Saying NO to fast fashion with a capsule wardrobe

I’ve been doing The Project 333 for nearly four years now.

The Project 333 is a Capsule Wardrobe system. It asks us to dress with 33 items, or fewer. The rules are fairly simple:

  • 33 items or fewer in your wardrobe. This includes jewelry, shoes, outerwear and other accessories. Vision glasses, wedding rings and religious items are exempt.
  • Sleepwear, workout wear, underwear, in-home only wear is not included. In my case, I’ve created a “10 items or fewer” Workout Wardrobe, that I use for workouts only. I also have items like nighties, ugg boots and a robe that I only wear at home (of course!).
  • You can box up seasonal wear to keep safe for the next year. This doesn’t count in your 33 items. For me, as it’s winter in New Zealand at the moment, I’ve boxed up my light denim jacket and a couple of dresses, which I won’t wear until summer again.

Stepping off the fast fashion train with a capsule wardrobe

Having a capsule wardrobe enables me to step away from the crazy, unsustainable world of fast fashion.

For a long time I’d had issues with the way fashion was going. Clothing was becoming poorer and poorer quality, while the stories of child labour and sweatshops were hard to ignore. I’m not a full-blown activist, but I wanted what I wore to reflect who I am. And who I am is NOT someone who supports cruelty and abuse.

Fast fashion is designed for profit, not for those who wear it or those who make it. It is cheap to buy, per item, but expensive in the long term. It is not designed to last or look good. Much like a drug hit, it give a quick “buzz” then the thrill is gone, forcing the user to move on to the next hit, then the next.

My capsule wardrobe from a few years ago. Some items have changed, but I still dress with less.

What I wear, what I buy…

These days, about half of my wardrobe is made locally. I buy locally made merino tops that I layer, and I stick closely with a color code of blue and black, with some brights in accessories for interest.

I’m also a fan of secondhand, recycled jewelry. I often pop down to the local Hospice shop, where I pick up cheap jewelry for a couple of dollars apiece. I wear it, then when I’m bored of it I donate it back and buy a replacement from the Hospice shop again. In this way, I’m sharing what I have, and I have an endless supply of great, recycled jewelry I don’t have to store or maintain! It’s a winning strategy!

Inside my drawer. A color code of blue, green and black helps me keep organised.

How a Capsule Wardrobe will change your life

Take a step away from fast fashion. Fast fashion is trashing our planet and hurting people and economies. Taking a step away from the madness is a positive move for everyone.

Buy fewer clothes. Less money wasted, less time spent shopping. More cash left for the things that really count.

A co-ordinated, planned wardrobe. Fewer items are easier to co-ordinate. I also have a color code – blue and black form the basis of everything I wear, with pops of warm colors in accessories (yellow, coral, red).

More money for better quality clothes. Having fewer items means I now have the budget for better items. I can buy three t-shirts at $80 each in merino, instead of 10 t-shirts at $20 each, and I know my better quality items will fit better, look better, feel better and last longer than the cheap ones ever could.

Kids’ clothing: cheap items, or fewer?

Here in New Zealand, you can pick up a brand new t-shirt in kiddie sizes for $4, or a pair of leggings for $6.

You can buy shoes for as little as $10, or $1 a pair in the charity shops.

This is a good thing – from the point of view that no child in New Zealand should ever lack clothing, or leave their home shivering through a lack of clothes to wear.

But cheap clothing can also mean our homes are awash in too many items, and we can’t keep track of what our kids actually own.

More clothing also means – more washing, more storage, and more replacement when cheap items fail and fall apart.

Finding a balance

I believe there are some items worth paying more for, and buying better quality versions of, if you can. If money is an issue, secondhand options of better quality are a great alternative.

I buy good quality: Winter jackets and coats, sunglasses (check they’re safety standard compliant!), sunhats and sun protection clothing (this includes rash vests and swimsuits).

Oddly enough, buying good quality socks is also worthwhile. I’ve found cheap ones just fall apart. Good quality school shoes are a must – buying leather lasts so much long, and is a money saver in the long run.

