WM Spotlight: The Twenty Pieces Project

by Allie Marie Smith

Hey Lovely Girls,

I’m so excited to introduce you to Cate and Julie–two writers, spiritual directors, friends and SoCal girls looking to live outside the siren song of materialism and consumerism. They are the creatives behind The Twenty Pieces Project, a self-initiated challenge to live for one year with only twenty items of clothing and no shopping. This challenge seems a lot like sky-diving to me – thrilling, freeing and totally terrifying. I’m not sure I could round up the courage to do it! I was fascinated by their mini-movement the moment I discovered it in my Twitter feed and just had to interview them.

What inspired you to start the Twenty Pieces Project?

Cate: It started with two things: A vogue article, and a long day locked in my apartment attempting to pursue our creative passions, writing (me) and painting (Julie). We spent the day exchanging inspiration, talking about the artistic process, sharing hopes and dreams, all that sort of thing. One way or another, we got to talking about a Vogue article that I read long ago about a woman who only owned ten pieces of clothes (which I explain in more detail here. We decided we wanted to make major changes in our lives that would promote simplicity, beauty and creativity, and Twenty Pieces started right then and there on my couch.

Julie: It was an exciting day and I don’t think we had any clue what we were getting into, but as I look back, I think there was some divine inspiration. If we had over thought it just another day, we may not have done it at all, but now that the project has gotten rolling, I anticipate there being something very good in it for our souls and for our readers.

What do you girls hope to accomplish through this project?

Cate: We want to dress with greater style, beauty, and creativity while at the same time only owning a few pieces of clothes that are really well made, multi-functional, timeless and classic (a phrase often used by Julie’s brother that we stole as our clothing theme), and let our real selves shine. In so doing, what we really hope to accomplish is a sense of freedom, in both us and our readers who attempt to live in a similar way. Freedom from hyper-consumerism, freedom from clutter, and a reorientation of how we view our money and privileges here in the states. We’re both spiritual directors by training and vocation, so we tend to think of everything in life in terms of how it affects the soul. One of the reasons we’re so excited about Twenty Pieces is we believe it has the potential to really powerful change our hearts.

Julie: I can already see ways it is affecting my soul. There is a simplicity to life that starts with getting dressed. I find myself thankful for the limitations on my clothing choices, having memories of countless minutes staring into the closet. I hope that freedom in simplicity is something that is more greatly formed in me and in our readers. If all we do is live the twenty pieces lifestyle without learning to love it and receive the gift that it could be, I think we will have missed the point.

What is the preparation process you are going through now before you start of the project in January?

Cate: Well the first thing we did was clean out each other’s closets. We’re both down to about 50-60 pieces of clothing, which is helping us really evaluate what we wear and what we’re going to need to get through a year with just twenty pieces. I also find myself thinking a lot about what’s it’s going to mean for me to have such a limited wardrobe, and have found myself praying over the fear that engenders in my heart. It feels like a big risk, for some reason!

Julie: I am at the stage where I choose twenty pieces to try to live from for the week, and put the rest in the back of the closet. At the end of the week, I consider if I would want to trade anything out for anything else. From this I am learning what really are my staples and if there are any items I may need, but don’t have. This is what I am doing now and there will be more about this method on the blog soon.

What is the hardest thing you anticipate about doing the challenge?

Cate: To be quite honest, I have a tendency towards addiction, and have definitely used shopping as a kind of substance abuse. When I’m upset or feeling low, I head to my favorite stores and buy something pretty! I know I also use clothes as a way to hide. Both those things are major crutches for me and I know it will be really challenging to not have them to fall back on (this feels like a big confession to make in the wide open internet, but there it is!)

Julie: I am not sure I know. I can tell you the hardest thing so far. So far, the hardest thing has been staring in the face my poor purchase decisions and letting them go, not beating myself up for them, and saying, God help me, NO MORE!

What are you doing with all the clothes you currently own that don’t make the cut?

Cate: We’ve been selling what we can to places like Buffalo Exchange, and donating the rest. And a lot of our friends and family have volunteered to take stuff off our hands 🙂

Julie: I actually just put a dress up for sale on eBay. We’ll see how that works!

How can girls join your challenge? What is some advice you’d give them about participating?

Cate: I am so glad you asked. We really want girls to join us! We would love this to become a mini-movement. The first thing you can do is get involved on the blog and follow our twitter! We’d love to talk with you. The most important advice I think I can give is do this with a friend for mutual support and so you can help each other decide what needs to go!

Julie: Don’t be intimidated by the end goal. If you clean out your closet that is a great start. Consider moving to the next step of twenty pieces a week. You may realize you like the idea more than you might have thought!

What do you think about The Twenty Pieces Project? How would your life be different if you only had a closet of 20 pieces and didn’t shop for a year?

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