The Simple Joy of One


“Anyone with two tunics should share with him who has none.” – John the Baptist

Four years ago, we made a bold, life-changing decision. We decided to intentionally live with fewer possessions. It had become very clear to us that our clutter was stealing time, energy, and focus from our pursuits that mattered most. And removing unneeded possessions would free up precious resources and opportunity.

We started right away working through each room, closet, and drawer in our home to remove the unnecessary clutter from our home and lives.

Along the way, we began noticing a troubling trend: duplicates. In fact, we owned duplicates of nearly everything. We began to quickly realize we had bought into thinking that went like this, “If owning one of something is nice, owning more will be even better.”

But we were wrong. And lately, I have begun to intentionally embrace a new philosophy. I have begun to appreciate the simple joys of owning one.

Consider the benefits of owning just one of an item:

  1. We own only our favorite of every object.
  2. We take better care of our belongings.
  3. We routinely use each of our owned possessions.
  4. We can quickly identify what needs to be repaired or replaced.
  5. We can easily identify the importance and purpose of each item.
  6. We create opportunity to own higher quality items.
  7. We find more capacity to help others with our excess.
  8. We experience increased intentionality in our purchases and possessions.

There is indeed a peaceful joy to be discovered in simply owning one. And this principle can be applied to almost any item we own: One coat. One spatula. One mug. One pen. One set of bedding. One television. One…

Surely, the practical implications of this principle will vary from household to household. Its opportunity will play out differently in your home than mine.

But the simple joy of owning one has too quickly been forgotten. It is time we remember its simple beauty… and live less cluttered lives because of it.

Image: Wolfgang Staudt

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. Helen says

    I loved this post! Over the past year I’ve been slowly getting rid of unnecessary possessions. Books, clothing, kitchenware etc have all been reduced and donated to charity. I feel so much more free and the house is easier to keep tidy. I used to go shopping all the time but I now I have more time for my hobbies and spending time with friends. If I do need to buy something I try and get rid of at least 2 items for every new one I bring into the house.

  2. Elizabeth W says

    Love this post. I recently seperated from my husband and we were able to divide our possessions and totally furnish 2 smaller houses. We had to buy a few small things but not many. I was stunned that we not only owned 2 of things sometimes 3, 4 or 5. I am much happier now n wont be buying more things.

  3. R. Fetherolf says

    I feel like I can muster up the courage to get rid of some pens & pencils! Not sure how I am going to handle the Legos! (just kidding)

  4. Amy says

    After reading many, many of your posts I decided to download Simplify and Clutter Free with Kids books a couple of weeks ago and have started both of them. Ironically just this week my 4 year old came into the room and told me that she is going to give away more of her toys because she really liked having a clean room. Out of the mouth of babes!! She gets it more than her 34 year old mom! Thank you for the change you are bringing. God has used this concept of simplifying to change my life over the last 3-4 years. You are a part of this very important season in my life and I am seriously considering the 1 concept.

  5. KS says

    I have just recently started following your site and with this post I realized it’s not a “more is better” attitude with me. I grew up poor and my thought is that things wear out or get broken and “I may need this someday.” My husband is the opposite so he keeps me from being a hoarder, but there is a fear of not having what I need. Not sure how to deal with that. I do give things away, in fact, I love to help others and make donations often… long as I keep “enough” for myself. I would appreciate constructive feedback, but this is a huge thing for me to admit. Thank you!

    • Jennifer says

      I also hate to get rid of things I “might” use. When money is tight, that $20 in 20 minutes, to replace something I purged, could be better spent on diapers and groceries.
      I want to own less, but I have the Girl Guide motto of “Be Prepared” deeply ingrained in my mind.

    • Linda says

      I have had to work on this, too…
      Often I have so much stuff that I can’t FIND the “second rate but better than nothing” replacement that I kept “just in case”. In that case, I have to either go buy one anyway, fix the one I have, or do without. I have those same options if I give away the old one …
      I try to give away what I am not using, so that someone else can be using it. Having stored some things, and pulled them out, only to find that storage did not agree with them, or that they are no longer useful for some reason, I find it’s better for things to be used.
      Keeping things that I am not using has a cost – it takes up space that can be better used for other things.
      And finally, there is definitely something spiritual about minimalism, regardless of your faith. I believe that worry can be a lack of trust. When I want to keep something “just in case”, I make myself complete the sentence…
      — “Just in case someone else needs it” — hmmm, maybe I need to donate it in case someone needs it NOW.
      — “Just in case my other one breaks” – if this one isn’t good enough to use now, why would I keep it as second rate?
      — “Just in case I need two later” – perhaps I should set aside a few dollars for that possibility, so I could buy another new one…

    • says

      Hi KS,
      I enjoyed your honest comment! I’m not sure what (if any) your faith system is, but I will comment to this topic because my faith directly relates to this topic that both my family and I have struggled with (to opposite extremes).

