Project 333 Fall/Winter 2014

It’s that time of year again! The time when I start planning out my minimalist capsule wardrobe for Project 333. A new round of the project starts November 1 (so yes,I’m planning ahead a bit….)  Are you thinking about trying it? Here’s Courtney’s invitation to start small.
I find that my wardrobes are getting simpler with each round of this project. I’m wearing fewer patterns, and more easy-to-coordinate basic pieces (compared, say, to my second round of the project last summer, or to my wardrobe from around this time last year). I don’t shop much, but when I do, I gravitate toward simpler, better constructed items. I’ve made a few changes to how I go about this project. I’ve stopped counting all of my exercise clothes toward my total. I have a drawer of sports bras and yoga pants and old t-shirts, and I wear them only to work out at the YMCA. Unlike the rest of my day, I put essentially no thought into what I wear to the Y. I realized that for me, simplicity in my exercise routine means doing laundry a bit less frequently and not overthinking my workout wardrobe, so I limit that space to one drawer, and that’s as much thought as I give it these days.
What I do think about is my work wardrobe. I want to look like a professional, but a big part of my job is playing on the floor with little kids, so wash and wear is a must for me. Project 333 has helped me learn to keep a minimalist, easy-to-coordinate set of work and casual clothes so that I can get dressed in the morning without angst, be presentable at work, shop less, reduce my impact on the planet, and be part of a community that is striving to do the same.
Sources: Most of these are items I already have, but the bag is the satchel I’ve had my eye on for quite some time, from Cambridge Satchel Co. If I make a new purchase for this round of the project, that’ll be it. Yet I doubt I’ll buy it; it’s mostly a daydream. My clothes are mostly from J. Crew and Madewell, purchased at the occasional clearance sale, or from clothing swaps with friends. A few of my more colorful items are vintage or, in the case of this dress, from Modcloth. I find it most helpful to include a variety of simple wash-and-wear tops, a few dressier ones (and a few dresses), cords and trousers, and some comfy sweaters…and to keep accessories as minimal as possible. Also, I always include a colorful coat and (at this time of year) an old-fashioned ladies’ hat, because I love them, and because it’s such a nice way to brighten up a basic wardrobe and make it my own. I always include at least one fancy dress, because in a three month span, odds are I’ll go to a wedding or some other fancy event, and a simple cardigan and flats let me dress it down enough to wear it to work in the day-to-day (on an office day. Not on a playing-on-the-floor-with-kids day. I’m not that ridiculous).
So with no further ado, here’s my wintery take on Project 333:

Project 333 Fall 2014

  • 3 t-shirts (grey. navy. black.)
  • 2 button up blouses (black. chambray.)
  • 2 dressy tops (black camisole. white peplum.)
  • 1 pencil skirt
  • 2 pairs work trousers (khaki. black.)
  • 3 pairs casual pants (dark green. denim. yoga pants.)
  • 5 sweaters (2 pullovers. 2 cardigans. 1 hoodie.)
  • 2 dresses: a formal floral number, and a more casual vintage-y grey one
  • 2 coats (black down coat. coral dress coat.)
  • 4 pairs shoes (sneakers. loafers. ballet flats. boots.)
  • 7 accessories (hat. scarf. gloves. necklace. earrings. belt. satchel.)

And that’s all, folks! It really is enough – more than enough – for three months of daily wear. Don’t take my word for it. Try it out!


Sentimental attachments: The Libra test

Blogging is an interesting way to occupy one’s time. In fact, I have a PhD colleague who did her dissertation on the occupation of blogging. Her study was fascinating, as she explored the meanings that blogging takes for different people. The thing that I have noted about blogging is that I write something, send it out into the ether, and then have relatively little sense of where it goes. Sure I can see when someone links to the blog, and I can track the number of hits on the site, and comments, but most readers pop in, read, and pop back out. As much as we bloggers talk about “blogging communities”, a blog is mostly a sounding board for a single individual, or a couple of writers, with a percentage of readers who comment on some posts. I love comments, but get relatively few, compared to the number of people who read this site. Sometimes I wonder…what’s the point? So much energy goes into this site. Does anyone really read it? I like writing, and the blog can be a good way to process my own thoughts and record our daily life, like an online journal, but the real hope is to impact some change. Living more simply changed my life. My hope is to pass that along. So it’s always encouraging to hear that someone was inspired by something I wrote, or a link that I shared.

Relatively recently, a friend started a minimalist challenge that she said was inspired by this blog! I found that very encouraging. Then I got a note in the mail from my mom today. She told me that she’s “following my mantra” – a load of stuff to the Goodwill every week! That is indeed how I pared down our stuff, and it felt manageable to make such incremental change, along with a sweeping whole-house Minify every now and then when the spirit moved me. My mom has been such an inspiration to me in so many ways (especially now that I’m a doc student – she’s been an excellent source of advice on life in academia!) It’s nice that we can inspire each other, every now and then. So that got me thinking – what advice helped me in the process of paring down our stuff? What was the hardest part, and where did I get stuck?

