Lean Closet: An Introduction

I’ve been introducing elements of my Lean Closet over the last couple of weeks and wanted to explain why I do this and how it works. I own 33 items of clothing including jackets and shoes!! I used to own at least ten times more.

The thing about being super organized is that you can usually fit a lot more in your closet ;) I used to shop most weeks after work. I would accumulate many items before I became mindful of my needs. Sometimes, I would even shop to try to satisfy something completely unrelated to my closet. I struggled with dressing most days before work and panicked when a wedding or fancy party would come up. I owned multiples of similar items (tank tops in eight different colors?) and lots of items “I might need someday” but mostly wore the same 20% over and over.

Essentialism inspired me to try to change all of this. I wanted to not require so many clothes but have just a small amount that were functional. I wanted to get dressed quickly, but in my own style, to reduce decision fatigue in the mornings. I wanted to not store so many items. I wanted to let go of the “maybes,” “somedays,” and “what ifs.” I wanted to know everything in my closet fit well and made me feel good. I wanted a Lean Closet.

Courtney Carver and her Project 333 was my introduction to capsule wardrobes and my jumping-off point. A capsule wardrobe is a framework or ready-made set of rules to help achieve this goal. I’ve been following a system for a Lean Closet for almost four years and I love it!

Getting dressed is an everyday experience that doesn’t need to be overwhelming or depressing. Creating a Lean Closet (or Capsule Wardrobe) is something anybody can do. Whether you love shopping, think you have no style, hate clothes, own closets full…. it’s adaptable. It’s a philosophy and not a prescription.
Here’s how to start a Lean Closet:

1. Pick a season (I do two: Nov-Apr and May-Oct) and consider your needs for the timeframe including weather and commitments.

2. Own and keep out 20-40 items per season. Focus on your everyday wardrobe (not costumes or ball gowns) and consider how often you do laundry. (My 33 includes clothing, jackets and shoes but not workout/lounge wear, underthings or accessories.)

3. Make it intentional, considering what you actually need instead of what you happen to have. Ensure most items bring you joy and make you feel like your best self. Try to keep items that will work well together. (I’ll discuss deep closet sorting in another post.)

4. Fill in a few of the holes you might have but try to avoid shopping triggers and advertising (magazines, catalogs, email subscriptions) the rest of the year. That’s somebody else telling you what you need.

5. Box up everything else. Set aside some items for another season. Donate or sell what you don't love. For those that are hard to let go of, put a future date on the box to reassess. Box up any favorites that don't currently fit, making your Lean Closet one where everything fits now!

To me, a Lean Closet is about:
+ Simplifying your wardrobe, opening up resources for more important things.
+ Spending time just twice a year to predetermine your style and wardrobe needs.
+ Focusing on feeling good. Consider fit and practicality, owning just the clothes you love.
+ Being creative. Creating outfits from a few essential pieces can be fun, and remember, creativity loves space!

A Lean Closet is not about:
+ Complicated rules. Make your own!
+ Focusing more on your wardrobe. Instead, it’s about thinking about it less overall. In my case, this means twice a year so my other days can be simpler: true to me with less effort and decision-making.
+ Feeling deprived. It’s about regaining your closet, your style, your time.
+ Buying a new wardrobe every season or shopping constantly or buying things you don’t need and won’t wear.

Closet maintenance probably isn’t going to change the world or even your life but it will most likely improve your mornings and your budget! Are you up to the challenge? 

+ My favorite thing about having a Lean Closet: easier laundry!! I have so few items that there are no longer clothes on the floor, left in the dryer, unfolded in a basket. I spend less time sorting, cleaning, folding and maintaining everything. Love it!

+ Check out these amazing resources for more inspiration: Project 333: Getting Started, Cuyana: Lean Closet MovementLight by Coco's tips, and Unfancy's transformation.