Project 333 – First Round!

project333Jul14
My 33 items.

This summer I’m joining in with Courtney Carver’s inspiring Project 333 (or, live for 3 months, with 33 items of clothing).

My wardrobe: from stuffed to zen

In the last 5 years I’ve had two children.  After the birth of my second son, nearly three years ago, my wardrobe had reached crisis point.

At its worst, I had an extensive collection of pre-kids going-out clothes, smart work clothes, more casual work clothes, next-size up clothes (for the early months of pregnancy when maternity clothes didn’t work), maternity clothes (my own, and friends’ kind donations), and then post-pregnancy clothes – I put on 3 stone with my first child and nothing in my wardrobe fitted me after I’d had him. Over the next year I lost most of the weight and then got pregnant again. Clothes burst out of my wardrobe in sizes from 8 to 16.

Once I’d had my second son, I knew something had to give (or my wardrobe would). In one fell swoop I donated almost everything that didn’t fit me to charity. Then I donated and returned all the maternity clothes I’d worn. That still left a huge collection of stuff.

In a final massive purge of my wardrobe last year, detailed in Part 1, Part 2, Part 3Part 4 and here, I reduced my wardrobe to 131 items, including accessories, underwear, nightwear and sportswear.

And that’s how I’ve lived for the last year.

Reducing an already minimal wardrobe

Having less clothes has been brilliant. For starters, I can see everything in one go. And I don’t have to rake through piles of stuff in drawers to find a cardigan that’s so creased I then decide not to wear it.

But, a few extra things have crept in over the last year. I bought a handful of items, and I also found a box right at the back of the loft a while back that was full of clothes, which I added to my wardrobe to be dealt with later (I hate having stuff boxed up – keeping like with like is my favourite way of storing everything).

So I probably had closer to 200 items all in before starting this.

However, the challenge doesn’t include nightwear, underwear or sportswear, so cutting back to 33 hasn’t been too difficult.

I started with about 60 pieces of clothing hanging in the wardrobe and 15 pairs of shoes.

How I chose my capsule wardrobe

First I removed everything that I hadn’t worn in the last year. That was probably half of it. Then I took away some things that I didn’t really like, but occassionally wore them anyway. Then I finished off by removing several wintery items that I (hopefully!) won’t need before the end of September.

My 333 Wardrobe

This is what I ended up with:

  • 6 sleeveless tops
  • 8 t-shirts
  • 2 long-sleeved t-shirts
  • 3 jumpers
  • 1 shirt
  • 3 pairs jeans
  • 1 pair black trousers
  • 1 pair boots
  • 1 pair sandals
  • 3 pairs flats
  • 2 bags
  • 1 belt
  • 1 rain jacket

wardrobe333

Are my clothes going to last 3 months??

On Courtney’s rules page, she does state that things should be in a good state of repair and able to last the course.

Hmm.

The thing is, I tend to wear my clothes until they are threadbare – literally. And since I’ve only bought a few things in an already small wardrobe over the last 12 months, you can imagine that most of my clothes have already seen better days.

So, I have chucked away a few things that I was still wearing (decrepit old flip flops, ancient t-shirts, and jeans threatening to rip open across the bum), and decided that if this 3 months results in having to replace a few items, I’m OK with that.

love the idea of using up and wearing out our things – even our best things. Nothing in life should be saved only for ultra special occasions – every day you live and breath is a special occassion!

(Hmm, I can feel a post about that coming on.)

Expectations

So, for starters, I clearly don’t have enough bottoms. I only have 4 pairs of trousers that fit me properly (and one of those is questionable). If anything wears out, I will be putting trousers back in 🙂

Secondly, a LOT of my clothes, as I said above, are really worn out already – so I may actually have to go shopping (shock!).

Thirdly, I can already see lots of combinations I wouldn’t normally have chosen, simply because the options are more limited.

Finally I have become painfully aware of just how bad my sense of style is. It’s not just bad, it’s absent. Maybe the next three months will give me a way of finding a bit more dress-sense, especially because I will be keeping a watch out for how other 333-ers are dressing to make it through the challenge.

So there we have it. 33 items, 3 months, and a wonderfully clear wardrobe 🙂

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What Would Happen If You Stripped Your Life Bare?

beach california

Recently, I re-read Dusti Arab’s ebook Conquer The Clutter (now free on Amazon!).

I love her no-crap approach to paring down. She is on the extreme end of minimalism, and you can see that in her writing. She suggests (with few exceptions) that anything you haven’t used in 30 days needs to go.

She really made me think though. In her book, she states that you only really need four things:

  • clothing
  • hygiene items
  • kitchenware
  • a bed

And essentially, she’s right. Assuming you have a roof over your head, those are the bare essentials for living.

For most of us, being this extreme is not practical, or even desirable, but put aside judgement for a moment and think about what it would be like.

Imaging your house bare of everything except those things above.

Aside from the massive space you would suddenly find yourself living in (see also Your House Is Not Too Small), what would happen to your life?

You’d need to do something with your time, so what would you do?

You would probably end up buying things, so what would you buy?

What kind of life would you build if you started all over again?

Would it look anything like what you currently have, or would it be something completely different?

The beauty of this kind of exercise is it temporarily frees us from everything we have and allows us to imagine something completely different.

Who would you be? Would you still be the same without all of your things?

As much as I love the idea of giving away almost everything, I am not yet able to be so ruthless. However, thinking about what I would do with my time and energy if I lived in an almost empty house makes it easier for me to look at my things with fresh eyes and let them go.

