How The 80/20 Rule Helps Me Simplify My Home

posted by Andrea | 06/8/2018

80-20 rule

This post is an updated version of one I originally published in June of 2014.

As part of my summer blogging schedule, I’ll be sharing a handful of my favorite posts from past years in attempts to give myself a bit of a break, and re-share some goodies from my archives! 

When it comes to the stuff in our homes, the 80/20 rule can probably be applied to almost everything.

The 80/20 rule states that we use and wear 20% of our things about 80% of the time.

This means that we rarely ever use and wear the other 80%… and we probably wouldn’t miss it all that much. But don’t worry, I’m not going to persuade you to purge it all. 🙂

I know in my own life, I often wear my favorite few articles of clothing on a very regular basis while so many other items go unworn month after month.

I often use the same kitchen utensils and small appliances while so many others simply take up space in my drawers and cabinets.

The kids play with their same favorite toys and request their same favorite books almost every day, while all the other toys and books sit around waiting for the kids to get bored and try something new.

Even when it comes to meal planning, I often end up planning the same few meals that we all love over and over again

I don’t necessarily think there’s anything wrong with this — it’s normal to have favorite outfits, favorite movies, favorite toys, favorite books, and favorites foods.

However, I do think there is A LOT we can learn by taking a closer look at the 20% of things we regularly use — and then utilize that information to help us declutter and simplify our lives.

Let me give a few examples from my own life:


I really don’t enjoy shopping so I don’t have a massive amount of clothing — but even still, I find that I end up wearing the same handful of shirts and pants over and over again. And based on my experiences working with clients who DO love shopping, I can attest to the fact that although they often have a lot more clothing than I do, they almost always have specific items (around 20% of their wardrobe) that they wear on a much more regular basis.

I think some purging is healthy — especially if I haven’t worn an item in years, if it doesn’t fit, or if it’s out of style. However, I definitely don’t plan on purging 80% of my closet any time soon (and I don’t expect you to either.) Instead, I try to take note of the 20% of clothing I wear on a regular basis and ask myself WHY I wear it so often. Is it especially comfortable? Do I feel great wearing it? Is it a certain brand or style that fits my body extremely well? Does the color flatter me? Does it easily coordinate with many other pieces in my closet?

Whatever it is, I think about that the next time I’m shopping for clothes. Even if I find a fabulous deal (or get freebie hand-outs from friends) I’ve decided it’s not worth cluttering up my closet with items I won’t love wearing or feel great in.

UPDATE: I just shared a ton more about my non-minimalistic Capsule wardrobe.



Ever since we renovated our kitchen, I’ve been blessed with TONS of kitchen storage! And while I do still have a couple empty drawers and shelves, it was surprisingly easy to fill up most of my precious storage!

Almost everything in my kitchen is used at some point during the year, but if I’m REALLY honest with myself, I could probably get rid of about half (or more) of my serving platters, various kitchen utensils, mixing bowls, storage containers, etc.

Yes, they often come in handy those few times each year when we entertain for an especially large group of people, but they go unused the rest of the year. And I know that if I just got rid of them, I would be able to make due without them for those bigger gatherings. But I have the space, so I keep them!

Again, I honestly don’t think it’s the end of the world to hang onto items I don’t use every single day (as long as I have a “home” for the items). However, since I know there are items I’m not using in my kitchen, I purposely don’t buy any other kitchen items.

I can confidently say that it has been AGES since I’ve purchased any kitchen items because I know that I’m not even fully utilizing everything I have. Even if I see something I really want, I stop and think about how often I’ll actually use it and question if I have something else that could be used instead.

This thought process has stopped me from bringing in more needless kitchen gadgets that I don’t need — and it has helped me repurpose some of the items I already had in my kitchen.


We have a lot of toys, books, games, arts, crafts, and other “kid things”… and we continue to get more!

We continually purge toys with every birthday and holiday, and honestly, the kids never miss any of it. As long as I don’t get rid of their favorites (see list below) everyone is happy!

  • Dressup clothes
  • Mega Blocks and other building blocks
  • Toy cars, trucks, diggers, planes trains, etc.
  • The play kitchen
  • Craft Supplies
  • Bike, scooter, sand toys, and other outside toys

I could go on and on with various examples from my own life — but I think you get the idea. So often, we only use, need, and love a fraction of what we own. 

