Are people with less, happier? I culled my wardrobe to just 33 things to find out

Last month I wrote an article about ditching my smartphone – in an attempt to slow down and simply my life –  and following on in a similar fashion, I’ve now turned my attention to my overflowing wardrobe and, in particular, how to cull it down to just 33 basic necessities (sans my fugly dressing gown and collection of daggy period undies – there’s some things we women just shouldn’t have to live without).


Why? Because physical clutter begets mental clutter and I’ve been feeling zapped of energy, and unfocused – like I’d lost my writing mojo, lately.


And before you ask, no, it’s not an experiment in deprivation but, rather, with happiness.

Studies also show that materialism is directly linked with unhappiness. That’s a problem if, like me, you’re hell-bent on making your life a more enjoyable place to exist.


My shoes, my work wear and my ‘going out’ clothes are now condensed to just 33 delightful things (I shit you not) and I plan to keep it that way for the next 3 months as per Courtney Carvers 333 Project. I shall call it my minimalist wardrobe, really, because that’s what it is.

(see the rules below on what those 33 things includes)


Here’s my ‘minimalist’ wardrobe, today


Just 33 glorious things.


What is this minimalism you ask? I love the original Minimalists, Josh and Ryan’s definition over at The

“It’s quite simple: to be a minimalist you must live with less than 100 things, you can’t own a car or a home or a television, you can’t have a career, you must live in exotic hard-to-pronounce places all over the world, you must start a blog, you can’t have children, and you must be a young white female from a privileged background.”


Only joking, of course.


More or less it is:

Only living with the things that you really need. Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from life itself.


Josh Becker says: “Modern culture (that’s me and possibly you) has bought into the lie that ‘the good life’ is found in accumulating things—in possessing as much as possible. They believe that more is better and have inadvertently subscribed to the idea that happiness can be purchased at a department store.


But they are wrong. Minimalism brings freedom from the all-consuming passion to possess. It steps off the treadmill of consumerism and dares to seek happiness elsewhere. 


It values relationships, experiences, and soul-care. And in doing so, it finds life.”


Growing up in the teenage modeling scene, I well and truly (for a time) bought into the lie that I am more if and when I own nice things. I bought a ticket and sold my soul to the ride of ‘consumerism’ and I never went without, quickly realizing my need for more ‘stuff’ was insatiable.


I’ve since read into this idea of decluttering and minimalism and how it’s linked with our mental health. That being less attached to our stuff = more in touch with ourselves = happier.


When I think about my wardrobe and my daily ritual of deliberating over what I could wear that was flattering, ‘in’ and COOL, the process really just made me feel: inadequate, confused, mildly anxious, and angry even. Ultimately, I decided this mother of all wardrobe culls was essential.


My OTT, pre-minimalism challenge wardrobe (overflowing into laundry baskets)


Still think that maybe I might be talking out of my ass? Here’s some science on the matter:


“P. Brickman conducted a study in which he investigated the level of happiness of people whose financial dreams had come true. He found that those who won millions on the lottery were no happier than his control group who meet their basic needs. Money can buy short term happiness but this then puts you in a vicious materialistic circle in which you strive to achieve long term happiness through the constant purchase of material items.”


Brittany, the Millenial mom and minimalist, says: “Minimalism has done wonders for my anxiety. I’m truly happier and more content than I have ever been. I have removed both physical and mental clutter from my life, resulting in a calm that I have desperately craved — for as long as I can remember” 


Another study from Chaplin & John (2007) suggests there is a strong link between low self-esteem and materialism and that low self-esteem causes materialistic tendencies.


Now, when I do go to buy something I really stop and think about whether I need it and if it adds VALUE to me, before committing. I also (much to my partner’s frustration) wait at least an hour before committing to something, rarely impulse buying right then and there.


So, finally, does minimalism create happiness? Does it improve your life? I feel it does, for me. But, minimalism is subjective for a lot of people and I know it’s not for everyone.


My Mother-in-Law has already pointed out that she’d rather die than cull her impressive wardrobe down to just 33 things.


Minimalism is a tool. To me, since downsizing my wardrobe, I feel I’ve gained mental clarity, that space in my room now makes me feel at ease when I look at it (not mildly anxious) and I’m also saving myself money, stress and time.


If you feel like you’re the type of person that could do with a defrag, why not start with a minimalist wardrobe? You can find some more info about Project 333 on the founder’s blog, but I’ll summarise the main tips for you:



  1. Your wardrobe for the next 3 months (or forever – whichever you choose) will consist of 33 things. This means your work-wear, ‘going out’ wear, accessories (hats and bags) and shoes
  2. The exception to the 33 things is: your gym gear, underwear (yay – daggy period collection!), socks, pyjamas AND anything that is of sentimental value to you (wedding ring, your grandmother’s purse etc)
  3. This is not about deprivation. Choose to keep your absolute favourite wardrobe pieces.
  4. If you want to buy something new once in a while, no worries, you’ll just need to swap out something from your wardrobe in exchange for this new item. – after all, the rules say 33, not 37 – no cheating.


Lastly, I don’t write this post to shame people who live with a lot of ‘stuff’ (after all, that was me). I write it to offer you an alternate way of doing things so that you may discover ways of living that make you feel happiest. Ultimately, we all want to be so happy that we sporadically high-five strangers and leap out of bed in the morning, yeah?


(Also published on MEDIUM (Rebecca Achelles) and Femme Heroine)

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