Last week I found myself standing in my jeans and my bra, hunting through my wardrobe desperately looking for something to cover my top half. I was getting more and more panicky as I realised that there was absolutely nothing to wear. And then I spotted it, my best t-shirt and breathing a sigh of relief I pulled it over my head then turned to look in the mirror. My best t-shirt had three moth holes in the mid-section. My best t-shirt had been worn all throughout my (twin) pregnancy so said mid-section was thus somewhat misshapen. There was an orange mark on the shoulder, most likely puréed carrot that hadn't come out in the wash. The realisation that despite this litany of embarrassments it was still my best t-shirt was.... enlightening.
For a long time my wardrobe has been 50% clothes that are too fancy for my lifestyle,10% things that I like and that fit and 40% crap. I've mostly been wearing the crap. Trousers that are too tight, t-shirts stretched by a stomach filled with two babies, cardigans with holes in the cuffs, leggings that have become weak at the knees, tops that cling uncomfortably to my new, post-two babies belly, favourite tees that have constellations of moth holes scattered across the chest, gifts that were given after I had two babies that were very kindly bought in the size I was before I had two babies (thanks guys) but that were new and clean so I wore them anyway. While wearing the crap I would stand and stare at the silk ruffly dresses, the strapless sparkled dresses, the jewel-encrusted tops and think wistfully of a life where I had occasion to wear them and a body that would still fit in them.
I've been gradually purging over the last few years, every couple of months filling bags with clothes to either throw out or give to charity and it felt amazing but it wasn't enough, still the shameful ratio remained and still I was wearing things that made me feel uncomfortable, depressed, minging. Something more serious was needed and so I embarked on Project 333. Kind of.
Project 333 is one woman's aim to live for 3 months with 33 items of clothing (including shoes and accessories, not include pyjamas, workout clothes, wedding rings or unders) with the notion that only good things will come from this. (That noise you just heard was my mum rolling her eyes. Or possibly hyperventilating. Maybe both at once. My previous attempts at downsizing my wardrobe have been met with half bemused and half concerned 'why?'s) Those good things include but are not limited to: more space in your house, less time spent wondering what to wear, no days spent wearing crap for you will have no crap, never looking like you got dressed in the dark because all of your clothes will work together. Also (this isn't mentioned anywhere else and I don't know why because it's THE BEST BIT) no giant piles of laundry because hello, if you don't do the laundry you will have nothing to wear.
It didn't take much more to convince me that this was something I needed to do. Increasingly I have been feeling a frantic urge to live with less, to get rid of stuff and things, to have only what I believe to be beautiful or know to be useful in my life. And there was that time that we went to New York for a month, taking only hand luggage, dressing was such a joy, so easy! And so I stood at my wardrobe, this time with black bags and storage bags in hand, and made two piles: things I don't love and things I do love but that I don't (or shouldn't) wear. The second pile included things that I either have no occasion to wear or that I have been wearing despite the fact that they don't fit properly and the storage bags were so that I didn't have to get rid of these things permanently, just ensure that they were no longer in my day-to-day life, depressing me with their silky ruffles and small sizes. I was ruthless about the things I don't love or believe to be eminently useful (which I will, in time, replace with things that are both useful and loved). It was surprisingly easy and completely liberating. Doing it with a number in mind made it a challenge, a game to get rid of as much as possible. If I was dithering about something it went in the pile, there was no room in my life for things I wasn't sure about. And the more I got rid of the lighter I felt and the better my wardrobe looked. What was left started to work together, to look like a considered collection and less like the contents of a charity shop.
I haven't been religious about it though, there are still more than 33 things in my wardrobe (37 not including shoes or accessories at my last count). There are a couple of excuses I've been using: 1) that I live in Scotland and weather-wise any given day can encompass every season. Twice. And 2) that unlike most people I get vomited on at least once a day, so I need spares. Really though I just haven't found the time to go through all of the extraneous stuff like shoes and jewellery to try and cut it down. I will but if I don't get it down to 33 items I won't worry, I know that I'm embracing the philosophy even if I'm not quite sticking to the rules. It's not about rules for me, it's about living a life and dressing in a way that make me feel lighter, freer, happier. As Ms Project 333 says "this is not a project in suffering, if you need to create a version of Project 333 that works better for you, do it."
Sometime soon I'll take some pictures and post a breakdown of what now lives in my wardrobe. If for no other reason than that there are no good photos of minimal wardrobes, none. While the likes of Closet Visit and The Coveteur are beautiful and totally intriguing, they are undeniably dedicated worshippers of excess and filled with pictures of the sort that these days make me feel distinctly anxious.
* images by Jeana Sohn of closetvisit.com