How the ruthless Project 333 challenge could declutter your closet for good

This minimalist decluttering method is perfect if you are stuck in a rut with your wardrobe

A large walk in wardrobe with built in closets with sliding black doors
(Image credit: Go Modern Furniture)

If the most difficult part of your home to declutter is your closet, you are not alone. These small but stressful sections of our home can harbor all sorts of clothing clutter – many of which have the power to drastically affect our moods. 

If you desperately want to change things around, work on some mindset shifts to prevent clutter, and take back control of your closet, however, then this ruthless decluttering challenge may be for you. 

This is how to declutter a closet with the Project 333 challenge – the hack minimalists swear by for a tidy home.  

What is the Project 333 challenge?

The Project 333 challenge, created by professional organizer Courtney Carver of Be More With Less, is described as 'a minimalist fashion challenge that invites you to dress with only 33 items or less for three months'. Ruthless, right? It’s why it’s one of the many decluttering strategies minimalists swear by

Courtney Carver
Courtney Carver

Be more with less is about simplifying your life and really living. Through decluttering, and focusing on the best things instead of all the things, you can create a life with more savings and less debt, more health and less stress, more space and less stuff, and more joy with less obligation.

Clothes hanging neatly on a clothing rail

(Image credit: Getty Images)

‘The goal of this challenge is to learn to live with less, declutter and simplify your belongings to just what you need, and promote mindful consumption of future purchases,’ explains Audra George, professional organizer and owner of Pretty Neat: An Organizational Solution. 

The 33 items consist of anything visible you wear on your body, such as your tops, dresses, trousers, jewelry accessories, etc., but not your underwear. Other notable exceptions are items such as your gym clothes, which we need to wash regularly, and wedding rings or other sentimental jewelry you don't take off, Courtney notes in her ultimate guide to the challenge. It is very much like the capsule decluttering method for those of us looking to organize our morning routines to avoid stress.  

Audra George
Audra George

Audra George has over 12 years of experience working in clients' homes. Her passion is to help others and to organize and help busy families get their spaces in order.

‘Oftentimes, we are paralyzed by the decision-making that is required to go through our closets, which hold items that served us during different times of our lives, but we are not quite sure how to let go of. And at the same time, we wear just a tiny fraction of everything in our closet,’ adds Meghan Cocchiaro, professional organizer and owner of Organized by Meg. ‘When we are told that we can only choose 33 different articles of clothing that must make up outfits that will serve our needs for three months, we are forced to choose these pieces wisely. It forces efficiency in both our choices and our resulting upkeep of a much more minimized closet,’ she explains. 

‘As an in-home organizer, I have seen both women and men paralyzed at the thought of decluttering their closets – many of which hold articles of clothing from decades prior. It can be an overwhelming task and difficult for many people to let go of things that no longer serve them. The Project 333 challenge can help anyone of any lifestyle declutter ruthlessly because it limits the amount of things you can keep.’

Meghan Cocchiaro
Meghan Cocchiaro

Meghan is a professional home organizer bringing peace of mind to busy families in the greater Denver area, specialising specifically in working with busy women who juggle careers, families, and their passions. 

How to ace the Project 333 challenge

wardobe with drawers and hanging space

(Image credit: Go Modern Furniture)

One of the great things about the Project 333 challenge is you don't have to make immediate decisions about what to get rid of – helping to declutter your home when you feel overwhelmed. Instead, you pick out 33 items from your closet that you want to keep and wear on repeat, and put the others into storage or push them back in your closet so you are not tempted to use them throughout the challenge. 

Meg Cocchiaro, a professional organizer, recommends organizing items in order of preference, starting with your favorite pieces and building from there. 

‘Try to include only what fits well at this time and what makes you feel excellent,’ she continues. ‘Think about choosing high-quality pieces of clothing and replacing anything worn out so that they can last for three months, and gravitate towards the most versatile pieces of clothing so that you can create a large number of looks from a small number of pieces. The goal is to mix and match and do more with less!’ she reminds us. 

‘It's okay to choose just one or two pairs of shoes, accessories, or jackets that can go with multiple outfits – this can even make up a signature look or style for you that people will recognize.’

Project 333: The Minimalist Fashion Challenge That Proves Less Really is So Much More | View at Amazon

Project 333: The Minimalist Fashion Challenge That Proves Less Really is So Much More | View at Amazon
In Project 333, minimalist expert and author of Soulful Simplicity Courtney Carver takes a new approach to living simply--starting with your wardrobe. 

Organizer Audra George adds that this challenge can be daunting, so it is okay if you feel a little out of your depth at first: 

‘For most people, this is a pretty drastic change to what is normally in closets in the US. Decluttering this much would be challenging, especially to uphold long term.’

That being said, she continues, it is a great way to ensure that what you are keeping is what you love. ‘It helps to get rid of the fluff that we hold onto for various reasons. It can also create a less stressful environment associated with decisions about what you will wear and getting ready in the morning.’

Closet

(Image credit: DelightFULL)

Once you have completed the three months, you can take stock of your selection and declutter again from there. Think about the three following points: 

  • Were there any items you didn't use, and could they be donated?
  • Were there any garments in your storage pile that you missed more than you thought you would, and could they be added to the next three-month cycle to help further whittle down your wardrobe?
  • Which pieces from storage did you not think about, or did you forget about entirely? These pieces should probably be donated now, with no love lost. 

You can then repeat the challenge over the next three months or wait for a change in seasons to help establish your essentials throughout the changing year.  

FAQs

How many times should I do the Project 333 challenge?

There is no limit to how often you do the Project 333 challenge if you find that it helps you stay on top of your closet. Some people do it twice a year during different seasons to whittle down individual seasonal wardrobes, while others do it once a year to readdress what they have bought since last doing the challenge. 

That being said, be sure not to push yourself too far and become obsessed with cutting your closet back to the bare essentials and nothing else. You want your clothes to bring you joy, not more stress. 


‘Ultimately, whether Project 333 is for you or not, it is a great challenge to really make you think what you could live without, buy things more mindfully, and declutter to start fresh,’ concludes professional organizer Audra George. ‘I suspect that somewhere in the middle of this minimalism concept and excessiveness that many Americans live in is where most people could comfortably live.’  

Chiana Dickson
Writer

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for a year, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.