One of the many ways that downsizing experts suggest a person reduce their household consumption is to follow a “one in, one out” model of purchasing. If you want to bring something into your home it should replace a similar item that finds itself on the way out.
This is a great way to approach household items like clothing where a new pair of shoes replaces a worn pair or a new computer replaces a malfunctioning unit. You get the idea.
What if your goal is to not end up renting a mini-storage unit?
A lot of people have gotten hold of Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing to answer this question. I find it somewhat fascinating that a person selling people on decluttering as a pathway toward some sort of life changing epiphany is selling an actual physical item. Always beware of the person selling you the solution to your perceived problem. Skip the book and take the highlights if her pathway is your bag.
I have a different way to tackle the stuff in my home that is cluttering up my physical and mental life. Instead of “one in, one out” I am embracing “one thing out every day.”
The concept is simple. Every day I get at least one thing out of my house. One day I might take a bag of old clothes to Goodwill. Another day I may donate a few unwanted books to the public library. If I am particularly motivated I will decide to tackle the collection of medicine and mini toiletries that seems to grow by itself over the course of a few trips. How does one end up with a dozen mini bottles of lotion?
Slowly, it becomes a game of sorts. You begin to want to look into the dark corners of closets and storage areas for long forgotten items in boxes. You begin to free yourself from stuff that you may have moved several times without ever having removed it from a box. How many t-shirts do we have that we no longer wear? How many boxes of old books do we have that we will never read again?
Some people may choose to go the blow out route and have a garage sale. Trust me, I have had two in the past three years and I amazed each time at how much unnecessary or outdated stuff we have acquired. Even my two children got into the act the last time by culling their toys down to what they actually cared about playing with. Everyone feels better when they are not weighed down by so much stuff.
The trick is not to bring anything more into the house while getting rid of things. Otherwise you have nullified your effort. This becomes a game as well. You begin to start counting days between purchases. If I exclude groceries it becomes an exercise in recall as I now go weeks between purchases. Maybe I am embracing an increasingly ascetic life in search of meaning, but it feels better than blindly whipping out a credit card and hoping that a purchase will make me feel whole.