You would still end up doing something, even if you had nothing.

So what would you do?

Give Yourself Room To Grow

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You know that feeling… when you can’t seem to breathe for all the demands on your time and the stuff that needs doing.

Whether you work full time, study full time, or you’re a stay at home parent, life is busy. It asks so much of us, not just in the form of family commitments, social events, and our career or life-calling, but also in the form of life maintenance – and by that I mean all the subsidiary tasks that you have to deal with in order to function like a (reasonably) normal human being.

Cleaning, washing, ironing, tidying, paperwork, bills, letters, repairs, gardening, fixing, phone calls, errands, post, holidays… you get the idea.

When you can’t seem to find a moment to take a deep breath and enjoy the sounds of everything around you, maybe what you need is to have less in your life.

Less possessions, less commitments, less distraction, less baggage.

Just, less.

When you fill your world with stuff, and you spend your days rushing around getting things done, you are basically working at full capacity.

And that means there is no room for anything else.

That book you dream of writing?
That instrument you’ve always wanted to play?
That country you want to visit?

None of those things can happen in a life that is already full up.

Something has to give.

Which is why I am such a big proponent of minimalism. I know what it is like to live under layers of clutter (both physical and emotional), but I also know the wonderful peace and freedom climbing out of all that stuff can bring.

Having less physical possessions will save you time and create space in so many ways – less cleaning, sorting, organising, maintaining, tidying and washing. Less lost items, and faster and easier access to all the things you do have.

If you reduce the things in your life, you will discover an empty space, one that can be either cherished for what it is, or filled with something you have always dreamed of doing.

By reducing the clutter and commitments that you have, you can find the time to do something else – something more meaningful.

When you finish a 40 hour week at work, or your kids finally fall asleep at 8pm after an exhausting 16 hour day of looking after them, do you want to turn to piles of paperwork, piles of laundry or piles of toys?

Imagine something else.

Imagine that at the end of your commitments, at the end of your work day, there is space for you. Space you have created because you took away all the things that were not a priority for your time or energy.

How would that feel?

This isn’t just a fantasy, there are real concrete steps you can take to make your life simpler, starting today, right now.

Action Points

  • Clear out all the rubbish in your home, especially paper  items(newspapers, magazines, junk mail, catalogues, etc)
  • If you can’t bring yourself to throw things out, try boxing them up and putting them in the loft, or garage, especially old “hobbies” that you aren’t currently spending time on (learning a language, building model planes, jewellery making, etc.)
  • List all your current projects and commitments and be 100% honest about whether you really want to spend your time on them. If they are not serving your goals or increasing your happiness, let them go.
  • Reduce the number of trips, and the time, that you spend at the shops. Shops are full of things designed to tempt you into parting with your cash. But if you can’t find the time to use what you already own, why do you need more?
  • When decluttering in the home, focus on clearing floors and surfaces for the biggest impact. Not only do clear spaces make a room feel lighter to be in, they make cleaning and tidying away much easier.
  • Don’t be afraid to let things go. Feel good about giving to charity or passing things on for free. You are helping someone else and yourself, so everybody wins.

Life is busy. And that is a good thing. But don’t let the busy-ness of it stifle the ability to create a life full of things you enjoy.

By letting things go, you give yourself room to grow.

8 Days Of Ether 2014

Oct 2016 update – these links are not working at present. Ether Books is in some kind of trouble and isn’t under active development.

You can read all my flash fiction entries on the Ether Books app:

Red Dragon
She looked at it for a long, long time. There, on the path ahead was a dragon. A bloody dragon! The dragon looked back at her. It had vibrant red scales covering its body and an unbelievably devilish forked tail.
Link

Dinner For One
He slammed the front door behind him and wondered why the lights were out. On the table stood two candles, flames dancing. His wife came out of the kitchen, wearing a dress. Unusual.
Link

Ethics
“Do you want to press the button?” he asks me. All I can see are his eyes. He’s wearing a black balaclava, a black sweatshirt, trousers and boots. I search for a way to identify him.
Link

Surgery
I am tired and frightened. I can’t feel the pain any more, just the cold. I look directly up and the surgical light hurts my eyes. There are half a dozen people in the operating theatre, talking in a relaxed manner.
Link

The M3
We’re driving down a slip road onto the M3, heading towards London. I don’t know where he’s taking me. He slides into the moving traffic on the motorway and I sense him relax once we’re in line, following the stream of other vehicles.
Link

The Meeting
I was stuck in the meeting from hell. Fourteen people in a room. Most of us had no real reason to be there other than the corporate culture of holding meetings for too many people.
Link

Venus Fly Trap
Dad bought me a venus fly trap a few months ago. He and my step mother were looking for a chiminea. We went to a garden centre, and while they were poking and prodding and discussing which one to buy, I discovered a selection of carnivorous plants.
Link

Ward H2
Gerald was dancing again. Standing in the middle of the common room on psychiatric Ward H2, shuffling tiny steps from side to side, hunched forward, grey hair poking up all over his head.
Link

National Flood Fiction Day 2014’s #flashflood

I have a short (ha ha) piece on the FlashFlood website, in honour of National Flood Fiction Day.

The Morning After
When she got into work, after an early and cold commute in the January frost, the message light on her phone was flashing. An insistent red reminder of the night before. Her mobile, if unanswered, forwarded to her desk telephone. She ignored it and went to the canteen to buy a cup of tea and some breakfast.

Read more.

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