piles of chargers and scissors with throw blanket in background

Inside: On almost every list of decluttering tips, you’ll find “declutter duplicates”. But what’s the heart behind the rule? And when should you break it? 

Three years ago, I sat in my kitchen sorting through all the kitchen things, trying to decide what to keep and what to declutter. 

We were preparing for another long-distance move. Every box counted. 

Little did we know that we would be forced to move by ourselves because the world shut down a month before our big move. At that point, all human contact outside our family felt like a huge risk, so we declined offers to help.  

I was fresh off my latest decluttering book binge read, where one of the recommendations stood out more than usual: get rid of duplicates.

As I sifted through the kitchen cabinets, I came across two muffin tins. Surely, we didn’t need both, right? Into the “donate” box the duplicate went.

I’m not sure what I was thinking that day. Probably: the less stuff we have, the less we have to move.

But have you ever tried to bake cupcakes or muffins with one tin? It doubles the time it takes to bake them all. And almost every recipe makes more than twelve.

I regretted that decision pretty quickly after the move – the first time I baked, to be exact. I replaced it as soon as I could. 

And it’s made me wary of hard and fast decluttering rules like “declutter duplicates” ever since. 

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stack of throw blankets on fireplace

What’s With the Whole “Declutter Duplicates” Rule, Anyway?

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Most rules start with good intentions, right? They’re usually created to make our lives easier in one way or another. 

The same is true with decluttering rules. 

Minimalists and/or decluttering experts offer some basic (minimalist) rules to help make the decluttering process faster and easier. I’ve offered a few decluttering rules myself, from time to time.

But as we know from all those spelling rules we memorized in school, there are always exceptions, sometimes enough exceptions to make you question the rule itself. 

Rules are made to be broken. 

“Declutter duplicates” can be good general decluttering advice. After all, you probably don’t need two coffee makers or three TVs, especially if the extras are gathering dust in the basement. 

We sometimes keep duplicates because we want a back-up. It makes us feel safer. What if the first/primary one breaks? 

The “declutter duplicates” rule is to prevent you from keeping back-ups for all.the.things just in case. It’s designed to make decluttering decisions easier and faster. 

So when does the duplicates rule NOT apply? When keeping said duplicates is making your life easier and better in some way. 

If you’re actually using all the duplicates, as in daily or almost daily, they’re probably worth keeping. 

(Especially if you have lots of kids who, despite all your efforts, don’t put things back where they go, OR there are multiple “homes” for certain items because you have two or more floors in your home.) 

Related: How to Declutter When You Have No Time and a Tight Budget

baking utensils and measuring cups and spoons spread out, duplicates of everything

7 Duplicates You’ll Find in Our Minimalist Home

I’ve been doing this minimalist lifestyle thing for over 7 years now, and I still have duplicates of these seven items. Maybe more? 

When I try to pare down and declutter them, I almost instantly regret it.

Even when the kids move out one day (will they ever move out in this economy?), I doubt I’ll declutter them. Having extras makes my life easier. 

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1. Throw Blankets

We live on a mountain where winter hits early in November and sticks around through the end of March, sometimes later. I’m typing this towards the end of March with icicles for fingers.

As much as I theoretically love winter, the dark cold days that go on and on and on can be a real mood killer, especially when you get half a foot of snow around St. Patrick’s Day. 

Right up there with twinkle lights, hot beverages and candlelight mimicking diffusers, cozy throw blankets are crucial to surviving winter in our house! 

But there never seems to be one in the two baskets I designate for throw blankets. I blame a two-floor house, plus kids who wear them in lieu of sweatshirts.

I also use the knit ones and quilts for decor on blanket ladders my dad made for me before he passed away. 

I’ll keep as many cozy blankets as I can, thank you very much.

2. Scissors

We own a lot of scissors. We have a couple pairs of kitchen scissors, and 3-4 extra “regular” pairs that float around the house. 

I’m seriously considering chaining a pair of scissors to the wall. I open the drawer they should be in, and it’s not there 9/10 times.

Theoretically one is supposed to stay in “mom’s drawer”, and one should live in the office supply drawer. But they get carried around the house to whatever project someone needs them for. 

And unfortunately, they don’t walk back. It’s annoying. 

In fact, while I’m out for work, I think I’ll stop at Target and grab another pair….

Related: Minimalist Kitchen Essentials – Just the Basics, According to a Minimalist 

3. Chargers

I swear, chargers have tiny invisible feet and walk off on their own. I want to glue them to the wall. 

We have a lot of devices in our family of 7, including iphones, ipads and a Nintendo switch. Then there’s things like headphones and booklights and Kindles to charge, too.

We probably have 12+ chargers for all of those things. The price we pay for modern technology, I guess. 

A couple chargers are normal length, but THESE 10’ cord chargers have been sanity-saving – truly. No more fights over the spot on the couch near the wall outlet! It’s the little things. 

We have one drawer and one main outlet where chargers should theoretically live. But again, kids (and sometimes – me).

4. Anything Baking

As the opening story suggests, baking/cooking often requires duplicates, at least it does in our house. 

Between homeschooling and working from home, all seven of us are home a lot of the time. We cook and bake frequently, so we have a lot of baking duplicates, including:

  • Spatulas
  • Muffin tins
  • Donut tins
  • Roasting pans
  • Measuring spoons/cups
  • Cookie sheets

I could go on, but you get the idea. We often will go through all of our measuring spoons in a day, even with a double set!

5. Headphones

We are a noise-sensitive household. Having anyone on two different devices in the same room? Instant recipe for blood pressure spikes and nervous system dysfunction.

The solution: headphones. Lots and lots of headphones. 

We have average headphones for kids, a few pairs of cheap earpods, and noise-canceling headphones for the most sensitive among us. 

Headphones are essential. I’ve hovered over the Amazon “Buy Now” button for the past few weeks, debating another pair.

There never seems to be enough. We will keep all the headphones.

6. Plants

So you probably can have too many plants. I’ve moved some around when I feel like the visual clutter is too much for one area.

But still, I’m a stereotypical millennial: I have a lot of plants. I like to think of them as low-maintenance pets that actually give back by cleaning the air in our home.

And some of them are duplicates. Philodendrons, Jade Pothos and ZZs are my favorites, so there are multiples of those (and I’m eying THIS one).

I’m sure I’ll hit a point where I have “enough”. But today is not that day. 

7. Tools 

Unfortunately, our house has a garage that is NOT attached to the house. Why?!

That means we have some tools that need to stay in the house, and others that live in the garage.

I use the house tools far more often than my husband does. And I confess, I’m not always super great at returning them to their “home”. 

Oh, they do have a designated home. And I try my best to return them, but sometimes the screwdriver stays on top of the piano, where I just hung the picture on the wall, o.k.?

One of my not-as-minimalist-as-I-am husband’s biggest pet peeves is when the tools aren’t there the one time he wants to use them, so we keep a couple duplicates of things like hammers and Philip’s head screwdrivers. 

scrabble board with "break the rules" mesage

Minimalism Is Nuanced: It’s Ok to Break the Rules

I hope this encourages you to make minimalism your own. Don’t just follow the rules blindly! That’s one way you end up with serious decluttering regret.  

Every home is unique. Every person is unique.

Minimalism shouldn’t look the same for everyone. If it does, well, that’s kind of cultish and weird, right?

Declutter the things that clog up your space and overwhelm you. Keep what makes sense for your unique life and your unique family. It’s that simple. 

And try not to stress too much over duplicates. 

Read Next: 21 Minimalist Habits That Will Keep Your Home Clutter-Free for Good


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