Apply The 80/20 Rule To Clutter To Get Rid Of Old Junk

Apply The 80/20 Rule To Clutter To Get Rid Of Old Junk

Nobody likes clutter, but it can be hard to let go of items you’ve had around for a long time. Speaking with The Wall Street Journal, author Jennifer Baumgartner suggests you apply the 80/20 rule to your stuff to help you get rid of it.

Using the example of clothing, Baumgartner breaks it down like so:

Remember the 80/20 rule: Most people wear only 20% of their clothing 80% of time. Much of the rest reflects past sizes, past self-images or past life roles. Recognise them for what they are. “If you want to move forward, release the past, starting with your closet,” writes Jennifer Baumgartner in her book “You Are What You Wear.”

Essentially, get rid of what you don’t wear, what you’ll never wear again, and anything you might have purchased and never used. Baumgartner’s suggesting this for clothing, but it’s useful for everything in your house — books, movies, computer parts, music, games or whatever — if you’re not using it 80 per cent of the time, ditch it.

The Psychology of Clutter [The Wall Street Journal]

Picture: Brian/Flickr


  • I live in a studio. A small one roughly the size of a hotel room. Because I want to live in the Sydney CBD close to my job, and I also want to save for a down payment. So I’m more space constrained than anyone but those uni students sharing rooms. The above works for de-cluttering, if you’re willing to do it. If, however, you’re not willing to take such a drastic plunge, you can do it the way I do it. If something comes in, at least one thing, and preferably two, of approximately the same size, MUST go out.

    I like new stuff. I also hate getting rid of old stuff that’s still remotely usable. And I’ve found the “zero net inflow of stuff” rule to balance my propensity to spend on “new” and my propensity to hold on to “old” quite well. It ensures that when I do buy something, I really know that I need it — rather than just because, “ooh, shiny!”. Plus, I’ve given thought to what I’m willing to do less of, to do more of whatever it is that the new thing facilitates, so purchases become more intentional.

    I’ve even disciplined myself to apply this to things like laptops and tablets. I’ll tell you, my tech expenses have gone way down, and karma with friends/acquaintances’ kids tech ownership have gone somewhat up, due to this policy. To bring a new laptop into the house, I have to be willing to give one of my two existing ones (main one, or small backup/travel system) to a friend’s kid. Same with tablets. Same with DVD’s. And shoes. I *had* to implement this rule to have enough room to live in my place.

    The above author’s clothing ideas don’t work for a lot of my stuff. I have some significantly expensive clothing, like $800 blazers bought from designer shops in the US or $300 beaded evening tops. I do not wear them more than a couple times a year, but those times that I wear them (business gatherings, political dinners, talking to bankers), I’m really, really glad I have them and therefore don’t have to stress about what would look good for those occasions. It’s NOT just an 80/20 calculation for many of us — we need to take into account “do I *ever* need something that costs this much, how much would it cost to replace it, and can I easily replace it if I need to?” as well. In my case, that quality level really isn’t available in Australia for the prices I paid, so it makes NO sense to get rid of these things while they’re still in near-new condition and fit in with current styles, even though they take up space, because I know I will need them within the year and cannot re-acquire them affordably.

    The only things not subject to this rule are food, two small plastic boxes of collectibles, my wall art and a few childhood toys I’ve had for 40 years and keep because they’re my only tangible reminder of my life before Australia.

    • Thanks @barb that was a really well worded and helpful response. Some good advice there. I will adopt it now, and in the process throw out 1 or 2 pieces of old advice 😉

  • What i made my ex do was, at the start of the year put every coat hanger facing a certain way. as she wore stuff and returned it, it was hung in the opposite direction. then, at the end of the year, everything facing the original direction was thrown out.

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