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The Slippery Slope of the “1 In, 1 Out” Rule of Decluttering

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What is the “one in, one out” rule of decluttering?

Simply put, the “one in, one out” rule is the idea that for every item you bring into your home, you get rid of one item in its place. This rule is supposed to help keep your home clutter free and prevent more clutter from accumulating. 

The idea is that if you get rid of one item every time you bring something new in, you shouldn’t add any new clutter to your home. So for example, if you buy yourself a new shirt, you get rid of an old shirt (or other item of clothing) in its place. Sounds like a fair trade, right? Well, maybe not.

I believe this rule comes from good intentions. We truly mean well and feel like this could help solve our clutter problems. And occasionally, this rule does help limit the clutter coming into the home. There certainly are instances where this does work.

But the problem comes when we start using this as an excuse…

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When things get slippery…

Here’s where things get a little slippery. Too often, people use this rule as an excuse to go buy more things and bring more things into their home. They tell themselves that it’s fine, because they’ll just get rid of something in its place. So what’s the harm?

In short, this can lead to a never-ending cycle of buying and decluttering, buying and decluttering, buying and decluttering.

The typical scenario goes like this: Ok, so I went a little overboard at Target today. Got some stuff I didn’t really need, but it was on sale, so I just couldn’t pass it up! But it’s ok, because I only bought 10 things, so I’ll just get rid of 10 things in exchange, and everything will be fine…

Here’s the problem: 

  1. Now we have to spend more time decluttering and figuring out what we’re going to get rid of. (See how much work all that new stuff just created for us?)
  2. Often, what happens is we bring something new into the home and forget about taking something out of the home in its place, so it just never happens. (Which just leads to more clutter accumulating in our homes.)
  3. We might not be able to find anything we can get rid of in its place. (So now we’re really stuck!)
  4. This habit creates waste and is not environmentally friendly. (Getting rid of something just because we felt like going on a spending spree isn’t the best use of resources and can be wasteful.)
  5. And most importantly… it doesn’t break the habit of shopping or bringing new things into the home. Breaking these habits is KEY to maintaining a decluttered home. (It only contributes to the “more, more, more” mentality that we’re so addicted to!)

So what’s the answer? How do we keep clutter from accumulating if rules like the “1 in, 1 out” don’t work?

A true solution to the problem…

Consuming less is really the best way to simplify your home and life. Instead of bringing that new stuff into your home and creating more work for yourself and more waste, don’t bring the stuff in to begin with.

Be really selective with your shopping. Before you buy anything new, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this something I actually need?
  • Will I use this item on a regular basis?
  • Can I afford this item?
  • Do I have room for this item in my home?
  • Do I already have something similar at home that I could use instead?

Consuming less will help you in two ways… 1.) It will help reduce the clutter coming into your home, which means less work on your part! 2.) And it will also reduce the amount of money flowing out of your bank account. (And who couldn’t use more money in their bank account?)

In addition to shopping, this rule really goes for anything new that comes into your home, even free stuff! Freebies are hard to resist, because they’re free. And who doesn’t love a freebie?

But unless that free stuff is something you truly need and will use, think really carefully before accepting it into your home. Otherwise, it’s just going to create more clutter and work for you in the long run.

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Ideas to break the shopping habit…

I’m not gonna lie, it can be HARD to break the shopping habit. So first, try focusing on the top one or two places where you do the most shopping. (Mine are Amazon and Target!)

That will have the biggest impact on your home and wallet. Once you’ve tackled those, you can focus your efforts on the other stores where you do the most shopping. Here are some tips to help break those habits:

  • Delete the shopping apps: One of the most dangerous things about smart phones is that we literally have a million different places to spend money at our fingertips. So pick the store (or stores) where you spend the most money and delete those apps and the temptation from your phone.
  • Delete your saved payment methods: While you’re at it, delete your saved credit cards from your phone. With all the different payment methods we have these days, it’s all too easy to spend money without even realizing it. When you delete those payment methods from your phone, you can’t make spur of the moment purchases with just a press of a button.
  • Challenge yourself: Make a goal of only placing one order a month at the place you most often shop. Add everything you need to your cart throughout the month. Then at the end of the month, decide whether or not you still need those things. You’ll probably end up removing several things from your cart!
  • Break the habit: The next time you feel a shopping binge coming on, take a step back for a minute. Take a deep breath, and ask yourself what triggered those feelings? Was it stress, or maybe you felt depressed or anxious? Note your shopping triggers, and see if you can find other ways to deal with those feelings.

I hope this gives you some ideas to help truly STOP the flow of clutter into your home. If you’re interested in more tips to help to simplify your home and life, grab your free starter guide here.

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