Style: The lean closet movement

How to edit your closet based on way of life


by Katie Rice Jones

The irony is not lost on me that my most chic friend, Liz, is also the one with the least clothing. As far back as our early 20s, and long before it had a proper name, Liz has been unofficially participating in the Lean Closet Movement. For her, making do with less was more than just a way of dressing; it has always been a way of life.

Fast-forward to 2015: the Lean Closet Movement, coined by San Francisco’s lifestyle brand Cuyana, is picking up momentum. While there may be a myriad of reasons for its acceptance, I believe the foremost is a planetary one. These days, thoughtful people aim to reduce their carbon footprint and buying less, of everything, helps ensure this.

However my intimate introduction to the movement was not as noble in cause. It came to me by way of my first pregnancy. Maternity wear can be expensive and I didn’t have the funds to wardrobe my burgeoning bump as a fashion stylist would like. The bigger I grew, the smaller my closet’s options got. Gradually my closet was pared down to only a handful of stylish maternity pieces.

After the birth of Evelyn, I highly anticipated a triumphant return to my closet full of regular clothes. But once I finally got down to my pre-bump size and could wear the stuff, the return lacked luster. In fact, living for nine-plus months with little-to-wear left me changed. For one, I got really good at making less look like more; and two, I now longed for a clutter-free closet. By the time Evelyn was 6 months old, I scaled down my closet substantially by donating those items that were:

  • „ Too small
  • Collecting dust
  • Unflattering
  • Impractical
  • Dated
  • Of a former life or career (ball gowns and suits)
  • Poor quality and cheap construction
  • Not my personal style

With this said, you don’t need a monumental lifestyle change, like a birth, to make a change in your closet. If you, too, long for a clutter-free closet, my advice is to start out slow. Here’s one long-term way to donate large quantities of clothing and limit that nagging feeling that you might wear them again.

  1. Get a large box.
  2. Put those pieces that are habitually unworn in it.
  3. Store the box (somewhere other than in your closet).
  4. Wait 12 months (four seasons).

If you find that you haven’t opened the box within that year, tape it up and donate the entire box to Goodwill. Then, don’t look back.

Katie Rice Jones is the Pacific Sun’s lifestyle editor-at-large, a Marin-based style expert and author of the maternity fashion book titled, Fashion Dues & Duen’ts; a Stylist’s Guide to Fashionably Embracing Your Baby Bump (Know Act Be Books, 2014). Available NOW at Learn more at



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