One is Enough:mini mission

As you pare down your wardrobe, box up your clutter, and give away your stuff, you try to figure out what is enough. After all, if you could determine that, you could be happy with less. If you could determine that, you could spend your time doing things you love, instead of taking care of things you have. Instead of slowly working your way down, this mini-mission takes things to the next level, and asks you to consider that one is enough.

After only two weeks of minimalist fashion project 333, I can clearly see that one purse is enough. One pair of sunglasses is enough. One necklace is enough and one bracelet is enough (usually more than enough), but what about things like dishes and cups?  Just because you can walk into Target and buy 44 cups for $4.00, doesn’t mean you should. Pens are cheap, but do you really need 10 or more in a jar on your desk. And why, if you start with 10, do you always have none by the end of the week? If you only had one, would you take better care of it?

For this mini-mission, create a kit for yourself. One dish, one cup, one bowl, one pen…you get the idea. Whatever you would typically use more than one of each day, cut it down to one. Challenge the idea that one is enough. This might be a weekend experiment or maybe longer. You might find that one is not enough or that one is actually too much.

Bonus Mission: Make it a family affair. Will your husband, wife or children join you? See how it changes things in your family. Your dishwasher won’t be running much!

I am putting my kit together tonight and it will contain:

  • 1 glass
  • 1 dish
  • 1 bowl
  • 1 teacup
  • 1 fork
  • 1 spoon
  • 1 knife
  • 1 pen

Now that I am 3 months post my cosmetic obsession confession, I am also ready to apply the one is enough to make-up for a little while…

  • 1 sunscreen/lotion
  • 1 foundation
  • 1 concealer
  • 1 blush
  • 1 eye shadow
  • 1 eye liner
  • 1 mascara
  • 1 lipstick – just kidding, I’m not ready for that!

What’s on your one is enough list? What will not be appearing on your list? Are you going to think about this mini-mission or take action?

For more experiments to simplify your life, read Mini-missions for Simplicity. It’s available on the Amazon Kindle store, but you don’t need a Kindle to read it. Kindle books can also be read using the Free Kindle Reader App for your Web Browser, PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, BlackBerry, or Android.


  1. shannon says

    “challenge the idea that one is enough.” This is a little confusing. Maybe you mean, “Challenge the idea that more than one is necessary”?

  2. Courtney Carver says

    Hi Shannon, I think either way works. Just depends on how you are approaching the idea. Are you going to try it?

  3. says

    Hey! Love your ideas! I would “officially” start the 333 Project but for the past 9 months (once my baby belly grew out of jeans and since the pregnancy) I’ve been having less than 33 things in my wardrobe (at least that I wear). But I like this idea a lot. I’ve been pondering making a kit myself with my spork/knife, my stainless steel water bottle, my stainless steel coffee cup (or a ceramic one since I reheat a lot of apple cider or coffee), a bowl, a small plate, a cloth napkin, a glass straw (can you tell I’m trying to also be plastic-free), and a couple of other items. I think I’m going to have to post on my own blog now! lol.

    That said, I also have posted about bottles and babies. You mentioned making it a family affair and my daughter only uses 3 bottles (lately a few more because I’ve gotten lazy in cleaning) for all of her formula. So I guess I’m saying that I commend you in challenging people to involve their families (it truely is possible even if you formula feed!).

    • Rebecca Strong says

      I really like this idea. I get the one pen idea; it is so true, I never have a pen at work.People “borrow” them and never bring them back. If I only had one, they couldn’t borrow it. Love the idea of simplifying my life,great idea!!

  4. says

    I have to admit I was scared you wanted me to commit to drinking just one cup of coffee a day and I’m not sure I could do that. :-) Challenging our current way of thinking is the only way we accomplish change. Nice post!

  5. says

    We are moving and I’ve left my closet for last…I wonder why? LOL I’m going to pare down today. I was only thinking about it before. I don’t want to move things to my new space that I don’t wear or need. Wonderful post!

  6. SueEllen says

    I have had only one pen for 13 months. Before I did this I could never find a pen. I was always losing them. I decided I was going to have one pen only and re-train myself to put it in the same spot every time. I was able to do it! I always know where my pen is. I love only having one pen!

