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You don’t need all those clothes in your closet

The Minimalists chat with Courtney Carver, founder of Project 333, on why stuffed closets are overrated.

If you've ever tried to create a capsule wardrobe and pare down the number of clothes you wear, you may have heard of Project 333. This concept was developed by Courtney Carver, who challenges people to wear only 33 items, including accessories, shoes, and jewelry, for three months. (It does not include sleepwear, loungewear, or workout clothes.) Project 333 has exploded in popularity over the past decade, spurring countless people to embrace a minimalist wardrobe after discovering how liberating it can be.

Now Carver has written a book called Project 333: The Minimalist Fashion Challenge That Proves Less Really Is So Much More (March 2020). Prior to this, the concept was taught through her website and online course, Be More With Less. Carver was recently interviewed on The Minimalists' podcast, hosted by Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn, and I want to share some highlights from that conversation, which could be inspiring and useful to many readers.

The three begin by debunking the idea that we actually need all the items in our closets. In fact, the average American woman has $500 worth of unworn clothing in her closet, which shows that we're spending money on items we do not need. According to the Pareto Principle, we only use 20 percent of our clothes 80 percent of the time, and yet maintaining that full wardrobe requires a significant amount of time and energy. In Carver's words:

“Before, when my wardrobe was every color, every pattern, every thing, I had to give so much attention to it because, of course, only one thing matched with one thing. I think it took away creativity from other areas of my life and made other areas of my life boring. To switch that was such a great trade. Now everything I wear goes with everything I own.”

The discussion moves on to trendiness, a driving force behind the urge to buy more clothes; and yet, this is a downward spiral that can never be fully conquered. Trendiness, as Joshua Fields Millburn says, is “just a fancy way to say ‘soon to be out of fashion'” and, before you know it, there'll be something totally different on the store mannequins that you want to have in your own wardrobe. It's better to focus on timelessness, buying clothes that look great every day.

Moving from the philosophical to the practical aspects of Project 333, The Minimalists and Carver then discuss how to make clothes last longer, which becomes a real challenge with a limited number of items in the closet. Carver's advice is to “do laundry better.” She washes all clothes in cold water, uses natural detergent and avoids fabric softener, and line-dries almost everything. Dryers are hard on clothes and cause them to degrade more rapidly than if they're hung out; but if she has to use it, she adds a wool dryer ball. The ball helps to separate wet clothes and speed up the drying process, as well as get rid of static. (More TreeHugger laundry advice here.)

It's a thought-provoking discussion that makes me want to march upstairs and comb through my own wardrobe. At the very least, it gives much-needed permission to stop fretting over “dressing to impress” – a message that more people need to hear – because most people don't even notice what you're wearing. You can watch/listen to the full episode below, or pre-order Carver's book here.

The Minimalists chat with Courtney Carver, founder of Project 333, on why stuffed closets are overrated.