If you have a child that does a dangerous sport, don’t skimp on safety equipment on body protection equipment either (shin guards, mouth guards, that sort of thing).

It’s also a great idea, while not clothing exactly, to spend a little more on good quality school bags, lunch boxes and drink bottles (non-plastic).

Anything else, buy using common-sense. But I have found that kids need less clothing than you might think, especially if they wear a school uniform throughout the week.

The “F” word…

Fashion! Arrrrggggghhhh!

My kids (12, 11 and 10) are at an age where they’re starting to appreciate the way they look, so I do tend to buy a few upmarket fashion items these days (not too many!) so they feel part of the “in” crowd.

Buying a T-shirt with a trendy image on it, or even a cool bracelet can make a huge difference to how your kid feels about fitting in.

Ditto on the sunglasses here.

Regarding eyeglasses: Don’t skimp on cheap frames, if at all possible. These are an item that your child needs to wear every single day, so choose a pair that they feel good about wearing, and that they feel makes them look good. Be gentle, and a little tolerant here 🙂

A few extra dollars on an item your child will wear 2-3 years is very little on the scheme of things.

Wise decisions

Overall, the key to your child looking great and feeling trendy, as well as being comfortable and warm isn’t owning masses of clothes.

It’s about owning enough good quality clothes that meet their needs.

Thirty cheap, ill-fitting t-shirts will never look as good as five great, well-made ones. And no child needs more than five t-shirts!

Audit your child’s wardrobe regularly with them, eliminating any items in poor condition or that don’t fit. Keep the wardrobe size manageable, with good choices, and your child will be happy – and well clothed – throughout the year.


What two years of minimalism has taught me

I’ve been minimalist for two years, so I wanted to talk about how everything is going and where I’m at.

Peace and calm can come from having less.

Peace and calm can come from having less.

Where I was

I used to have a garage stuffed with belongings and broken things.
I had a wardrobe stuffed with clothing I never wore, yet nothing seemed to fit me.
I had huge amounts of jewelry I never wore.
I had heaps of kid toys I needed to get rid of, and outgrown kid clothing that was still hanging around. I couldn’t seem to get rid of baby items either!
My kitchen drawers could barely open and I couldn’t find anything.

I didn’t realise how much the mess was making me depressed. Everywhere I looked, I saw clutter instead of calm, and it got me down.

I started avoiding dealing with any sort of cleaning, simply because it was too much. Which made everything worse of course.

The mess was a vicious cycle that was bad for my mental health and physical well-being. They do say that people who live in cluttered homes have more illness. Upon reflection, I can understand why.

Where I’m at

The garage

The garage is no longer stuffed.

The amount of stuff in it is still dropping. I’m still clearing belongings out, still selling stuff, but the progress is slow now, as we’re down to the dregs of it.

We live on a farm, so our garage hosts everything from animal feed and lamb crooks to our washer and dryer and a huge deep freeze. Our laundry is also out here. Two years ago, it was piled high with stuff we never used! These days we have much less stuff in our garage than we had when we lived in an apartment.

We live on a farm, so our garage hosts everything from animal feed and lamb crooks to our washer and dryer and a huge deep freeze. Our laundry is also out here. Two years ago, it was piled high with stuff we never used! These days, we have much less stuff in our garage than we had when we lived in an apartment.

Once we sell the farm, we’ll also sell the farm equipment we’ll no longer need, keeping only a few standard gardening and house maintenance items.

My wardrobe

I only have clothing I wear. I clear items out regularly if I find I’m not wearing them. I still make shopping mistakes, but I’d say I’m a recovering shopaholic now, on her way to healing. I’ve been doing the Project 333 for three years now, and I’m where I want to be.

minimalist wardrobe

My current capsule wardrobe.


I gave away most of my jewellery. Cheap pieces went to charity, and valuable pieces went to friends who I thought would enjoy them. It’s nice to see a friend wear an item that I never wore.

