How To Create and Maintain A Lean Closet I

May 20, 2015

A woman’s closet. It holds so many secrets. So many memories. A little red dress worn to a romantic rendezvous. A pair of espadrilles with grains of sand around it, remnants of a beach holiday. Or it’s a functional space, a space containing clothes that serve an almost entirely functional purpose. None of this sentimental fluff. To be honest I’m somewhere in the middle of this spectrum. I’m not a hoarder, nor does it pain me to cull. I’m not overly sentimental yet my closet is more than a functional space.

With all the moving, I’m constantly forced/blessed with the need to pack, sort, unpack, re-sort and re-think. Constant changes in climate, culture and circumstance mean that my wardrobe is one that is undergoing constant change. When Cuyana launched their lean closet movement (a four week series to achieving a closet with fewer, better things in 2014) I was excited to once again re-look at what I have. I decided to follow along with the Cuyana lean closet movement because their philosophy is fewer, better things. This is a principle that resonates very strongly with me.

When I decided to seriously edit my wardrobe a few years ago I knew that achieving a lifestyle with fewer, better things was a process. It was something that I would have to purposefully keep working at until it became a habit. I strived for a wardrobe that fit my lifestyle and my budget, and I wanted the decision to have fewer, better things to be one that I could sustain. It wasn’t just a fad, it was something that I was committing to. I’m now absolutely ruthless at editing, so much so I’ve attempted to edit Patrick’s wardrobe – he doesn’t quite appreciate my skills practised on his belongings!

Reading the articles on creating a lean closet written by ‘experts’ (women selected by Cuyana) has been inspiring. I was particularly relieved to read that “each lean closet looks different”. Thank goodness. Often you hear ‘lean’ and the image of 20 items comes to mind. For my lifestyle I define lean – and that in itself is empowering, this lean movement is one where you don’t start off thinking you’re going to ‘fail’.


SHOES: If I need to streamline anything, it’s definitely my shoe collection. In Week One of the lean closet movement, Angela Cuneo from PureWow talked a little about shoes and sticking to one pair of shoes per category. One pair of pointy black heals, one pair of ankle boots, one pair of ballet flats. I sorted through my shoes and finally decided (with much trepidation) that I didn’t need shoes of every single colour and print (what a revelation!) Shoes that I had purchased and were waiting to take to the cobbler to have re-sized, there were a couple of them, off they went to the charity store. Bye bye Dolce and Gabbana booties.

SHOPPING: I’m a smart, and determined shopper but Rati Sahi from The RealReal had me stumped. Don’t shop for specific events, she wrote. It really annoys Patrick when I shop for a specific event, and I see the danger in it. But Rati goes on to say, if you see a great dress buy it even if you have nowhere to wear it to. Makes perfect sense, if love a piece and buy it, you’ll create numerous events and occasions to wear it. How many times have you bought an outfit for a specific occasion and then been unable to wear it again? Chances are you would have put a little bit of pressure on yourself to find an outfit and perhaps even settled for something you didn’t really love.

FABRIC CHOICE: Rebecca Atwood from Rebecca Atwood Textiles wrote this informative post on good fabric choice and how to care for different fabric. I don’t think too much about what fabric I buy, unconsciously I’m drawn to certain fabric and avoid others. As a rule of thumb Rebecca suggests opting for natural fibres. Also, did you know the easiest way to iron linen is to do so when it’s wet. This has changed my life! And, if your silks are lacking lustre, finish rinsing it in water with a few tablespoons of white vinegar.

SAVE AND SPLURGE: Senior fashion editor at InStyle, Violet Gaynor suggests deciding on what you consider as essential/investment pieces and what you’ll save/skimp on. I’ve started doing this a lot more. I skimp on t-shirts because I always wear something over them. Whereas Patrick will drop a few hundred on a t-shirt without blinking. I think having an idea of roughly what you’re willing to pay, for different categories of clothing, shoes and accessories help you remain smart as you shop and curate your wardrobe.

WHAT TO DO WITH ALL THIS STUFF: I tend not to store things away, once I make-up my mind that an item isn’t working for me it must go. I donate to charity a lot. I’ve tried re-selling, and that works if you have the patience and if you have a separate space where you can store these items. I recommend getting them out, out, out of your wardrobe! You could also try consigning your pieces. Here are some ideas and links. I really like this program that Cuyana have in place – you can get rid of pieces you no longer want, support charities and earn a little Cuyana credit along the way, perfect.

Have you ‘edited’ your closet recently? 
What are your favourite tips? 
*My apologies for this lengthy post, but I’ve learnt so much and just had to share!

Related posts: Creating a lean closet II | Maintaining a lean closet progress report | Lean closet travel edition | Creating a lean closet the shoe edition |


  • Lulu G

    I'm quite strict with my wardrobe (I even sold my beautiful wedding dress), but shoes….not so much! They are a weakness. : ) x

    Louisa @ My Family & Abruzzo

  • Rhiannon

    These are really great tips and make me feel a little better about my wardrobe. I have never been a shoe person, so I have only one pair of each style of shoe. I like the point of buying a dress when you see one that you love rather than shopping for an event, too. It makes perfect sense!

