How to Use The Pareto Principle to Declutter

Pareto Principle

Organize and Declutter Using The Pareto Principle

Have you heard of the Pareto Principle (also called the 80/20 rule)? It was created by Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923) when he observed that 20% of the people of Italy owned 80% of the wealth. This concept of disproportion often holds up in many areas of life. After learning the idea behind this principle, you’ll see that you can use it to declutter your life by targeting in on the 80% of anything you want to downsize in your life. For instance, you will see in these examples how you can apply the 80/20 rule:

  • 80% of your travels are to 20% of the locations you have been
  • 20% of the time expended produces 80% or the results
  • 80% of your phone calls go to 20% of the names on your list
  • 20% of your clothes are worn 80% of the time
  • 20% of the streets handle 80% of the traffic
  • 80% of the meals in a restaurant come from 20% of the menu
  • 80% of a company’s revenue comes from 20% of their customers
  • 20% of the people cause 80% of the problems
  • 80% of the news is in the first 20% of the article


These observations are not necessary bad or good. You can use them to create strategies to improve your time management and a more simplified space. First target in on the 20%. In other words, your “favorite” of any type of thing. You will keep those things – period. Now it’s time to look at the other 80%. Find the items that you use the least and let them go. You can consider yourself successful if you eliminate a quarter of that 80% and it should have no effect in your life. Try it.

What type of “thing” will you try The Pareto Principle on?


In conclusion, if you want more information on The Pareto Principle, you can find it here. we are here to help you get organized. Contact your home and office organizing professionals at Basic Organization to schedule a free discovery call. You will be amazed at what we can do for you!

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Janet Schiesl

Janet has been organizing since 2005. She is a Certified Professional Organizer and the owner of Basic Organization. She loves using her background as a space planner to challenge her clients to look at their space differently. She leads the team in large projects and works one-on-one with clients to help the process move quickly and comfortably. Call her crazy, but she loves to work with paper, to purge what is not needed and to create filing systems that work for each individual client. Janet is a Past President of the Washington DC Chapter of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) and was voted 2016 Organizer of the Year by the Washington DC Chapter of NAPO.


  1. Diane Quintana on December 23, 2019 at 8:59 am

    I love this principle and use examples of it often in my workshops and in conversation with my clients.
    Thanks for posting!

    • Janet Schiesl on December 23, 2019 at 2:00 pm

      I use this all the time with clients as well.

  2. Sabrina Quairoli on December 23, 2019 at 10:34 am

    I know about the Pareto Principle, I love that you gave several examples of where this principle is common. Thanks for sharing.

    • Janet Schiesl on December 23, 2019 at 2:01 pm

      This principle applies to so much in life and business.

  3. Hazel Thornton on December 24, 2019 at 2:58 pm

    Love (and have written about) the 80/20 Rule! Here’s one that helps with purging files: “You only ever refer back to 20% of the papers in your filing cabinet. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t file papers, but it does perhaps free your mind to get rid of the other 80% in your annual purge, realizing you didn’t need them after all. Look for duplicates, outdated policies, and such. Think twice about what you are filing. Keep a shredder and a recycle bin handy.”

    • Janet Schiesl on December 26, 2019 at 6:40 am

      I agree. Paperwork is hard for a lot of people. They keep it just in case. There is always a lot purging, but it is so uplifting when the task is done. A weight is lifted!

  4. Julie Bestry on December 24, 2019 at 5:50 pm

    I love this post, Janet. I’m a big believer that using Pareto in our lives — not just our closets and cabinets — but our schedules and our thoughts, can make all the difference. Probably even less than 20% of what we worry about comes true, so maybe we can pare down our fears and worries, too!

  5. Janet Schiesl on December 26, 2019 at 6:42 am

    Great idea Julie. I’ll work on paring down my worries. Good focus for the new year. I often pare down my schedule. It’s so freeing to give yourself permissions to slow down and focus on what you want.

  6. Janet Barclay on June 30, 2021 at 3:57 pm

    You’ve listed some interesting examples that I’ve never heard before – the one about restaurants is especially intriguing!

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