Jewellery should be passed on, shared and enjoyed – not hidden away. And I found jewellery is rarely worth much to sell secondhand.

My bedroom

My bedroom is tidy. I have some rules that help me to do that, such as three belongings only per surface and if it ain’t a “display item”, don’t display it! These rules help me keep life in control, and keep my room as an oasis of calm and peace.

I’ll talk about my rules to help me stay organised and keep the clutter away in a separate, upcoming post.

My room is a haven for me. It never used to be this way.

My room is a haven for me. It never used to be this way.

Baby items…and sentimental items

All the large baby items and general baby stuff is all gone.

I created a “treasures box” to keep precious children’s stuff in – their first baby outfits, and their first baby rugs. The box also holds other small sentimental items I want to keep safe. It’s about twice the size of a shoebox, and I find that’s all the space I need.

Then I sold big items at a low price to a friend whose baby was coming soon, and gave the rest to charity. It made me feel good to know I was helping other parents at this special time in life, when everything is so expensive.

Having a “treasures box” helps me take care of these extra-special keepsakes. I sometimes open it up, and hold these soft, beautiful things for a while…and have a bit of a cry 🙂

Kids rooms

I go through the kids’ rooms regularly too.

They have nothing but clothes that fit and items they use, plus a few keepsakes. Their rooms are tidy all the time now (mostly!) because their rooms aren’t crammed with stuff.

My 9 year old daughter's room. No, I didn't tidy it. She keeps it neat, and cleans it herself.

My 9 year old daughter’s room. No, I didn’t tidy it. She keeps it neat, and cleans it herself.

My kitchen is easy to navigate these days, and the drawers are all uncluttered. Life is easier as a result, and cooking is less of a chore. Keeping food stocks to fewer items helps.

Clearing out the kitchen was a long process that took months, one cupboard at a time. Kitchens are prone to clutter!

Clearing out the kitchen was a long process that took months, one cupboard at a time. Kitchens are prone to clutter!

I’ve accepted that I’m not a gourmet chef and will never have my place on Master Chef New Zealand! You know what? I’m okay with that 🙂

Instead, I cook healthy, simple food for my family, and that’s good enough. The media dumps a lot of expectations of us, and realising that many of these are unrealistic is a key part of learning minimalism and being happy with who we are.

I’m not saying things are perfect…

Far from it! Life is still a work in progress. But every month feels better and better, and I feel more on top of my life with every step, not less.

I didn’t realise how much my problems had to do with simply owning too much stuff. I couldn’t ever clean the house because picking up the junk was a mission before I could even begin to clean!

Looking at the mess made me feel so tired, and I didn’t really know how or where to start. I didn’t know how to cope. I felt lost at sea within my own home, and a place that should have been a safe space of rest and contentment was a disaster area of chaos and noise and clutter.

I thought that maybe buying better stuff would help, or maybe buying the right stuff. But what I have learned is the key to sanity is having less stuff altogether.

Through minimalism, I’m learning that…

I’m not a fashion model, but I can look great.

I’m not a home decorating expert, but my home can be a friendly, welcoming oasis for my family and friends.

I’m not a crafty person who knits and sews and…well, I’m just NOT! But I have other skills 😉

I’m not a Supermum, but I can encourage and support my kids in getting organised and keeping their rooms, bodies and lives neat, clean and planned.

I’m not a Master Chef, but I can prepare great, healthy food for my loved ones 3 meals a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, and that’s pretty special!

Minimalism is teaching me that it’s okay to just be Me. With all my imperfections, and all my not-quite-rights.

You know, the mass media teaches us to believe that every aspect of our lives much be exceptional in a way that requires lots and lots of stuff, and then it tries to sell us all kinds of products to create that exceptional, stuff-filled life.

But that’s wrong. Being pretty much okay in a whole stack of areas can add up to being pretty exceptional overall.

Minimalism teaches me that it’s time to stop looking at what we’re supposed to be, and instead take a good look in the mirror at who we actually are.

