How the 80/20 Rule Helps Me Purge

posted by Andrea | 05/19/2015

80-20 rule

Four years ago, I wrote a post about The 80/20 Rule for Your Closet, and honestly, I think about that post almost daily.

Whether it’s the fact that I use the same 3 mixing bowls in my kitchen almost EVERY SINGLE TIME I’m making food, the fact that we visit the same parks and restaurants out of habit, the fact that my kids play with their same favorite toys and request the same stories read over and over and over again, and yes, the fact that even when I’m not wearing my limited maternity wardrobe, I often resort to the same handful of favorite tops and jeans EVERY day!

In almost every aspect of my life, the 80/20 rule rings true — and after realizing this, I have started to use the 80/20 rule as a great “tool” to help and encourage me to purge more than I otherwise might.

In case you’re not familiar with the 80/20 rule, it basically states that we use 20% of our things (clothes, toys, shoes, kitchen gadgets, tools, etc) 80% of the time. That means that the other 80% of our stuff sits unused most of the time — and we could probably do without it if we really had to or wanted to.

So how does this rule help me purge?

Lately, if I start to realize I’m using or wearing the same things over and over again, I take a few moments to evaluate whether or not I really need to hang onto all the other items I’m not using or wearing or enjoying.

I ask myself why I’m not using those items, if there was something I could do to make them more appealing to me, or if I could easily purge them to free up more space in and around my home.

Thinking of my “clutter” in a more logical manner helps me to remove some of the emotional attachment that can often be associated with purging.

For example:

Last week, I decided that I really didn’t need so many mixing and serving bowls since I literally use the same 3 favorites all the time. Of course, I didn’t toss all my bowls as there are times during the year when I do need and want more large bowls; however, I was able to more easily part with a handful of my bowls because I knew I wasn’t using them, I didn’t need them, and I’d rather have all that extra space in my drawers.

I also did a mini toiletries purge a couple weeks ago. I realized that over the past few years, I had accumulated A LOT of makeup and hair products that I never used (NEVER). Many were given to me as gifts or by companies hoping I would promote their things on my blog — and it was all just taking up space. It felt really great to get rid of all that unneeded stuff and pare down to only the things I actually use each day.

When it comes to clothing, I’m at kind of a rough spot right now due to the crazy changes my body will be going through in the next few months. On one hand, I’m SOOOOO anxious to get the maternity items out of my closet, but on the other hand, I know that even after the baby is born, I’ll need to hang on to a few different sizes until I figure out what size I’ll ultimately end up at — hopefully the same size I was BEFORE… but we all know how that goes 🙂

I’ve been on a mission to purge all my extra home decor items as I’m finding less and less space to display them now that my kids are getting taller and more curious! Our walls and tables and shelves are much more empty these days — and although I really do love decorating, it’s just not worth the hassle of saying “don’t touch that” 537 times each day. So the decorations are going since it’s not worth storing them for several more years… and I’m loving all the extra free space in my home!

I could continue to give more and more examples from my own life — but I think you get the point.

I challenge you to start paying more attention to the clothing you wear, the items around your home that you actually use, and the things you touch each day. If you’re anything like me, you’ll most likely start to see a pattern, and realize that you are often wearing and using the same 20% of your things 80% of the time.

And while I would never tell you to purge the entire other 80%, I would encourage you to evaluate whether hanging into ALL that extra stuff you’re rarely using is worth it.

Most times in my own life, I decide it’s not worth it — and having a clearly thought-out decision like that has made the purging process so much easier for me!

What about you?

Have you noticed you wear, use, do, or touch the same 20% of your things 80% of the time?

If so, has that realization helped you to more-easily purge some of your excess?

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14 comments

  1. Lashelle Francis

    07/07/2016

    So, I’m decluttering and I’ve looked up every and all (feels like) helpful hints and tips. The funny thing I noticed in this post from 2015…I have the exact same Daisy Fuentes drop waist dress that is folded on your bed. I think I bought it to wear to a class reunion over 10 years ago and may have worn it twice. Clearly, I need to let it go. This is divine intervention…thanks for the inspiration!!!

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  2. Becky M

    05/22/2015

    For people just starting to purge – it’s a slow process, but well worth it. Your donations can help families in your area (or around the world!) Andrea, thank you for sharing this message of simplicity over and over. You’re making a difference with sharing how you “walk the walk”.

