To Become a Minimalist, Follow The Rule of Threes

bike basket rule of threes.jpg

De-cluttering is subjective and can get emotional. Are scissors even capable of sparking joy? To help decide what items to keep in a quantifiable way, I devised The Rule of Threes.

My husband and I have been gradually downsizing. Our lifestyle keeps going up but our spending remains the same—we just keep moving into smaller places for less rent.

For two adults to live in 240 square feet, a few things have to happen:

  1. You must like each other. Non-door slamming disagreements also help since the only door you can slam in this house is the unit door, and it’s on a damper.

  2. You must have similar sleeping patterns. Eyemasks and earplugs only do so much.

  3. I'd say you must be childless, but there is a couple down the hall who has a 3-year-old... childless definitely helps though.

The above three things are hard to change and thus are not related to the Rule of Threes. But one thing you can change is how much stuff you have.


The Rule of Threes States

An object must either have:
three different uses,
be used three times a week,
or for more than three years.


Three different uses

Things that may not get used often but serve multiple purposes.

Bicycle basket

  1. grocery basket

  2. recycling collector (take out recycling before going to the grocery store)

  3. picnic basket/day trip basket

Wooden tray

  1. extra counter storage when put on top of the laundry basket

  2. taking things to the roof deck

  3. keeping an ongoing project in a moveable container (like tax papers or holiday cards)

Handmade serving bowl

  1. Serving delicious meals in when guests come over. It's thick and holds heat a long time so I always warm it up with hot water before filling it with yummy food.

  2. Hand towel and face cloth holder. Partly because the only place it would fit was on the bathroom shelf and partly because I wanted to be able to see it everyday and not tuck it away in a cabinet.

  3. So technically this one only has two uses, but since it holds my bath linens more than three times a week, I'm going to let this one slide. Plus it's my favorite wedding gift so I had to make it work.

Three times a week

Things that have a single purpose but get used frequently.

  • Alarm clock

  • Couch

  • Coat rack

  • Kettle

  • Toothbrush

More than three years

Things that have a single use and are not used frequently.

When you buy these items make sure they are high quality and will last you at least three years.

  • Winter coat: chances are you don't live in the Arctic and don't need to wear your winter coat three times a week all year long.

  • Board games: we have a few games that are great for groups—Cards Against Humanity, Settlers of Catan, and Codenames.

  • Crockpot: It's only good for cooking things and I never use it more than three times a week, but it's sturdy enough to last a lifetime.


It goes without saying that there will be exceptions to these rules. Try to only have three of them ;) For things you want that don't pass the Rule of Threes test, start embracing the sharing economy and rent instead.

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