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The Minimalist Wardrobe with Courtney Carver

This episode is all about creating a minimalist wardrobe. Bonnie and Lily are joined by Courtney Carver from Be More with Less, who downsized her wardrobe to just 33 items, and hasn’t looked back! Learn more about Project 333, and how a smaller wardrobe will give you more freedom.

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Guest Bio

Courtney Caver writes things, she wrote a book called Soulful simplicity and the simplicity blog. She shares things that make her laugh and cry on Instagram and you can check that out at ‘Be More with Less’ and she hosts a podcast called Soul & Wit with her daughter Bailey.  Now Courtney Carver doesn’t have an impressive degree, awards or a big fancy home full of stuff. Instead, she selectively surrounds herself with her favourite things and people she loves. She does work she truly cares about and goes on adventures in the world or in her own back yard.

Win A Copy of 'Project 333'

To win a copy of Courtney’s latest book, head to our Instagram Page to enter. It’s easy!

And if you haven’t already, be sure to leave a RATING AND REVIEW on Apple Podcasts or our Facebook Page. It is worth 10 entries!

This giveaway is open to the U.S, Australia and New Zealand. The competition closes on 31.1.2021 and the winner will be announced on our Facebook page on 1.2.2021. Please note, the prize must be claimed within 5 days.

Episode Transcript

BONNIE: Hello and welcome. I am Bonnie,

LILY: and I am Lily, and this is Little Home Organised; the podcast dedicated to helping you declutter, get organised and reclaim time for the things you love. 

SNIPPET

COURTNEY: So much for what we believe is really just a story and we get to re write that story really any time we want.  Seeing the same people all the time and no one noticed that I was dressing with 33 items or less in fact I think for that entire year I wore the same dress to every community event. 

MUSIC:

BONNIE: Hello and welcome.  Today we will be joined by Courtney Caver to talk about creating a minimalist wardrobe.

LILY: Courtney Caver writes things, she wrote a book called Soulful simplicity and the simplicity blog bemorewithless.com. She shares things that make her laugh and cry on Instagram and you can check that out at ‘Be More with Less’ and she hosts a podcast called Soul & Wit with her daughter Bailey.  Now Courtney Caver doesn’t have an impressive degree, awards or a big fancy home full of stuff instead she selectively surrounds herself with her favourite things and people she loves, she does work she truly cares about, goes on adventures in the world or in her own back yard and for some of us maybe not so far at the moment. 

BONNIE: No

LILY: And she like Chai lattes with almond milk while reading or writing, so Courtney’s books she has written Project 333 – The Minimalist Fashion Challenge that proves less is really so much more – and Soulful Simplicity.  You can also join her membership the Simplicity Space for extra love and support as you simplify your life.  Courtney, welcome!

BONNIE: Welcome, Courtney!

COURTNEY: Thanks for having me today. 

LILY: Oh thank you so much for being here, now one of the things that Bonnie and I notice in how we describe your book title and the concept all behind 333, we notice we both say it very differently, I think I say 333 and you say 3, 33

BONNIE: Well actually I use to say 33, 3, because in Australia we do dates, the days and then the month after but in America you switch it around and you do the month first don’t you?

COURTNEY: Well it is not months and days, it is months and things, so it is 3, 33, 3 months 33 things although it doesn’t bother me however you talk about it, I just want people to talk about it.  

BONNIE: As long as we are talking about it, that’s right

LILY: I think we were reading far to deep into it.  So can you tell us how it all began and what lead you to this movement and writing this book?

