Minimalism 101: One Thing a Day

I’ve been working really hard in the evenings and on weekends for the past year to generate extra income to pay off my debt. It’s worked! I’m now only two months from having the entire $38,000 eradicated (I had the same amount as Michelle). Now that I’ve pretty much got my debt in the bag,…


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Last Updated: August 16, 2022

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I’ve been working really hard in the evenings and on weekends for the past year to generate extra income to pay off my debt. It’s worked!

I’m now only two months from having the entire $38,000 eradicated (I had the same amount as Michelle). Now that I’ve pretty much got my debt in the bag, I’ve resolved to make a little more time for myself and spend less time side hustling and writing.

Since I’ve had a bit of extra free time in the evenings and on weekends, I’ve been on a huge minimalizing kick and becoming a minimalist.

I’ve let things pile up around here, and without the time to address it, it has been driving me crazy.

The problem is, once I start cleaning and eradicating clutter, I sometimes get carried away and before I know it, half of my house is torn apart, and I’ve been so busy flitting from one project to the next that I haven’t been able to actually get rid of anything. Maybe it’s the millennial in me, but when I’m at home, sometimes I have a hard time concentrating on just one project, and completing it, before moving on to the next thing that catches my eye.


One Thing a Day helps You Focus

So, I’ve adopted the “One thing a day” rule. With this rule, I still get to indulge in my minimalism kick, but I don’t get overwhelmed by it all. I pick one thing, and tackle that. Once I’m done, I’m done. It could be anything, from a project as small as organizing the medicine cabinet to some more significant.

Yesterday, was the weekend, so I picked a fairly significant project, one that has been nagging at me for over a year. My entertainment unit was where I chucked all of my electronic crap when I first moved in, and it’s remained a snarled tangle of cords and CDs ever since.

Even though the door was closed and I couldn’t see it, I knew it was there, that mess. It mocked me, and I longed to do something about it, but never had the time. Last night, I picked it as my one project. I removed everything, eliminated about 50% of the contents, and put it all back in an orderly fashion. I made it function as a storage space that actually served a day-to-day purpose.


One Thing a Day Keeps You from Being Overwhelmed

Tackling one thing per day helps keep things in perspective, and you move towards your goals without getting burned out or losing interest.

You won’t avoid it, because it’s not a huge project, it’s just one thing – it’s easy, and depending on the size of the project, could take as little a five minutes.

The “one thing per day” doesn’t just pertain to minimalism. This strategy can be applied to all sorts of ongoing projects or interests you want to take on. Whether it’s exercising, learning a language, paying off debt, or just plain getting stuff done that you’ve been putting off, resolving to tackle one project – any project – per day can be a great way to get a ton of stuff accomplished, while never feeling overwhelmed, frustrated or exhausted.

Since I’ve started using this “one thing per day” rule, I’ve been able to accomplish all sorts of stuff. I’ve started running regularly again, I’ve managed to keep my house clean without letting the dishes or laundry pile up, and I’ve organized and gotten rid of bags upon bags of stuff that had been cluttering up my life.

Honestly, it’s felt great, and I’m really happy that I’ve had the time to be able to do it.

If you could pick one thing per day to accomplish, what would you do?


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Author: Jordann

Jordann is a part time runner, yogi, local foodie and personal finance aficionado. She’s also a full time marketing professional living and working in Atlantic Canada. She writes about her life at her blog, My Alternate Life.

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  1. The Norwegian Girl

    I have one thing I want to accomplish this weekend, and that´s re-organizing the bookcase which is filled with old books, dvds, and alcohol:p Seriously need to do something with that ASAP!

  2. charles@gettingarichlife

    One thing I force myself to do daily is to read at least three articles no matter how busy I get. It sometimes gets hard but well worth it.

  3. Barbara

    I had a similar electronic mess in a drawer but I dumped them all out and identified what each piece was. I then labeled and tagged the cord of each device with a doubled over file folder label with its purpose (IPad charger, cell phone car charger, etc.). I was able to eliminate over 50% of what I had and “found” some things I thought that I had lost. Now I label and tag all electronic accessories when they come in the door and it helps reduce the clutter.

  4. Great advice, Jordann! I will have to try to think how this can apply to me each day, as I always seem to have multiple things on my to do list that I try to tackle. Not surprisingly I rarely finish the whole list. I like the idea of tackling one thing in your house/apartment per day (or maybe even week?). It would really help prevent the overwhelming feeling of having to much to get done and in turn getting nothing fully done.

  5. kelly @stayingonbudget

    My one thing would be to get exercise everyday…it’s amazing how much better I feel after a run, even a short one!

  6. Mark Ross

    That one thing a day idea is really interesting. If I could pick one thing to accomplish per day, my goal would be to post an article per day on my blog.

  7. Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies

    I think my one thing per day that I absolutely need to accomplish is spending a little time outdoors in the sunshine. I just need that boost that the warmth of the sun provides. =)

  8. I love this strategy. I’ve read Leo’s posts over at zen habits about setting a “most important task” each day and this is exactly what he’s talking about. I love that you can focus on that one thing and when you’re done, the rest of the day is yours to do what you want guilt-free. And honestly, if we all accomplished just one important thing each day we’d likely be much more productive than trying to move between 20 different things at a time.

