After paring down her wardrobe to just 33 pieces of clothing, Salt Lake City resident and well-known minimalist Courtney Carver had a revelation.
“I realized nobody cares what I’m wearing,” she said. “I got more compliments when I dressed with fewer items.”
It was an unexpected bonus of Project 333, her minimalist fashion challenge where she dressed with just 33 items for three months. The 33 items include all clothing, accessories, jewelry, outerwear and shoes. Wedding rings, underwear, pajamas and workout clothing (as long as you really are exercising) don’t count.
Carver who launched the Be More With Less blog in May 2010, said readers embraced the idea, which led to her Tiny Wardrobe Tour that took her — and her miniature wardrobe — to 33 cities to talk about dressing and living with less.
On Jan. 4 in Salt Lake City, Carver will launch another eight-week tour to promote her new book “Soulful Simplicity.” In the 233-page guide, Carver, 48, shares personal stories and tips, including how her diagnosis of multiple sclerosis was the wake-up call she needed to simplify everything in her life from her job to her bank account.
The event includes a discussion and question-and-answer session. It starts at 6:30 p.m. at Weller Book Works inside Trolley Square, 665 E. 600 South. Tickets are $20 at Eventbrite and include a copy of the book.
In advance of the event, Carver talked about how she came to Utah, the disease that prompted her minimalist lifestyle, and how she gave up mindless shopping. Her comments have been edited for clarity and space.
How did you land in Salt Lake City?
I moved in 2004 from New Hampshire. My parents had relocated here and we used to visit and ski. We fell in love with terrain and the people and the lifestyle and decided to move.
How did you come up with the idea for Project 333?
I started the fashion challenge a few months after I started the blog. I wrote about it as a personal challenge, but people were really interested in it and were sharing it on social media. Then a month into the challenge, a reporter from the Associated Press called and wanted to write about it. (Stories were published in newspapers and magazines and podcasts across the country.) That was really the start of it, it just took on a life of its own.
Why do you think it became so popular?
We have clutter everywhere, but it’s really noticeable in our closets because we go there every day. A whole lot of emotion is tied up in our clothes. If we let go of the inner clutter that our closets provide, it relieves a lot of stress and anxiety. Once you do it, you see how simplifying your closet simplifies your life.
How can cleaning your closet lead to other changes like reducing debt and better health?
When I was doing the wardrobe tour, I would say, “This is not about the clothes or fashion.” It’s about your health and your heart and your life. But to get past some of the clutter in the rest of our lives, we have to start there. Once we let go of some clothes and create a little space to understand what’s going on with ourselves, we can learn what our connection to stuff really is and how we are obsessed with what other people think of us. When I worked full time, I tried to prove what I was by what I was wearing. I thought people at work were going to notice if I didn’t have a different outfit every day. But nobody noticed. I realized nobody cares what I’m wearing. I got more compliments when I dressed with fewer items.
In the book, you suggest replacing excessive shopping with self-care. Give us tips to do that.
It’s important to identify why you shop. Perhaps it’s because you need it. But are you shopping to numb pain or out of boredom? I used to go shopping because I thought I deserved to buy something new because I worked hard. But then I realized I had to work even more to support that lifestyle. Try a purchase pause. Pick a 30-day time frame where instead of buying nonessential things, you write down on paper the item and the amount of the item. At the end of the month, look at the list and tally up the amount you would have spent. If someone handed you the money, would you still buy those items? It’s eye-opening.
Would you have made these changes if you had not been diagnosed with MS?
It’s hard to know. I hope I would have at some point made the shift. But MS was not my first wake-up call. It took years of not feeling well; of work I didn’t enjoy; of feeling underinspired. I thought something was not right and that I would like to make changes, but I was too overwhelmed to do it. MS gave me permission to go for it. If I didn’t change, things were only going to get worse.
How can people make simplicity a priority?
We don’t have to wait for a wake-up call. We just need permission to admit that things are not what they should be. Oftentimes people feel like it’s their cross to bear and life is supposed to be hard. If you have been hearing that voice that something isn’t right, that is your wake-up call. In the book, I share a “heart practice” in every section, taking time to listen to your heart. We can only hear if we take the time to listen and acknowledge what we hear. That is where the simplicity comes in. It creates more time to connect with your heart.
By Courtney Carver
TarcherPerigee (Dec. 26, 2017)