The “One In – One Out” Shopping Strategy – Pros and Cons

Posted by Jill Chivers in Shopping Strategies

A popular wardrobe management and shopping strategy is the “one in – one out” strategy.  This approach requires that for every new item you bring into your wardrobe, one item (usually the requirement is that it is in that same category) must leave your wardrobe.

So if you buy a new jacket, a jacket in your wardrobe must be let go of.  If you buy a new pair of shoes, an existing pair of shoes in your closet must exit stage left.  New bracelet?  You gotta let one you already have go.  And so on.

The idea behind the “one in – one out” policy is that it keeps your wardrobe at the same size it is now – it never grows, and grows, and grows, and never becomes gargantuan in size.

And I understand the logic there.

But the more I got thinking about the “one in – one out” policy, the more I could see arguments on both sides of the equation.  After all, the one in – one out strategy assumes a few things:

  • The size of your wardrobe is large enough – it should grow no larger.
  • Items you are bringing in will be better than or preferable to items you already own.

Neither of which may stand up to scrutiny.  Perhaps your wardrobe could reasonably grow.  Perhaps the items in it are perfectly fine and don’t need to be let go of.

The one in – one out strategy also presupposes that by being forced to make a choice, you may, just may, choose the existing item.  Which I like – often our existing items are great!

But here’s the thing with that:  The choice to purchase the new item was made before you were standing there in your wardrobe, weighing up this new thing, and deciding on which old or existing thing has to be sacrificed to make way for it.

So as a strategy for interrupting the hypnotic cycle of impulsive or compulsive buying – which happens in the store, pre-purchase –  it isn’t the greatest.   It’s too late.  You’ve already bought the new item.  It’s there – in your hand, or hanging on a hanger, taunting you with its presence and demanding its rightful place in your wardrobe.

The only choice you have is to return it if you stick to the one in –  one out policy.  Which may be possible, and may be a reasonable strategy.  But if the item is not returnable, then you’re forced to let go of something you may wish to keep.

I’m all for interrupting the hypnotic buying cycle before you hand over your hard earned cash or magic plastic – not after the ink has started to dry on the receipt.

And being forced to either return a new item or let go of a perfectly great item that’s earning its rightful place in your closet so you can stick to the one in – one out policy just seems like a clumsy way to manage your wardrobe and be more conscious in your shopping habits.

Of course, if you are aware enough to do a little analysis of which item has to go to  make way for this new item you are considering purchasing in store and pre-purchase, then that’s great.  If you can do that, then this strategy can work as an unconscious shopping pattern interrupter.

It’s a big if

But it’s a big “if” – for anyone who’s ever been caught in the cycle of unconscious and compulsive shopping, you know how hard and unrelenting its grip can be.  Having the wherewithal in that moment to Stop – Analyse all the items in that category in your wardrobe (which assumes you can remember them all) – then Decide which one you would happily let go of in exchange for the item you are considering purchasing …. well, it’s a big ask for one pre-purchase in-store moment, isn’t it?

And when you think about it, the one in – one out strategy could be applied, rather brutally, to other areas of one’s life, too.  If you buy a new household knick knack, one you already have must go.  If you buy a new souvenir on holidays, an old souvenir must be given away.  If you bring in a new friend, an existing one  must go.

More workable and usable strategies

There are many other more workable, more usable shopping strategies that I’d suggest you try before the one in – one out policy, many of which I’ve written about here in the Shopping Strategies category on the blog.

And of course, some of the best shopping and wardrobe management strategies are those you make up yourself!  Strategies that suit you perfectly, that are tailoured for you and your life, and how you go about shopping and using your closet.

But if you’re looking for some strategies I’ve tried and found to work well, here’s a few thought starters:

The Power Pause.  Absolutely my favourite and most used shopping strategy.  Works every single time.

Put One Back.  Another super useful, easy to remember strategy.

Pick Just One.  Similar to the one above, it’s economical and easy to apply.

The Power Questions.  Handy questions to ask about where and when you’ll where it when faced with some tantalising item that feels like it simply must be purchased.

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