Easily organize your closet -The 80/20 Rule

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Do you realize you are likely wearing 20% of your clothes, 80% of the time? Chances are you have a favourite t-shirt and jean combination, maybe a warm hoodie or sweater that is your go-to item. Why do you always seem to pick that one particular item? It’s likely because, subconsciously, you subscribe to the Pareto Principle. You may want to consider using it to easily organize your closet.

The Pareto Principle states that for many outcomes, roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes (the “vital few”). Other names for this principle are the 80/20 rule, the law of the vital few, or the principle of factor sparsity. In an organizing ontext, it means you are using a small percentage of your clothes a large percentage of the time.

Pareto Principle The 80/20 Rule - How to easily organize your closet
Easily organize your closet with the 80/20 rule

How to Easily Organize your Closet

I have a fairly strict rule of having all of my clothes in my bedroom. That means that any clothes that I own and wear are stored either in the closet or the wardrobe (or it could be a chest of drawers for you) which reside in my bedroom. They are not in the basement, storage locker or another bedroom closet.

Keeping all of them in just one location might not seem like an ideal situation if you are a clothes horse (someone who has an excessive amount of clothes) but it is a great way to begin the downsizing process by restricting storage locations.

You may want to learn how to easily organize your closet so you only have the pieces of clothing that you really love and wear on a consistent basis. If you live in a climate where there are distinct changes of season, you will want to change out your wardrobe a few times a year. I created a short video on TikTok to show you what my closet looked like as I changed over from winter to summer.

So if you consider you likely only wear 20% of your clothes, it means we’re spending valuable money as well as energy buying, storing, organizing and maintaining many pieces of clothing that you are not actually using. Think about the amount of money you could be saving for that bucket list trip, renovations or spa day you said you wanted to take by NOT buying more clothes?

This may be the summer you have decided to KonMari your closet. I did this a few years ago and it was the best thing I could have done for my wardrobe and my closet. I continue to use the systems I set up to keep my clothes organized and culled to an acceptable number (although, I could always get rid of more). If you have never heard of Mari Kondo, she wrote two books (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing and Spark Joy) which help you organize your life by specific categories in a specific order.

Since we tend to wear the clothes that spark joy 80% of the time, there is no question that you should have these pieces front and centre in your closet. They should be most accessible and at eye level when you are looking into your closet.

Avoid hiding them at the back of the closet or stored away in boxes or drawers. The clothes that you do have tucked away these places need to be reviewed and reassessed as to whether or not they hold a place in your wardrobe.

Given you already know why you wear the 20%, you may want to ask these pertinent questions about the 80% of the clothes you are not currently using:

  • Was this an impulse buy? Are the tags still on? If so, you may want to consider returning, gifting or donating that item. You also have the option of selling the item on-line.
  • Does this item still fit? Are you hoping it will one day? STOP torturing yourself. If there is a piece of clothing that mocks you every time you see it – ‘if only you were 10 lbs thinner…’ – you need to get rid of it. Also get rid of items that you might need ‘if you gain the weight back’.
  • Is fixing an item worth the time or investment? You’ve been meaning to hem those pants or have the waist taken out. Are you really going to get this item tailored and more importantly, are you going to wear it once its done? If not, donate it.
  • You invested a small fortune in this one item, can you get rid of it now? You feel guilty because you spent A LOT of money on a pair of shoes and now you cannot bring yourself to get rid of them. They are pretty but not comfortable or in style any longer. Here is where you learn your lesson – fashion is fleeting – TIMELESS CLASSIC is a bit of a myth. Try to sell it on Facebook Marketplace, Poshmark or eBay.
  • But it was a gift, do I have to give it away? If it doesn’t fit, is your style or ‘spark joy’ when you put it on, you absolutely have to get rid of it! This does not mean you have to throw it out, it can be donated, handed down or gifted to someone who will wear and appreciate it.

When you know you are likely wearing only 20% of your wardrobe, it is time to consider getting rid of that piece of clothing. You can learn how to organize your closet by only keeping what you love and wear – ultimately, what sparks joy. If you have seasonal wardrobes, you can switch out and refresh your outfits with a new season.

