Unclutter your tech with the Rule of One

From time-to-time, I’ll think about this post I read on Apartment Therapy back in 2010. For whatever reason, the post stuck with me. The advice in the post espouses The Rule of One, which breaks down like this:

Keep the things you own (especially technology) down to only one.

I like the idea, but am still trying to figure out if I can apply it to everything in my life. I certainly need to have more than one shirt, for instance. But, in other areas, could it make sense for me? I especially like this insight:

Listening to music? One iPod. One speaker set … Hold on to that one item for as long as possible.

Like I said, it’s impractical for me to apply the Rule of One to all aspects of my possessions. I have several baseball hats and I like to wear them all, so I don’t imagine I’ll ever get rid of all but one of them. But, a quick glance at my iPhone reveals a problem. I have seven weather applications. I’ve also got four note-taking apps and four camera apps. Yes, each does something unique, but honestly none of them is markedly different than the other. I don’t need all four camera apps, for instance, and should decide on one “keeper.” The rest are clutter in that they consume precious storage space on my iPhone and clutter my mind, as I must stop and choose one every time I want to take a picture.

I also like Nguyen’s advice to “hold on to that item for as long as possible.” My Internet buddy Patrick Rhone of Minimal Mac has written about this topic several times. In an article called “The Season of Stuff,” he gives good, pre-emptive uncluttering advice for the holiday season:

You can pledge to get rid of an amount of stuff equal to the amount you receive. You can let those who love you know that you do not want more stuff but want something less tangible instead (breakfast in bed, money for a favorite charity, etc.). Ask for specific stuff you really truly need that will add years of value to your life on a daily basis.

Now, if you have superfluous tech that you’d like to get rid of, don’t just bring it to the dump. There are several ways to recycle it responsibly:

  • Donation. Is there a group, organization or school nearby that would love to have it? Give them a call.
  • Best Buy. This American big box store will accept three electronic items per household per day for responsible recycling. It’s free, and no-questions-asked. You didn’t have to buy the item there to recycle it there.
  • Seek a local alternative. For example, Free Geek is an Oregon-based service that takes your electronics, similar to Best Buy’s program. Search around to find something similar in your area.

Look at the tech you use every day and decide, is any of this superfluous? Can I follow the Rule of One in this area of my life? If so, unclutter the extraneous items and enjoy having fewer distractions.

5 Comments for “Unclutter your tech with the Rule of One”

  1. posted by fred on

    Why keep to the rule of one if you do not tell us why that rule is so useful, other than, perhaps, money saving?
    example: have but one child in your marriage? two working spouses with one car? I like to read. One book only?

  2. posted by Erin Doland on

    @fred — The purpose of Unclutterer is not to convince or persuade anyone into being an unclutterer. Nor is the purpose of our site to define what “uncluttered” means. You have to decide to get rid of the distractions on your own AND decide how much stuff you want to keep/purge. We just give advice on methods for getting rid of clutter and organizing what you choose to keep. If you’re looking for someone to talk you into WHY or to define exactly what uncluttered looks like, you’re not going to find it here.

  3. posted by CanadianKate on

    I’m finding that in balancing uncluttered and clean, I ended up with 3 of many things in order to always have one handy. For instance, three toilet bowl brushes and sets of cleaning materials in each bathroom. Two feather dusters, one for each level of my house. I found when I didn’t have to move far to grab the right cleaning tool, I was likely to make use of a few minutes here or there and clean as I tidied.

    Again, the big house required multiple flashlights (so one was handy in a power outage) and multiple radios (so I could have one on in the room where I was.)

    Now that I’m downsizing there is much duplication to be disposed of. From multiple staplers (one in each desk and we have 4 here because we run our business from home) to multiple tvs and dvd players, to the multiple desks themselves. Our home was not cluttered or crowded, it was just big and so the ‘things’ we had filled the space we had.

    I’ve just spent a day sorting the keep, toss, and giveaway items from the storage room. I have many more days like today in my future. My current dilemma is linens, they aren’t quite good enough to sell at Goodwill but they have a lot of good life left in them. I’m looking for someone who wants them for camping or a cottage.

  4. posted by Jack on

    I love this tip! I finally decided to give up on multiple scheduling programs/apps and have went all paper with the apollo planner. Its great.

  5. posted by Sharon on

    If you have a spare iPod to dispose of, consider donating it to Music & Memory, the wonderful charity featured in the documentary film “Alive Inside.”


    “MUSIC & MEMORY℠ is a non-profit organization that brings personalized music into the lives of the elderly or infirm through digital music technology, vastly improving quality of life.”

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