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The One-A-Day / 365 Experiment – Removing Unnecessary Clutter And Simplifying Life!

I never imagined that removing unnecessary clutter could be so life-changing – and yet, it has been all of that and more.  My only regret – we didn’t begin sooner!

A Little Background…

It was late Spring when Mary and I began to talk seriously about beginning the process of building our little dream house at the farm.

The inspiration for the design of our future house came from viewing this one from
The inspiration for the design of our future house came from viewing this one from (photo from

We both knew we wanted a small house that would overlook the farm – one with a simple open floor plan that would be easy to care for – and allow us the freedom and time in the coming years to enjoy the farm, traveling and whatever comes our way.

A small house has always appealed to both of us – one full of all of the features we want – built into a fraction of the space that many homes seem to waste.

As we began to draw up our floor plans, we realized that with such a small foot print (the house will be just under 900 sq. feet) – we would really need to pare down on all of the unneeded “things” and possessions that we currently own.

And so with that in mind, on July 7th of this past year, we began our One-A-Day / 365 De-cluttering project. As of today, we are now on the 87th day of the challenge.

We kept the rules to the project simple, with one final goal in mind – to end up at the end of one year’s time with the things we truly need, use or want – and nothing more.

The Rules:

For 365 straight days both of us must throw out a minimum of one possession each day that we no longer deem necessary in our lives.

The clutter of a kitchen drawer. One simple cleaning has made finding what we need a MUCH easier process!
The clutter of a kitchen drawer. One simple cleaning has made finding what we need a MUCH easier process!

And with that task we added one additional rule : With the exception of food – we cannot purchase anything to bring into our home – unless it fills a direct need – AND replaces something already in the house.

Example : The purchase of a new blender / food processor last month allowed us the opportunity to remove 2 old blenders, a food processor, and a mini-chopper from the kitchen.  Same goes for clothes – a new sweatshirt for either of us means we need to eliminate one already in our possession.

For us – it was the perfect way to ensure we would not fill the house back up with additional things that are simply not needed – and also makes us think “do I really need this more than what I already have?” before every purchase.

You might ask – why not do it all at once?  Because quite honestly, eliminating one set of items a day is a very attainable and viable goal for anyone – not to mention that as you rid yourself slowly of the clutter, it allows you to see the importance of what still remains. I am pretty certain if we had done this all at once – we would have thrown out things we needed, and kept things we didn’t.

Let’s clarify throwing out….

Recycling what we don't need has been an important part of the process
Recycling has been an important part of the process of de-cluttering – keeping trash out of the landfill, and clearing out space for us.

Before we go any further – I want to clarify what we mean by “throwing out”.

It would be simple to back up a dumpster and go at it – but that would certainly go against our recycle and re-use mantra – so we have taken a four-pronged approach to the entire process.

  1. First, if an item can serve a second life or purpose for someone else – then we donate it or give it away – (i.e. clothes to Goodwill).
  2. Second, if the item has real value (i.e. a planer that I happened to have two of) – then we sell  it and put the money into our savings.
  3. Third – if an item has no value but can be recycled, then off it goes to the recycling center.
  4. Fourth – and only as a last resort – if the item had no value and cannot be recycled – then and only then we toss it in the trash.

How the project has progressed…

The first few weeks were simple.  Both of us had mountains of clothes that we had never worn nor used in years – and they became an easy target to clear out.  I specifically had dress pants that I am quite sure would not have fit me in Junior High – having no idea why I saved them other than the misguided thought that I would actually shrink 4″ and lose 75 pounds. 🙂

I never realized how many old t-shirts were simply taking up space.
I never realized how many old t-shirts were simply taking up space.

And so it went – a walk through the garage one day revealed we could probably live without 6 gas cans, 5 ice scrapers – and no less than 5 pointed shovels. (Mainly because I am pretty sure we never have had five people at the farm shoveling anything at the same time!)

But as we pared down – and started to find more and more unnecessary items – we began to realize how much “stuff” we really had – and that all it did was get in the way!  Don’t get me wrong – we are not hoarders, or collectors by any means – but over the years we had just simply stored, kept and held on to so many things we just didn’t need.

As we now approach the 100 day mark – it has become a little more difficult to keep making cuts – and yet, at the same time, even more rewarding.

It has made us really question and value what is important in our life – and what is not.  We have found that some things that seemed so important at the time from our past – we never use or even look at any more – and they simply take up space.

Things we have learned we can live without…

Here is what we have learned so far:

The stacks of coffee cups have been eliminated
Stacks of coffee cups like these made it hard to find anything in the cupboards – now they hold just a few of our favorite mugs.

We did not need 18 flat head screwdrivers – all of which were nearly the same size – but stuffed in various drawers throughout the house and garage.

We did not need the 47 coffee cups that were in our cupboard – especially since  we each have a favorite that we use almost every day – and I am pretty sure we will never serve coffee to 45 others in our house at any one time.

We found we didn’t need a combined 45 “old painting t-shirts” –  the term we so lovingly give to old t-shirts we keep around for “working days”.

So far we have cleaned out and departed with everything from a collection of small picture frames that still had the “fake” family photos they came with –  to an extra vehicle we never used.  Sadly, the frames had sat out on a shelf in a room for years.  I truly wonder how many people that visited us thought we must somehow know them.

The list could go on and on and on – and in fact, it needs to! We still have a long way to go  – in fact – we have 278 days to be exact. And we both know it will get harder and harder as we pare down – but that we will be better off in the long run.

The Payoff…

I cannot begin to express the feeling that comes over us already when we walk in our garage, or kitchen pantry or for that matter almost any room in the house and can begin to see clutter gone.  It is less to clean, less to take care of, less to store – and most importantly – less to stress about!

Some added advantages we never knew…

We have both found out that we need far less than we ever thought we did.

It’s also nice to realize that through this process – we unknowingly have severely reduced what we now purchase – simply because we have begun to ask ourselves “do we need it”, “why”, and “what will it replace”?  Those three little questions have kept impulse purchases to nearly zero – and quite honestly, kept more in our savings account!

It’s actually quite easy to replace one of the wine bottles each time we have one 🙂

Finally – we both realize there are some things that really do mean a lot and that are important to hold on to. And when you keep just those things – their importance takes on a whole new meaning!  A special coffee cup from the boys to their mom for a mothers day gift – or our wine rack built from my dad’s old barn wood that will someday hold our very own wine made from our little vineyard.

As for those mini-house plans  – they are still in the planning stages – but one thing is for sure – we will be more than ready to move in with a lot less when the time comes!

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Here is to simple, happy living!  Jim and Mary – Old World Garden Farms