Usually that’s pretty good. And if we’re loving partners, caring parents, and thoughtful citizens, then we’re probably doing all right.

So that’s where I’m at.
I’m doing all right.
With less stuff, and more calm.

5 benefits of a minimalist capsule wardrobe

There are lots of benefits of having a minimalist capsule wardrobe. Whether you stop at 33 items, like I do with The Project 333, or you go to something smaller with the 10 item wardrobe, it’s up to you.

But one thing is certain: you probably won’t go back once you’ve tried it!

5 benefits of a minimalist capsule wardrobe

More money. I don’t shop for a hobby any more. Instead, I shop when I need to, and I know what I need because I don’t have clutter in my cupboards that prevents me figuring out what I actually need.

A better wardrobe overall. I’m no fashion guru. At all. I don’t get fashion. But these days my wardrobe is manageable, and everything I have in my wardrobe fits me and looks good. I dress better, and I’m not afraid to spend money on good quality items because I know I’ll wear them when I buy them.

Better wear from my clothing. Because I have fewer clothes, I get better value from the items I have, as I wear each item more often.

Fewer mistakes. I still make mistakes, but there are less of them, as I have a better sense of what works for me now. De-cluttering my wardrobe really helped me get a better sense of my own style.

Knowing what to wear when. I stopped living in sports clothes and lounge-wear, because having fewer items enabled me to separate out separate sportswear and home-wear capsules. So now I know that Ugg boots are for home, and yoga pants are for the gym. Yes, I was that clueless about fashion! Even if you’re a fashion diva, having a minimalist wardrobe will help you organise your clothing better.

minimalist wardrobe

My current capsule wardrobe.

9 benefits of having a capsule wardrobe

I’ve been doing The Project 333 a full year now.

Here are 9 benefits that having a capsule wardrobe has given me:

1. I’m happier with my body. I don’t have a perfect body. Who does? But by not feeling like I have to religiously follow and fit into fashion, I’m instead choosing what works for me, with the body I have, right here and now. This has led to greater acceptance of who and what I am. I feel free.

2. I know what I need. “Gaps” in my wardrobe become immediately obvious. When I started out, I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t wearing my lovely vintage shirts. Turned out, it was because I had no jeans that comfortably fit (duh!). But because I had so many clothes, I couldn’t figure this out.

3. I wear everything. There’s no wastage. Everything that is in my wardrobe and drawers fits me, looks good, is comfortable, and gets worn.

4. I make fewer mistakes. Sure, I still make some mistakes. If an item doesn’t get worn, it’s immediately obvious as I don’t have that many clothes to start with. And because I have fewer clothes, I’m seeing patterns and trends in what I like and feel comfortable wearing. Which leads on to…

5. I’ve developed my own sense of style, and I don’t follow fashion so much any more. I don’t feel the need to have “must have” items when I know they won’t suit me. For example, horizontal stripe tops are “in”. But I know they won’t suit me, so I won’t be buying. I still look current, I’m just not “trendy”.

6. Having a smaller wardrobe has taught me what I like and what I think looks good. I’ve learned, for example, that I don’t wear scarves, jewelry and accessories. I like to keep things simple. I also like real leather handbags, belts and shoes – fake doesn’t do it for me. The backbone of my wardrobe is lovely vintage shirts and dresses, supported by leather jackets, boots and bags, denim jeans and leggings.

7. I spend less, and spend more wisely. I’ve learned where to spend money and where to buy cheap. Dresses I buy cheap. T-shirts I buy cheap. Leggings I buy cheap. Shoes, jackets and belts I spend and buy quality. Overall I am spending a lot less on clothing, and my clothes are getting greater wear.

8. I’m less stressed. I don’t worry about having anything to wear, because everything in my wardrobe fits me and is wearable. Despite having fewer items, I have more to wear than I ever did before. I know I can pull anything out of my wardrobe, and it will feel great and look good.

