The One Year Test

The One Year Test - A Decluttering Strategy at

When I moved to Thailand after college, part of our teacher in-service was a session on culture shock. It’s a real thing, and most of us were pretty textbook in our experiences.

One thing I remember was the statement that you can’t truly adjust to a new place until you have been there for one year.

After a full calendar year, you know what to expect. You know how things work. You know what the weather feels like at Christmas and how excited people get over which sports and how bad your allergies will be at which times.

After a year, you’re not going through things for the first time anymore.

And it’s so true. Every time we’ve moved to a new town, I’ve noticed this phenomenon. In that second year, it is SO nice to know who offers swim lessons. It’s a relief to not freak out over the lack of parking at the baseball fields because you understand that it’s only the  first two games that draw every single grandparent for every single T-ball player. It’s fun to already know which neighborhoods put out the best Christmas lights so you don’t keep driving down dark streets.

I was thinking about this as I realized just exactly how many muffin pans I need when making rolls for our family Thanksgiving.

I’m the roll girl. Every year, that’s what I make. Usually, they’re from scratch. This year, they weren’t. (But they were those amazing frozen kind that taste as good as homemade!)

But whatever kinds of rolls I make, I need four muffin pans. (Obviously, rolls are a favorite!)

Realizing this, I felt excessively justified. When decluttering kitchen cabinets in the past, I know I have stressed over that age-old question: “Just how many muffin pans does one woman need??”

Who cares about one woman? We’re talking about me.

Here’s the thing. I’ve read advice about how I should ask myself whether I’ve used something in the last three or six months when I’m decluttering.

But I resisted that question because I knew in my Slob Heart that something was wrong with it.

Realizing I have a real, arguable, justifiable reason to have four muffin pans helped me see what was wrong.

Not every scenario comes up in three months. Or even six months.

But passing through an entire calendar year means you’ve passed through ALL of the basics. Sure, some things don’t happen yearly, but most do. 

Now I’m most definitely NOT saying I should wait and start decluttering after I’ve let a year go by. 

(Oh my word. Not that.)

But, when I’ve answered my two decluttering questions and still have that nagging “But I know I use this!” feeling . . . I have a new question I can add:

Do I use this at least once a year?

I have a spot where I store plastic Easter eggs and baskets. I have a place for Halloween buckets. Sometimes, I feel guilty knowing they are taking up space only to be used once a year.

But on those once-a-year days, it is SUCH a relief to know I don’t have to run out and buy new Easter baskets. (How does Easter always fall just before payday??) And the more I pitch the stuff that doesn’t pass the Two Decluttering Questions Test, there really is room to store once-a-year items.

Tips for using this strategy without staring into space for hours on end:

List the holidays.

We celebrate (at least to some degree) Valentine’s Day, Easter, 4th of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. And birthdays. I actually thought of birthdays first since mine’s in January, but it’s not really a holiday. (Yet . . .)

Or the months.

January, February, you-know-the-rest.

The key for me will be asking “Do I use ______?” instead of “Would/could/should I use ______?”

Oh, how I love woulds, coulds, and shoulds.  Mmm-hmmm.

But those words are my enemy. I have to stick to the facts. If I ask “Do I”, I will be able to rest easily as I place an item in the Donate Box and wave goodbye because the answer was “I don’t.”

Still worried? Here’s some “good” news: Decluttering never ends.

If St. Patrick’s Day rolls around and I realize that I mistakenly threw out all of our green socks . . . now I’ll know. And the next time I declutter, I WILL remember not to throw out the newly purchased must-have green socks.

(We don’t wear green socks on St. Patrick’s Day. It’s an example.)

Along those lines, if I’m re-decluttering after a year and run across something I kept but never used . . . it’s ever-so-much easier to pitch it the next time around.

Have you ever been through culture shock?





  1. 1

    I like the one year rule. I’ve always had a variation of that, asking the question: If I get rid of this now am I going to buy another one next year? Easter baskets, halloween candy bowl, a springform pan, pie plates all fall into that area. I never ever make pie … EXCEPT at Christmas. At Christmas everyone expects me to bring pie. So my choices are to buy new pie plates every year, use throwaway ones (which I’m mostly against), or find a place to store my pretty pie plates and realize that this is one of my “execeptions” to the decluttering rule.

    • 2
      Sheryl Moe says:

      I had to laugh when I read “springform pan”! That is the item I think about every time I read about decluttering and asking yourself if you’ve used it in the last year. I bought one many (like over 15) years ago with plans of making something. Never made it and I’ve never used that pan. Time to get rid of it?? Haha!

  2. 3
    Susan in England says:

    I’ve never been happy with the six month rule either, precisely because it doesn’t take account of seasonal variations or, when it comes to clothes, variations within the seasons. Should I get rid of warm weather clothes just because the last summer wasn’t very good and I didn’t get to wear certain items? Even if we could afford it, it’s a waste to throw something away knowing we’ll need it or something similar next year. Maybe it’s an item which only gets used when we have guests and it just so happens that we haven’t had guests in the last year or so. What is important is that we have a home for those items which are only used periodically and that they are not lying around cluttering up the place. And that we are decluttering as we go, according to the rules which are appropriate for us.

  3. 4

    Once a year (at Christmas) I make large amounts of fudge (we made 60 lbs this year). It’s really helpful to have six 9×13 inch pans when making the fudge. But I can’t justify keeping that many in my house. I’ve found friends are more than willing to let me borrow the pans for a couple days. It keeps my pan count down, but still allows for the once a year scenario.

  4. 6

    Ahhh. As a military spouse, I do not fall under the minimalist & thoroughly declutter prior to moving category. I fall into, almost every move we’ve added a child/ moved with a newborn or infant category. It’s actually somewhat convenient to move every time our family grows – it makes for a natural shift in sleeping arrangements with the kids. :).

