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Courtney Carver – Fashion Minimalist

We all experience those periods when we sense a relationship is amiss. Or we know deep down we should make some changes on a personal level. But we look the other way, pretending not to notice, until we get a gentle shake or even a swift kick from the universe. And then—forced to act upon the precise issue we didn’t want to see, we set off in a direction we never dreamed.

Courtney Carver’s life rolled along, fueled by the “more is best” philosophy.

After graduation from The Savannah College of Art and Design, Courtney was submerged in credit card bills and student loans. When her paychecks as a sales rep began to roll in, instead of paying off her debt, Courtney bought more. More clothes, shoes, decor, and gadgets. It was a vicious cycle. She spent more than her budget allowed, agonized over her mounting debt, and shopped more to relieve her anxiety.

And then came the swift kick.

In 2006, at the age of 37, Courtney was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Information she devoured about this unpredictable disease, which attacks the central nervous system, was not encouraging.

How to Simplify Your Wardrobe

Overcome with panic and fright, Courtney feared she would wake up blind, lose her ability to walk, and most important, not be around to raise her young daughter. Her neurologist ( the one she later “fired”) told her it was “only a matter of time.”

“I had to figure out if I could do anything to live well with this disease,” says Courtney. Thanks to additional books and articles and a helpful new doctor, she learned stress—which can lead to inflammation in the body—is a contributor to MS. “I don’t know why that was such an enormous realization. It seems like a simple concept now,” says Courtney.

So, what could Courtney do to reduce the tension and anxiety in her life?

One area at a time, Courtney examined ways to streamline those activities which often launched her into a tailspin.

She began to plan menus in advance and cooked healthy, simple meals for herself, husband, and daughter. Little by little, she paid off her backlog of bills. She and her family moved to a smaller home, downsizing clutter and living in a space with less maintenance and expenses.

As time went on, Courtney managed her disease, lived well, and realized simplicity was her key to reduced anxiety. She discovered less is more and looked for other ways to simplify her life.

Simplify Your Wardrobe and Closet

As she glanced at her overflowing closet, Courtney cringed. Like someone I know well (!), Courtney had a closet stuffed with outdated dresses, tops she never wore, and handbags she couldn’t part with because she’d paid a lot of money for them. “The simpler my life got outside my closet, the more obnoxious my closet seemed,” she says.

She knew she needed a drastic measure for her closet overhaul.

And so she devised a plan. For the next three months, she selected 33 items to keep in her closet. That’s it. Everything else, she packed away in plastic containers and carted to the garage.

Her 33 items for the next 3 months included one handbag (yikes), “a pair of shoes for each style or need” (gulp), minimal jewelry, a single scarf, and outerwear. And her work and casual clothes. She did not count workout wear—except she didn’t allow herself to run errands in those pieces, she had to exercise in them—pajamas, the pieces of jewelry she never took off, or underwear.

And guess what? No more running late to her job at a local magazine because she couldn’t decide which black top to wear. She no longer agonized over which jeans looked best for dinner with friends. Packing for a trip was a breeze. For clients and community events, Courtney threw on her black dress and necklace, and she was out the door.

Project 333

To hold herself accountable, Courtney labeled her closet purge Project 333 and posted it on the internet. “My fun experiment took on a life of its own,” she laughs. It turns out closet and wardrobe stress is a real thing for many people.

What began as a “weeding out” challenge for Courtney turned into a lifestyle. For the past ten years, she’s sorted through clothes and shoes in three month chunks. “33 items works for me,” she says. “That’s all I need.”

Most of us tend to wear the outfits we’re most comfortable in or look the best in over and over anyway. We have our “uniforms.” I suppose the adage, “We tend to wear 10 percent of our closet, 90 percent of the time” rings true for the majority of us.    

With the Salt Lake City sunshine streaming in the windows, I ask Courtney if she considers her diagnosis a blessing. “One hundred percent,” she says. “I’m healthier mentally and physically. Gone are the days of worrying what I should do and who I should please and how my life should look.”

“I needed the shake,” says Courtney.

Photos submitted by Courtney Carver

To read more about Courtney’s simple lifestyle and Project 333, please visit Be More With Less.

You may also enjoy reading about a woman’s 500-mile walk with no possessions and my path to letting go of stuff.

This post was first published on Sixty and Me

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