Friday, October 12, 2012

Capsule Wardrobe Project 333: from the sublime to the ridiculous

After we got back from Paris, belovedest and I agreed that we could have packed less - we had more options than we strictly needed, and we wouldn't have minded having even SMALLER bags...

And that made me start pondering the number of options inherent in any "Project 333" that includes 33 pieces of clothing - theoretically more than 1,000.

So, I started illustrating them all....  and my brain ground to a halt at 160 outfits.  This would easily get me through 5 months, and I haven't even begun to address the possibilities of my dresses.  Wow.  I really do NOT need a lot of clothes - I re-learn this fact every day.

Note: although you can't really tell here, the 3 pair of black pants are VERY different from each other - one pair is velvet, one pair is corduroy, and one pair are jeans.  While in this graphic they seem quite similar, in "real life", they have very different effects when combined with my other clothes.













Artisan Made Jewelry Designs

44 comments:

  1. And that is without all your wonderful accessories that change the looks for night, day, lunch it really does show us all the a large wardrobe is not necessary but to have pieces that mix and match.

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  2. This really illustrates how to mix and match. The problem for me is I like to shop. I have limited my shopping, but failed miserably at the no shopping fast for a year. This concept requires discipline and focus instead of a wily nilly approach.
    What a great post this is.
    Karen

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    1. You just have to find another focus for your time and your passion. In the place of all of the retail bookmarks I had on my laptop, I replaced Ireland real estate ads. And cancel EVERY email notice that you get about sales, specials, and new merchandise from e-retailers. If you didn't think you needed something BEFORE you saw the email, then you didn't need it, and ignorance in this case will be bliss.

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    2. I have become much more purposeful in my shopping for all aspects of my life. My closet is organized and I have a needs category that could be filled but does not have to be . When one sees how little is really needed to look smart and put together it gives you pause and reflection. I've been looking at Thieery r shoes, I don't need them and they are really extravagent for my life, but somehow I still would like a pair, the same goes for a Hermes scarf. I don't need one but they are beautiful and in the heat of Alabama only wearable three or four months of the year. Balancing needs versus wants is a challenge . Do you remember your first purchase of a quality piece of clothing? Is it the feeling we enjoy of purchasing clothing beyond needs or is it marketing. Your blog has made me reevaluate more aspects of my life than clothing.
      Thanks Karen

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    3. I'd like to think that it's at least partly the same joy that you feel when you hear beautiful music, or see art: that sense of sharing in the production of a skilled craftsperson who has made a thing of great quality and beauty. I know I get a bit nutty about Hermes, but I've studied some of my scarves very closely, and they are SO well-executed and designed. That's part of what keeps me from being bored with a small, mostly monochromatic wardrobe - you can't be unhappy in a cashmere sweater and a silk scarf, even if you've worn them every week for the last 3 months!

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    4. Curing the shopping addiction is a big part of this for me, as well (aka retail therapy). I'm working on it. For a time, I replaced clothes with home decor (one addiction to another). We downsized to a small, inherited home and I continue to be challenged with the "bursting at the seams" scenario; consumerism gone wild. It's taken a while to discipline myself, find a way to "fill up my voids" in other ways, and I'm not over it yet. It's so multi-layered. Why do some of us eat when we're already overweight? Books and articles are everywhere on these topics, and I've ready them all. The key is in the implementation, though; overcoming one's obstacles. I recall some old expression of my mother's about women coping with stress by going out and buying a new hat. But there's also something to be said about adult responsibilities before adult pleasures. Self-indulgence has made my physical surroundings not pleasing, but peaceless. Too many rewards in the material sense. The change doesn't happen overnight although some people, for instance, can quit smoking "cold turkey;" nevertheless, I remain determined. We can definitely transform our thinking. Truly, this blog, with its continued emphasis on clever capsuling, has been a catalyst for the change I've resisted for a long time, so that's why I come here almost every single day because if it's repeated enough in the brain, the brain can be re-trained. Everything about Vivienne is just plain smart...meaning, good intelligence and practicality, sensible but with great flair and genius ideas. Janice, I'm just so grateful to you! Thank you!

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    5. I identify so much with this. Filling the "voids" with something other than things is the goal I believe. Getting to that point is a whole different process. I too come here daily for inspiration and reinforcement for new habits.

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  3. The number of possibilities really boggles the mind (especially this early in the morning). As an add-on, I have found the no-shopping surprisingly easy, purchasing only two pairs of jeans because I finally walked off those last pesky pounds and a silk jersey T that filled a hole and probably will be with me for many years to come. Janice is spot-on about sales. I found that I use much better judgement if buying regular price and better quality.