  • Stephanie

    I'm going to take these tips on board as i build my wardrobe this year. It is pretty bare at the moment because i gave about 50% of the things i had to charity in October during my move. It was my way of forcing myself to have clothes that i felt comfortable in and enhanced my mood

    In regards to shoes, i am a bit strict with myself but also restricted on choices as i have wide feet (so sexy 🙂 )

    xo Stephanie

  • Natalia | Fashioned by Love

    To be honest, I hardly ever edit what I have. I've just always been a very careful shopper, I guess. In Russia we have a saying "I am not that rich to buy cheap things", which basically teaches you to think carefully before parting with money and choose quality over quantity, from a very young age. I always buy things that complete what I already have and only if I REALLY love them. Oh and another thing I ask myself whenever I have doubts… I question what would I choose – the cash or the object if both were in front of me. It ALWAYS works. 🙂
    I know I wouldn't be able to stick with a pair of shoes per category, though. I am not a crazy shoe lady, but I do love my shoes, they are my fantasy, so I would need more than, say, four pairs. 🙂

    P.S. Also thank you for stopping by my blog last week and your encouraging comment!


  • Katrin

    This is a great post, Vanisha! Thanks so much for sharing your tips. I definitely need some help. 🙂 I am currently working on my closet as well. I have realized that I have so many things that I don't need or wear. And now I rather buy a piece that I really love and need instead of buying 5 pieces that I just buy because they are on sale or whatever.

  • Sam

    Hi Vanisha, I completely agree, a 'leaner' wardrobe is so much more functional and easier to handle, I loved reading your tips on how to edit ones closet, I am really inspired to try. Thanks for taking the time out of your busy day to stop by 🙂

  • Diana Mieczan

    I love this post as I am all about functional and easy wardrobe setup. Also, I really love the essential/investment pieces tip you wrote about. It makes so much sense. Have a great day, lovely and talk to you soon. xoxo

  • Kayleigh thewayiwanderlust

    I love this post. One of my decisions for 2014 is to shop with intention and not just buy things because they are on sale. Its going to be a change but I actually fell better about the clothes I own now since I have put more thought into what I actually need.

  • Lovely Light

    Thank you for getting me thinking about this! This has been percolating in my mind for a year now. I'm kind of a clothes hoarder in that I don't give things away, so I have t-shirts that are 5 years old. I might wear them one a year. I tend to wear the same ones over and over again anyways. I think it comes from growing up without much money and feeling like everything had value, even when I was done with it. Now that we have a domestic helper (very common in SA), I'm very aware of how many item of clothing I have, and how few things my maid has. I feel embarrassed, even though almost everything purchased was on sale. Now that I live in SA, and things are way more expensive here (like Levi's jeans) than in the USA, that I "stock up" when I go home to visit, and buy literally no clothing for 6 months. But I'm not sure that strategy is working (it may be for the pocketbook, but not for the lean closet!). That's another thing- not all of my clothing is quality. I'd like to stop purchasing for quantity, and more quality, as you do. Sorry for the mish-mash of thoughts, I'm home sick today!

  • Lovely Light

    Oh, and I tend to fluctuate in my weight a lot, and so I tend to keep different sizes of clothing. I know you probably don't have this issues too much, but I'm not sure how to handle this type of situation.


    @LovelyLight I know what you mean about not growing up with much and feeling that everything was valuable. My husband is the same, but now we look at things differently. We think about time being valuable. If you're spending too much time trying to sort through your things all the time, you're wasting your time. Because now our time is more valuable to us then money. And now I think about money in terms of not 'wasting' money on things. If I buy something because it's on 'sale', I put the money I've 'saved' into a savings account. Otherwise, you're not really saving are you? If I'm not prepared or don't have the money to put into savings when buying something on sale, I don't buy it. We also do this with other things like groceries or anything really where we've 'saved' money on buying. Even if it's $4.14, I'll put it aside. I also seriously think about the things I wear all the time – why am I wearing them a lot, what is is about them. And similarly, why don't I wear those other things. Understanding this means I'm smarter when I'm out shopping. As for the weight, I have weight issues too, I find it difficult to find clothes that fit because I'm quite petite. Would it work if you bought clothing that was roomy? That would work if you put on a bit of weight or lost weight? Blouses, kaftans etc (I'm not sure I'm not a stylist or anything). I have dresses that are two/three sizes too big, and I've pinned the back so it's like racer back (flaterring on almost everyone, in my humble opinion) and I belt it. Perhaps flowy dresses that you could belt or not depending on your body at the time? You could also keep things in the different sizes but pack them in clear boxes, label them and store them until you need them? I feel home sick every now and then too, especially when it comes to shopping and my favorite stores so I know what you're talking about. Hang in there, sending you hugs and positive vibes xoxox

  • Mimi Finerty

    This is such a great post. I tried culling my wardrobe at the end of last year but I think it is about time for round 2!

  • Mother Down Under

    Great post!
    I am due for another wardrobe cull.
    As I am not buying anything new this year, my inclination was to cling to everything…but I know I have some things in there that I will just never wear.
    On my next day off I will be tackling my closet and will keep these principles in mind!

  • Kristian



    This gives one a lot to ponder on, as far as wardrobe stuff goes. Clearly, I need to read the Cunya series. Like you, I tend to prefer to donate to charity because who has the time to resell?

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