The Best Way to Actually Follow Through with the “One in, One out” Rule

published Aug 16, 2022
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Although there’s a very physical component, decluttering is such a psychological endeavor. From the ways we acquire things to the reasons we keep them, and the excuses we have for being unable to let go, shedding our stuff can dig up a good deal of emotional baggage. 

But not all decluttering involves telling yourself your memories will remain even if you get rid of the tacky magnet from your college spring break trip, or reminding yourself that you’re not a bad person for tossing a gift you never use and frankly don’t even like. Forgiving yourself for hanging onto stuff you don’t need or never should have bought is necessary. Other decluttering sessions, though, are far less laden with feelings.

Maintenance decluttering involves dealing with all the mostly meaningless stuff that accumulates. And staying on top of it is key. One reason for this is that the longer you own something, the more “meaning” it takes on. Another more obvious reason is that if you don’t regularly move things out of your home, you’ll end up having to do big, exhausting decluttering sessions. As good as those feel when they’re done, nobody wants to have to do them. 

Strategies for maintenance decluttering involve habits like having a particular day to deal with mail and paper clutter and making sure to go through the kids’ clothes seasonally. One of my favorite strategies is a mantra I like to employ whenever I bring something new into the home: “one in, one out.” (Or its updated, more intense cousin.) 

This strategy instantly came to mind when I saw this video on Instagram by Casey of @that.minimalist.mom. In fact, Casey recalls the mantra in her caption, which reads, “The simple rule to staying clutter-free is ‘one in, one out.’”

She goes on to explain in the caption, “If you really want to avoid clutter in your home, you must create ongoing habits! If something comes into your home, something else must leave! This ensures that you don’t accumulate more items than you need. Is this a habit you’d be willing to try?”

The video shows Casey walking around with an Amazon box she just emptied and filling it with items to donate. With this habit, Casey brings a useful mantra into the realm of practice. She ties something that happens often (having an empty box in hand) with an effective practice that has the power to bring decluttering habits into your everyday life. “One in, one out” is easy to nod our heads at, but not as easy to remember to do. Using the empty box as a reminder and tool is genius!

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: This Is the Best Way to Implement the “One In, One Out” Decluttering Strategy