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  4. I am very impressed. I have enrolled in Project 333 but must admit I have not done all the work yet. It has however got me thinking and I am very careful before I buy anything now. I have a small summer wardrobe which I keep in France and I have done much better over there. You are a very good role model keep going.

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    1. I used to live in France in 2011 and actually only made one clothing purachse in an entire year. In Canada however I have less income and yet spend far more time shopping. several purchases a month. I think European life offers more to do in the cities than go clothes shopping where as consumer, mall culture encourages us to spend money on crap, rather than time in cafes, in museums and walking around beutiful old towns. I miss Europe (where I am from orginally)and find that although cost of living for things we NEED is probably cheaper in Canada, my cost of living was cheaper in Europe because I directed my spending more wisely (or to put it another way a cup of cofee and a chat, even at an expensive cafe is cheaper than buying a new dress).

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  5. would love to see this with accessories :-)

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  6. The possibilities here make my head ache, in a good way. This really illustrates how large a wardrobe can be if one is ok with repeating items. And to do so, it is really key that all your pieces work well with each other. You cannot have a wardrobe star that only works with one or two outfits if you want a small wardrobe that remixes well. I am still working on doing this with my wardrobe.

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  7. Dear Janice,

    how inspiring is this for me, a woman who 'suffers from' 4 wardrobes of 70 % not or very rarely worn clothes... fashion-trend-victim, that WAS me.
    Now I have begun to declutter my stuff and stopped buying at the same time... the last thing was a bag (what else).
    I try both to sell and to donate all these redundant and suffocating stuff. I also stopped buying fashion magazines, I have been developping a kind of aversion to these papers of seduction...
    No more newsletters, this is helping me, too. Before, one could describe me as a real shopaholic and now I am so glad I am going through a change of mind. Let me admit, my husband is happy, too. ;-)
    Please excuse any mistakes, I am writing from Germany and I know my English is not perfect... but I really want to thank you. I adore your blog. :-)

    My best and warm wishes,
    Birgit

    (In German, 'Feechen' means 'little fairy' :-)

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    1. Your English is excellent - stick with your progress and you'll be very happy! And thanks for visiting my blog,
      Janice

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    2. I loved this comment from Birgit, "I have been developing a kind of aversion to these papers of seduction..." I agree and have done what Janice suggested...unsubscribing from online retailers, canceling paper catalog subscriptions, dumping the newspaper flyers. I began to see that I was being pervasively manipulated; I was a pawn...and I no longer want to play their game.

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  8. Dear Janice,

    I did the basics of Project 333 for the last season. I kept track of what I wore and what I didn't by turning my clothes hangers. There were quite a few that simple weren't worn. Even with that, I am constantly complimented on my wardrobe which is very simple and not particularly expensive. Honestly, your Core Four, Expansion Four, Mileage Four schema provides me with plenty of choices.

    My shopping is now limited to replacements and carefully selected additions to fill holes in my Fours. How liberating!

    Thank you for your ongoing inspiration.
    Judy

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  9. Love your blog. Told "More" Magazine so, in their reader survey.

    Actually, what I really told them was, "Your fashion advice is useless. I learn everything I need to know from blogs like 'The Vivienne Files' and 'A Femme D'un Certain Age.'"

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    1. Me too. I only wish I knew this sooner.

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    2. THANK YOU!!!! THIS is the whole reason I write this blog - so that women will make better, more intelligent decisions regarding their appearance, their self-esteem, their money, and the ability to chart their own image.
      hugs all around!
      Janice

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    3. I so agree with this! Janice, your blog is suitable for women of ANY age! Every once in awhile, my home page will pick something out of a magazine or some other "advice" originator, and do some sort of wardrobe capsuling...and it's all rubbish. Real women we've found in the blog world are the experts and I, too, am glad I found Tish and Janice! Bravo to Jean, telling "More" their fashion advice is useless! Who I really feel for are the young women who are indeed following contemporary fashion advice to a "t" from the many magazines out there which are so tempting to buy. The clothes often are just not appropriate for everyday life when perhaps a young woman is beginning to work in an office/business setting. I worked for two different television stations once, and the younger women who were in "artsy" career positions could pull it off, but it was simply inappropriate for the administrative workers. I do remember being in my early 20s, diligently studying how to do makeup and put together clothes...thank goodness one of the people I read about and "followed" was Diane von Fürstenberg instead of some other fashion icon of the moment. Who do younger women "look up to" and want to mimic or learn from today? She might be a nice girl, but I hope it's not Miley Cyrus. I don't think her look will be timeless. Then again, being young is certainly the time to experiment. I can only hope that I've come 'round again to the great DVF after straying a bit. Age brings wisdom...