COURTNEY: Sure, well Project 3, 33 started in 2010 and it was really a personal experiment for me because I had been simplifying other areas of my life to live with less stress and better health and my closet was completely opposite simplicity,  it was chaotic and kind of obnoxious and the simpler the rest of my life got, the more obnoxious my closet became or so it appeared, and so I had normally being changing things very slowly,  I liked a real steady approach but with my closet I knew I needed some type of challenge or something to really show me why I wanted to do that, so I really was looking to learn some lessons and I created this challenge and decided for 3 months I would dress with only 33 items or less, including clothing, jewellery, accessories, and shoes and not including things like underwear, sleepwear and workout clothes as long as my workout clothes were working out I didn’t have to count them in the 33 items and here we are now

LILY: That’s a great caveat there

BONNIE: Yeah

COURTNEY: Well otherwise I mean I knew that I would just be collecting workout clothes, so I needed to put some boundaries around that, and now 10 years later because it was so successful and so important in my life, I still dress with 33 items every 3 months and so do many people all around the world. 

BONNIE: That’s amazing

LILY: Absolutely

BONNIE: Okay, so one question I have for you is um and this is what everybody asks me, because I have actually being talking about you in my workshops that I do for the last 5-7 years. I have been saying you got to checkout this book, if like your wardrobe is really stressing you out and you are finding it really difficult to get dressed, there is this chick who did this project and then you know she only 33 items and everyone goes what, 33 items, how do you do it with just 33 and it is like well you know you don’t include this and you do include that and you know just go and try it, so how did people respond when you first told them, I am just going to dress with 33 items?

COURTNEY:  Well some people were excited about and wanted to try it for themselves and other people thought it sounded completely crazy but when I wasn’t talking about it, that is when I thought it was so interesting because I thought that people would notice and perhaps say something but nobody did notice that I was dressing with fewer items which gave me a lot of freedom in thinking about the fact that maybe people aren’t thinking about me as much as I think they are, and perhaps I can start making other life decisions without worrying so much about what anyone else is going to think about it. 

BONNIE: Yeah it is a really good point

LILY: Yeah that is such a really interesting observation to come to because we do feel like everybody notices

BONNIE: Everybody is looking at us

LILY: Yeah they would notice if I only had black, white and red tops in my wardrobe but what you have shown is that it actually is not the case. 

COURTNEY: It really isn’t and what is so interesting I think is that even for people who have giant wardrobes and like I had in the beginning before I started this, I was still wearing that same collection of my favourite things, the colours that I felt suited me best, the clothes that were the most comfortable, you know even though I would try other things, other colours, other clothing items, I always went back to my favourites, but I still bought all the other stuff and was really weighed down by that

BONNIE: It is really interesting with our wardrobes, something that we tend to do is we will buy something maybe on a whim and we will think oh I have to branch out and I have got to try something new and I am going to have this you know colour that I have never really liked but you know I am going to make it work, and you buy it and you bring it home and you put it on and you go, ahh no I don’t really like it and you put it back in the cupboard and then you know a few weeks or months later oh I am just going try it again and see if has changed or if the way I feel about changes and you try it again and it doesn’t really change

LILY: Oh but maybe it would work if I just had that type of shoe, I have seen someone wear this outfit with that type of shoe before

BONNIE: Or if I just lost a couple of you know kilos or pounds and was you know a little bit lighter then maybe it would fit a little bit better and you just kind of keep having this insanity of doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result. 

COURTNEY: Its true, I mean we really work hard to make our bodies fit the clothes when all we need to do is make the clothes fit our bodies, I mean there is really

BONNIE: That is very good

COURTNEY: There is not much too it if you think about it, but once we give ourselves permission to wear the clothes that we really want to wear I think we realise that we don’t need as much as we think, and I think a lot of people have clothes with tags still hanging on it, in the closet because we make a purchase not because we needed something new but because we were feeling down, or we needed a lift, or we were celebrating, or whatever the emotion was that drove us to that sale, we never wanted the item in the first place, we wanted that feeling of whatever we thought the item would deliver. 

BONNIE: Yeah you are absolutely right we are looking for the promise of the feeling good and the feeling purposeful and all of that kind of stuff and we thing that the retail therapy is going to deliver it but quite often we just end up with buyers remorse and so to get that dopamine hit again we

LILY: Buy again

BONNIE: We look for something else to make us feel good which is more shopping usually. 