  7. bunny says

    I love this! I have a cosmetics obsession as well. It seems I have a “home” kit, and a “purse” cosmetics kit. My background is in upper level Retail Management, and we always had to be dressed “just so”. We would buy all new clothes on our breaks if we had a “bad outfit” day. Each suit I own has a “special” shoe that makes it “pop”. Now that I am not living that “lifestyle”, I find that looking like a runway model every day is really over kill. Also, our obsession with dressing differently every day, or not wearing the same outfit twice creates a lot of LAUNDRY, and no one really cares. (I left retail 5 years ago – and am finally parting with my uber-kewl wardrobe.)It took me a while to face the reality that my wardrobe needs were now minimal. If people at my new warehouse job care about superficial things like what color of shirt I wear every day rather than the merit of my work, something is AMISS!

  8. says

    I am going to move next month from a 3000 sf house to about a 1000 sq house. Going to have to be doing a lot of deciding as you describe in your blog. Although it is scary and challenging to let go of so much, I am looking forward to simplifying, minimizing and as you say “doing things I love” instead of “taking care of things I have.”

    • says

      It is my goal as well to scale down to a smaller space…………….I love alot of the ides they present!!!!!!!!!!! Just having the courage to do it!!!!!!!! I also like the positive feel they present to get you started,the comments they give also give you the reason for do this and it really works. (pets are what I am having difficulty with!!!!!!!!!! I adopt to many…..I have been trying half heartedly to find good homes………..but that has not worked so far,so I figure that is a sign they are what I need to care for……….and I do love the little guys, or all that is here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). Good luck with your move!!!!!!!!!! (smile)

    • Ro says

      We went from 2000 sq ft loft to a 700 sq ft condo. We have gotten so good at paring down scaling back, and becoming true minimalists that we still have plenty of space. You can do it!

  9. bunny says

    We have contemplated the “Dish Kit” idea at our house just to cut down on dirty dishes. Before dishwashing machines were widely used, people had a “set” of dishes on the drying rack. You would simply wash your cup, bowl, spoon the moment you got to the sink, and put your dishes on the rack. We have thought of “Sharpie-ing” 1 set of dishes for each person by labeling them with our names. That “kit” is then all you get, and it’s your responsibility to keep those clean. (Requires washing dishes by hand. But, less overall loading and unloading) * I want to create the optimal minimalist house design. Getting rid of the dishwashing machine can create more room for other things, like recycling bins under the counter. I keep an entire set of dishes just for Holidays or large parties. Does anyone have solutions for that? Paper plates at Thanksgiving?

    • says

      When our extended family gathered for holiday dinners during my childhood, the women in the family would bring their china/silverware/glasses to the house of the hostess so there would be enough to serve everyone. It was hardly a minimalist affair :-) but the idea of BYODishes might work. Beats putting paper plates in the landfill!

      • says

        Excellent idea! On the Island of Roatan, we regularly get together for pot-luck dinners. Everyone brings a dish of some sort and the utensils to serve it. Not uncommon to also bring your own chair, and whatever else the host has a limited quantity of.

  10. MichMich says

    SueEllen, I did the same thing about a year ago, I went through all my pens and chose my absolute favorite and gave the rest away. (It’s a Pilot G2 Limited in Champagne in case anyone else is a pen & stationary freak like me.)
    While this has made my life a lot easier and simpler, an added bonus is when people try to stop by my desk to “borrow” a pen. When I had a bunch of pens everyone would do this and rarely would anyone return it. Plus the fact that over time I noticed that people would leave papers that they had signed on the edge of my desk for hours at a time, or they would put their empty coffee cup down and then walk away never to return. As a minimalist this was highly annoying, so now I get this little surge of passive-aggressive pleasure when I can say, “Oh, this pen? Sorry but it’s my only one and I am using it right now.”

  11. bunny says

    Lipstick colors are an issue. But, how did women get stuck with all these “Fashion Expectations”? Do we have to be constantly morphing or ageless to be validated? (YES!) Given that I can really “turn up the volume” with a glamour-shots full makeover (as needed), people often ask me if I’m tired when I don’t do the whole “work-up”…. It’s like, “Am I the cover-shot?” Becuz, if not, NO. I am comfortable looking like myself on a daily basis. Men go sans make-up every day, and they are comfortable with how they look.

