What is it?
Basically a game where you reduce your wardrobe for a while following some rules. For 3 months you are using 33 items to dress yourself. You count your shoes and your accessories in but not your sleep-wear, undies and work-out clothes.
It aims for people who live in abundance like most people in the global north. Middle-class with staffed wardrobes full of nothing to wear. Hello not-traveling me!
So, if people participate in this challenge there must be some promised benefit, right? Why else would you limit yourself if there is no need to? It promises to offer some insights.
So, what are these typical conclusions? Which insights does the game offer?
- You don’t need as many clothes.
- It is easier to pick what to wear.
- You spend less time getting dressed and more time doing ‘what-is-important-for-you’.
- You feel more freedom. Less need to buy clothes/things and instead have more energy to fucus on ‘what-is-important-for-you’.
How I stumbled across it.
It showed up in my Instagram feed one day as I lived in Kunming, China for two months. A woman posted a pic of herself, wearing a nice, smart outfit and used hashtags like #333challange #333minimalism. I got curious and she was nice enough to introduce me to the challenge and I continued seeing pics of her where I actually wouldn’t have noticed a lack of variety in clothes if she hadn’t pointed out why she was posting them but rather an attractive woman feeling comfortable and great.
So, learning about it, I realized I was actually already doing the challenge myself – accidentally.
I was bike touring when I got to Kunming and knew I would be after. So I didn’t have that much stuff with me to begin with. And even so I could stock up my change of clothes thanks to my roommate and a clothes-exchange-party I still didn’t have loads. Including my nighty, socks and undies – unaware of the fact that I didn’t have to count them – I barely made it to 33 items – for two months. Before and after I had less but life and clothing necessities are VERY different when cycling.
For outerwear, I had 3 T-Shirts, 2 long-sleeve-shirts, 3 pair of pants, 2 jumpers, 2 skirts, 2 dresses, one pair of stockings, 2 shorts, 2 pair of shoes and an ultra-light raincoat.
Did I wear all my clothes?
Fascinating but at this point I would have almost have to say no. But then I was wearing the second skirt once. For the shoes: one pair were my cycling shoes with a rather stiff sole which is great for cycling and so-so for walking. Once my roommate gave me the light-weight-army shoes she had, I never wore anything else again.
Was I happy with my choice of clothes?
It depended. The t-shirts and the jumper I brought from home were carefully chosen favorites. As was one of the pants and one skirt. The other things I chose more quickly at the clothes-swap-party.
And that’s what I ended up with. I loved the clothes I carefully chose. I felt great when wearing them. The others? Oh well… I was dressed okay. I didn’t mind them but they didn’t show my personality or clothing style that much. But then again, I believe I am not someone who cares extremely about her clothes or shoes.
What surprised me: The wear on the clothes
Did you ever have clothes break on you? Falling apart? With the tonnes of clothes that go to landfill, op-shops or poorer countries every year it’s just not possible to wear them out. Styles go out of fashion within weeks (yes! 26 times a year the stock in clothing stores changes!) and so the low quality fast-fashion gets faster out-dated then outworn.
So, yeah, I was hardly aware of the phenomen as I would usually throw out clothes before this happens or maybe just when it starts. And I actually saw me as a person that’s wearing/holding on to clothes longer than average.
Plus, I am someone who is mending. But I realized that this wasn’t making any long-term change. Hardly a short-term one. The fabric became to worn and weak to hold the thread. So I eventually gave up on that.
My T-shirts started to get holes. My one pair of pants – which I have had for roughly ten years – was ripping at the slightest impact. Another pair had given up before – at the end of a hike this super-comfy cotton-pants (which I got used of a friend) were totally ripped and so far beyond use I had to borrow one before having street-food – yeah not even talking fancy restaurants here – back in the city. I would have been embarressed if I wouldn’t have been so fascinated how quickly this pants detoriorated…
Packing and Washing
„Have you packed for your trip yet?“ my roommate asks me about 24 hours before I go on a one-week trip. I shake my head „No chance. I have to wash everything first.“ Yeah, all my clothes were barely a load of washing and I had to wash what I was wearing as well. So I would have barely enough for the trip with hand-washing in between. I did a lot of that in Kunming as well. Due to the limited stock I didn’t always collect enough clothes to justify putting on a load of washing and realized how this is actually putting a lot of wear on the clothes again. Shrubbing. Wringing. Seemed to be working away on the fabric.
