The One In, One Out Rule

One common suggestion for minimalists is to follow the “one in, one out” rule. This simply means that when something comes into your home, something else must go out. Generally, the item leaving should be something similar, such as a purse for a purse or one pair of jeans leaving to make way for a new one. This rule keeps your material possessions from building up, which can happen very quickly! I try to use this rule in particular for clothing; do I really need multiple cardigans in the same color and design? (If you would personally make use of duplicates like this, don’t let me stop you!)  It makes me pause and think about what I really want and need. I am happy with owning two pairs of jeans, so I know that if I go to the store and see some fantastic jeans, they are not for me (at least until my other ones wear out).

I will tell you right now that I have NO CLUE how many items I own. Honestly, it would probably take a very long time to count them all, especially if you want to go crazy and count right down to every last paper clip. But I have a lot less than I used to (it helps to live in a small apartment, although sometimes stuff ends up spilling over into the closet of my childhood room at my dad’s house…I’m working on it!)

One problem I find with the one in, one out rule is gifts. You are going to receive gifts, whether you want to or not, and it is tough to be put in the position of choosing between a gift (which perhaps you don’t even like) and something else you already own. While some die-hard minimalists ruthlessly purge everything they don’t want, including gifts, I have a hard time doing this. I don’t hold on to literally everything that is given to me, but, especially if I know that a lot of thought or effort went into a particular gift, it is hard for me to part with it, even if it is adding to my number of possessions, which I would prefer to limit. You could say that gifts automatically add value to your life, or you could say that it’s the thought that counts, and you can gracefully accept an item and regift it the next day. I think it is ultimately a complicated and personal issue, and you have to do what you are comfortable with.

Have you tried the one in, one out rule? What do you do about gifts?

3 thoughts on “The One In, One Out Rule

Add yours

  1. Gifts are easier for me, if I know I will not use it or enjoy it and it could go to someone else will use it or enjoy it then it’s easier for me to give it away. The one in one out is hard… Example, I bought a new sweatshirt to replace my current one (which is getting thin and worn out) but now that I have the new one, I still don’t really really to give up the old one since it’s still in okay shape… I might end up wearing it as part of my pajamas! Recycling!!!


    1. Re-purposing the sweatshirt into a pajama top sounds like a good idea to me! I don’t necessarily struggle with “letting go” of the old version of things, but I wish I would be better about truly wearing things out all the way.


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