9. Space! I have space in my wardrobe and drawers, and can see everything I own. This is so refreshing.

If you haven’t tried The Project 333, it’s worth having a go. I’d never have thought that little ole shopaholic me would have settled in to having a capsule wardrobe, but now I can’t imagine things any other way.

My capsule wardrobe, whose backbone is a range of vintage shirts, which I support with basic black and brown. Having less works so well for me.

My capsule wardrobe, whose backbone is a range of vintage shirts, which I support with basic black and brown. Having less works so well for me.

My winter 2015 Project 333 capsule – time for an update!

I’ve been doing The Project 333 for a year now. Where has the time gone?

It’s winter now, and we’re really feeling it down here in the south of New Zealand. It has been COLD. Lots of hard frosts, lots of icy winds, and lots of high heating bills!

However, thanks to The Project 333, I’m spending less on clothing than ever before, while having a wardrobe of clothing that actually fits – and that I like to wear.

Cycling items out

This season I cycled out a few items. My beloved brown leather jacket has become too tatty to wear without feeling scruffy. It’s gone into a storage box, as I’m not ready to part with it – yet.

Ditto my brown leather belt. I have a black leather jacket and belt that have been my “second choices” and will now come to the front.

My brown leather jacket is finally too tatty to be worn any more. I can’t bear to part with it just yet, so I’m putting it into storage until I “disconnect” from it emotionally. Yeah, I’m a wuss! 😉

Likewise, I’ve parted with two pairs of blue jeans, as they’re now too big. The weight I put on last year has dropped off, enough that the jeans are too big. I’ve switched to wearing the black leggings I bought a few months back instead.

My blue jeans and brown leather belt. Both cycled out this season. The jeans don't fit any more and the belt was too worn.

My blue jeans and brown leather belt. Both cycled out this season. The jeans don’t fit any more and the belt was too worn.

Cycling items back in

Other items have been cycled back in. A black leather handbag went into storage for a few months, and now it has come back out and is being used, because it matches my jacket and belt.

The Project 333 storage box system works well for this kind of thing – for items that are still in good condition, but that you may not want to give away (or sell) just yet, and that you may want to use again in a few months time. By putting them in storage, they don’t clutter up your active wardrobe.

Some new items

I’ve also bought some new items.

This season, I bought a purple t-shirt, a black and white dress, some black leather gloves, and some black leather ankle boots.

My new boots. I really needed something new, as my shoes were all pretty worn.

My new boots. I really needed something new, as my shoes were all pretty worn.

With The project 333, you really notice the “holes” in your wardrobe – the places where you need things. In my case, I was short on general-purpose shoes to wear with, well, anything.

You also get fussy. I don’t want to spend money on something that I won’t wear, so I’m very particular about what I buy.

I also bought a vintage shirt, and it’s lovely. I’m a fan of vintage, as they’re so much better made than anything you can buy in the shops today. With vintage, you’re also wearing something nobody else will have. Here’s the shirt I bought:

My new shirt. I love vintage shirts, and this one is so pretty!

My new shirt. I love vintage shirts, and this one is so pretty!

So that’s my update. Some items in, some out. You can follow how my wardrobe has changed over the year by clicking The Project 333 Capsule tabs on this blog – I’ve listed everything, and there are some pics.

I’d recommend this Project to anyone who, like me, was a little lost at sea in the fashion world, or who used to spend a lot of money on clothes but never have anything to wear.

I’m finally making friends with my wardrobe. It feels good.

Are you doing The Project 333, or have you thought about doing it? What have your experiences been? I’d love to hear about it!

Five steps of wisdom with The Project 333…

I’ve been doing the Project 333 for FOUR WHOLE MONTHS. It’s time for an update.

The Project 333 encourages us to whittle down our wardrobes to 33 items or less, then every 3 months re-assess, get rid of what we haven’t worn, and continue the process.