  12. says

    Hi, You are so spot on about the pen. At work I have only one. It is hot pink and I just get refills for it. I have been using it without losing it or having it disappear for 4 years. One is good. Thanks for all the advice.

  13. shannon says

    It seems as if you set up a system where everybody in the household had a “kit” of dishes, it would make things harder, not easier. Right now we stack the plates on top of each other, and likewise the bowls. Cups are stacked inside each other too. If everybody had a kit and kept their kit together, all the stuff would take up more space I think.

    Also, if you pare your dishes down to one set per person, what do you do when you have people over?

    It’s definitely possible to have too many dishes, etc, but paring it down to one kit per person in the household doesn’t seem very practical to me. I don’t have a dishwasher, either, and I just use the dishes in the drying rack over and over as one commenter suggested.

  14. says

    Ohhh, I like this one! Let me see, I already keep it pretty simple but admit I have somehow acquired way more than I need drinking glasses. I have plastic ones with blue fish on them, glass ones with a pattern etched in the side, and a few jam jar ones that I figured I would need. By the end of the day there is an assortment of them stacked high on the kitchen counter waiting to be washed. The ones at the back of the cupboard are never used and just collect dust. So I think I should take this down to just one. Much easier.

    The one item that I cannot give up having multiples of is also made of glass…my reading glasses. I have a pair next to the bed, on the kitchen counter (can’t set the temperature on the oven without them), next to my computer, and a pair in my one and only little purse. I can’t read a darn thing without them, and fear losing even one pair. I guess I should consider bifocals :)

  15. says

    Awesome, awesome idea. As a college student, I use a bunch of plastic utensils and cups and bowls, and I really feel bad about throwing them all away after I use them. It’s just a huge waste. I think I’m going to try to get just one of each of these items and see how it goes. Thanks for the great idea!

  16. says

    I have been following the one of each cosmetic rule for about 3 years now – it is good for the budget and good for keeping the bathroom clutter down. I am pretty strict about it too. I do not allow myself to buy a new item unless the previous item is used up or expired. This is true even if I am not 100% happy with my choice of color or brand.

    We do not buy multiples of things like shampoo, lotion, toothpaste, floss, etc… People always ask us what we would do if we ran out of one of these items. The answer is simple, since we don’t have multiple products in rotation at the same time, it is easy to tell if we are getting low. If that is the case, we just put it on the grocery list for the week. We usually only have a day or two overlap on the products. And once in a great while when we do run out, we make do for the day or two before the grocery shop. This makes sense to me, but boggles a lot of my friends and family – especially my mother.

    As for the one bowl, one spoon, etc, it is something we have been tying to institute in our house for awhile now. It was working for awhile, but we had a birthday party for my son (cake mess, followed by unexpected company afterward, and a crazy busy week. The system, which had been working beautifully, went by the wayside. We are about to start it up again. It was so nice when we did not have to load and unload the dishwasher all the time and the dishes were so much cleaner than they had been when we wee using our )rental apartment) dishwasher. We kept our excess dishes in an under cabinet for company. It was not that difficult to pull out the extra dishes and silverware we needed. We had lots of space in the under cabinets because we also cut down on our pots, pans, and other cookware.

    Next, I institute the one pen rule.

  17. George Stinson says

    Courtney, the solution for one pen is to purchase the most expensive
    One can afford. A Mont Blanc ballpoint pen cost about $400.00
    And I doubt you would consider loaning it out plus you just would
    not set it a forget it. Expensive lesson. This carries over to cups
    and other items everyone has a favorite item. Start using it! Great article

  18. JLouise says

    I just recently found your blog, via rowdy kittens perhaps, and am enjoying and being inspired by your posts.

    One is most certainly enough for many things. I’ve had one pair of sunglasses (the same pair) for the last 10 years and recently went through my jewelry parring down to just a few items (I pretty much wear only hoops so why have so many other items?) I had the same intention for the kitchen but decided to go with the number 6 instead of 1, that way I would have dinnerware available for the occasional guest, but as I go through my typical day I will only use one cup, not use up all six and then wash them.

    Per lipstick…..A few years ago I had 17! I took them all out and compared them, finding they were pretty much all a variation of the same color. Now I just have one, saves me time and money.