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    4. What just FRIES me is the amount of money wasted... if women spent the same amount of money on their appearance as men, we could run the world...

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  10. I signed up for project 333 recently. I found that my total wardrobe may not reach 33 items (not counting shoes/accessories here). Even with a small wardrobe there are pieces I am not happy with and don't wear.

    My goal is to further refine the items I do have into only ones I love that fit and will be worn. Also, I am going through my accessories and will be pruning those with the same criteria.

    I have a few things I always go to that get compliments every time I wear them. Why would i want to wear things that don't provide the same enjoyment for me and others? Thank you for making me more choosey about what stays.

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  11. This is really inspirational! I did the 333 purge and took 6 bags to the local helping center. I'm not going to obsess about the *33* number, but I am enjoying using your suggestions as a template for something that works for me.

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  12. I know you can combine items umpteen different ways, but my mind is happier with fewer 'go to' outfits, repeated as required! Simplicity, wearing a 'uniform' with minor variations of accessories suits me better than doing multiple combinations. Although I admire the looks you come up with, I'd just pick one or two sets and stay with them!

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  13. This post really made me dizzy in a unpleasant way. Not that it wasn't the usual brilliant one, but evermore illustrating to me that I have a glut of clothes in my house, most of it isn't being worn, where's it all going to go when I get rid of it and how liberated will I feel if I can ever get to that point? I shudder to think of the money I've spent over years on clothes...and how I could have used it for something else more significant. Loving clothes, or the need to feel secure(?) by having plenty of them, has become a suffocating thing. And with a more critical eye, I'm appalled at the lack of workmanship in so many of the items, not to mention the poor-quality fabric. What was I thinking...

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    1. You were thinking what most of us have thought at one point or another - that the magazines and stores were right when they told us that more=better, and that we would be happier if we had bigger closets full of an ever-changing assortment of brand-new stuff.

      I figured out that they were wrong, and that they just wanted me to waste my money so that they could have it, when in fact I'd be a lot better off (literally and emotionally) if I was more planned, more deliberate, more careful, and if I saved and invested the difference in things that would REALLY make a difference to me.

      It's not too late, and you don't have to go whole hog in order to start. You just have to see what you want to change, and move in that direction.

      Stick with me!
      big hug,
      Janice

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    2. Janice,

      if you don't mind my asking what caused the change in your shopping habits? Was it gradually or did you go cold turkey?

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    3. My first trip to Europe. I realized what I'd been missing (uh, the REST OF THE WORLD...) and I determined that nothing was going to stand in the way of my travel. Certainly not being dictated to by a bunch of "fashion" advisors - they didn't have my best interests at heart - they have THEIR OWN...

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    4. Big hug back. I'm going crazy on replies here today but your readers (and you!) get to the heart of it. No worries, I'm definitely sticking with you!

      And I agree with the other reader about following your lead on staying away from pointless sales. The sales never end; any excuse for a sale. Unless a woman is extremely savvy, the only things she winds up with are stacks of mismatched clothing (not all of us have the knack for putting together outfits!). How many times, over how many years, did I buy a sale item just KNOWING I'd have a way to wear it in the future...and there it still hangs in my closet, NOT EVEN WORN! It's embarrassing, when I think of other people not having enough to wear, being cold in winter, or the woman who worked hard at making it, maybe not in the best of factory conditions.

      It's like, how many times have my husband and I wasted food, by not eating it before its expiration date, forgetting it when it got pushed to the rear of the frig, etc.? If it was a package of meat, it meant an animal was killed in vain. A head of lettuce? A field worker worked a hard, long day...for what? What he picked under harsh sun in muddy conditions, I thoughtlessly threw away. If you start thinking about this stuff too much, you can really begin to beat yourself up unless you learn and improve. But we DO need to think about it; we need to be mindful, not mindLESS.

      I make myself think about it every day and I try to "own" it so that I can't go into denial, lest I relapse. One thing that helped with catalog and online purchasing was to simply let it sit for a few days. Don't rush the "cart." Amazing how a little bit of distance will make you rethink a purchase.

