How to Make This Minimalist Fashion Project Work For You


If the idea of dressing with 33 items or less completely freaks you out, and makes you want to go shopping, keep reading. Almost every single person (including me) had fears, objections and excuses before getting started.

Excuses and fears like:

  • climate is too cold
  • climate is too hot
  • climate is too hot and cold
  • people will notice
  • must dress for many different things
  • can’t fit into the corporate culture
  • might gain weight
  • might lose weight
  • will get bored

Some people jumped in anyway, but many people broke the rules and crafted a modified Project 333 that worked for their life situation. They broke the rules for the joy of the practice.

5 ways to break the rules

1. Events and Meetings
If you have to attend dressy events or formal meetings for work and don’t know how to fit in enough items, don’t count your event wear. Group that with your gym clothes and sleep wear.

2. Uniforms
Don’t count your uniforms. If you wear scrubs to work, a special outfit for school, or specific items for your career, count the items once or not at all.

3. Shoe Obsessed
If you have a thing for shoes, and wearing the same pair twice in the same week (or month) has never crossed your mind, don’t count your shoes.

4. Love jewelry or accessories
Don’t count it, or don’t include any. Boxing up either of these categories for 3 months can be very eye opening. You might discover that excluding these choices from your wardrobe makes everything simpler, and that your additions were more excessive than you thought.

5. Frequent Flyer
Worried that your 33 won’t fit your upcoming cruise or trip to Europe? Pack a small travel bag in advance and don’t count it as part of your 33.

What If I don’t want people to think I’m weird?

They might think you are weird, but if you are worried about what people will think, don’t tell them, or invite them to join you. Challenge your friends or colleagues. There are groups like the professional organizers of Kansas City and even students on college campuses that are practicing Project 333 together.

By modifying the rules, you have a chance to experience the benefits, fight your fears, and see for yourself if there is anything to this minimalist fashion project that adds value to your life. If it does, try it again a little closer to the original rules. Whatever your approach, make it fun, challenging and meaningful.

There is no prize for practicing perfectly, so do this in a way that helps you get started.

This project in dressing with less will seep into other areas of your wardrobe, home and life if you give it a chance.

Sign up below for inbox inspiration.

The Dress with Less Microcourse

Learn to build your own capsule wardrobe with the Dress with Less microcourse. Step by step lessons, audio & video recordings, and a private Facebook group will help you end closet chaos.


  1. says

    Great post, Courtney! Thanks for sharing about our modified 333 Project here in Kansas City, too. I love these ideas you have to get people started. :)

  2. Susan says

    Today is my first day! I have a few slight modifications, too.

    1. I am allowed to wear whatever shoes I want, because I have a bad foot and just have to go with what works some days.
    2. A few “special occasions” don’t count: a wedding and a few Major League Soccer games. The weather is just WAY too unpredictable early in the soccer season!

    I was also wondering about socks and tights. Do they just count as undergarments?

    • says

      Susan, for my part, I don’t ever count:
      *underwear, PJs, workout clothes, loungewear (normal exclusions)
      *outerwear, legwear, or three Old Navy v-necks / two Icebreaker tees that straddle the fence between casual wear and lounge/sleepwear. They are just enough to fill in the gaps and more often function as a base layer, and counting them OR excluding them just didn’t work, so I stopped letting it stress me out!

      • Susan says

        I am keeping all of this in mind, but I don’t want to modify TOO much my first time out. For me, I think it is important to try the project in pretty strict form at least once, just to feel it out.

  3. says

    I’m a huge proponent of the modified Project 333, and I can say it has made an enormous difference in my life AND my closet. I love it and will do some form of capsule dressing forever. I’ve spent the better part of the past year (since 2-14-13) doing 2-month project 333s, with about 33 items, and for 2 months vs. 3. I also let myself swap one item at the start of any new month, and replace anything that falls apart or gets irretrievably stained/unusable/I decide I hate it and never want to wear it again, because life is short and some of the best benefits of working with a capsule wardrobe come from both having to wear all of your things (so you can’t just hang it back up and ignore it indefinitely) and having the flexibility to replace what doesn’t work with the things you discover really and truly DO.

    This sixth round, I’m wearing all the leftovers*, so I have about 50 items, but I’ve already selected about 7 for donation, and have about 3-4 items that I haven’t really worn and don’t want to wear that will probably join their friends in the give-away bin. This is the ONLY challenge I’ve found truly difficult (and that’s after swapping some items* for some new purchases that made the remaining ones work better together), because it’s full of things I went out of my way NOT to wear (but couldn’t quite part with??) during the first five rounds. Yeah, they were leftovers for a reason.

    *I originally included everything I hadn’t used in a prior round, but there were about 5 items that were truly only appropriate for summer – sandals or linen skirts or sleeveless, gauzy blouses – so I packed them back away and will re-evaluate when the mercury climbs again.

