The pilgrims of the Middle Ages didn’t carry much of anything. Images depict them in a long cloaks and simple sandals, a walking stick in one hand to which a drinking gourd was attached. No backpacks. No headlamps. No hiking shoes.
I realize they probably didn’t have nearly as much to take with them anyway. I’m guessing they didn’t own 10 cloaks and five pairs of sandals. Plus five more summer cloaks, and two more for the “off-season.”
Thinking of this over the weekend, I decided to return to Project 333. The mission? Basically make my closet look like that of a pilgrim. Choose 33 items to wear for the next three months. Put everything else away. Oh — and those 33 things? That includes clothing, coats, shoes, and jewelry.
Why would someone do this? I can only answer the question for myself. Initially, I wanted the challenge of it. Could I do it? Well, plenty of people on the Project 333 website were successful, so why not try?
Last year, I found that it was indeed possible. And I learned a few surprising advantages to living with less: I actually was able to look into my closet and feel relief. It was so simple. No leaning piles of sweaters. There were actually spaces between all the hangers. My floor wasn’t covered with shoes. And never once did I think, “I have nothing to wear,” because earlier I had determined all the possible outfits I could make with 33 items.
I also found some things that I thought so crucial never got picked as part of my 33. So off to the donation pile they went.
In the fall, winter, and spring it worked beautifully. Every three months I would start all over again, thinking ahead to the coming weather. But then summer hit. And I have a lot of summer shoes. So I decided to not count shoes. I finally settled on my 33 only to realize I had stuff in my laundry basket. When those clean clothes hit the closet, I didn’t have time to readjust and figure out which would stay and which would get put away. So I put it all in. Needless-to-say, those feelings of calm and relief when I opened my closet disappeared.
But this past weekend, I recommitted. Three pieces of jewelry. Four pairs of shoes. Two coats. Eight sweaters. A couple dresses, some pants, some tops. I’m ready. Of course, it was nearly 80 degrees this weekend. And down to 48 tonight. But if a pilgrim could walk the Camino — from the chill of the Pyrenees to the heat of the meseta — in one outfit, I’m sure I can find a way to live in the mountains of western North Carolina with just a few more.
Do you think you can do it? Check out the Project 333 website and join me!