And that’s when I realized – I should share the Libra test. (I made that name up, by the way. It’s not a thing. Yet). I’m not an astrology buff, by any stretch. I like the Greek and Roman myths behind the names of the constellations, and I like astronomy quite a bit, but I digress. The point here is that this test has nothing to do at all with astrology, except that it was named after the zodiac image for Libra. Do you know it? The scales, for weighing two things against one another? Like this:

libra scales

The Libra test involves weighing your attachment to a pair of items, while literally holding them in your hands. It’s a way to help you let go of the less-loved thing, and to realize that parting with it will be totally painless. It started because I am a sentimental sort of gal. I save movie tickets, photos I don’t really like because they remind me of someone I do like, gifts that don’t fit. Or I used to, anyway. I have a hard time parting with an object if I have a sentimental attachment to it. “I still like this,” I tell myself, even when the object I’m holding in my hands is one I’ve never used, which lives on the back of a kitchen shelf. I feel an attachment. I really started noticing my attachment to things when I started participating in Project 333. It was so simple, and lovely, to dress with just 33 items. I realized that I didn’t need a closet full of stuff. I certainly didn’t need to own 12 cardigan sweaters. But when it came to actually getting rid of some of them…I had a hard time letting a single one go. “I sewed these buttons onto this one when I was in college,” I would think, holding a sweater that I hadn’t worn in the past year. Or “I got this one at a clothing swap from a friend who has now moved away,” about one that never quite buttoned up the front. I realized that I needed a way to help me remember that it doesn’t hurt to part with a thing that I never really use, and don’t need, especially when it could be put to better use in another home.

Here’s a current example: I have a pitcher that I bought in college. It was handmade, by a pottery student at my alma mater, and it reminds me of the mountains. In fact, that’s why I bought it: the glaze pattern reminds me of the blue ridge mountains. I like the pitcher. Since buying it ten years ago, though, I’ve acquired several that I like better. A fish-shaped ceramic pitcher from my mom, which glugs when we pour water from it. We use that every day. A blue handmade pottery pitcher that matches the set we got for our wedding. We use that whole set of pottery at every meal. And I have a sunset-colored pottery pitcher, also handmade, that I love so much that when it cracked down the side, I turned it into a crock for our kitchen utensils. I use that…you guessed it. Every day. The pitcher from college, meanwhile? The one that reminds me vaguely of the mountains? It sits unused, high on a shelf, because I have too many pitchers, and it’s my least favorite. It’s still a lovely object, and could probably get some daily use in a less cluttered home. Someone out there is going to love it even more than I do. And I can feel that – the sense that I don’t really love or need it – if I hold it in one hand and hold in the other hand an object that I do adore. When I compare the mountain pitcher to the blue pitcher from our wedding set, there’s no question of which object I love more, or would keep if I had to choose between them.

That’s all it takes – that moment of comparison, between a real affinity for an object that I love, and a mild sentimental attachment to an object that I know I should let go. That’s what reminds me that it’s okay to part with an object that I still kind of like, when I have several similar object that you like even better. It’s another way to approach the question, how many of these (scissors, pitchers, cardigan sweaters) do you really need and want to own? Figuring out which things I still really love, and which ones someone else will love even more, has been helping me pare down and get closer to a house that feels well loved, instead of just full of stuff.

Try it. See if it helps. Meanwhile, I’ll be parting with this mountain pitcher. Anyone want it? It’s in search of a better home!

If we weren’t minimalists before…

We are surely minimalists now. Call it an act of God. Our insurer did, followed by the words “you’re not covered.” On a day like today – one of the longest days of my life – it is really good to remember that stuff doesn’t matter, and community does. We lost a lot of stuff, but we are so rich in community. Our neighbors and friends have sheltered and fed us, checked on us, comforted us, cared for our dog, helped drain the water from our cars…and the list goes on. We are healthy, together, and safe, and fortunate to be so cared for. This was the last 36 hours:








Our downstairs flooded, about half a foot deep. Our neighborhood creek became a 50 foot wide river. We lost Josh’s car, our home has to be gutted, repairs will take months. We are displaced. Our pets are displaced. And we worked so hard today. Then we threw a flood party, all gathered outside on our ruined furniture, drinking bourbon from tea cups. Half the homes in our neighborhood were flooded. The other half have been our ports in the storm. I am so profoundly grateful for our amazing neighbors and generous friends. We are all in good spirits – because we have each other, and that is so much more than enough.