    Going forward, I’m currently trying to decide between a slightly larger, but quarterly, wardrobe (50 for 3 months, for example) and picking 33 things, but swapping out, say, 10, on the start of each month, so that I can better address the seasonal changes (in Missouri, you might like a sweater in early June, but be unable to fathom anything with sleeves by July; reverse that for October start to finish…)

  4. Gail says

    I just realized that I’M DOING IT!!!!! Without even trying, I’m actually doing project 333. This is SOOOOO exciting! You see, I have been reading your blog for about a year now, and have wanted to do Project 333, but instead, I just kept reading about it. I’ve been downsizing my wardrobe by consigning or giving away a lot of clothes during 2013, which I’m pleased about, but I still have way too much and I haven’t jumped into P333.
    Here’s how Project 333 snuck up on me without me noticing. I am retired (62) and live in NC, but spend the winter in our home in SW FL, which is where I am right now. I brought 50 or so pieces of clothing with me (didn’t count) to FL without thinking of P333. I was simply packing what I thought I’d need for about 3 months in FL. We’ve been here one month now, and I’ve noticed that I keep wearing the same things over and over and I haven’t once worn many of the things that I brought. So, in the middle of reading your blog, it hit me that “I AM DOING IT”! I ran to the bedroom and counted only the articles of clothing that I have worn since we arrived in FL. Including shoes, I’ve worn only 30 things, and some of those 30 I wear just for exercising! WOW!!! It’s not hard at all!!! Why did I wait so long?
    It’s easier here in SW FL where it’s always warm, and I have it easier because I don’t work and even when we go out or are with friends we still dress casually. But still…
    Thanks, Courtney, and everyone else who has written comments of inspiration. I know you share my joy!

  5. Leah says

    I just started Project 333 after following you on Facebook and your blog for a long time. I definitely have a strict uniform but I am an over-shopper so I really need something to keep me from buying more than I need (or can ever wear). I had a difficult time choosing 33 items because I really love all of my clothes. I am doing a modified version of the project. I chose 33 items of clothing and everything else is not counted in the 33 items. I stand all day (I’m a science teacher) so I need to be able to swap shoes a lot. I wear heels almost every day and I can get away with it because I never repeat shoes. I also live in Southern California and the weather is so strange – one day freezing and the next is 80 degrees. I did not count accessories and jewelry but I don’t wear jewelry much and I only wear accessories for warmth (scarf) or to keep my jeans up. I am going to post pictures of my outfits on a blog and I will let you know when I do! Thanks for all of the inspiration!

  6. Martha Fletcher says

    I follow you and “becoming minimalmist” on FB, so when I got to the 333 I was in a good place to accept the concept. I had a huge pile of laundry to do this week and I was not happy to spend a perfectly good evening in the basement wash stuff. With still more left in the closet unworn, I had the epiphany that this is what the 333 is all about. Wear what you really like and don’t be a caretaker for the “acceptable”.

    As I do the laundry this next day or so I will be looking at the clothes with a fresh outlook and more critical eye. Yesterday I cleared out a full trash bag of “winter” clothes that did not really fit me well, or did not make me feel good about myself. Life is too short to hold on to things that don’t enhance how you feel about yourself. The same will happen when the “summer” clothes come out later on in the Spring.

  7. Sara says

    I’m in the too-cold-and-too-hot camp.

    Instead of worrying too much about shoes, I picked two pairs of boots that will be switched out for sandals when the weather gets warm enough. And i included flats as well.

    I excluded coats, winter accessories and bags from my 33 items because I consider them to be “gear”. My winter coat and boots aren’t really worn for fashion but purely function. And I only own one coat per season. I’m not a purse person so that was a no-brainer.

    My favorite part so far is not sticking to 33 pieces to wear (that’s really hard for me, actually) but that it makes it easy for me to clean out my closet! . In less than a week I’ve already gone through and came up with a big bag for donation, and this is from someone who started with a small closet. If there is something weather appropriate that I am not reaching for or had no trouble excluding from my list of 33 items, it’s likely because I never wear it and so I’m getting rid of it.

  8. says

    When I first told people I was doing Project 333 and explained what it was the respondents fell into two very distinct camps. Those who reckoned (quite correctly) that they probably only had 33 items in their wardrobe anyway and those who thought I was bonkers. I asked the latter group how much of their wardrobe they actually wore and if those items added up to 33? Yup, you’ve guessed it. They had wardrobes bulging with clothes but only wore about 20 of them :)

  9. Martha Fletcher says

    My big cheat is not counting turtle neck tops. I count sweaters but since these tops go on under the sweaters I figure they go together and I don’t count them.

  10. says

    I have too little to cheat… Actually still in the process of making new garments to get rid of the old. A new life, a new you, right?!

  11. says

    Modifying the rules is what made me feel comfortable starting this month. I made a few modifications. First, instead of four sets of 3 months, I’ll just to 2-3 longer terms that coincide better with the seasons. Second, due to chronic illness I spend a huge amount of time at home in lounge clothes. I felt like it was cheating to not count those, but I finally decided to just get over that. I never wear them out of the house, so I’m not counting them. And lastly, I’m not counting purses/bags. That’s an area that I need to work on, and I will in time, but right now I’m just not ready. But I have to admit, it’s really nice to open my 1 drawer of sweaters when I’m getting dressed to leave the house. No more looking through different drawers, trying to make up my mind. There’s just the one group of tops now, and I love it!