      The poverty mentality you mentioned is one that I think comes both when growing up with less than enough & also by how someone views God. It is opposite from abundance mentality or generosity mentality which says “God will provide my needs and I will always have enough or more than enough.” I don’t necessarily believe in the health and wealth gospel where God makes you rich if you believe in Him, but I do believe that He takes care of His own.

      For me, I trust in Jesus. I have been in many a hard spot financially and seen Him provide for me time and again. Instead of hanging onto broken things or lots of excess, I’ve been learning to let go because I trust that in the future, God will continue to meet my needs as He always has. And truthfully – I’ve always had abundance even when I was scared I wouldn’t have enough at all. Last week I wasn’t sure how I’d pay my bills this week- but He brought many new clients and opportunities that I couldn’t see coming, and I earned more than I needed. That’s just one example.

      So my constructive feedback is that it truly is a mentality that can be learned. There is an interesting online assessment called the prince and pauper quiz by Kris Valloton which gives some great questions to consider. I hope this has encouraged you with something new to consider as you find your way in your own journey!


      Find the online quiz here:

      • Tamara says

        Holly, well done and thank you for sharing your faith and how God DOES provide for all our needs time and time again. Living with less and letting God provide the rest is the only way to live! I hope your words to KS really in your post really got through…. they sure touched me…. God Bless

  6. Nancy says

    I often buy duplicates. I realized recently the reason is fear of losing what I have. Knowing this has helped me stop buying stuff for this reason. I ask myself, do I want this because I fear losing what I have? If the answer is yes, I don’t buy. What surprised me is I have less fear now.

  7. Geraldine Vigus says

    I have in the last 6 weeks begun decluttering it has been hard but slowly getting it done, in one bedroom I had 7 large bags of donations of “stuff”, yesterday I went out to a store and thought I would pick up three new shirts for winter before I knew it I had a cart full of shoes , jewelry and scarfs , much more than what my initial list was, suddenly I looked down at my cart and realized I didn’t need any of it plus I would have needed credit to pay for it, I decided to go and put everything back and not buy any of it, I felt so good leaving the store and not letting my emotions affect me by making me purchase thanks for this sight

    • Jeannie says

      Good for you Geraldine!! I have also just started this Journey…yikes so much stuff to get rid of. When I go out I am ‘tempted each time’ and just starting to learn that just because “I like it” I don’t have to “Buy it”… and a lot of things catch my attention as I am very detailed person. I am trying to stick to what I “need” and that really isn’t a whole lot so I am just not shopping as much… Christmas is coming soon and this will be a real test for me as I also Love to Give (and always fine something for Me) …but I have to create a different plan this year… change is not easy~~but it is possible, but maybe not perfect!! Keep up the good work, your post inspired me!! :)

  8. Shaunah says

    I have started the process of de-cluttering and have donated a trailer full of clothes, furniture, toys and other household items. I have no desire to buy anything else but am struggling to establish the philosophy of minimalism into my household as my husband LOVES stuff!! He loves shopping and buying things we don’t need. Any advice?

    • Jeannie says

      Hi Shauna… You can only do “Your Part” and hopefully by ‘example’ he will catch on to what you are doing as the house will be more organized and just ‘less stuff’. He might just start to like it that way.. you never know!! Just keep doing what you are doing as You can’t change anyone else but you will be Happier in the long run that you did it for yourself. All the best on your adventure.. I am slowly getting there myself as it is very time consuming but well worth the effort!! :)

  9. CarolAnn says

    Somewhere along my new found path I got the idea/ message to take 10 items out of my house each day…whether it be to recycle, donate, garbage, etc. I began this while I was off from my teaching job over winter break. Some days are easier than others but I don’t leave for work each day without my items. Plus each day I also do one Declutter project in the evening. Common folk may not see a bit of difference but the hoarder/pack rat/saver in me does. I love your posts…combined with the others I’m reading my life is slowly turning around. You will be happy to know that I don’t print the things I like, I take pictures of them on my iPad & keep it their until I have completed the task :):)

  10. Roger says

    I should do this, we would save a lot of money in having just one television instead of one for each room!

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