COURTNEY: Exactly

LILY: And the cycle continues. 

BONNIE: Yeah

LILY: So Courtney you are saying that when you actually did the, you did the time and you reduced your items down you actually found it really quite simple and it wasn’t as challenging as you thought it could have been.  So is that something that other people who followed this program have also found

COURTNEY: Yes I think what I know I discovered and what I hear from a lot of people is the challenge isn’t that challenging but thinking about the challenge is really challenging because we overthink it and we start to worry that we won’t have enough or try to be thinking about all the different combinations of items we can make and we really complicate the process before we even try it but it is not that you have to get rid of anything at all you are just kind of getting your stuff out of sight for a while so I suggest that you go into it very openly and not that concerned because if things aren’t working out you can always bring something back in, or change things up, it is not a project in suffering so while it is a challenge I certainly don’t want people to be suffering their way through it so it is a great way to see what you really do want and need in your wardrobe versus a real sacrifice. 

BONNIE: So you mentioned before you do 33 items for 3 months, so are you saying at the end of the 3 months when the season changes a little bit, because you are in Utah and you said you get quite cold winters which is what it is for you guys at the moment, summertime here in Brisbane, do you find that you then have like 4 wardrobes every year. 

COURTNEY: So I have 4 wardrobes each year but they are not 4 wardrobes with 33 different items, only a few will change.  So I would say between 50-90% of the wardrobe that I have in a season will move forward to the next season.  You might see a bigger difference between winter and summer but this is a 4 season state where I am and for people who aren’t in that situation they might change the rules a little bit but I always recommend starting with the 33 for 3 months, and then use that as a jumping off point to decide what really works best for your lifestyle. 

LILY: So Courtney if I was to go home today, open up my wardrobe and be like, all right I am doing this, I am going to pick my 33 items, what advice do you have to those who are trying to pick those 33, like what, how do I even begin to decide what is going to be in my challenge

COURTNEY: Yeah I would probably think about the 3 outfits you wear the most, right off the bat and know that you are going to include the items that are within those 3 outfits, that could probably be the core of your wardrobe or really think about what you have coming up for the next 3 months in terms of weather, events, um lifestyle and what items you think you will need that you will wear the most, and it usually does boil down to 2 or 3 outfits that you wear quite a bit and then you can have a few other things that really changes those things up, whether that be a scarf or jewellery so I like to work on the kind of the basics first before I add any accessories, like the things that always wear, and even I guess some accessories would be in that because I include a purse or a handbag in each 33 item collection, often the same one, all year long but those are the things I think about and I am not thinking about having 3 or 4 handbags or purses even though might have been my nature prior because again I want room for a couple of pairs of pants, and a few shirts and a sweater and a jacket and so it is kind of like making a budget in that it might not work the first time, so make your lists on paper before you actually creating it in your closet and see what that looks like and how it feels and then if you need to make adjustments on paper do that and then you will have your list. 

LILY: Yeah and you don’t have to get it right the first time, you just have to get in there and give it a go and figure out what is going to work. 

COURTNEY: No one is grading your progress but you

BONNIE: SO true it is just your own personal best that you are trying to beat, isn’t it.  It is bit like swimming, talking about swimming metaphors BP

LILY: You are still thinking about Kieran Perkins I think.  Bonnie is always thinking about Kieran Perkins. 

BONNIE: Okay so that sounds a little bit similar what you are talking about with that list to a strategy we use with decluttering with our clients and we call it the magic number and so we will say, okay how many towels is reasonable for your family, like how many do you actually need in the bathroom and they will say okay there are 4 of us and we like to wash and have one in the wash and one in use so that is 2 towels per person so that is 8 towels, that is our magic number, before we go to the linen cupboard and make decisions on the 25 towels that are there, because when we get there and we touch stuff it is like oh I love this one, oh look at the colour of this but when we have that goal post of I am picking my favourite 8, it is a bit easier to kind of get there I find.