      Back to the food thing, I was recently reading another blog where the owner has stopped couponing, wasting gasoline running from one grocery store to the next for the best food deals and shopping the ads, finding it makes much more sense to plan the food around the meals, rather than the meals around whatever food was on sale that week. That was yet again a trap I, too, had fallen into (surprise, surprise), and we wound up eating food that wasn't good for us and that we didn't even enjoy. We'd "stock up" on food that was on sale...and, you know what? I just pulled a Project 333 type of thing on my pantry, and I had over one hundred cans of food (I shared them with my community food bank and also some friends), not to mention multiple bottles of dried herbs and spices which had become unusable (I washed out the 17 emptied spice bottles and will re-use them for something...maybe I'll grow and dry my own herbs next year!).

      I know I've had a big problem with consuming, but at least I'm going for a cure! I think a lot of it has been a former, busy worklife with too many hours on the job and seeking shortcuts once finally home at night, although it sounds like a flimsy excuse even as I write it (because, on the other hand, I surely made/found enough time for shopping). I am now trying to find other ways to relax, decompress (and reward). I think some us also shop sometimes when we're simply bored.

      I don't mean to use your blog as a confessional, and I can't believe I actually reveal this much about my lack of discipline but I'm definitely feeling better every day about, well, GETTING better about how I live, work and get along in the world as a more conscientious consumer. Maybe it will help somebody else as you, Janice, are helping us!

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    5. Vicki,

      What a heartfelt 'confession'! Over the last few years I have been reading organizing, de-cluttering, etc. books and have found that my desire to do these things is often stronger than my willpower. It is something that I must think of daily. I have found that by sharing my feelings with others (parents, friends, and of course, my partner) it is becoming easier to prevent them from 'mindlessly' shopping for me (gifts, etc) and for holding me accountable when I shop. I would rather have an experience with a person than another handbag!
      I have also been thinking about time in relation to shopping. People who drive all around to other grocery stores, cutting coupons, etc....I think I get it (the 'high' of saving money), but to me it seems pointless - truly, our most precious gift is time, and their time is being wasted trying to save money to stockpile more stuff that they don't need. I am coming to realize that this whole process of shopping for more things that we really don't need is complete and utter madness. If the saying 'time is money' is true, then we appear to be wasting both.

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  14. My hat goes off to you! Well done on working through on this, and documenting the wardrobe, mixing and matching and sharing with us. And it didn't include your dresses...

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  15. I don't think the problems talked about on this blog and others like it are merely about shopping too much. I think there is a greater problem in our culture. I think the underlying problem we (that is society in general) face is not recognizing when it's time to stop. That applies to so many different areas of our lives. We simply don’t always press the brakes in time, so we over-indulge, over-eat, over-spend, and over-do so many things. A once-in-a-while extravagance is reasonable for all of us. Its the rare delight. But, an everyday extravagance is not reasonable. When we don’t hit the brakes early enough, when we don’t think about what we’re doing, it becomes mindless consumerism -- consuming simply to consume. Then, what is being consumed has lost any value. What should delight, instead exists merely to be bought/eaten/used/consumed. The delight and joy are gone.

    Once, while walking home from the El in the middle of a summer drought, I noticed a sprinkler watering the sidewalk and only the sidewalk. Getting home, I mentioned this to my neighbor. His response was, “I guess they can afford it”. But wait, just because we can afford the cash outlay for doing something, should we do it? Shouldn't our actions have a moral center too?

    Maybe my little rant here goes back to my political philosophy - regulation creates innovation. Without regulation, we stagnate (over-spend, etc.). If we regulate our activities, then we have to change. In order to change, we have to innovate. In order to innovate, we have to educate. Sorry for getting political, but in a way this is a political issue. If we remain only a consumer-drive society, what happens when there’s nothing left to consume?

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    1. Wow...just, wow. You really struck a nerve here; I'm holding up the mirror. I guess a lot of us really ARE...FINALLY...recognizing when it's time to stop. (Maxing out credit cards will do that to you, too.) It seems everybody is very individual in their epiphany; when they finally see the light (doesn't Oprah call it the "a-ha" moment?). "Consuming simply to consume"...when the joy is gone; very profound. It made me think, too, of how a majority of people can't, in fact, afford the cash outlay. And, my experience, having worked for very wealthy ("old money") people in my lifetime, is that those who CAN often actually DON'T...they bought quality furnishings and kept them FOR YEARS, they bought quality clothing and kept them FOR YEARS, they drove a quality vehicle and kept it FOR YEARS. You'd think with that kind of exposure, it would have rubbed off on me. (Quality, selective, cultivated taste...over quantity and indiscriminate choices.)

