Applying the 80-20 Rule to Your Stuff

the 80-20 rule

You’re smart and witty and funny and you have great hair, so you probably already know about Pareto’s principle, also known as the 80-20 rule, which states that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. It has many applications:

  • 80% of your business will come from 20% of your clients
  • 80% of the complaints will come from 20% of your customers (though hopefully not the same 20% that are bringing in most of your income!)
  • 80% of the healthcare in the US is used by 20% of the population

and so on.

However, we can apply the 80-20 rule to minimalism, too. Hold on to your hats, because I’m about to blow your mind!

We Use 20% of our Things 80% of the Time

That’s right. 80% of the stuff in our closets, kitchen drawers, cabinets, linen closets, coat closets, filing cabinets, shoe racks, car trunks, purses, backpacks, and other stuff-hiding devices is used 20% of the time.

Some things are used even less often.

What does that mean?

This is the mind-blowing part.

You could get rid of up to 80% of your stuff without even feeling like you’re missing a thing.

Step one toward minimalism is acknowledging that yes, you do have too much stuff.

Step two is to get rid of the things you don’t use.

That’s the hardest step, and one you don’t have to take all at once. After all, 80% is, by all mathematics, most of your stuff.

So, iterate.

Start small. Ask yourself, self, how many can openers do I need?

Start asking that about everything. How many black tank tops do you need?

If you answered four, tell yourself, okay, that’s obviously not true, so let’s get rid of one and revisit this conversation in a month.

How many things can you get rid of today? 10%? Okay, awesome, let’s start there.

Trust me, it’ll make you feel better.

Get rid of ten things. Today. Come back and tell me how you feel.