  12. shelby says

    When you list “jeans”, is that one pair of jeans? In the picture, I can’t see any bottoms for sure, but I see that the list says the jeans are not in the picture, but I wonder if that is a couple pairs of jeans or just one.

  13. Sara says

    I was very worried about weather. I packed up all my clothes anyway but, I put them in a bin out of sight. I thought I would need to get it all back out. A full season later, a move from Germany to Italy, and a change in weight and I only ever pulled out one item. When the movers deliver the bin it is being donated. It did give me the freedom to try without the worry of “what if this doesn’t work for me.” But it did! I’ve started something similar with jewelery because that was another worry. I put a small container in my bathroom. Whenever I wear something I toss it in after. I found I’m always going back to the container for jewelery and more than half is still in my organizer unused. Those will be the next to go. On a side note about worrying about what people think. I have gotten so many more compliments at work on my clothes, since I am only wearing what looks good. With less decision I have more time so it keeps me from saying “oh forget it” and putting on something frumpy. Almost ever day someone would comment that I looked nice.

  14. Liz says

    I’ve been cheating in various ways since I started. First was the obvious – not counting shoes/bags/accessories. I know I don’t have a shoe problem – selecting shoes doesn’t cause me stress in the morning, and I wear all of the pairs I own – but that six pairs of shoes would use up a lot of my allowance. Ditto bags – I use one small handbag 99% of the time, but I still need to keep a rucksack around for overnight stays, even if I only use it once every few months. I also own a couple of “novelty” handbags that I can’t use day to day because they’re not neutral enough to match or be appropriate for all situations, but that I genuinely love and really enjoy having, even if I don’t use them often. As for accessories, I never wear accessories except for hats/scarves/gloves for warmth and sometimes decorative headbands to keep my hair out of my eyes, both of which serve a functional purpose and I don’t have many of anyway so I don’t feel a need to cull them. During this phase of Project 333 I focused on giving clothes that didn’t fit to charity, cutting my wardrobe down from over 100 items of clothing to ~60.

    In the next phase, I was ready to get more extreme. I realised that I disliked about a third of my wardrobe, and avoided another sixth because I had nothing to wear it with. Theoretically, that left me with 35 items, but in practice most of those items were suitable for casual wear only. I couldn’t get rid of all the clothes I was just itching to throw away, because I couldn’t afford to replace them! In the first round of p333, when I mercilessly culled all of the tops I’d bought when I saw something cute in a thrift store that was “only” one size too big, I’d accidentally got rid of ALL of my summer-appropriate formal clothing, and every non-slogan T-shirt (I buy most of my clothes second-hand, but I’m also unusually petite so a lot of my wardrobe was a size too big for me). P333 isn’t supposed to be an exercise in suffering, but I couldn’t afford to buy a whole new work wardrobe so I still ended up sweltering all summer. I didn’t want to make this mistake again, so I tried to forget about cutting down to 33 items for a while and instead focused on what my perfect wardrobe would look like once I had some more cash. I made lists of what my wardrobe was missing with the aim of being able to find partners for items I liked but owned nothing to match. I came up with a list of about ten items I needed to match clothes that had no partners, and another fifteen or so I needed to replace items I didn’t like, and I took these lists on my regular thrift store trips (this time with a strict self-imposed rule only to buy stuff that fitted right). However, after a year of this my financial situation was no better and I’d only managed to find two of the items on my list in thrift stores. I realised that I was going to have to spend about $200 on new clothes before I could happily cull my wardrobe.

    My next rule-break was to decide to have two 33s – one for work and one for casual. From looking at other people’s 33s, it seems that people who manage to include work AND casual in the same wardrobe either have fairly relaxed work dresscodes, are happy with tiny casual wardrobes, or enjoy wearing work-ish clothes like shirts and blazers outside the office to casual lunches. I am not that sort of person. My mother may enjoy wearing blazers outside of work, but I don’t, and my work and casual wardrobes have no overlap at all. Once seperated my wardrobe into work and casual wear, I realised that I had about 40 casualwear items, and culled that down to 33 including shoes, trying to keep colours that mixed well with each other. It’s not the perfect wardrobe, and a lot of items I like have gone into storage until I can buy other items to coordinate them with while items I dislike remained because I don’t have the money to replace them, but it’s a start. As for my workwear, I only have 20 pieces right now, and as soon as I have a little more money I’ll start instigating a one-in-one-out policy for replacing stuff I’m not keen on!

  15. says

    I started doing something similar 2 weeks ago — 37 items, following the plan on with a few mods. Shoes and outerwear (coats and jackets) are part of the non-counted grouping of loungewear/workout clothes. I have been loving this! It is so much easier to get dressed in the morning. And I was able to pack for a business trip in 10 minutes flat. Whoo hoo!