I’ve gained a fair bit of wardrobe wisdom while doing The Project 333. I can’t say I’ve got this fashion thing nailed, but I’m getting organised, saving money and finding clothing management easier. So here are my Five Steps of Wisdom with The Project 333…

STEP 1: I learn…that I have too many clothes!

I had a huge amount of clothes that I never wore. Apparently this is typical. Some statistics say most women only wear about 20% of the items in their wardrobe. I’d agree with this.

Too many clothes meant I couldn’t see
– what I had,
– what I didn’t have,
– what was in great condition,
– what needed to be thrown out,
– what fit,
– what didn’t, and
– what might go together to make a complete outfit.

My wardrobe was an overstuffed shambles.

STEP 2: I learn…that I don’t have enough clothes!

The next thing I found was that although I’d got rid of a lot of clothes, my wardrobe was missing some key items to make it workable.

For example, I had lots of tops I never wore, but I didn’t have a single pair of jeans that fit well to wear with them.

I know own jeans that fit - and good quality leather belts to wear with them!

I now own two pair of jeans that fit – and good quality leather belts to wear with them!

With summer coming on, I didn’t own summer sandals, or any summer tops or t-shirts that fit well.

I was completely lacking tops that were “neat casual” – tidy enough to go out for a drink with friends, but comfy enough to wear around the house.

Being a gym rat, I had heaps of gym clothes but nothing nice to wear outside the gym.

I had lots of formal dresses (I’m a part-time singer), but nothing to wear to a cafe.

My wardrobe had lots of clothes, but it all wasn’t working together as a cohesive unit.

I had lots and lots of clothes, but nothing to wear.

STEP 3: Repeat offender…

I learned I am a repeat offender.

I don’t find fashion easy, so when I find something I like I tend to buy multiples the same. The result? Ten pair of gym trousers and about a dozen scrappy looking t-shirts, but no neat casual tops or dresses.

I’ve now learned that one is enough. Except jeans. You always need more than one pair of jeans!

STEP 4: I learn…that I find it hard to let things go…

The Project 333 has taught me that

    a) Returns policies are my best friend

    b) Reselling or donating a mistake is always, always better than it sitting, unworn, in my wardrobe

    c) If it’s not quite right the first time I bring it home, it’ll never be quite right. For whatever reason, it’s a mistake. Accept that, get rid of it, and move on

    d) I am human. I make mistakes. Some of those mistakes include buying clothes for the wrong reasons, or buying clothes that looked good in the ad but not on me. I’m okay with that. But keeping the item doesn’t make it any less a mistake.

    e) Even favourite items get old and need to be replaced. Unfortunately, because they’re favourites, they tend to wear out and become tatty even faster 😦

STEP 5: I learn…that less is better, easier, quicker, more fashionable!

My wardrobe is much smaller now.

I can see what I own and what I have to choose from. I know my options. It’s liberating.

Having fewer clothes makes dressing easier and faster every morning. I look more pulled together. People are commenting.

I have finally begun to accept that gym trousers are never acceptable to wear…outside of the gym!

My goals for 2015 as a reborn simplista fashionista 😉

No gym wear – except for workout! This is one of the principles of the Project 333, and probably the hardest one for me to abide by.

No t-shirts – except on weekends with kids! I wear t-shirts and hoodies too much. I need to tidy up my look.

No gym shoes – except at the gym! I’m getting better at this, and recently bought myself some lovely new leather ankle boots which look much smarter with jeans. They make a huge difference to my look!

The new brown boots I bought. They go with everything, and look great with jeans. So much classier than gym shoes!

The new brown boots I bought. They go with everything, and look great with jeans. So much classier than gym shoes!

Always wear a belt with jeans! Not only does a belt look tidy, it prevents me from continually pulling up and adjusting my jeans. Which is NOT a good look!

Always wear an item of jewelry! Even wearing a ring makes me look well dressed. The little things make a difference.

My wardrobe is in much better shape than it was four months ago. I recommend the Project 333 to everyone who has ever looked at a bulging wardrobe, stuffed full of clothes, and felt like they had nothing to wear.