I honestly do NOT think we need to purge everything we don’t use — there is definitely a good argument for hanging onto those items we need every so often. However, as you can see from my examples above, there is still some good in recognizing that 80/20 rule in our own lives.

Recognizing the 80/20 rule in my own home and life has helped me to pinpoint the 20% of items I love, use, and wear all the time (and then restrain from buying more items that don’t fit what I love, use, and wear).

It has also given me the motivation to repurpose some of the other items I wasn’t using as regularly.

And finally, it has allowed me more freedom to purge any items I know I will never use or wear (even if they are in perfect condition and still in style).

Just knowing what my 20% is helps me to simplify and to be more organized — and I think it could do the same for you. Even if you never purge any of your 80%, just knowing and realizing your 20% will help you cut back on those super great deals and other impulse purchases that add so much clutter to our homes (and make future organizing projects seem that much more overwhelming).

The next time you get dressed, the next time you pull an appliance out of your kitchen cabinets, and the next time your kids pull out their favorite toys… take note. Realize those items you use and love regularly — as well as the ones you don’t!


Filed under: OrganizingHome

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  1. How to Declutter Your Life Like a Real Adult Person


    […] 80/20 rule states that we typically use 20 percent of what we own 80 percent of the time. As for the other 80 […]

  2. Diana


    Yes!! So so true. Figuring out what you actually have/need/use is one of the many benefits of purging! And having less. =)


  3. jenny Shane


    I pray that one day I could actually declutter my garage and my kid’s rooms! The problem is my kids (aged 21,24 & 27) live on their own (small apartment) and still don’t want we to get rid of their video games, wooden doll cradle, doll sets, books or train sets, etc. They have an attachment to these items and whenever I whisper the words sell or donate, its like being on trial.


    moya Reply:

    TO Jenny. I had exactly this problem with my grown up children . Most of the stuff in the garage was theirs ,so here is what worked for me. On a good day in summer when they were all home we took everything from the garage out to the back garden. I gave them a large plastic container each and told them to store their favorite things in it. We donated or dumped the rest .We celebrated the tidier garage with a nice barbeque that evening. This is how I do all my de cluttering but after reading the 20 /80 rule I might do even more ..


  4. stephanie


    I just went camping up north last week. We used a tent rather than a trailer. (3 kids included). And we hada screened in tent on a grass rug. Packing for a family of 5 in a pickup and small boat was an eye opener. Every thing I wanted to bring had to have the questions answered whether it was necessary? Could I use something else I packed already?
    I still packed too much. (First camping trip as a family, I am still in the learning stages.).
    One of the things that hit me when we got home, was how “large” my house is. To mist people a 2 bedroom 1 bath house with 3 kids is not large, and to me it isn’t either, but after living in basically 2 tents for a week 1000 sq ft felt enormous. But I also realized we have too many clothes, too many kitchen gadgets, too many toys, etc. Life was simpler camping.
    Given, most of the things we have we will use, but I seriously might go on a giant purge when I am finally caught up on the laundry. 3-4 loads a day so far and I still have another 3-4 loads.


  5. Kate


    I’ve been on a massive declutter spree for the past few months. It’s nice to hear that it’s “okay” to keep some things, even if we don’t use them that much. If there’s room for it and you love it, why not?


  6. Natalia


    Now I really suspect you’re either watching me, or reading my mind! Good thing I know your post was written ahead of time!
    Those were the thoughts that came to my mind this morning (not as clearly defined, thou!) when my hands pulled one shirt out of the closet (same shirt, again!), while my eyes were still lingering on another. I realized that I prefer some clothes so much more than others and better get rid of the “other” shirt, cause I won’t wear it, even thou it looks cute. Not while I’m still happy with the ones that fit, look great and feel like I’m myself in them, and I can do laundry often enough!
    I’ll be more mindful to these things. It helps to be able to label this… rule . Thank you!


    Andrea Reply:

    haha — well I can assure you that I’m not watching you 🙂
    it sounds like you’re ready to purge — good luck!


  7. Heather @ My Overflowing Cup


    I am often stressed in my home about the level of stuff that we seem to have accumulated over the years. Yet, the frugal part of me fears purging anything as I might find myself needing it one day. Your 80/20 rule has given me a new way to look at this. Thank you for the timely post, as our church is getting ready to have a fund-raiser garage sale!


