One in one out rule for your closet and your life

November 18, 2019

Written By

Tabitha Dumas

It was strange. For a few years in a row, I had signed on to a few different year-long projects and was able to assess at the end, “Is this worth continuing for another year?” Then it became an annual event–to set my trajectory for the next year then decide what fit and what didn’t. Now at the end of every year I follow the one in one out rule to make sure I’m investing my time and talent as effectively as possible. I try to let people know in December whether I’ll be continuing for the next year so they can adjust and plan accordingly.

I’m also big on choosing a One Word for a new year and creating a vision board. Doing the one in, one out rule exercise before tackling those is ideal.

For example, have you ever realized your closet is overflowing because you’ve been adding a few items here and there without eliminating any?

Life is the same way–it’s easy to add projects and commitments without cutting back in other areas.

Rather than let things begin to clog and overflow, it’s better to follow what is often referred to as the “one in one out rule.” You buy a new pair of shoes? Ditch an old pair that wore out. You find the perfect winter coat? Donate your former winter coat. You snag several tops at a great sale? Purge the tops you never pull out of your closet.

Before you sign on to a new committee, figure out an obligation you can step away from. If you’re considering picking up a new volunteer gig, consider if there’s something you’ve been volunteering for that no longer suits your season of life.

Groups change. We change. Our time frames change. Our energy levels change and so do our priorities. It’s OK to adjust.

It’s rare that something we’ve agreed to says “You must stay here forever no matter what!” You’ve been in groups where people come and go…you’re allowed the same freedom. And while we do have to honor our commitments, it is right and necessary to re-prioritize and move on when we need to–without feeling obligated to over-explain our reasons.

As a side note, in case you’re in the same position…people might tell you to trade what’s good for what’s best. What if all the options are best options?? What if there is no “easy cut?” Here’s the criteria I have adopted. For my one in one out rule exercise, I lay out each commitment or project and get really honest about…

  • if it’s still what I signed on for
  • the time and energy it requires
  • what gifts I bring to the table
  • what I receive from it
  • how much of it is work vs. fun
  • if it’s time to give someone else the opportunity to take it over

Then I ask myself, “Does this get me closer to my goals?”

It could be the decision is made purely on which one is THE MOST LIKELY to get you closer to your goals. Or cutting the one that is the most draining.

I also ask myself, “Have I grown to resent this?” That’s a dead giveaway that something started out as a blessing but has become a burden.

Grace note: even if you are responsible for it becoming a burden, you don’t have to continue to bear that burden.

And if you’re a follower of Christ…

  • am I becoming more Christ-like through this endeavor?
  • is participating in this allowing me to love people better?
  • does this honor the talents God has given me?

The Big, Simple Life is when your commitments are connected and cohesive.

  • The people are “your people” and the people within one group can connect you to other people you need to know and you’re able to do the same for them
  • The places you go are close to you and close to each other
  • The tasks are in your wheel house, or grow and stretch you in ways you enjoy
  • The required prep and recovery fit into your life

Of course sometimes you just have to do what needs to be done. But ideally, those activities are temporary. 

Finally…what if you simply can’t cut activities?? Consider…

  • outsourcing a part of your commitment, like having someone else set up the refreshments or do the set up and clean up so you can attend to other aspects
  • taking someone off your plate, like hiring a home cleaning service
  • asking someone to provide a meal once/week or ordering out to cut down on shopping and cooking time

Read more about asking for help here.

The one in one out rule comes in handy in a lot of areas of life! I’d love to know how you apply it and how it turns out. 

Your Closet & Your Life_ The _One In, One Out_ Rule


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