

winter coat in brown      
snow boots in brown

leather grayish/lavender bag      

// 33  

(This does not count my gloves, sunglasses, undergarments, socks, pajamas, or workout gear. The official rules would have you include the gloves and sunglasses, but not the rest. So I'm really at 35. I think it's dumb to count sunglasses; they're prescription and necessary for driving. But hey, I think I did great -- many people don't count jewelry or scarves or shoes at all.)

It would be wonderful to have a gray or navy winter coat and boots so that everything goes together, but I have brown, so they will have to do for now.

One reader didn't understand why I'd want to box up a bunch of clothes for three months. You wouldn't be able to wear them and they would get all wrinkled. The beauty of boxing things up for a season is to show you how little you really need, and find out what you really do need {I can see I definitely need these two pair of comfortable flats way more than all my high heels. I really only need maybe two or three four or five pair of heels (I'm just not there yet!)}.

I imagine many of the items that are boxed up will end up being donated. I can see after a few rounds of Project 333 that I will not be boxing up any clothes. I can see myself having 33 items in my closet for fall/winter, with 33 spring/summer clothes in the guest room closet, with a handful of transitional pieces (like a lighter coat for spring, for example) and a few extra scarves, jewelry, or sweaters/T shirts.

The best thing about this, only being a week into it, is how easy it is to get dressed. No thinking required. Everything goes with everything else, and everything fits well and is comfortable. It's so freeing. And I know I'm going to save a lot of money.

I've become really aware that when I buy clothing in the future I need to be sure to buy well-made, workhorse clothing items. If I'm going to wear a skirt or a cardigan once or twice a week until it wears out, it has to be able to go the distance. I will think long and hard about any clothing purchases. I will ask:

  • Is it in my color palette? Will it go with all the other items I have?
  • Does it fit well?
  • Is it well made, and the best I can afford? (not necessarily the most expensive but the best quality)
  • Is it comfortable? (for example, wool makes me itch, and I have to face the fact that I need to pass on those adorable 4-inch stilettos)
  • Do I absolutely love it?

The cobalt skirt in my list really only goes with the cardigan with the cobalt in it. I could wear it with the gray, I guess. It fits well, and I really didn't want to part with it yet, but I can already see it being donated in the next round or two. I purchased it because it was a trendy color, but it's not really my color.

The rule will be, bring something in, take something out. And like replaces like. A navy cardigan starts to pill or wear out; I replace it with another navy cardigan. Not a sequined fuchsia top that catches my eye, and will get worn once. I figure nail polish, makeup, and an occasional trendy (cheap) piece of costume jewelry will help me get my fashion fixes. Along with rotating in my  collection of scarves, which I am hanging on to.

I'm very aware that this "problem" is one of affluence. A first-world problem. As I sorted through my clothes, it seemed an embarrassment to have so many. Someone commented on the Project 333 website that she wished she had 33 items of clothing.

Next week I'll share what this project has taught me about my jewelry.

Several of you mentioned you wanted to try this. Please share; I'd love to hear from you.


  1. I would love to do this but not sure I have the guts.

    A few years ago I did a serious purge- this I need to again, you have certainly motivated me, Deb - thx!

  2. Dearest Deborah,
    'One reader didn't understand why I'd want to box up a bunch of clothes for three months. You wouldn't be able to wear them and they would get all wrinkled.'...
    That was not exactly what I said. My question was: 'Where would you put them?'
    Mariette VandenMunckhof-VedderSeptember 10, 2014 at 5:17 PM
    Dearest Deborah,
    The way I dress, depends mostly on the weather and where I'm going. When we still did give seminars, of course you dress more business like. There are events that require still you dress in business attire. But for at home I just grab some shorts in summer with a tee and some sandals. No fuss. For all other occasions I always prepare the entire set, the day before, hanging it ready. I don't see any need for boxing up good garments, to make them wrinkle and be put away for one month. Where would you put them?
    What I always have been doing is sorting my wardrobe into business attire and a few formal pieces. Also keeping a summer and winter closet and I can manage to do so whenever we don't have guests in our Rose Suite so I have that small walk in closet to myself.
    I also have learned that narrow, soft hangers are a lot more efficient than the very broad and heavy ones... So there are a lot of things we can do. My sweaters, tops and tees I have all stacked by color. That gives a quick oversight.
    You can click here: {MY CLOSET LOOKS LIKE A NEAT STORE}
    Sending you hugs,
    Unless I would no longer be able to wear some clothes because of bodily changes, I don't see the need for boxing things up or giving them away. I've done enough of that in previous decades before I found these couture outlets with high quality clothes, that will last and last.
    Being a lot more conscious of WHAT you buy is a lot more important! Making always sure that you can wear it with several outfits, using colors that go together etc.

    'To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not, rich; to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with open heart; to study hard; to think quietly, act frankly, talk gently, await occasions, hurry never; in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common--this is my symphony.' WILLIAM HENRY CHANNING.
    Sending you hugs,

    1. Sorry I misunderstood you Mariette; actually I didn't box them up, as Project 333 suggests. I have so much room in my closet now that I just hung them inside garment bags (so I can't see them) in my closet.
      It sounds like you have already learned the secret of buying high quality clothes that last, and being conscious of what you buy. That's what I'm hoping to learn!
      And I love that quote! especially as it pertains to this post "refinement rather than fashion"! I have been guilty of buying too many cheap and trendy pieces. xo

