Decluttering with Astrid (35)

One of everything

There are times when I realize, with cheeks burning in shame, that a book I just bought has in fact already been sitting in my bookcase for ages. A book that I received, let’s say, a year ago, didn’t get round to reading straight away, and completely forgot about. Actually, it doesn’t just stop at books; we pretty much have double of everything at home. We don’t have one watering can, we have three. And—don’t ask me how as I have no idea—we are the (dubiously?) proud owners of not one, not two, not three, but four portable radios. I have a partner who is also a pro when it comes to bringing stuff that we already have (lots of or have had for ages) into the house. These are mainly things that, in my opinion, are like a comfort blanket for men: Moisture Absorbers from the DIY store; rolls of garbage bags; new sets of shoelaces; and collapsible shopping crates. Aside from that, he’s a great guy, this man of mine.

I came across a funny little blog that addressed this issue. It’s called “The Simple Joy of One,” and is written by author and minimalist Joshua Becker, who made a conscious decision to live with fewer possessions. He took it pretty seriously too, which was, according to him, quite simply the best approach. While going through each room as he decluttered his house, he found that he had duplicates of pretty much everything. Not one bottle opener, but three. Not one television, but two. And so on. And that’s how he arrived at the “Simply Owning One” method. He decided that, from now on, he would only have one of each item. One coat, one pair of trousers, one spatula, one pen, one set of bedding, and one television. Choosing which things to keep was not that difficult, he says, because if you can only own one of everything, you choose to keep your favorite. And if you have less, you look after your possessions better, you quickly notice what needs to be repaired, and you can opt for better quality items.

I think it sounds like a good principle, and I immediately think that two-thirds of our furniture is duplicated. But I see some practical objections. I think the example totally fine when it comes to getting rid of 12 of my partner’s 13 pairs of sneakers under the “sweetheart-we’re-doing-the-Simply-Owning-One-method” guise. Or six of his seven blue shirts. Or seven of the eight gel packs that are intended for cooling injuries after exercise, but actually only really clog up our small freezer. All of those I can get rid of, no problem. But I’m not so sure about the idea of only having one dress in my closet. Or—even though I do admit I have too many dishes—just having one cup, one plate and one bowl per person. Joshua Becker may well be living like that, but it’s not quite what I have in mind. Particularly since we try to be that Burgundian grab-a-chair-and-join-us kind of family. Not such a cozy invitation when you have to bring your own plate and cutlery with you… What’s more: just one decoration on the Christmas tree? I think I’d be thrown out of the house and banished forever by a pair of young (think 10- and 12-year-old) December fans. So that “Simply Owning One” project is sadly one that would not work Chez Astrid.

But it doesn’t mean that I completely cast Becker’s story off. All of a sudden, I see my house as a kind of animation movie in which my stuff cries out to me, saying things like, “Ha ha, you have seven of me,” or “Wow, I’m the tenth of me in this house.” And I’ve discovered an appropriate quote that goes round in my head all day long: A man with one watch knows what time it is. The man with two is not quite sure.

And so it is. With more than one of something, life is just that teeny bit more complicated.

Astrid, together with Irene, is the founder of Flow Magazine. She lives with her partner and two children. Each Tuesday, she writes about the sense—and nonsense—of decluttering.

“Week 35 – One of everything”