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Monday, April 27, 2015

The Less is More Project: Week 17 - One of each

andrechinn, Flickr

Our culture of abundance and consumerism makes it possible (and "normal") to own more than one of the same object. 

For many reasons, I want to be an advocate of owning only one of each thing. 

In ascending order of size and/or value:

Own only one of each beauty/hygiene product. I'm like everybody else. I do find little jars of beautifully scented lotions, powders and other "beauty products" to have an uncanny appeal. Especially when said jar (or any other type of packaging - think individually wrapped soap bars) is pretty. Like everybody else, I also like a good bargain: whenever possible, I buy those items on sale. The consequence? Well, open your pharmacy cabinet or pull your shower curtain: you'll see. Most of us are "bathroom pack rats" in one way or another. How many bottles of shampoo, conditioner and shower gel do you really need at one time? Do you sometimes have to throw sunscreen away because it's expired? Do you know how many tubs of lip balm/lipstick you own and where they are located? I don't know for you, but I'm tired of that kind of clutter. Right now I am gradually using up all those accumulated bottles, jars and tubs... and will not replace any product until it's drops from being all gone. Also: I will only replace the products that I really need. I will live my everyday life like I do when I travel: with only the products I use daily, and with only one of each.

Are you dealing with a similar "beauty product overload" situation?

Own only one couch, kitchen table, TV set and the like. This is mostly for family-bonding purposes. The more couches, tables and TVs you own, the less time you will end up spending with your family members. 

Do you notice a correlation between the amount of time your family spends together and the number of those items you own? Is it any different when you go on vacation?

Own only one vehicle. Okay. Some couples and families have jobs or activities that take them in opposite directions. But that is not always the case. I have seen people go to pretty much the same area at approximately the same time (you know, within 30 minutes of each other) with two separate cars. With some planning, some optimization of our time, and the willingness to sometimes have to wait a little bit, it is more than possible to function with only one car in a lot of cases. I know some people who will rent a car for the very rare instances in which they really need one. It is also perfectly acceptable to ask a friend for a ride (you can pay them back in wine bottles). Not to mention the wildly overlooked options that are called, respectively: carpooling, public transport, bicycles and your own feet. Slow down, look around, actually engage with your surroundings and the people, be kind to the Earth, avoid the stress of driving and parking... and save thousands of dollars each year. (What are you gonna do with that money?)

Are there any situations in which you could ditch the car and travel differently?

Own only one house. Meaning no cottage or summer home in the country side, and no pied-à-terre in a bigger city. To many, owning more than one property is not even an option, but to those who can (or think they can) afford it, please give it some thought. A second property means cleaning, maintenance, repairs. It doesn't matter that you are paying someone else (assuming you can afford that too) to do all the work. The responsibility is still on your shoulders. Plus, consider the alternative: the freedom of going to a different, new place with different, new sights, activities and people every time you travel. The wonders of discovery, the surprises, the excitement.

If you own a second property... do the advantages exceed the disadvantages? And are you getting outside of your comfort zone (as you should)?

Exceptions. Some things you might want (need?) to own two of (maybe):

  • bathrooms: if you are a family of 4+ and especially if you have teenagers, 2 bathrooms will make your life more comfortable. It might not be a fundamental need, but it's nice.
  • sunglasses: one sturdy, flexible, aerodynamic pair for sports, one trendy pair for dressier outfits
  • watch: same as above
  • purse: one for spring-summer, one for fall-winter
  • bed sheets: same as above (if you live in a country that has very pronounced seasons - I like flannel in the cold months!)
  • PJs: same as above
  • towels: so that you can use one while the other one is being washed
  • sets of workout clothes, favorite bras, bathing suits, etc.: same as above
  • sets of dishes: same as above - for a family of 4, that would mean 8 of each item - I know I rarely use all 12 of my plates, forks and glasses at the same time!

Do you have any other examples I might have overlooked?

Please share any thoughts, no matter if you agree or disagree with the above!



I was early for an appointment. Did not feel like waiting in the car. Walked into a store. Spotted a very nice pair of boots, price 25% off, my size. Tried them on. Liked them. Looked at my other pair of boots on the floor (the ones I had walked in with), not the same style but definitely the same kind: not too warm, laced, earth tones, ankle height, perfect for mild spring or fall days. Would the new boots serve a different purpose than the ones I already own? Absolutely not. Walked out in my old (but still perfectly fine) boots without buying a new pair.

My friend S, on the other hand, has been questioning her recent purchase of a short faux leather jacket. Her argument: she already owned a soft shell jacket that she used for similar temperatures (again, spring and fall). She therefore questions whether that purchase fits a minimalist lifestyle. However, she did not own a stylish jacket to wear when she dresses up. I think her new purchase was justified.

How do you determine whether an item qualifies as a need or as a duplicate of something you already own?

Donations (good riddance)

Small, gently used toys my kids are not using anymore are becoming the "prizes" I use when playing Bingo with my students. Up to now nobody has complained.

How are your children, parents or partner reacting to the idea of getting rid of things they don't use anymore?

Observations and cogitations

A reader commented that she hides things from her family, and that if no one has noticed or asked for those things in a month, it means they can be donated. If you are not ready to "play that game" with your loved ones, why don't you play it with yourself: hide things you don't really use in a box. Tape it shut. Don't list the contents anywhere. Wait a few months. Did not need anything that was in the box? Don't even remember what you put in it? Donate the box "as is".

