The Rules Of Project 333 To Simplify Your Closet

The Rules Of Project 333 To Simplify Your Closet


The Project 333 rules help both novice and experienced minimalists tackle one of the most challenging aspects of the minimalist life: the closet. Using a few simple rules, Project 333 truly streamlines the process of getting ready each morning and managing an organized closet.

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Hi, I’m Ryan

I’ve considered myself a minimalist for nearly a decade, and I’m always looking for new ways to simplify my habits and surroundings. When I heard about Project 333, I knew I had to dive in.

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What Are The Rules Of Project 333?

What Are The Rules Of Project 333

The rules of Project 333 are fairly simple to follow and apply to your own wardrobe, which is especially encouraging for those who are new to minimalism and are looking for an easy, effective system.

closet with too many choicesTo put it plainly, you probably only wear about 20% of your wardrobe 80% of the time. Cutting out those extra clothes isn’t actually a huge loss — you aren’t wearing them anyway!

Before trying Project 333, my closet felt like one of those restaurant menus that is the length of a short novel — there were way too many choices! This method simplified my closet in a snap and reduced my decision fatigue when getting ready each day.

The challenge was created by Courtney Carver in 2010 and first described in her book Project 333: The Minimalist Fashion Challenge That Proves Less Really is So Much More. In a nutshell, you allow 33 garments into your closet for a period of three months’ time. At the end of those first three months, you’ll select another set of 33 garments for the next three-month cycle, until you’ve completed four cycles that take you through the year, and each season.

simplify your closet with project 333The idea is that you’ll end up with four capsule wardrobes by the completion of the project; one for each season as you create your rotating annual wardrobe. For some people, this means having four totally separate 33-item seasonal capsules, while others allow items to overlap. I prefer to keep it to 33 total items, with many items that work through all seasons.

As an avid minimalist, I only like to keep items in my closet that I know I actively need each season. When I’m sweating up a storm in the North Carolina summer heat, I don’t want to have to dig through my snow gear. Project 333 helps you create a rotating capsule that works with the seasonal changes wherever you live!

There are a couple rules that go into making Project 333 that give it its magic. These guidelines are super simple to apply to your own capsule closet.

building a capsule wardrobe

Rule One: When To Start Project 333

When To Start Project 333

First things first, it’s important to know when to start Project 333. The start time is flexible, which is another thing I personally really love about Courtney’s method.

This is a practice that you can start at any time of year. You don’t have to wait until you feel “prepared enough” to try out Project 333. It’s a system that’s great for beginners because it’s easy to jump right in on your own timeframe.

starting project 333

Rule Two: Project 333 Duration

Project 333 Duration

One of the main rules of project 333 is its duration. The initial process lasts three months, but the overall impact of the process can last an entire lifetime. When you first decide which clothing to keep in your wardrobe, you’ll use those clothes for exactly three months. Then, ideally, you’ll rinse, repeat, and take on the challenge again in the following three months.

This process can go on for as long as you like! This is another aspect that I really enjoy about Project 333 because it gives me the freedom to try it out for three months, then re-evaluate. I have the capacity to challenge myself for three months, then take a break for the next three months if I need it.

duration of project 333

Rule Three: Number Of Clothing Items

Number Of Clothing Items

Another one of the most important rules of Project 333 is the number of clothing items you can keep in your closet. The rules strictly limit you to 33 items of clothing, which sounds like a really limited number at first.

However, I can say that when I tried out Project 333 for the first time, I was pleasantly surprised by how many outfit combos I was actually able to create with only 33 items of clothing! Like I said before, you don’t wear as many clothes in your closet as you think. You’ll be surprised by how far 33 items can take you.

minimalist personal uniform

Rule Four: Which Clothes To Include In The Process

Which Clothes To Include In The Process

Another interesting aspect of Project 333 is that there are a few exceptions to the clothes you count in your quota. Even though 33 items may seem like a sparse number, not every type of clothing is part of the system. The project tries to include only staple pieces into that 33 number.

Project 333 Includes

  • Shirts
  • Pants
  • Sweaters
  • Outer Garments
  • Shoes
  • Accessories
  • Jewelry
sweaters and outer garments

Rule Five: What Clothes To Exclude

What Clothes To Exclude

Project 333 excludes certain clothing items as well. When I was trying out Project 333 for the first time, I was thankful that I didn’t have to track my daily wear like my favorite loungewear or pairs of warm socks.

Project 333 Excludes

  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • Sleepwear
  • Workout Clothes
  • Loungewear
socks and sleepwear

Steps To Implement Project 333 In Your Daily Life

Steps To Implement Project 333 In Your Daily Life

It only takes a few simple steps to get started and apply the rules of Project 333 to your own closet and life. I’ve broken down the practice into five simple steps to help you find your way to a capsule wardrobe you’ll never get bored of!

