on project 333

Almost two years ago now, I watched Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things on Netflix. 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. NC had to watch it too.

We’ve always erred on the side of owning a minimal amount of possessions and I don’t like a cluttered house. I’ve had regular clear-outs since I was 16 and living in a 700 sq-ft flat for a good few years now whilst we save for a house, we actually can’t go crazy with possessions – there’s nowhere to put them. Thinking about it, this documentary was probably preaching to the choir but we enjoyed it nonetheless and were spurred into action to minimalise our possessions even more.

One of the aspects of the documentary that really intrigued us was Project 333. The crux is to select 33 items of clothing that comprise of everything you’d wear for 3 months.

Mr. NC was so inspired, he decided to undertake the challenge himself.


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 due to holes since undertaking the project & there’s nothing more satisfying than getting rid of something because you actually wore it out.

We segregated all his other clothes to avoid confusion and also made a google doc of the list.

the 33

this is a winter 33

  • work trousers
  • work suit
  • 6 work shirts
  • casual shirt
  • 6 ties
  • work belt
  • work shoes
  • 3 pairs cufflinks
  • casual shoes
  • 3 t-shirts
  • casual jeans
  • smart jeans
  • fleece
  • nice jumper
  • coat
  • casual belt
  • cap
  • hat, scarf, gloves
  • watch

other items that can be worn (excluded from the 33)

  • wedding ring
  • underwear
  • p.j’s
  • exercise clothes
  • thermals (season specific)

how did it go?

In the end, he ended up living with 30 items over the 3 months.

  • the casual jeans that were thrown out were not replaced.
  • one tie dropped out of rotation.
  • one pair of cufflinks dropped out of rotation.
  • the casual belt wasn’t used an awful lot.


After the 3 months had ended, we looked back and what had and hadn’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. NC picked his smart jeans that were black, his coat was black and his casual shoes were black, so at the weekends, he 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 (some are pushing 10) 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.

an adaptation

It was a successful undertaking & we both really enjoyed the experiment and going forwards, Mr. NC will just mix things up slightly

  • 50 items for 12 months.  
  • 30 core items comprising of pretty versatile, year round clothing.
  • 5 items per season specific to the weather.

Living in the UK we have pretty decently defined seasons (although sometimes it does just feel grey and 13 degrees year round). 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.

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.


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