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Margarita Ibbott is a travel and lifestyle blogger. She blogs about travel in Canada, the United States and Europe giving practical advice through restaurant, hotel and attraction reviews. She writes for DownshiftingPRO.com and other online media outlets.

14 thoughts on “Easily organize your closet -The 80/20 Rule”

  1. You did a super job of spelling out these essential closet concepts!

    I love your TikTok video but am curious what’s inside the wardrobe, drawers or more hanging space? Where do you put your fold-only, non-hangable clothing? I’m not much of a Kondo fan — I don’t get joy from tangible things (um, except food), but if I let go of all the clothes that didn’t spark joy, I’d be wrapped in a bath towel…not the best look. 😉 But I AM a huge fan of the 80/20 Rule, because I know that I’m wearing that same 20% of my wardrobe 80% of the time. I have enough of everything, but not too much of anything.

  2. Your TikTok video is fabulous! I like all your suggestions. I tell my clients to keep a donate bag either in their closet or somewhere nearby for the clothes they put on to wear and then take off because they either don’t look right or feel right. Instead of hanging that item back in the closet just put it in the donate bag because chances are it won’t look or feel right the next time you go to wear it. I also like your advice about expensive clothes. So often we guilt ourselves into keeping something because of the amount of money spent. When it is also costing us in valuable real estate in our closet!

    • I kept a pair of heels i nought in NYC on a whim. Wore them a few times than never again. They were pricey so l kept them for years. Ugh… lesdon learned. Walk-away even if they are “all the rage”.

  3. I love the 80/20 rule because it’s so true for most of us and it’s very telling. I definitely wear the same shoes, purses/ handbags, tops 80% of the time. It’s not that they bring me joy. Sometimes, they are easy, comfortable and lived in, easy to coordinate with, etc.
    I like your idea and reason for keeping all your wardrobe in your closet. In doing so, you have only what you need and want and what brings joy to YOU.
    I have no problem giving away items I don’t like. But I do keep the items that I wear less often, which is circumstantial, in another closet. For instance, formal attire, which is not every day, doesn’t need to be up front and center in my closet.
    This is inspiring! I’m now inclined to go home and get rid of more stuff. Especially handbags that take up so much room.
    (That’s a great video, by the way.)

    • Thanks for the comment on the videos. I love the Tiktok one because it actually shows how much room I have. The walk-in closet is not huge. It’s pretty small but I try to use it effectively. You are right about one thing, I do keep the very few formal wear and suits in my son’s closet but that is 5 or 6 hangers at most. Can’t tell you the last time I used either of those items!

  4. I love all the questions to ask yourself while going through the closet. I pared down my wardrobe to only the walk-in closet. And, now all my clothes can be seen for ALL my seasons. I divided my clothes and closet by seasons to help me go to just that area when the season changes. I’m definitely sharing this one!

    • I don’t like crowding my clothes so I store the out-of-season clothes in bins above the hanging ones. It keeps them all here but out of the way. It’s a great way to keep track and easily organize your closet!

  5. These tips are solid. Love that phrase, “law of the vital few.” I find clothing with tags in clients’ closets all the time. I also find tags that have been removed and are stashed on closet shelves LOL. I think we should start putting trash cans in closets!

    • I agree sometimes things are too worn to be donated. I do keep a bag which I fill whenever I need to donate something. Once tht bag if full, it goes to the donation centre right away. Easy-peasy!

  6. Love your videos and wonderful explanation of the 80/20 rule in the context of clothes. You said something interesting that didn’t occur to me before as “a thing.” That is, ALL of your clothes are stored in your bedroom or bedroom closet. I do that too. Well, mostly, I do that. I have a few coats in the hall closet and a few pairs of shoes in the front shoe cabinet. But the rest of my clothes are in my bedroom. And that makes the seasonal switching much easier. But in addition, it keeps the amount of clothing down to a minimum. I tend to wear 20%… my favorites. While I do edit at least twice a year, I think I need to step it up. Why keep something that I’m not wearing?

    • When I did the KonMari Method to my clothes, it made me realize I had clothes in other closets, in the basement, in bins. That video shows how I put everything on top of my bed and ‘had at it’. Since then, if there is not a hanger, I have to give something up to use a hanger. Nothing has TWO items on it. It just has one piece. It pushes you to cull and edit your wardrobe.

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