  9. I go by this strategy somewhat too. Once a week I give my whole house a good cleaning but I also pick one room everyday to go through, straighten up, and clean. This saves me a ton of time on my cleaning day.

  10. Good strategy Jordann! The first thing I’d tackle would be the breakfast bar in our kitchen. The thing looks like a bomb went off because we have so much junk on it. The crazy thing is that if we dealt with it on a daily basis it would not be this bad at all.

  11. As with most things, the simpler we make them, the likelier we are to succeed.

    On weekends, I try to rid myself of 5 things. Sometimes, I fail. Often, I succeed. Limiting the amount makes it less “painful” and “do-able”.

    Always highly suggest minimizing as the less I have, the more free time, more money and less stress I also have.

    Have a good one folks

    The Warrior

  12. Sounds like a solid plan although I would imagine it might be challenging to stick with simply because other important or urgent issues often arise unexpectedly. I think for doing things around your house, this might work well, but may be tougher to implement in other areas of life.

  13. Minimalism is great. I am a big advocate for that. Who needs all that clutter anyway?

  14. Josh from CNA

    If I could pick one thing a day to accomplish, I’d have to break my big goals down into smaller, daily sub-goals. I really think that’s a good idea too! I think my accomplishment for today is going to be to write an interesting review post for my Modest Money column! Tomorrow, we’ll see what happens.

  15. I think you are onto something. I just read a post this morning that if we have to make too many decisions during the day it affects our creativity. Like deciding what to wear or what to eat for breakfast. You were overwhelming yourself with too many decisions. Focusing on one thing a day should help.

  16. I agree having too many decisions is overwhelming. Focusing on one thing a day should help.

  17. lyle @ the Joy of Simple

    Nice post Jordann…and timely as well 🙂

    I’ve just begun organizing my home office and I didn’t realize how much stuff just accumulated out of nowhere!! I went through most things yesterday and working on the remainder today and possibly tomorrow as well.

    As for the one a day thing…hmmmm…that’s a tough one ’cause there are so many things I want to do! I’ll get back to you on this one 🙂

    Take care and all the best.


  18. Tara @ Streets Ahead Living

    Really great idea! I too suffer from the add-cleaning syndrome… I start one project which then becomes a pandora’s box of project after project until I’ve started so many projects and haven’t finished one! I should try this tip so I can just focus on getting one area clean.

    One big problem I have is actually getting the give-away stuff out of my house. I live in NYC and I hate seeing good stuff thrown away but it’s a hassle getting to a Goodwill drop-off. So my one-thing-per day goal for this weekend is to take everything I can that needs to be given away. I’m done with the stuff I don’t need!

  19. Love this! I just tackled a small project that had been nagging at me for a while (and wrote my latest post around it!). My response to de-cluttering is almost physical — I can breathe better. I love your advice about extending “one day at a time” to other areas of your life. The one about exercise especially resonates with me because I’ve been slacking on twice weekly yoga and completely neglecting my fledgling running habit. I’d love to get in just 20 minutes a day of one or both, which is totally doable!

  20. Congrats on paying off all of that debt! That is a great accomplishment!

    For me it would be to take one thing around the house that needs work. I keep putting off the little things around the house that need to get done. Hopefully I’ll take your advice and implement one thing a day!

  21. Faye Mc

    Go through the basement and toss out or donate whatever has not been used in 6 months. Started yesterday, doing it by sections; so it’s a more than one day deal, I guess 🙂

  22. I would get rid of things I don’t need around my desk area. It becomes such a distraction and I spend a considerable amount of time studying and blogging at it. If I could make that more minimalist, it would be awesome.

  23. martin

    I have to go on Duolingo and do at least a few lessons per day of Spanish. I love this and have been on a roll. 62 day streak!

  24. I can so relate to the getting carried away when it comes to decluttering!

  25. Haha – I suffer from the same problem. You start on one job, see that another needs doing, start on the second job and then completely forget you ever started the first.

    I suppose its a question of focus. Start the job, finish the job, don’t let anything else get in the way!

  26. For me the one thing that I’m trying to do everyday is getting a one hour exercise. I really want to be fit and tone but I’m so lazy doing a work out. I will try to start that tomorrow, I hope so! 🙂

  27. For me the one thing that I’m trying to do everyday is getting a one hour exercise. I really want to be fit and tone but I’m so lazy doing a work out. I will try to start that tomorrow, I hope so! 🙂

  28. Great idea! I, too, am guilty of starting multiple projects and never finishing them. For my one-a-day, I think I’ll tackle separate parts of my room i.e. my closet, my bedroom, my bathroom, etc.

  29. Peter

    I learned this the hard way. Multi-tasking is a huge fat lie that I keep hearing in my soul everyday. I think it’s our greed. Most people don’t just eat anymore, they are constantly on their smartphone trying to be productive. Again, it’s lie. It takes such an effort to do one thing at a time. In a perfect world, I would write a blog post first thing in the morning.

  30. I’ve wanted to become a minimalist but it seems that I get rid of some things but continue to buy other things. I’m not giving up though.

  31. I always prefer to do exercise everyday. it is feel better all day when you work out daily basis.

  32. Lara Halim

    If i could pick one thing per day to accomplish, i would declutter haha
    Decluttering has been such calming effect on my mind, keeping me worked up instead of sitting down and helping me down sizing to bare minimum essentials which I love!