Earlier in the year, the wife and I watched a documentary on Netflix called Minimalism. The documentary is great, if a bit extreme, and follows the conquest of a couple guys that set out to strip down their lives to only the bare necessities, and the emotional and practical effects that follow. Now, I’m not likely to move into a 300 sq ft house anytime soon and throw out all but a single cup to drink from, but the documentary was nonetheless inspiring. It made both of us realize just how much shit we have laying around that isn’t necessary, and set us on our own quest to reduce the amount of clutter in our lives.
We started with stuff like board games (which we’ve not played in years), taking them to goodwill. We got rid of all our physical CDs, DVDs and videos, and a bunch of other random things laying around (a revolving poker chip holder? Really?). We hit the kitchen, getting rid of duplicate items, and tossing close to 80% of our glassware and cups. Things were feeling a LOT better.
Then we turned to the most egregious area of the house: our closet. To say our closet was a hot mess was an insult to hot messes. With two broken Ikea dressers, we had piles of clothes all over the place, and in the later days of this catastrophe, had entire drawers just stacked up in the middle of the closet, impeding any chance of walking in. I’d share a picture, but I refused to take one, out of fear of later embarassment.
During the documentary, an organizational program called Project 333 was mentioned, and we thought it’d be great way to get a head start on the disaster lurking behind the closet door. Project333 is quite simple, if a little intimidating:
Pick out 33 things you want to wear, and get rid of (and/or box up) the rest.
Those 33 items include shoes, outerwear AND jewelry (although, there’s an exception for sentimental jewelry). Not included in the 33 is lounge-wear, workout clothing, underwear and sleep wear, but those should probably be reduced as much as possible as well. These 33 items will be your only options for the next 3 months (the last “3” in “333”), at which point you can swap stuff out that you’ve boxed up with your current set, if you want to.
To get the full rules and method, check out the website at theproject333.com.
So, how’d it go?
The initial pass was actually easy. We were already in a ruthless mood, and employed the litmus test “If it’s not a fuck yes, it’s a no” to every piece. That worked well, and resulted in us immediately clearing out 80% of what was in the closet. We took an entire SUV’s worth of clothing to Goodwill, including probably 20-30 pairs of shoes.
The next pass was a good bit more difficult. Each of us allocated ourselves a single box that we’d be allowed to store clothes in that weren’t in the 33 (these boxes are just slightly larger than a copy paper box). It took an entire weekend to eventually get things completely winnowed down, but at the end of it, we had our 33, and a small box of extras that we could swap out in 3 months.
The most shocking part of this whole experiment has been the mental side of things. First, I don’t miss the things I got rid of. In fact, items I’d had on hand for a decade, I can’t even remember now. This was about as concrete an example of the Endowment Effect that I’ve experienced. I definitely valued this stuff way more than it was actually worth, just because I already owned it. Ruthlessly getting rid of it (and immediately taking it to Goodwill before I could rethink it) forced me to apply a more accurate value to things, and the restriction offered by only being granted 33 items forced my hand.
Secondly, the day-to-day stress of the closet, and what to wear, are nearly gone. I have 8-10 shirts that I can choose from, that’s it. No more rifling through to find things, no more piles, no more clutter. Walk in, grab a shirt, grab my jeans, done. Next issue. The fact that I spend less time each day making the “what to wear” decision frees up time and mental space for much more important things. The closet has room to store other things now, further reducing clutter in other areas of the house and helping with the overall cleanliness.
This has definitely been a successful experiment, and likely something we’ll continue doing from now on. Combined with a “one-in-one-out” policy on new items coming into the house, it should help us keep things under control. We’re also working on applying that philosophy to things like our kids’ toys (we packed up a bunch of stuff they don’t play with anymore, and we’ll swap those out every 3 months to keep things fresh for them without needing to buy new things all the time), and other stuff around the house. Already, things are less cluttered, and we can already feel a bit of stress relieved as a result of it. Clutter certainly creates more stress that I think we give credit to, and a clean house means a much less bothered mind.
Next up for me is reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which is on my reading plan right after my current book. Tidying up and keeping a more minimalistic approach to things is likely to become a theme for us in 2017, and already, it’s having a pretty big impact on our stress levels at home. I definitely recommend you give it a shot.
Do you have any tricks for keeping your space clean? Have you tried Project 333? Give your tips and experiences in the comments!