    Thanks for the great site!

  19. Melissa says

    Re: The dish kit. I read in a magazine once that a family had each family member decorate a drinking glass, plate, bowl, etc. with their own personal design. Thereafter, each member was responsible for keeping his/her dishes washed. I always thought it was a neat idea. In my own house, I’m considering getting a different color of fiestaware for each person.

  20. says

    I am going to pare down to one toothbrush. I have one in each of the 3 bathrooms in the house (and I think everyone else in the family does too). There are 6 toothbrushes in my powder room alone (only 3 live here !?!). My one toothbrush will be kept upstairs in the master bath. I have one in the main floor powder room because I am too lazy to walk upstairs during the day. I am banning everyone else from brushing their teeth downstairs. It’s so embarrassing when company comes over and there is toothpaste splattered on the mirror.
    I am going now to get everyone to pick one toothbrush to keep and the rest are going in the garbage (I am also throwing out all the toothbrushes that I have kept for cleaning *someday*)

  21. Roxane says

    I love the idea of a dish kit for each person. I have to say that although I love cooking, I hate doing dishes! I could see how this idea would keep things moving and keep me from having a sink full of dishes to wash every time I turn around. I am enjoying your blog. Thanks!

  22. says

    First: thanks for another challenging post!

    I’m decluttering for a few months now, and I already got rid of a lot of duplicates (or ehm, ‘multiplicates’). I also gave away a *lot* of pens some months ago. Now I use three, because that seems to works for me. On in my purse, one by my bedside, and one in the living room. I may end up with one over time, don’t know yet. I too found that it’s a lot harder to lose them now, and enjoy using them more. I’m not a cosmetics person, and realised by reading this that I am following the one-is-enough-rule here without knowing. I have one item of the things I use. It keeps the morning ritual simple. But the one-bowl-and-such isn’t for me, yet.

    I’ll go back to just one flavour of tea for a while. For me, that’s challenging enough, as I have tons of flavours :). I keep (kept?) buying more, while feeling a little guilty that some pretty expensive ones just sit there in my kitchen… Was I trying to buy away that nagging feeling? I don’t know.

    I’m still decluttering, so I may find more stuff I put on my one-is-enough-list.

  23. says

    Yes! This is what I needed to hear. I get so caught up in the BJs/Costco trend that I forget it’s OKAY to just use ONE. Especially living in a one-person (2-dog) household, I should be able to accomplish this. Thank you!

  24. says

    Getting my daughter down to even three of anything would be a miracle. Me, too, on a lot of stuff. If I were on the road, then one is plenty. But at home, I enjoy having my lip balm by my bed, by the couch, and in my purse. I am an office supply geek too, and only one pen?? Horrors!

    Great challenge. This is making me rethink what I really need versus what I think I just want.

  25. says

    I’m going to do it with my make up, although there may be two colorways of eye shadow and a couple of lipsticks…but do I need four mascaras?!

  26. says

    Hey Courtney!

    One is *totally* enough!

    Did you find getting rid of stuff is so much more difficult than acquiring it, both psychologically and practically?

    Good Vibes~

    • says

      Hi Vic – great question. Letting it go is much easier. It definitely takes a mindset shift, but once that happens, it actually becomes challenging to purchase things you need!

  27. Paula says

    Hi Courtney,
    I have been following for only a couple of weeks but this is actually my first time writing a comment! I really enjoy your posts and hearing about other people’s opinions on minimalism.
    I’m so down for this new challenge. Though i’ve been kinda slowly transitioning to a life of minimalism, i love your tips and hear about mew ideas on how to make our lives more meaningful with less. I do actually use one pen at work and hold it dearly! :)
    Make up is something i have given up as well (one foundation, one blush, one mascara and even one lipstick!). Although i have a couple of chapsticks with me. :) Can’t help it!
    I’ll definitely try the kitchen challenge this week!
    I look forward to your posts! Have a great week!

  28. says

    :) I did this (mostly) when my daughter (4th child) was born…With the boys-I had multiple sippee cups/lids/inserts…always lost then found all stinky….

    With the little one~ I vowed to only have ONE cup for her. I ALWAYS know where it is. We take better care of it as it is the ONLY one.