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    Andrea Reply:

    amen!! yes yes yes!

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  3. Tina

    05/20/2015

    I would sooo love to purge my wardrobe and fill it only with clothes, that I will wear. In the past couple of years I have either been pregnant or nursing, so I felt I wasn’t in the position to do anything. I’m currently pregnant with my fourth baby, and we know it is going to be the last. So I really look foreward to doing some great – final – changes in my wardrobe. Because I realized last year (when I wasn’t pregnant or nursing), that I didn’t really like all the clothes I had, so I already got rid of many. But that leaves me with not much to wear as soon as I stop nursing this time round…. Thank you for your encouragement to constantly re-evaluate the things we have!

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  4. Erin

    05/20/2015

    I did the same thing with my makeup and haircare stuff. I’ve had short hair *like you) for about two years now, but I was hanging on to thousands of hairbands, clips, headbands (I NEVER wore), etc. all for when I did grow my hair again. I love my cut so it’s not “when” it’s “if” so all that hair stuff went. Also, I got rid of makeup that was years old. Like, from before kids when I really wanted to take the time to apply layers and layers of makeup it turns out I didn’t need. Doh! So, I have a few things that fit in a nice little makeup bag for everyday and a few things that are for date nights and such. I will apply this to the rest of my house now.

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    Andrea Reply:

    yay for short hair! I love that it’s so easy to do — and also that we don’t need all those accessories cluttering up our drawers!

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  5. lydia @ frugaldebtfreelife

    05/19/2015

    Yes! I do wear, go, touch, eat and watch the same things over and over. I’ve actually been mixing up the meals to add more variety and try new things. Like lintels. I tried them for the first time. Loved them! But clothing, I just decided to go ahead and get rid of about 75% of my clothes. Why bother keeping what you don’t wear?

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  6. Janice

    05/19/2015

    Yes! Yes! Yes! You are so right! 80/20 fits so many things in life. As a former teacher, I used to say that 80% of the discipline problems came from only 20% of the kids.

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  7. The Busy Brunette

    05/19/2015

    I DEFINITELY believe in the 80/20 rule because it absolutely applies to me. I continue to purge, purge, purge, but then I look around my house and I still see so much “stuff.” I think part of that is b/c I have a child, though! I’m working on it. To me, less clutter = less to clean = less stress. It’s a constant battle, unfortunately…but I’m trying!
    “The Busy Brunette”
    http://thebusybrunette.blogspot.com/

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  8. Siobhan

    05/19/2015

    I’ve become more aware of this and have been purging more…I quietly do it to my kids toys when they aren’t around 🙂

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  9. Julie

    05/19/2015

    Great post! Just wanted to add even though I usually wear the same things most days(jeans, tshirt, scarf, jewelry) I used to think I also have to keep special occasion clothes (for Christmas parties, weddings, business meetings, etc). Since I do all those things rarely, however, I realized I didn’t need to fill half my closet for those types of clothes! So I just picked a couple of options for those events and donated most everything else. I didn’t need seven Christmas-y sparkle sweaters when I go to two totally unrelated slightly upscale parties a year. Ha ha. Some of you, however, may have more of a fancy social life! 😉

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  10. Lisa

    05/19/2015

    I’m the same way about purging ,but my hubby of 32 years and I’m not old only 50 goes through the trash when he sees i have been purging lol .But i still get rid of stuff without him knowing,and i wear same clothes over and over .But i do like to have few extra things for Church.and sometimes when i can’t find something to wear he comments you probably donated .he said we wouldn’t have nything if up to me that I would donate it all lol,men
    Luv your site and your kiddos all 3 of mine grown
    Lisa whitmire

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  11. Jen

    05/19/2015

    I finally realized this concept in the last couple of months. My basement was filled with so many storage bins, I did not even know what was in them!

    I went through all of the bins (some were household items that went into storage when we remodeled 9 YEARS ago) – Realized that I did not need about 75% of the items in my entire basement.

    Our Children’s Hospital Thrift Store received a donation of two SUV loads of items. Hope they can make some money for the kids!

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    Andrea Reply:

    YES! I’ve purged a lot of home decor items too and it feels so great!

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