One Thing In, One Thing Out

One thing in, one thing out.

I don’t know when exactly I adopted this rule. There isn’t one clear moment where I decided this would be guide for what comes into my home. I think it started as a saying, a general guideline, a concept not yet 100% adopted. But somewhere in the last year, it has in fact, become a rule. It turns out it’s a rule that is talked about a lot online in the big declutter blogs! It makes total sense, I just landed on this one on my own.

When I left Los Angeles in December 2008, it was the first time I gave up one home without moving into another. I had to compress and declutter, then pack and give away all in two weeks. I held a weekend long garage sale and sold as much as I could, then packed as much as I could into my RAV4 and drop it off at Goodwill. The rest, I moved into storage.

I didn’t have a permanent home again until October 1, 2010 (a year ago). And that home was one that I was building with someone else. And that someone else had a lot less “stuff” that me. I spend hours every few months just going through my stuff to give away more things. Clothes I don’t wear, papers and books I don’t look at, DVDs I don’t watch. My big revelation? It’s EXHAUSTING! Stuff is quite frankly exhausting. The getting it, the keeping it, the organizing it and eventually the giving it away.

In order to free myself of this cycle, I had to free myself of the things themselves.

It’s hard to explain what happens when you free yourself of things. I mean, I still need clothes to wear, still have a “favorite shirt” and still look longingly at things I want to buy. The one thing that has changed is that when one thing comes into the house – one thing must go out.

Here’s how I do it…

I keep a canvas bag under the island in the kitchen, and that’s the “donate pile.” So I do, from time to time, buy things. Just last week I was in Boston and found a great chunky sweater at GAP. I good “winter is coming and I’m going to curl up and read on a Sunday” sweater. I bought it. I came home and the first thing I did (after putting down my keys and overnight bag) was to open my closet doors and give it an honest look. I never wear that longsleeve shirt, I am over those summer sandals and will most likely get a new pair next summer and I inherited that purse in a swap with girlfriends but actually have never worn it. They all went into the donate pile. When the bag is full, I walk it down the street to the Goodwill and drop it off. I’ve never regretted anything I’ve donated, or missed it, or wished I had it back. Life is funny that way, things we are so attached to when suddenly they are gone, they aren’t so important anymore.

It’s not a perfect system but it’s a system that FEELS pretty good once I got into the swing of it. The whole thing makes me pause before buying things because let’s face it, if you love the things you own and you buy something new, in essence, you have to give one thing up.

Do you have a “one thing in, one thing out” rule in your house? I’d love to hear about it! And if you’re interested in finding out more about decluttering and other organizational tips, here are some blog posts I’ve discovered:

15 Great Decluttering Tips Instructions for decluttering your home (in less than 500 words) Top 10 Blogs to DeClutter & Simplify Your Life

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