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Ask Lela Home Organization

One In One Out Rule: Pros and Cons

“It seems like a lot of people swear by a one-in-one-out rule. I’ve tried it before but couldn’t stay on track. Is this rule really a good practice, and if so, can you give me some tips on disciplining myself to follow it?”

        -Alex

Ask Lela Burris

One In, One Out. Is It Worth It?

To answer your question simply, Alex, sure, it’s a great idea. But to give you my full and honest answer, it’s good and bad. I don’t believe it’s ever a good idea to restrict yourself to a point to where you feel “controlled.” If you’re at Target, see something you love and want, but don’t bring it home just because you also love everything else in your closet and aren’t willing to get rid of it, that’s a problem. You’ll start to resent your boundaries and eventually fall off the wagon altogether.

However, if you are a serial-shopper, this rule can help you change your habits and allow you to gradually pare down what you have. I don’t think a One In One Out Rule is necessary forever, but if you have big goals of minimizing your belongings, this is definitely a good practice to adopt until you get your home to the point to where you feel comfortable and uncluttered.

one in one out rule for kids room organizing

How To Use The One In, One Out Rule

The key to using this rule effectively is not to apply it to your entire house. Pick just ONE area or category that you’d like to get under control. This could be t-shirts, throw pillows, books, board games, serving dishes, kids’ stuffed animals, pet toys, etc. Once you choose that category, mentally put a yellow flag on it.

When you’re at HomeGoods and want another pillow, before you put it in your cart, decide on a pillow at home you’re willing to part with. If you can’t think of one pillow you like less than the one you want to buy, it stays on the shelf and doesn’t make it to checkout.

Meanwhile, you should work on paring down your collection at home. If you chose t-shirts as your One In One Out category, it was because you have an overabundance of them, right? So be truly honest with yourself about why you have so many. Aim to get the collection down to at least what will fit in your drawer, or less if you can. Once you’ve downsized, it will make you instantly feel less cluttered and you won’t want to let it get out of hand again.

What If You Want To Do More Than One Category?

You totally can, but I don’t recommend doing more than one category at a time. Too many restrictions will make your brain want to rebel, and you’ll eventually not stick with any of them. Choose one category, purge it, and use the O.I.O.O. Rule for a month, then you can add in a new category.

If you’re worried that you may replace buying those items with something else, you can actually put yourself on a spending block for 60 days. That means you can’t buy anything aside from things you need like toiletries, cleaning supplies, gas, groceries, and medical care. A 60 day spending block is a great way to reset your spending habits, and by the time the Block is over, you will be more mindful of your shopping.

How To Keep Yourself Accountable

While we all wish we could be this self-disciplined rockstar of a human that sticks to our word no matter what, sometimes we hit a bump in the road and slip up. And sometimes we just really want something. I want you to know that it’s actually okay! At the end of the day, you are the one that said you can’t buy something. So if you change your mind or you want to break that rule, you are allowed to!

Give yourself the grace and forgiveness when you slip up, and don’t feel like you failed. If the big guys at the gym with the muscles so big that they can’t even put their arms down can have a “cheat day” so can you.

Read More:

How To Do A Daily 5 Minute Declutter

10 Clothing Items You Need To Stop Buying


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