COURTNEY: Yeah for sure, I mean why not, so much of those other items that we have are just they are back up items, they are just in case items, they are our comfort, you know I think in some ways we stock up on things to feel safe or secure in some way but when we really think about it, none of that stuff is keeping us safe or secure it is just adding to the things we have to think about and take care of, so to get to the things that you really actually use and need, even if that includes a cushion, having a back up towel so be it but we certainly don’t need 4 back up towels or whatever the situation is, and it is different for everyone, I mean everyone is going to have their thing so someone might have more items in their kitchen because they cook more than someone else, it just depends. 

LILY: Yeah I agree, I think before we jump into some questions, why don’t we take a little bit of a break and lets have a clutter confession

CLUTTER CONFESSIONS;

WACKY CONFESSIONS ANONYMOUS CALLER 1: I don’t hold onto a lot of even sentimental items but there is one sentimental item that I keep and that is Mother Day’s cards from my daughter so every year she just writes me the sweetest notes and I know I could take a picture but I keep them together and it is just one of those things that I will just always keep and cherish, it is so important to me. 

BONNIE: Oh that is so lovely

LILY: It sounds like you and your daughter have a very sweet relationship it is really really beautiful

BONNIE: Yes

COURTNEY:  Yeah we do. 

BONNIE: You must have a very good relationship to want to do a Podcast together because as much as I love my mum I don’t know if we would survive a Podcast together. 

COURTNEY:  We have a really good time. 

LILY: Oh that’s wonderful.  Well thank you for sharing and to the listeners out there if you guys have a clutter confession we would love to hear it, head to the Facebook page and send it on in. 

MUSIC

LILY: Back to our questions here with Courtney Carver and we are discussion all things about the minimalist wardrobe so what do you think are the biggest barriers Courtney when someone is trying to embrace this challenge that they face and that they tell you about when they are trying to think about their 33 items or they are going through the process, what are some of the challengers that commonly pop up for people. 

COURTNEY:  Yeah there are a handful that come up over and over again, I think one of the top ones is definitely that fear of what other people are going to think, there is a concern about a weather fluctuation so over the 3 month period will 33 items be enough to keep me warm, to keep me cool because the 33 items isn’t for the same exact weather every single day, it really does take into account that like for me for instance in the beginning of October we might have temps in the 80’s or 90’s in Fahrenheit and then dropping down to snow by the end of that season so I did take that into consideration and I think for most people 33 items is plenty but of course there is some unique situations where it gets really cold and you make adjustments for that,  there is no magic to the number 33, like if your number is 37 you are going to have just as much to gain especially if you are coming from a wardrobe of 100, so really you have to figure out what the best number is for you and then stick with that and then the idea of weight fluctuation comes up, like what if my weight fluctuates will I be able to have just 33 items and again I think in most cases yes we are talking about a 3 month period of time here, so chances are in most cases, not every case but in most cases your weight fluctuates, it is not going to fluctuate so much that you are out of your clothes and if it does make adjustments so that it works for you. 

BONNIE: It is that whole thing of it not meant to be a suffering but rather something the

LILY: Positive

BONNIE: the boundaries that help you move towards something good

LILY: Well I think that is it and I think the numbers are there to help you but they are also providing you with a protection of a boundary and boundaries

BONNIE: Boundaries are so important

LILY: They are, they are important in every aspect of life but especially when we are decluttering and we are trying to keep things organised boundaries are important whether it be the box in the kitchen that you put your items in and they don’t overflow out the top or it be the number of things that are hanging in your wardrobe um if not having a cluttered house is important to you a boundary is really important so what I am understanding from what you are saying there Courtney is the number 33 really works specifically for you but you are saying that if so someone else there items are a few less or a few more it doesn’t matter you can still embrace this concept and this challenge. 

