Living minimally means living with intention, and students across Elon University — crammed in small dorm rooms —  are embracing the concept of minimalism.

Project 333, founded by Courtney Carver in 2010, follows the idea of living simply. For three months, a person only has 33 items to wear. 

These items include everything from shoes to accessories. But sentimental jewelry worn every day, underwear, pajamas, in-home lounge wear and workout clothes do not count as part of the 33 items. 

The remaining clothes and accessories are boxed up and put away for three months. Though 33 items seem too few, most participants in the project report that their friends and peers do not notice their wardrobe downsize, and they have benefitted from the reduced stress caused  by sifting through a crowded closet. 

Sophomore Louisa Sholar started Project 333 at the end of January. Though it was initially hard for her to dismantle part of her wardrobe, she considered the project refreshing. 

“I found Project 333 to be a rather liberating experience,” she said. “It reduces stress about what I am going to wear and simplifies my morning routine. Whatever combination of clothes I choose, I feel comfort in knowing that it will turn out looking OK.” 

The clothing that Sholar decided she did not need anymore was donated. 

Sophomore Mary Emmerling also decided to minimize her lifestyle after watching “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things,” which examines the lives of minimalists. The film inspired her to take a break from social media. 

“I deleted the Twitter, Instagram and Facebook apps off my phone because they were overwhelming my life, and I felt like I was drowning in other people’s pictures,” Emmerling said. “I kept Snapchat, though, because that is one of the main ways I communicate with my friends back home, and I am emotionally attached to my streaks.” 

Rather than minimizing the amount of stuff she had, Emmerling found she was minimizing the amount of time she felt she wasted on social media. Though she hasn’t completely gone rogue, the experience allowed her to reevaluate why she uses social media.

“It was a lot easier to let go than I thought it was going to be,” Emmerling said. “My life is just as full now as it was before I deleted the apps.”

In addition to adding clutter to life, overconsumption is detrimental to the environment. Jessica Bilecki, assistant director of sustainability for education and outreach, encourages students to think about the consequences of items they purchase.

“Before you buy something, ask yourself if you need it, or consider its full life cycle,” she said. “How long are you going to have the item? When you get rid of it, can you recycle it? Can you compost it? Is it just going to a landfill? Consider the impact of what you’re buying from the manufacturer to the disposal.” 

Bilecki recommends checking out The Story of Stuff Project to learn more about how products purchased by consumers affect the environment. She also recommends students take advantage of the Sustainable Living Guides for each Elon neighborhood filled with tips for living sustainably in each dorm.

To get students excited about living sustainably and minimally, the Office of Sustainability sponsors a Phoenix Cup every semester that focuses on one aspect of sustainability. This semester’s competition focuses on waste and began on Feb. 13 and will go until March 3. 

Each week, students can earn points by completing a checklist of activities related to the impact of overconsumption and producing waste. Even if students don’t want to participate in the competition, Bilecki suggests they should take advantage of the activities open to the community, such as the screening of “Wasteland,” a documentary concerning the world’s largest landfill.

Bilecki also supports the Don’t Trash It Campaign sponsored by the Office of Sustainability at the end of each school year, which encourages students to donate their unwanted belongings. She finds the pile of consumer goods collected to be repurposed in the community is a great visual of how many items students give away just to buy again. 

“When you see really nice stuff that people are giving away every year, it’s not hard to draw the conclusion that they are just buying more,” Bilecki said. “It’s good that these items are going back to the community, but it would also be good if we didn’t feel like we had to go throw so much to keep up with the latest fashion and styles.”


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