      "Without regulation, we stagnate." Also an interesting line of thought. I was brought up by extremely frugal parents. I was always regulated until I left home. That's when I became unregulated and instead liberated...or so I thought. No boundaries. And that applied to a lot more than just buying clothes, and also completely living beyond my means. It begins to take too much energy and financial resources to sustain that sort of pace. It's taken a long, long time to rein myself in and create some borders (like a child needing boundaries). Wow, I wasn't liberated, I was stagnated. But nobody could have told me that; I've had to learn it for myself. Some people are quick learners; others aren't.

      This was an incredible comment for me to go back and read. Thanks for writing it down, Carla.

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    2. Funny that you mentioned Oprah. She is very nouveau riche in her spending pattern. I am not condemning her - or I wasn't years ago, rather. Now she is part kind of the problem. Oprah's picks! Need I say more. Crackers from across the country. Soaps at $50.00 a bar. Five me a break. And the audience loses all dignity as they jump and scream at all the "things" they get to have. Another problem are the morning shows, celebrity "news" shows, etc. etc. All touting the latest lipstick colour and how to wear the latest "must haves" that Janice has already addressed. They are all an extension of the fashion mags. None of the "editor's picks" are anything but plugs for their advertisers. Sorry for being so cynical.

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  16. I am going back to work after years of raising my children.

    For the colder season, I was surprised: I made a Polyvore of my winter clothes that fit well and would be suitable for office work:

    4 bottoms
    5 sweaters or vests
    8 shirts

    Now, not every top goes with every sweater -- for example, the rust sweater and the red turtleneck don't create a pleasing combination. However, those 17 pieces gave me over 120 combinations for work!

    (Maybe I would have figured that out years ago if I'd paid attention in "Introduction to Probability")

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  17. You give so many options.

    I find I still pack too much on my trips overseas and each time I return I promise I shall be better next time and each time there is still room for improvement.

    I love your blog and thank you

    Helen

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  18. I have also had a go at Project 333, inspired by reading about it on this blog! I included my shoes and bags, which meant that I ended up with 27 items of clothing however I am going to change that to 33 items of clothing. I have included two dresses, but these will be worn for going out and not for everyday wear. My long-term plan is to gradually replace some items with better quality clothing. When my children were growing up I rarely spent money on myself, and when I did buy clothes it was from charity shops. Funnily enough I was often complimented on these purchases: "That's new, isn't it? I like it! Where did you buy it from?" I will give myself a monthly budget, but save it up until I can buy something that I love and that will last rather than fritter it away on sales items! I think this fascination with the sales stems from not spending money on myself when my kids were young and still feeling a bit guilty about it. Thanks, Janice, for giving us so much to think about. Sue

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  19. I do not own many clothes and have always found I "have more to wear" with less. I think your visual display really helps me see why that works.

    I've so enjoyed your common wardrobe posts and printed a few of the ideas. As a stay at home mom with my children all day I really like the ease of the common wardrobe and LOVE your ideas to keep it fresh and interesting when we need to head out the door to an activity or errand.

    Bless you, Janice!!! You are an educator at heart I think! :-)

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  20. Hi, I'm Ingunn from Norway, and I read this blog with so much interest! The wardrobe suggestions are so cleverly thought out. I have been editing my wardrobe down to a point where almost everything is in use, and I aim for a one in/one out strategy very soon. I've also looked into the 333 project. I notice, however, that you don't include shoes and accessories in the 33 items. I find that if i exclude the shoes, I will have almost too many choices! That's very thought provoking, isn't it? Do you find that you need many pairs of shoes? What about bags? I need a varied selection of shoes and boots to get me through the year, since we have a harsh climate. I also need several types of outerwear. This adds to the number of items. Of course, 33 is only a number, and the point is to limit the choices, wear everything and stop over-consumerism, but what would you think is an adequate number of shoes and outerwear for a four seasons climate?

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  21. Dear Janice,
    Thank you for the most intelligent writing in the blogosphere, from both you and your readers.
    Less is ALWAYS more!

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  22. Hi Janice, It's Courtney from P333 and I'd love to email you. What's the best way to get in touch? You can email me bemorewithless@gmail.com.

    Thanks for your wonderful work!

    xo,
    Courtney

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  23. Hi, Janice! I have just found your blog and find it SO interesting! However, I think I've missed something. I'm seeing posts about "signing up for P333" and doing the "purge". I would love to join in on this but I don't see a "sign up." Please bring me up to date. Thanks!

    Love your work!
    Mary

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