As we move through life, we become virtual lint rollers, accumulating huge levels of stuff without really thinking about it. Steve Wright thinks about it, and he’s determined to avoid the common trap of stuff-overload by curating a very edited design for living that enables him to live quite effectively and efficiently with style.

I met Steve a few months ago. He’s a reader of the blog and reached out to me when he learned that I was moving back to Cleveland. Over a couple of drinks at a local bar, we talked about life, style and living in Cleveland. We also talked about our mutual fondness of the “less but better” philosophy of Dieter Rams, the legendary designer of Braun products. After he showed me a few photos of his wardrobe, I was blown away by how austerely he lived, especially with his wardrobe, and I was very eager to have a more in-depth conversation about it. Months later, we finally made the time and he invited me over to see his place and, more importantly, the most edited wardrobe I have ever seen.

Steve’s closet. The shelf above the shoes is completely empty.

Steve lives in a 600 square foot studio apartment in a nice high-rise right on Lake Erie in a row of apartment buildings called the Gold Coast in the suburb of Lakewood, just west of Cleveland. The level of austerity in his home and wardrobe is remarkable. Compared to the way many people live, with closets, attics, basements, garages and storage spaces overflowing with clothes, furniture, papers, books, bicycles, equipment, etc. (much of which goes untouched, unused or forgotten), Steve’s “life edit” is staggering.

The top of Steve’s valet. He also owns one watch (which he was wearing when this photo was taken).

In this matrix of life, where so many of us are caught up in the notion that confuses bounty with excess, Steve took the red pill. We live in a consumer culture that applies constant pressure to buy more stuff, promising that happiness, status and fulfillment are inside the shopping bags and delivery packages full of more things to bring into our homes. And when there’s no more room in the closets, the basement, the attic or the garage, the solution is to get a bigger home or add more square footage with a bigger garage to fit a bigger car. Or get a bigger storage space. But Steve Wright is moving in the opposite direction. While most people are playing Monopoly, where the goal is to acquire more, he’s playing something closer to the Mad Magazine board game, where the object is to get rid of everything.

Steve’s “just in case” closet, opposite the main closet rack, with linens, workout clothes, swim trunks and other odds and ends.

To me, the most fascinating aspect of Steve’s lean lifestyle is his wardrobe. He’s a stylish young guy who works by day in a men’s clothing store. His job is to sell clothing, yet he owns very little of it. He has no drawers. It all lives in just one of his three closets, with room to spare.

Steve’s lean living really impresses me. While I don’t think I could strip down as far as he has, his design for living has given me pause and made me think. In fact, as I was listening to our conversation and editing, I took a break and put two sweaters, three more shirts and about six pairs of winter dress socks into a growing bag of clothes to drop off at the thrift store. And so my pursuit of “less but better” continues, with some added inspiration from Steve.

Listen…

The man himself…

Steve Wright.

Follow Steve on Instagram.

5 Comments

  1. Great podcast, George! You really deserve your own show on NPR.

    BTW, your article on the Baracuta inspired me to find a cheaper but still well-built alternative. I got the Ben Nevis Harrington (made in the UK). Their jackets are cut very large especially in the sleeves, so this evening while listening to your podcast I was figuring out how to slim and shorten the sleeves. I’ve only been tailoring for about a week but things are coming out well. Your blog has been a major inspiration for me. No more ill-fitting clothes for me!

  2. BILL HILLMAN Reply

    George, after your praise of the J. Crew white crew neck t-shirts, I ordered them. Then I received an email saying they were out of stock, and would not be re-ordered. Please use your influence to get them re-stocked.

  3. Kevin Kirkpatrick Reply

    I wish I could be this restrained when it comes to my wardrobe! I’ve been paring it down significantly in recent months due to having lost about 30 pounds over the last year after working with a personal trainer and watching what I eat. Shopping for clothes that enhance (rather than hide) my body is a real pleasure. But, also a huge expense! So, I’m trying to be picky. I had purchased a couple of SuitSupply suits about 1.5 years ago, but they’re now way too big (I used to wear 44R and now I wear 40R), and tailoring would be impossible. I’m intrigued by both Black Lapel and by Indochino (I agree, the name is hideously wrong). Indochino has a couple of great suits on clearance for $329 and $349. How do you feel about Indochino these days …? Thanks, George! Hope you are well.

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