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“One-in-One-Out Rule” is the SECRET to a Clutter-Free Home!

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Clutter is creepy. If you’ve ever decluttered one day only to find yourself surrounded by piles of stuff soon afterward, you know what I mean! If that sounds like you, allow me to introduce you to a life-changing concept: the one in, one out rule!

Minimalists and decluttering veterans know that maintaining an equilibrium of stuff and free space in your home can be just as challenging as decluttering. 

Therefore, the one in, one out rule is a simple, minimalist habit that can keep your home clutter-free. No more things falling out of the wardrobe you just cleaned last week – it’s a timesaver as well as a lifesaver!

Read on to find out what the one in, one out policy is and how to start using it in your home. You can also find all 20 of the most popular decluttering rules in this blog post.

A woman demonstrating how to use the one in, one out rule of decluttering.


The name is self-explanatory: once you bring a new item into the house, you get rid of another one.

One in, one out!

You won’t accumulate more than you need when following this simple rule ― on the contrary, you will stay balanced as you slowly adapt to a more minimalist lifestyle.

It’s simple math.

If you keep removing as many items as you add, you declutter regularly without noticing or putting in much effort, and can easily balance the number of things and free space in your life.

While it’s referred to as a “rule”, you might find it helpful to consider it more of a guideline.

Rules are strict, and that makes them hard to follow. On the other hand, guidelines are more general, as they set the right direction and leave the rest to you. You know your goals best; hence, feel free to interpret and modify this principle according to your preferences and environment.

It’s so simple that you can’t go wrong, no matter how you use it!

READ MORE: Less is More: 21 Reasons to Make it Your Life Mantra


There are plenty of benefits to implementing the one in, one out rule; let’s go over a few.

1. It helps you maintain equilibrium in your home

Balance is one of the most essential concepts of minimalism and simplifying your life.

By monitoring the inflow and outflow of objects around you, you create an equilibrium between surplus and lack, ensuring you have the perfect amount of everything you need. Well, close to it anyway.

This allows you to maintain the delicate balance between stuff and space in your home.

2. It helps you become more mindful

Sometimes people can become “clutter blind”; that is to say, they don’t notice or think about the things residing in their home.

If you’ve bought something, only to get home and realize you already own two of that thing, you know what I mean!

Becoming more mindful about what you own can reduce the likelihood of oopsies like this in the future.

3. It helps you curb emotional buying

When you set a rule for yourself that another item must leave when a new item comes in, you naturally become more intentional about your purchases.

This can be useful for people who have shopping addictions or tend to collect and hoard things “just in case.”

You become more conscious about where your money goes and weigh purchases against the value of what you already own, and you’ll be a lot more thoughtful about what deserves to be given space in your home.

A woman showing her child how to declutter with the one in one out rule


The moment you know the philosophy behind the one in, one out rule, implementing it will be very easy for you. For each item you bring into your home, take another one out.

Such as:

  • One pair of shoes in, one pair of shoes out
  • One make-up product in, one make-up product out
  • One holiday wreath in, one holiday wreath out
  • and so on…

It’s as simple as this!

Of course, just because it’s simple doesn’t mean that it will always be easy. Knowing what to do is one thing, and following through can be quite another.

To be successful, you will need a disciplined approach. Remember what your priorities are, and make choices accordingly.

“Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful.”

― John Maeda

Watch this video on the one in, one out rule!


Depending on how far along you are in your decluttering or minimalism journey, this rule might be too strict or too relaxed.

Don’t be afraid to apply minor changes to this rule – being flexible will help you make the most out of it!

Here are a few suggestions on how to modify it to work better for you, so you can find that Goldilocks sweet spot that’s just right for your lifestyle.

Cross categories of items

After extreme decluttering our entire home down to eight suitcases, I found we often had to cross categories because we didn’t have enough items of the same type to get rid of; but that doesn’t always need to be the case.

Sometimes, you may simply desire more of a particular item.

Perhaps, you love summer dresses – that’s okay, you choose what to keep rather than discard another dress you often wear and like, part ways with something else, e.g., a broken kitchen appliance stored in the garage or a book you no longer want to read.

READ MORE: 70+ Decluttering Quotes to Inspire and Motivate You to Tidy Up

Increase the ratio of items out

One in, one out rule not enough? Why not try “two in, two out” or “five in, five out”?What matters most is that you balance what comes into your house and what leaves it. You can always increase or decrease the quantity as you see fit.

You can also get rid of more items than you bring in, such as the “one in, five out” rule – for each item you bring in, get rid of five or more!

The only limit is your imagination (and how much stuff you have in your home).

Get rid of unwanted items even before shopping

If you are worried about not knowing what to let go of, start decluttering even before going to the market or mall.

This may help a lot if you’re prone to get distracted with chores or cooking after shopping, only to realize then realize you forgot to discard later.

READ MORE: 90 Letting Go Quotes to Heal and Move on with Life


The one in, one out rule is a simple way to keep order in your house and stay clutter-free.

Even though it may be challenging initially, it will transform into an effortless habit over time.

By choosing to follow it, you are making sure that your decluttering efforts have long-lasting effects, and with this, you are creating (and maintaining!) harmony in your home environment.

Give it a try!

Need more decluttering or minimalism inspiration? Check out these awesome posts!

Pin this post on the one in, one out rule to read again!

A woman holding up a vase and showing the one in, one out rule


  1. Thank you for the great motivating tips! I’m now trying one in, two out (by gifting, donating, recycling or, as a last resort, throwing away. I’m even working on one out and no replacement. It is the only way I will get through hand lotions, shampoos, soaps, creams, oils, etc., by using up and not purchasing replacements until I’ve used up every consumable I have. Little by little, more space is being created in drawers, closets and cupboards. (Now, if I could only keep my loved ones from filling up those spaces! … )

  2. Thanks so much for writing this! I struggle so much with grandparents constantly buying new (and cheap) toys for my kids. I am implementing this straight away!

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