Does that sound scary to you? If you decide to try it, tell us what happened!

What did you resist this week? Did you donate or get rid of anything? Did you face any challenge? Please comment below! And...

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  1. I think I do pretty well on this. I do have two cars, but in terms of impact on the environment, I can only drive one at a time so it's the same. One is a 1996 and the other a 2004. :-p

  2. In Denmark, Holland, and other parts of Europe where bicycle commuting is not just common, but the standard, there are plenty of families that live with just one, or without cars altogether. There are entire websites and Facebook pages dedicated to this.

    As for just having one of things, I'm very big on that. Of course clothing is a place where that's not possible, and shoes might be my indulgence; I have many pairs of athletic shoes.

    1. I know! North America is SO car centered. It's sad.

      If you have a good use for every pair of athletic shoes, then it's fine I think. :-)

  3. Have you read Marie Kondo's book yet? http://www.amazon.com/The-Life-Changing-Magic-Tidying-Decluttering/dp/1607747308 It's transformed my life. :)

    We are going to be down to one car for 3-4 months this summer. Thankfully, hubby works from home 3-4 days a week, so it shouldn't be too bad. But still will be interesting. And I wish I could afford a second home. LOL

    1. Thank you for recommending it Gwen! My minimalist group was discussing it, but I haven't read it yet.

  4. I feel very macho with my single cake of soap and two in one shampoo and conditioner. Ok, there is hair styling wax too.

  5. We never had a second car but when our young adults were still at home, and even then, J only drove to the car park to get the bus to Montreal.
    My weakness: I am an impulsive cook, I do not plan ahead, and use my pantry as food storage. So I will store 5 types of rice (basmati, jasmine, parboiled, sticky, arborio and sometimes more); olive oils (Greek, for salad dressing, Spanish or flavoured organic for dipping; flours (white unbleached, wheat, integral, rye, rice, etc.) for breadmaking of baking; even various salts and peppers, and my spice/herb store is always ready to prepare American, Mexican, French, Spanish, German, Italian, middle-eastern, Indian, Thai, Chinese or other food at any time. I guess that is the cost of not planning ahead, but it does not bother me at all.

    1. Interesting comment on the food! As you know we are galaxies away in our approaches. :-)

  6. This is definitely an issue that I struggle with. I've removed most beauty products from my life, so that one has gotten much easier. I now use baking soda & coconut oil for just about everything! :-)

    My parents do own two homes - one is their primary residence and the other a condo up in the mountains. But for them it makes sense because my step-mom is a physician and she has a small practice in the town where they own the condo. So owning it was much cheaper and easier than staying in a hotel for a week every time she goes up to see patients. Plus, they regularly lend it out to friends who want a mountain vacation.

    I totally agree with stuff like dishes & sportswear. It's a fine balance to get the right number where you don't have so many that your cupboards are stuffed, but you've got enough so you don't regularly run out. I am contemplating ordering another pair of bike shorts & a new jersey because it takes me forever to dirty enough clothes to do a load, and I'm really tired of having to wash them by hand!

    And I just splurged on a new pair of deerskin work gloves. They cost $18, which seems like a lot for a pair of work gloves, but I just seem to go through gloves at a ridiculous rate - I must have 2 dozen pairs out in the garage, but all of them have holes in the fingers and only do a marginal job of protecting my hands. And it's soooo hard to find any that fit right (the curse of long skinny fingers). And I'm so tired of tearing off fingernails when I'm working on the house or in the garden. So hopefully they will be an investment that will save me in the long run! Have I justified it yet? :-)

    1. I imagine if you actually need to be in two different cities on a regular basis, then two homes do make sense.

      Buying good quality that costs more often is worth the investment. When you buy cheap you have to replace it so often that it's not good for either the wallet nor the planet. :-)

  7. Well, I failed this test - other than houses we own more than 1 of everything on that list!!!
    And, we sort of have 2 houses - one is our business though (event venue).

    1. It wasn't a test... or if it was, it's meant to be used as such: a good way to identify our strengths and weaknesses! LOL

  8. As ever, sometimes, choices or decisions can be difficult... I guess the important thing is to THINK wisely about choices. They must suit us, our circumstances, and our wallets/purses. Perhaps the important question - what am I buying this for, or why am I doing this.

    Think before doing might just make a difference?

    All the best Jan

    1. I agree with this, too. I have one or two of most things, but I own 7 bras and 6 pairs of jeans. These are things I wear every day and I got tired of doing laundry several times a week. This simplified my life.

  9. two cars here and Im the NAG NAG NAG wife who keeps telling the husband we only NEED one.
    I think he's bought into the pervasive notion NEED = TWO.

    1. I don't know one family in my neighborhood that has only one car. We are the outsiders. Maybe your husband has been influenced by what he sees around him!

  10. ... hello Julie..... Tank you for visiting my blog and commenting.. ( Through My Eyes ... Barbara Neubeck )
    I love all your ideas on decluttering and living a more minimal lifestyle...... I do all the things you talk about ... I spent 18 months going through everything I owned and passing the excess on.....it was very hard to do, but it was worth it.
    I look around now and sometimes think I still have 'too much'...
    Hugs.... Barb xxx

    1. Hi Barb! Yes it's always a work in process. I have gotten rid of A LOT and still find more to let go of. And I wasn't even a hoarder to begin with. :-) Thanks for coming by!