Using the 20/20 rule to make decluttering decisions

July 8, 2021

I should probably hang on to that widget/gadget/doodad just in case it comes in handy down the road.

Sound familiar?

I'm sure we are all guilty of saying something like this at one time or another, but did you know that holding onto items "just in case" is one of the biggest reasons we build up so much clutter over the years?

Or that using the word handy is one of the 3 words that can quickly sabotage your decluttering efforts?

Luckily, the 20/20 decluttering rule makes it easier to make difficult decluttering decisions, especially for those stubborn just in case and handy items!

A Case for the 20/20 Decluttering Rule

My 4th son William is into remote control cars big time.

He loves nothing more than to race his cars around the house at break-neck speed, going over kid-made obstacles and under chairs. Bonus points if the dog goes a little bonkers and joins the chase!

But the thing about RC cars is that they have a lifespan.

And when you've got a newer car to play with, the older ones start to look a little washed up. They sit abandoned on a shelf in the playroom, hoping that someone will notice them and play with them again.

But still, these cars still have plenty of play left in them. Even the batteries are still good!

So what should a mom do?

I've always got an eagle eye peeled for things that have lost their charm or are no longer being loved and used. (Plus, I think fewer toys is better for kids anyway.) And those cars are a prime target!

But it's a tough call.

What if he decides he loves this car again? What if one of the other ones breaks?

This is the perfect time to pull out the 20-20 decluttering rule!

Quickly declutter your coffee mugs (or any clutter) using the 20-20 decluttering rule.

What's the 20-20 decluttering rule?

Glad you asked!

The 20-20 decluttering rule says that if you can replace something for less than $20 and in under 20 minutes, it can safely be decluttered.

OUT it goes! 

So that beat-up RC car that cost $15 and still works? The one I can get on Amazon in about 90 seconds flat (not counting the 2 day shipping turnaround)?

A no-brainer!

I package it up with remote and drop it at the thrift store with the rest of our donation items.

Some other kid will be thrilled to find this treasure.

More Examples Using the 20/20 Rule of Decluttering

That $12 eyeliner that I don't love? Also a no-brainer (but this one goes into the trash).

I can easily get a new eyeliner for under $20 the next time I'm at Target. And I probably have 2 others that I like better in my makeup drawer anyway.

How about the 12 coffee mugs that nobody likes and never get picked out of the cupboard? Or those other kitchen items that seem like a useful tool but have yet to be used once?

Easy! Declutter those and free up all that precious space in your kitchen cabinets.

But the beautiful wool sweater that's just missing a button and fits perfectly?

Well, it definitely cost more than $20 and finding another one might take months of searching online.

Nope – not a good candidate to declutter. Instead, find the missing button or buy a new package of buttons. It's worth the effort to make it wearable again.

We passed that RC car on as a donation.

I'm sure some other kid will be psyched to score such a great win at thrift store prices.

And our playroom?

There's one less duplicate item that's just taking up space and not being used.

A win for everyone!

The Best Part of the 20/20 Rule?

The unspoken thing here is that MOST of the items you declutter using the 20-20 rule are things you'll NEVER need again. They're things that you were holding onto "just in case."

And this rule gives you permission to finally let go of those stubborn, closet-cluttering, just-in-case items.

Note: Feel free to change this to the 30-30 rule or even 40-40 if, for instance, you live 25 minutes from the nearest store. The exact number isn't important; embrace the concept behind the rule to make it work for you.

Have you ever used the 20/20 decluttering rule?

About the author 

Sarah Mueller

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