    I am LOVING living like this—although I am admittedly a work in progress. :)

  29. says

    The one-is-enough philosophy is excellent, and I should try harder to adopt it. I tend to have extras of many items “just in case”, but not really needed, and if “just in case” ever happens, I can always go out and buy another at that time.

    When it comes to tableware, some people are concerned with entertaining. Within the RV-ing community, of which I am a part, it is customary for mealtime guests to bring their own place setting. This arrangement works well, as nobody needs to have a cupboard full of dishes, and at the end of the meal, everyone takes their dirties home to wash so the host isn’t left with a sinkful.

  30. Layla says

    Interesting! And definitely thought-provoking!

    Ooh, our pens live in magic land where they multiply and disappear magically too…!! so, hm?
    (just found 2 I missed awfully for a month or more in the last few days :))

    Not sure how doable that would be, but I can see the appeal.. :)

  31. Libby says

    After reading your “Power of One” post, I wanted to read through the comments again. I immediately took up the challenge of one pen. I liked it so much that I gave away all the other pens I had on my desk. I don’t miss them at all. Now to work on all those pretty colored markers that I rarely use….

    One lipstick? Today you inspired me to cancel my order for a great deal on a lipstick/lipgloss/lip pencil deal I was ready to purchase. I may not get to one lipstick, but I certainly don’t need to add to what I already have. Like you, makeup is my downfall.

    Thanks for your inspirational ideas and mini-missions.

  32. says

    I love the idea of one is enough. I have thought about doing that before, cause right now my kitchen is filled with plates, cups and other stuff I don’t need. I am only one person so I don’t really need 10 cups even if I have friends over.

    As for purses I think two is enough : one bigger for everyday and one small clutch for when you want to go out.

    As for jewels I don’t think I could have just one necklace. I need at least 5 :p

    But I really enjoy you posts :) I’m going to put some of your tips to use.

  33. says

    This is a hard challenge for me because I just started, but I am going to go through my make up right now and toss the extra stuff that are duplicates. Thanks for your advice!

  34. Bunny Girl says

    I can’t wait until my garage sale at the end of this month. I will be unloading all miss matched sets of dishes, including platters for serving that I don’t ever use because they are too big to mess with washing.
    I hope that I can get us down to the one set for the four of us that fits so well we don’t need any other dishes.
    And won’t that help with the chore of washing them!

  35. Kim says

    Great idea. I’m left-handed, and many pens just don’t feel nice to write with because I push the nib, rather than pull it. So a few years ago I bought a lovely and *expensive* Waterman fountain pen which I just love. I found some gorgeous fushia ink for it, and that is the only one I use at home. I feel good every time I use it. Hmm, maybe I might try drinking glasses next …

  36. Tonya says

    Bathroom towels! I was noticing how ratty most of my towels were looking and dreaded the cost of buying new sets- they are SOO expensive! AH HA! Why do I have to have so many? I’ve recently pared down to two per person and stashed enough extra for weekend guests in the linen closet. I decided, why have to launder so many (the pile seems only to grow, never to shrink)? and also why wear out a bunch when I can throughly use up one favorite color/size at a time? As for the other ratty towels that didn’t make the cut-my husband is enjoying the new supply of rags for the garage!

    • Dana says

      Tonya, it’s like you read my mind! I will pull all “rag-worthy” linen and make do with all “bathroom worthy” linen. I don’t think anyone will stop being my friend if I do not have the perfect fluffy sets out at all times. I’m going to stop ‘watching out’ for linen sales & go down to 3 sets of sheets (so one is always clean for pop-in guests). I think there will be an empty shelf in my linen closet soon! Thanks for your comment, Tonya- IT MOTIVATED ME!!!!

  37. Lena says

    When my brother lived alone, he owned one plate. He would have to wash it whenever he wanted to use it, but there was always AT MOST one plate in the sink. When I got new dishes, I offered him my 15-20 old ones, and he accepted thinking that his girlfriend might prefer that he had more dishes. Within weeks he was complaining to me that he always had a sink full of dirty plates.
    So I think I’m going to go home right now, and pack up all but 2 plates, and 2 bowls, and 2 glasses, and put the rest in the basement, and see if I feel lighter, or if I miss them.