COURTNEY:  Of course and as it turns out this number works well for a lot of people and it is a great as I mentioned earlier jumping off point, so you do it at that place for 3 months and then you know how you want to adjust, whether that be the number of items, or if you want to create a capsule wardrobe for 6 months depending on your weather circumstances, you might want to try that, so it just varies again from person to person. 

BONNIE: So how did you come up with the number 33?

COURTNEY:  I always wish I had a better answer for this, like something magical or mystical but really what I did was look at my life then and what I had coming up with work and events and personal stuff and just figured out what that number looked like for me and I believe the number that I had in mind was in the 40’s but I thought this is a challenge I may as well try something, you know try fewer times and see how it goes and I knew it would be for 3 months and so I thought 3, 33 sounded really fun and it works for me. 

BONNIE: And what were you doing at the time work wise when you started your project challenge. 

COURTNEY:  Yeah so you are going love this, so selling advertising for magazines how ironic,

LILY: What kind of magazines?

COURTNEY:  For luxury magazines so

LILY: Oh yeah

COURTNEY:  And it was so interesting because I was working with you know people in an office all the time,  visiting clients, seeing the same people all the time and no one noticed that I was dressing with 33 items or less in fact I think for that entire year I wore the same dress to every community event or business event and again no comment and believe me it was the kind of industry there would be a comment. 

LILY: You have just brought up a point which I wanted to ask you about, so are there exceptions to the rule, I mean I know it is a challenge and there are rules but there aren’t rules, if you are, so you worked in corporate and so you would have needed a certain attire to fit your corporate work but aside from like the gym gear and things like that are there industries or the peoples lines of work that you think kind of fall outside the bounds of the challenge, like where they have to wear lots of

BONNIE: PPE

LILY: Is that all excluded from the challenge as well or is that included

COURTNEY:  Well I think if you are lets say that you are working in a hospital and you have to wear a uniform everyday, I recommend counting your uniform as one item, so if you have 5 uniforms count them all as one item and see how that works out for the 3 months, but if you are working at an office and you have to wear clothes that you would necessarily wear outside of work, I just recommend dressing up your out of work clothes about 10% and dressing down your work clothes about 10%, that’s what I did and it was a great way to be able to use the things that I had in more than one setting and as it turns out I didn’t need two separate wardrobes even though again before the challenge most of the stuff I wore at work I didn’t wear out of work but for the purposes of the challenge I shifted things and it was just fine. 

BONNIE:  So when you say dressing up and dressing down, do you refer to more accessories like you would wear heals for work and then maybe flats for you know a lunch with the girlfriends or something like that

COURTNEY:  I mean it could be that or it could be that I mean it has been a long time since I have worked in an office so my wardrobe has changed pretty dramatically since them, probably not that dramatically actually but some things have shifted, I am not wearing heals a lot, at all especially now where most of us are working from home, I am not  

BONNIE: Slippers

COURTNEY:  I could be doing Project 3 at the current time, I just meant like maybe there was a blazer I was wearing in the office that I wasn’t wearing outside for whatever reason

BONNIE: Sure

COURTNEY:  I could wear it with a t-shirt instead of a button down and it would work fine and maybe I didn’t have to wear a suit in the office I could wear a pair of dress pants and that blazer, that is all I meant by that. 

LILY: Yeah so looking at your clothing and when you are going out and doing your shopping if you are moving away from a really big wardrobe with lots of single purpose items and trying to go forward getting, when you are buying something think oh is this something that I could wear at work and then wear casually because that is multiple purposes, it is going to take up less space too. 

BONNIE: And its that whole theory of making your clothes work for you. 

COURTNEY:  Yeah and not believing everything you think about what you want or need because so often we tell ourselves these stories about what we think people expect us to show up as or that just what we have told ourselves we need to wear or need to own and I think if we are constantly questioning that whether it be in the closet or anywhere else in our life we can really find a lot of flexibility because so much of what we believe is really just a story and we get to re write that story really anytime we want. 