1Make A Pile Of Your Clothes

The very first thing I did after deciding to tackle Project 333 was make a huge pile of all of the clothes in my closet, and I mean ALL of them. I know it may sound counterintuitive to make a giant mess when you’re trying to declutter, but I assure you this is the best way to go in when you start.

After laying all my clothes out in a pile on my floor, I decided to sort my garments into three categories: A yes pile, a no pile, and a maybe pile. This is one easy way to start thinking through which 33 items you want to include in your wardrobe.

sort garments into three categories

2Ask How Your Wardrobe Impacts Your Lifestyle

It’s important to know that Project 333 will manifest differently for everyone depending on their individual lifestyle. There are some clothes that are absolutely essential to some lifestyles, but those same clothes may not really matter to someone else.

Your Wardrobe Impacts Your LifestyleFor example, some people may need a plethora of workout clothes due to how frequently they hit the gym, while others may want to keep dressier options in their lineup to match their vibrant social life.

I work from home during my day, so I don’t need a ton of business outfits. For someone else, business wear may make up 80% of their capsule. The 33 pieces of clothing you choose to hold onto should realistically represent your personal lifestyle and habits.

3Select 33 Items Of Clothing

Once you have considered how your lifestyle and habits affect your clothes, it’s time to actually make your garment selections. Go through each individual item in your clothing pile and think through whether or not it belongs in your three-month capsule.

There are a few questions I always make sure to ask myself when I take on this part of the process.

When Creating Your Capsule, Ask Yourself

  • Have I worn this item in the last three months?
  • Do I have plans to wear this item in the next 3 months?
  • Is this a staple piece in my wardrobe?
  • Is this a special occasion piece in my wardrobe?
  • Does this garment have a specific use? (bathrobe, snow pants, bathing suit)
  • Is this a piece I would quickly notice being gone?
  • Is this item in my typical style and color scheme?
wardrobe garments

4Decide What To Do With The Extra Clothes

There are lots of options for what to do with the clothes you decide to toss. In any major city, you can easily find access to a donation center that takes hand-me-downs. You can also gift some of the clothes you aren’t using to family and friends.

There are tons of minimalist practices out there that can help you decide what to do with all of your extra garments, like Swedish Death Cleaning or the Four-Box Method. I personally really like the four-box method because it splits things up into four straightforward categories that make it easy to quickly sort what you plan to give away.

donate unused clothing

5Mark Your Timeline On Your Calendar

Lastly, it’s important that you actually map out when your three-month time period starts and ends so you can visually see your progress. This will help you to stay motivated and encouraged if you start feeling like you want to give up on Project 333.

I use a virtual calendar to keep track of personal goals, but you could also mark your timeline on a paper calendar. As long as you have a visual representation of your goals, you should be set.

mark your calendar

Tips For Making Project 333 Work For You

Tips For Making Project 333 Work For You

When I was trying Project 333 for the first time, I went completely by what Courtney’s book said. However, looking back, there are a few simple things that I would do to make the process easier and more enjoyable for me overall.

If You’re Unsure, Do A Trial Run

The rules of Project 333 are really manageable, making it a flexible minimalist practice. If you aren’t 100% sure that you’re ready to start, don’t sweat it. I’d suggest doing a trial run week before you actually start your three-month period.

Take up the challenge a week or so early to see how things go. This will help you keep track of the things that did or did not work for you in the first week so you can dive into the challenge for real the following week.

Build Your Wardrobe Around Essential Pieces

Like I said before, the key with Project 333 is to build your wardrobe around the pieces that are essential to your specific lifestyle, work culture, and habits. Start with the clothing that you know you will get the most use out of and build your wardrobe up from there.

how to embrace a minimalist wardrobe

Embellish With Decorative Pieces

After you decipher which pieces of clothing are musts, you’re free to embellish your 33-item capsule wardrobe with more decorative pieces. It’s important to hit your essential articles of clothing first, and your decorative pieces after.

One mistake that beginners often make with this challenge is immediately choosing some of their favorite, more flashy clothing items just because they love them, and neglecting to leave room for the basic pieces that can be worn multiple ways.

Take Notes On What Works And What Doesn’t

One of the things I didn’t do the first time I took this challenge — which I’ll always do from now on — is take notes as I go through the process. I keep a bullet journal with me when I try any new minimalist challenge so that I can track the things that work best and the things that didn’t work at all. This helps me adjust my process or better prepare for the challenge in the future.

How to Start a Bullet Journal

Should You Try Project 333?

Should You Try Project 333

As a guy who is deeply inspired by making things as simple as possible, I am a big fan of Project 333. I’ve seen it improve my life and mentality in a plethora of ways and would highly recommend taking this challenge on!

Your Turn!

  • What 33 garments will you include in your capsule wardrobe?
  • How can Project 333 improve your daily life?

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