    2. Dearest Deborah,
      While living in Indonesia I have given away so many of my clothes as my size fits most Asians perfect. Living and working in 3rd countries also taught me in the 1990s that it IS NOT about fashion. That is even a BIG FAKE in itself. Most women don't realize that at any given season we do have opposite seasons in half of the world! I often had the chance to visit 3 continents in one month and having studied fashion, I did love to just 'visit' those Escada boutiques... That way I learned that in each continent they do carry a different line! So that was an eye opener to me and I learned that it just is in the eye of the beholder; whatever you favor, whatever you like. Going for high quality and rather timeless, classical pieces did serve me well! So what I got, I want to hold on till I no longer can get dressed... God forbid that ever will happen.
      Wearing those steeply discounted couture items from the outlets is also a great insentive for staying the way you are. Not over indulging in too sweet; too salty or too fat foods. That too I have done with great Discipline, not because I ever gained any weight but due to serious health issues.
      Good luck and I know you too will manage to do this.
      When I gave away some of my clothes to a poor leprosy woman/beggar on the streets of Indonesia, I felt even richer as we ALL have more than plenty inside our closets. It taught me to be content for what we got and for having all our limbs in order to get dressed. If only we teach our hands not to be greedy and wanting things that we don't really need...
      Big hugs,

    3. I can already see that I'm being more careful with the things I have (wearing aprons, mending), and am feeling much more grateful for what I have. These are things I was taught, brought up in a frugal household, but now that I'm voluntarily limiting myself, I'm reminded of the value of these teachings. I really thought I was not a victim of our consumerist culture, but I am more so than I thought. It's a good feeling to unplug a little more.

  3. Your are very brave, I am going to have a clear out for the season that's the best I can do for the moment as I am in between sizes due to losing a little weight. You have done really well.

  4. I don't think I have the guts to purge as much as I should (although I did pretty well this year), but I honestly feel pretty much like I end up wearing a very limited wardrobe these days. It's much easier to do, the older I get, and more retired I am. I like your choices, will continue following. Maybe next year for me....

  5. Wow, way to go Deborah! I know I said I would love to give this a go, but now after reading more I'm not sure if I could actually do it! Mainly because I am so indecisive about what i should wear - I am the worst person for packing for a trip :) Who knows... maybe I will get brave and decisive and try it :)

    Hugs to you!

  6. Hello, I have had to stop buying cheaper tops and skirts and I will buy a nice dress at least once a year! If I do not love a clothing item and it does not fit well out it goes! I think having things that can be worn together is a key for me! This will be a good thing for you and your closet!

  7. Interesting reading in the comments and I love the quote Mariette shared. I have purged my closet within the last couple of years but probably still have way too much.

  8. I have a question, I have old clothes I wear around the house that I don't care if they get stained. And I have my "good clothes" for wearing to town and such. Are the 33 items just your "good clothes" or does it encompass everything you wear each day? Thanks, Darlene

    1. The way I understand it, the 33 items include everything you wear each day, excluding workout gear, underwear, pajamas. And workout gear is just for workouts, not to wear around during the day. If you want more info just go to their website. Just search for Project 333.
      I am following their rules exactly for these first three months just to give it a try; I imagine I may tweak it to fit my own preferences as time goes on.
      (I wear an apron when I'm cooking to help protect my clothes.)
      Thanks for your visit!

  9. I am going to forward this to both of my daughters and my sister. I think they will love this!

  10. I am so inspired by you, Deborah! This is something that makes good sense - why do we need so many clothes anyway? It is a worthy goal to try and build a wardrobe that coordinates with everything else and is of good quality to last. I used to sew a lot of my clothes because I wanted good quality which is very expensive these days, or hard to find. I love your color palette - how pretty. I hope you show us your different daily combinations - maybe laid out on your bed if you don't want to model for us. I would love to see..... Hugs xo Karen

  11. Hi Deborah, wow you have done an amazing job of organizing and planning your 33 items to wear for 3 months. I love your color choices for you and the items you will wear. I have no doubt you will do great and have already learned so much. Over the summer I actually have used very little and the clothing I wore are all interchangeable. Having been a boutique manager in the past for retail clothing, we used to display and share how one outfit could be worked into several with just changing a few pieces, shoes and jewelry. We really can live with less. I have been doing this with my decorating too. Less is more.
    Love this post and your commitment to this lifestyle. Thank you for sharing!!

    Have a great weekend my friend.
    Hugs and Blessings

  12. Oh Deborah, I so enjoyed your post about what you've done and how you went about it. It's a great guide and although I'm fairly minimalist when it comes to my clothres, I'd see a few things I can learn from you! I noted you mentioned the workhorse pieces that can go the distance. That's what I want to do more...to find a few staple pieces that will go the true distance, not just one season.

    What a fun project. It feels so coordinated -- love it. You must feel beautiful when you look in your lovely closet!


  13. Hello Deborah. I am very impressed. I don't know if I would be able to take such a challenge. You are very braved and determined. I am inspired and will definitely give this a lot of thought. I have been cleaning out my closets and donating the unwanted garments to our local thrift shop that uses the funds for schools supplies. It is true that we can all live with less and just keep some key pieces in our closets so I will do my best. Until then, I wish you a blessed week sweet friend.

    Thank you for the visits and your lovely comments.



  14. I've been doing the "bring something in, take something out" rule for quite a few years, and it has saved me MUCH grief! You're doing great! I love the color palette you've chosen -- so beautiful and calming! How exciting!

  15. A very inspiring post, Deborah. The older I get, the less I want/need/ with regards to apparel, and stuff in general. I edited my wardrobe many years ago, and only wear what fits well, (read: complements my curvy, Mediterranean figure). Two years ago, I had to pack up an entire household and fit it into my new build's basement, since we had already furnished our new home, initially thinking that it would mainly be a vacation/weekend venue. After editing, donating, recycling and editing some more, I finally feel that my 'now' stuff is enough. Simplifying all aspects in my life, has led to a more peaceful and satisfying existence.

    Thanks for sharing your strategies!



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