LILY: Oh gosh that is a beautiful way to finish I think

BONNIE: That is, I just have one more question for you and this is what every listener is going to be yelling out at me, do you still have 33 items in your closet?

COURTNEY:  Meaning do I still dress with 33 items every 3 months?

BONNIE: Yes

COURTNEY:  I mean 10 years later it is 33 or less, I would say in the summer probably not but because in the winter I count like my hat and gloves and a scarf my really like sleeping bag warm jacket I have got 33 items or less every 3 months. 

LILY: That is incredible

BONNIE: That’s cool. It really can work, it is not just a challenge that we have to undertake for 3 months, we can actually transition.

LILY: You can make this a lifestyle

BONNIE: Yeah and it’s a new lifestyle.  That is exciting and I actually counted my clothes in readiness for this episode but I didn’t remember the 3 month thing, so included, so we are in summer but I included some wintery stuff in my count and I got to I think it was about 52 so I am on the way but now that you have said the season thing

LILY: The seasons.

BONNIE: I am going to go back and see if I can get to that 33 items and I think Lily has probably got a few more clothes than I do

LILY: I probably do.

BONNIE: So I wonder if you are ready to pick up the challenge and downsize your wardrobe

LILY: I definitely like the idea of having multi purpose clothing so and any excuse to go you know to wipe out my wardrobe and go shopping.  So, for those who are listening who want to jump on Project 333 where can they find you, what can they do.

COURTNEY:  They can go to my website bemorewithless.com and there is a little button that says project 333, they can click on that and find everything they need.  There is also a Project 333  Instagram account and there they can see examples of other peoples wardrobes which I think is so helpful because it just looks different for everyone and it is cool to see that while yes my wardrobe is pretty monochromatic other people have really colourful wardrobes so whatever your particular style is it can work for you too

BONNIE: That’s great because I have to admit I am a very colourful person I don’t look like it today but I do have teal coloured earrings

LILY: I know we are, we are matching.

BONNIE: Oh we are, we totally planned that right, and I think the idea of a capsule wardrobe is so appealing to me but at the same time I wear a lot of my personality on the outside in my clothing these days and I want to still be able to that so that is great to know that there is that inspiration from others there to kind of help guide us along, pushing ourselves further to still maintain that personality even with the challenge of just 33 items. 

LILY: So yeah if you are listening and you have been intrigued about what we are talking about today go to Instagram, check it out, go to Courtney’s website and we will throw it all in the show notes as well to make sure that you can get access to that and maybe you embrace this year in 2021 the minimalist wardrobe.  Courtney thank you so much for chatting with us today.

COURTNEY:  Thank you I appreciate it. 

MUSIC

BONNIE: Courtney Carver has generously donated a copy of her newest book, it came out in March 2020 Project 3:33 so if you are looking to create a capsule wardrobe and you are not really sure of the steps of how to do that, this book will give you all the tools that you need to be able to get dressed in less than five minutes

LILY: Now to do that you will need to head to either Apple Podcasts and leave a RATING AND REVIEW and mention this episode or alternatively head to our Facebook page Little Home Organised and leave a rating and review there and that is your entry into to draw. 

BONNIE: The winner will be announced on Facebook on the 1st February so make sure you do your rating and review and send a screen shot once you have done that, either on Apple Podcasts or on our Facebook page Little Home Organised

LILY: Fantastic, we hope you have enjoyed todays episode it has been absolutely jammed pack and we are very excited and we really know how busy life can be especially at this time of year so thank you for lending us your ears

BONNIE: And remember PROGRESS NOT PERFECTION. 

LILY: See you later

BONNIE: Bye

We would love to see the conversation continue, head over to the Little Home Organised Community group on Facebook, ask questions, find motivation and share your before and afters, and if you enjoyed the show please help us going by hitting subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or where ever you listen.  It is free and ensures you do not miss and episode but if you really want to share the love leave us a rating and review. Trust me it makes all the difference in the world.