Lessons from a Challenge

Last month I shared some pictures on my Instagram story that got people asking me questions. The pictures were from an experiment I did for 90 days.

If you know me, you know I like challenges. I have done food challenges, where I abstain from certain foods for 30 days. I’ve tried fitness challenges that had me hiking miles and miles of trails and terrains. Month-long reading challenges and screen fasts I did made for interesting evenings and new habits. Challenges are ways I learn about myself, and this last one was no exception. It was a clothing challenge.

Let me share what I learned form this challenge and perhaps, in the future, take you along on my future challenges. (I am currently in the middle of a challenge that has me learning a new language. Check out the Duolingo app.)

But first, here’s how this particular challenge came my way.

One evening my oldest son encouraged me to watch a documentary he said he had watched three times. The thing about having older kids is they do know you well, so when he said I would like it- I watched.

The show, The Minimalists, is a documentary about two guys who sought to live more meaningful lives with less. It is full of interesting ideas about multi-utilization, tiny living, and prioritizing. One concept shared had to do with clothing. I don’t need to quote stats to convince anyone that people own a ton of clothes. Instead,take a glance at the next clothing donation drop-off and notice how it cascades with our clothing rejects. Americans clearly have plenty to wear.

The clothing challenge came from something highlighted in the film. It is called Project 333. The goal is to wear only 33 items of clothing for 3 months. A major closet clean out!

I didn’t do the project exactly as described, but I did reduce my clothing to just over 40 items and stuck with it for 90 days. For me that was a challenge! There may have even been a few moments of grief, especially when I started eliminating the shoes! But I did it. And after 90 days, here is what I learned.

  • It is much easier with less.
  • Nobody notices.
  • I saved time and money.
  • Quality matters.
  • I have more than I need.
  • I focused on appearance more than I realize.

I could go into detail on each of these points but I actually think it is better, and in the spirit of minimalism, to simply share what I learned and let you to fill in the blanks.

Did I miss some things? Absolutely! Options are not always bad. If I were to ever live as a minimalist, I would likely fail due to my love of shoes alone. There was much I realized I could live without, and living without it was actually more valuable than having it.

This experience affirmed why I do challenges in the first place. I grow when I break out of the familiar routines of life. Every challenge is a learning experience. When I step into what is hard, uncomfortable, or unfamiliar I become more open to ways I need to change. That is a lesson always worth learning.

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever. -Mahatma Gandhi