The Pareto Principle And Me

The Pareto Principle states that “for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes”. In terms of simplifying, this means that you spend 80% of your time dealing with 20% of your stuff.

I figure that the 20% of my stuff that I regularly deal with falls into one of three categories:

  • things that are important to me / things that I love / things that I regularly use
  • things that are in the way
  • things that are annoying

Generally, things that fall into the second category, fall into the third as well. At least in my house.

Furthermore, I figure that within the 80% of my stuff that I rarely touch is a subset of things that I also love or use. Things like Christmas decorations, photographs, and canning supplies come to mind.

So what to do? William Morris once wrote, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” With this sage wisdom in mind, I have devised the following plan for decluttering and simplifying my home:

  • keep that percentage of the 20% that I love and use
  • deal with or get rid of that percentage of the 20% that is in the way or annoying
  • keep that percentage of the 80% that I love or use
  • sell, donate, recycle, give away, or (worst case scenario), discard everything else

I figure, if I crunch the numbers, that I will basically be trading those things that I love and use from the 80%, for those things that are annoying or in the way in the 20%. And everything else will be freed from my home. That’s right, I am going to try to get rid of 80% of my stuff, retaining only those things that I know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.

Now for full disclosure, I am going to count those things for which I have already found new homes (detailed here, here, here, here, here, and here) in the 80% total. However, I figure I still have 97% of the 80% left to sort and re-home. And of course, I will be posting all the yummy details here. So stay tuned, lest you miss my exploration of unlabeled boxes and bins, my spelunking into bathroom and kitchen cabinets, my delving under beds and into the backs of closets. It’s going to be hard work, and challenging, and sometimes emotionally draining. But at the end of it all, I will be able to sit down in my home, look around, and think, “Ah! Just right!”

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