  38. Moe says

    I had to practice this a couple of months ago when I came over to Japan to study abroad! When you’re only allowed 2 50lb. suitcases it really makes you think about how many of each thing you really need. Most things I ended up being able to bring only one or none of, so I’ve been using one bowl I bought, one pair of chopsticks, and one set of Western cutlery I brought with me. Also, one small cup for tea, but that doesn’t really work for regular drinks so I need to go out and get a real cup plus a plate to eat sandwiches off of.
    It does do wonders, though, since if I want to eat I usually have to have something clean to eat off of/with!

  39. Chris says

    I love this article. Recently a friend commented that my lipstick was pretty — I laughed and then had to explain that I only have the one so I was glad she liked it. It’s so true that we often only need one!

  40. Lord Metroid says

    I think only having one plate and one bowl may be a problem, I always use a tableknife for slicing butter for the greasing the skillet. One extra pair of choppsticks per foodtype(to avoid cross-contamination of bacteria and parasites) to turn and swirl the food while it is being cooked or fried, extra plates to the crumbing or for storing the food overnight in the fridge.

    One of each seems awfully impractical.

  41. Sarah says

    I came across your blog today, as I am just starting to think more about becoming minimalist. Right now there is so much trash in our apartment and I can not handle it, but since I have some ADD, its hard to start. I want to start the most on the kitchen and the closet, so I love this list. I think though two would probably be more efficient for me, and my husband, so we will take our plates down to four total of each, as well as going back to the set of 12 silverware we had. Having so much is overwhelming to me. We got married 4 months ago, and got a lot of things for our kitchen, and bathroom. But the Kitchen is always a mess, and I find I do not like it, and hate cleaning it. So giving away a lot of what we have, and putting some stuff we don’t want to part with right now in storage would be a very good thing for us. We are in a 850 sq foot 2 bed 1 bath apartment, and I want to go smaller to a 550 sq foot 1 bedroom next year so going through this minimalist mindset thing. And I really feel I can always get my husband to follow our rule of “always trying things once” to see how it goes, and this I really feel we can do.

    Maybe right now its not the 1 is enough thing, but we can go more minimal, and be able to do more with less.

  42. Connie says

    Courtney, I enjoyed reading this post and the many comments. I have read a few of your previous posts but just recently commented on your July 3, 2012 post – Reject the Alure of Stuff. I have been preparing to move from Michigan to Arizona for over the last year by donating household items to chariety and by NOT buying anything new that isn’t essential. I am now 29 days away from moving day!!! I’ve had one rummage sale and plan to have another immediatley prior to moving. I am only taking what I can fit in the trunk of my car and the backseat. It is quite a challenge for me but it has been so exciting! Most everyone I tell thinks I’m crazy. I’ve put many, many hours into sorting and planning. This post titled One is Enough really put things in perspective. I’ve thought of limiting plates, bowls and cups to one per person (myself, two minor daughers, 2 visiting college aged sons) but is that going too far??? In my heart I knew it wasn’t but it’s great to find a community of people who share my view. This last week’s challenge was getting my printed photos organized and ready for the move (protected from the temperature changes of the car). Next week’s challenge is the book shelf and my clothes closet (time to get rid of the set of “skinny clothes”). Oh, I decided to keep my collection of DVD movies by putting the DVDs into paper sleeves and recycling the plastic cases. It was a compromise that was right for ME.


  1. […] So to get myself ‘in the zone’ for future frugal endeavors…I found this great blog called ‘be more with less – life on purpose“.  In one of her posts she has a mini-mission challenge to create a kit for yourself. One dish, one cup, one bowl, etc.  Anyone that’s done any tent/backwoods camping understands this concept…and in the spirit of my frugal Monday posts…I’m willing to play along. To read the entire post from Courtney Carvers blog, click here. […]

  2. […] I’m afraid I’ll have to buy it again. Face this fear by looking at what you use on a daily basis. Most likely, you own much more than you actually use. If you do need to use a special gardening tool once in a blue moon, borrow it or buy it when you need it. Don’t save it “just in case”. You might also keep multiples of things because you are afraid you will lose the one you use. Trust yourself to take care of a few pens, or spoons, or lipsticks and replace when you need to. Even better, try to use just one. […]