Luckely Kunming is a very warm and dry place so I could pack my clothes for the trip in the morning. Wearing the pair of pants that was still a bit moist.
Felt weird. At these times it was comforting to know that this was a) temporary and b) choosen by myself. If it would have annoyed me too badly I could have just gone shopping to have as much choice of clothes I wished for. How different must this experience be for someone who didn’t choose this but just can’t afford more. But has to pack for the 5-day-class-trip of their daughter? Running half-full loads of washing because there’s not enough time to hand-wash or clothes around to wait for a full machine? And by that, actually spending more money than needed if enough clothes were available on water, electricity and detergent?
I need less. And I desire to have a variety in clothes.
Yes, it is true. For my situation back home: Even though I tremendously reduced the amount of clothing I own over the last five years I still have more than I need at a given time.
I believe we don’t need 7 pairs of almost identically black pants. But if you have them, have the space and not planning to move soon. why not wear them out? If you reduce to 2 pairs, which you then will almost wear daily, you will have to buy a new one soon as they will show signs of wear. But then… what’s the point in keeping the ones that are uncomfortable? We don’t like wearing? We feel awkward in?
When getting new(-to-me) clothes there really is a point in making sure I like them.
As stated above about some things from the clothes swaps as compared to my fav’s that I brought from home. I didn’t like them too much. I didn’t feel like „me“ too much in them.
Part of the KonMari-method is to pick up every single item (of clothes, all your shoes, all your books…) and check if they ‘spark joy’ when you hold them. It sounds crazy, but it works (and it’s awesomly explained by her in a tedtalk I can not find anymore on YouTube.)
I have been practicing this for about three years now back home, ever since I purged using the KonMari-method for the first time. I ended up with a choice of clothes I appreciated much more and actually started feeling happy when grabbing clothes to wear and didn’t have to go past all these „nothing-to-wear“-items in a totally overloaded wardrobe.
So, when getting new stuff into my place, I try to check if they ‘spark joy’ – what I obviously didn’t do at the clothes-swap-party.
Different moods need different styles.
The jumper I brought with me is my absolute favourite one. I bought it at a festival earlier this year of a store I love, accompanied by my best friend. So besides just loving the feel of wearing it, it brings happy memories. It’s an xxl-hoodie.
Unfortunately the jumper from the clothes-swap, even though I really liked it as well, was a xxl-style one as well.
And I don’t want this style everyday that doesn’t fit for a T-shirt. So here comes my need for variety!
The future: What I am courious about:
In a couple of days I am going back home, where an abundance of clothes is waiting for me. Don’t ask me how many t-shirts, pants, jeans and skirts I own. I am wondering how I will react to that.
Where different stuff everyday?
What I can’t do is wear the stuff I had at the challenge. What I got at the clothes-swap I left behind for other cyclists to use. What I took with me, is almost worn out.
So, what’s your experience with clothes? Have you heard about this challenge and what do you think about it?
And mending… why didn’t it work out? Maybe there’s more magic to that and it’s about using the right technique? Happy for your adive!
2 thoughts on “How I accidentally took part in the 333-minimalism-challenge”
I used to be on the board of MayaWorks.org, which is Fair trade Maya woven stuff. I got to go to Guatemala several times, and stayed twice with a family of 12 (3 generations) who could store ALL their clothing in one cupboard. They were poor and that sucked and is why Fair Trade exists, to work towards economic justice. But also.. they lived more “present” in their lives. Less planning, more struggling and more living/ more alive and doing and tending and working.
Oh wow, that’s really impressive. I actually try to buy used or fair-trade as I got a glimpse of the situation of the workers when cycling as well as of the pollution from newly made things. Since you have some insider knowledge – do you believe fair-trade is making a difference?