    We are in the beginning of our 3rd year in the same home (a record in our 9 years of marriage!) and I am finally getting to decluttering tasks. I’ve found saving things like closet organizers and curtains are handy and I have a hard time getting rid of that stuff even after a year because “I may want it in our next home.” I have made the jump and gotten rid of a few pieces of furniture that we’re no longer serving us well. I’m learning to pare down the kids wardrobes. I’m looking forward to purging baby gear and maternity/postpartum/ baby clothing over the next year. (Just had baby #4 & not planning on more). I like the “have I use this in a year?” However, like the previous commenter, I tend to also ask “am I likely to repurchase this in the (relatively) near future?

    Decluttering is hard. Thank you, Nony, for your posts. Many resonate loudly with me as I am on a journey to edit our belongings down a bit at a time. I thought I decluttered our Christmas decorations and ornaments last year, but as we pulled them out this year I realize there’s another level of items I can probably get rid of this time around. It really is never-ending!

  5. 7

    I love the one-year decluttering question! That’s been my biggest problem with other people who are trying to teach decluttering and getting your home in order. I do have things stashed wherever I can fit them that I only use once a year…and I’m not getting rid of them. I don’t care if I don’t have room for them. Once I get rid of the other stuff I really don’t use or need, I probably still won’t have room, but I’ll still have more space cleared for them. Of course having my Barbie doll closets made into real, human size closets would help, too. 😀

  6. 8

    I go by the 6 month and a year and sometimes I come across stuff that I don’t even remember having and I’m like if it’s not important enough for me to remember then why do I have it or need it? (Unless it’s expensive)

  7. 9

    To answer the question at the end of your post, yes I have been through culture shock. I have had the privilege to have experienced several different cultures around the world but I’d have to say that the strongest culture shock I have experienced was definitely in Thailand. I’m not sure that it was the culture itself so much as the way that I was introduced to it, but I for sure know the meaning of culture shock. 😉

  8. 11

    I agree regarding culture shock. Oh dear. That first Christmas was different. The one year mark was a huge relief.

    And a totally agree regarding decluttering. There is no shame is one-year only items, just as long as you can make a little cabinet space for it. If you have no room to hang your clothes because of so many Christmas boxes, you might want you to rethink how much you’re keeping. 🙂

    (And the frozen rolls are awesome. No shame.)

  9. 12

    you seen the “how I met your mother ” ? Ted says the same thing about one year. lol . I wish you could come to my house and help me. lol

  10. 13

    I use the one year test with the once a year rule. If I use something once a year, but every year it is worth my storing it. And I love bragging to my thrifty husband, “You know how long I’ve had that tablecloth?”
    The one year test is especially good for “nice” dishes. I had many really pretty little “nice” dishes, but in honesty I never chose to use them. Parties and holidays came and went and I never used the crystal relish try, and my cut work bowls would stay wrapped up in the hutch. They were pretty but not to my taste and not large enough for our get togethers. Letting them go freed up space for the pieces I really use.
    I especially loved the comment left by Jackie about getting some pans from friends or neighbors. I have 3 sisters and we collect what we need for each holiday- cuts down on what we have to store.

  11. 14

    This makes me think of my turkey platter. I do not host Thanksgiving in our home every year. But when I do, I really need that turkey platter. It may only be used once every few years, but it earns a place in storage.

  12. 15

    I moved from South Florida to Kansas and in that way, I experienced culture shock! I need to start this process room by room in the new year! My tupperware is a mess and I don’t use it that much (or maybe things are so disorganized I avoid it??) 🙂 Thanks for posting this!

    • 16

      I used to have a hodgepodge mess of food storage containers. A few years ago I read an idea and it has worked beautifully. I purchased the Ziploc brand semi-disposable containers. They are all the same and fit together well in the cabinets. When I am sending leftovers with someone I don’t stress about getting my containers back b/c they are cheap and easily replaceable. They occasionally break and I throw them away. All of the lids fit each other and they stack well in the fridge and freezer. It has been a great answer for us here.

  13. 17

    This is a good idea. It’s the same principle my aunt applied to her clothes – and some clothing changes throughout the year, especially up north where she lives. So, you really don’t wear some things more than a couple times a year, maybe once if it’s holiday specific.

    I also put some kitchen gadgets in a box in the garage for awhile (longer than the suggested 6 months). I marked it clearly so I knew what was in it. If I don’t use something in there for a year or two, probably I can get along just fine without it and can honestly say “I don’t use this.” I did have to go get a few things back out of that box, but there are things in there that I need to get rid of! 🙂 I can’t even remember most of what’s in there, which is a big clue.

  14. 18
    unmowngrass says:

    Forgive me if I’m speaking out of turn here, but the elephant in the room for this post seemed to me to be, why do you need to bake four trays worth of buns in one go? Why couldn’t you ditch two of the pans and do two batches? (or ditch three and do four batches, but I expect there are probably occasions where you might need two trays of cakes/muffins/etc?)

    If the answer to that is “so they’re all hot at the same time” or something, then don’t mind me.

    My other thought was, even if you need to keep four muffin tins, do you need to keep them all in the same cabinet? Could you pack a couple away with the Christmas decs if you truly only use it then? Or maybe break off a separate kitchen cabinet for the ‘extras’ needed for catering for large numbers (in case you decide to bring rolls to an Easter family meal or something one year)? You could keep extra plates/glasses/etc there too. Just a thought.

    • 19
      Mattie Mae says:

      I like the idea of packing the extras away with decorations if that is the only time of the year they’re used, especially in the instances of bulky things like casserole dishes, and platters. I do that with my Christmas dishes. However, since muffin pans stack neatly together, I’d probably just keep them all together.

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