    Andrea Reply:

    Heather, the “what if I need it someday” clutter is the MOST common type of clutter. You are not alone!


  8. Siobhan


    Thanks Andrea….this post has given me a new perspective on decluttering. I just had a birthday party for my 5 year old daughter this week. She got a ton of gifts so I put some that were not opened out of reach. If we don’t use them in the next few months I’ll add them to birthday gifts over the next year. Saves me money & helps declutter at the same time 🙂


  9. Verity


    Very motivating post!! And so true!

    Several months ago I placed 10 spots on the living floor and had my 3 oldest children (all under 5) pick out their 10 favorite toys to keep upstairs. I gave away, stored or sorted the rest into sets kept out of reach in the play room.

    They’ve actually been happier because they have easy access to their favorite items, and they actually play with their toys at least 4 times as much! (Seriously, they only ask me to get toy sets out for them about 3 times in a week! They just play with their favorites the rest of the time!

    I have read a lot on purging, and I think this was a really fresh perspective.


    Andrea Reply:

    I love this idea Verity — and yes, I think kids really do have more fun with less stuff!


  10. Nicole church


    Thank you for this post, Andrea. It is so timely for me. I’ve been wanting to purge toys at our house, but I’ve been reluctant. My 6 year old has trouble parting with anything! I am going to try storing things in a hidden place for awhile like you did. Great ideas!


    Julie Reply:

    I think this is a great idea to put aside toys and clothes also. I have a thought for when kids get a little older. I personally do not give anything away without asking my kids once they are old enough to voice their opinion. They are more attached to their things then I would like (they want to keep almost everything!) but we compromise and box things up as “sentimentals” when they aren’t actively used. We have good storage in the garage, so we are lucky to have room for that. Each son has a box they can fill with their special things that are too small fitting or no longer used, but are special to them. One of my sons is really attached to his clothes! It is so funny how everyone is different. My other son doesn’t care about giving his clothes away at all.

    Sometimes they think I gave something of theirs away, but I just remind them I never give their stuff away without asking. It keeps the issue clean and guilt-free for me.

    They have to keep their stuff neat and tidy, and I think they feel very lucky and enjoy their belongings. We love non-clutter gifts and have encouraged both kids to start saving for a car already which is a great non-clutter gift once they hit about 12. My 14-year old has enough to buy a modest used car already, much better than the latest video game or gadget and zero clutter! When they were younger our family didn’t like to give money (that’s no fun!) so those were high clutter-gift years.

    My mom’s mom decluttered her room and toys without asking when she was a child and that really broke her heart many times. When I became a young adult my parents divorced and everything I had got paired down to just what I could carry in my car. So, I feel sensitive to the child’s point of view (as I know you all do, too!). I try to teach my kids to declutter for themselves, but as with most things the decisions they make aren’t the same ones I would (but it is their stuff! 😉

    Love your site! It really motivates me and gives me something productive to do online rather than window shopping when I feel like relaxing for a few minutes! Thank you 😉


  11. Ann


    About those toys you stashed away:
    It is good to know your child and what they prefer and it is ok to get rid of toys that other kids likely play with a lot but your child does not. It is also a good idea to have some toys stashed away for a “rainy day”.
    I found that when we had several rainy days in a row (or a very long/COLD winter like we had this year!) it was helpful to pull out toys that my kids hadn’t seen in a while. They became like “new” toys to occupy them when they were no longer playing nicely or sticking with the toys that they had for extended periods of time. It also was like pulling a long lost friend out of the closet. Never mind that they never really played with it that much, pull it out after 6 months in hiding and they are in LOVE for a day or two or three. (I had an ice cream bucket full of Happy Meal type toys (JUNK!!!) that could occupy them for hours but only because they were put away most of the year.)
    I used to rotate our toys about every 6 months. (Although with different season toys I may have done it mid-winter and mid-summer when necessary.) Occasionally I would store a favorite toy, doll, game, puzzle just to ensure that they didn’t get bored with it. Oh the joy they had when I pulled it out a few months later and stored something else!
    I found that this store/hide and trade method worked from when they were toddlers until they were about 8 or 9. Then they started to catch on to what I was doing! 🙂