Everything you need to know about the 20/20 rule for decluttering

Learn this rule ASAP

White baskets of clothes on bed
(Image credit: Getty)

 When it comes to decluttering and tidying up your space, it’s always handy to have a few hacks in your back pocket. Decluttering more efficiently will not only make it feel less tedious, but it may also help you stay more on top of the task.

If your space is a total mess and you’re unsure of where to start, consider using the 20/20 decluttering rule, a total game changer in the home organization world. 

Here, we’re highlighting exactly what the 20/20 decluttering rule is, and offering ideas for you to apply it to your own home.

 What is the 20/20 decluttering rule? 

Think of the 20/20 decluttering rule as a minimalistic tactic that will help you decide what to toss and what to keep. Simply put, the rule means that you should let go of any items that you can realistically toss in about 20 minutes for less than $20.

The rule was designed for people who struggle to get rid of everyday items and is especially useful for anyone who hangs onto things for “just in case” moments. While the intention behind holding onto these items might be innocent, the reality is that most of the things we keep for no clear reason end up in a junk drawer. Or worse, they end up on countertops, in desk drawers, or in the back of a closet, all taking up precious space.

While the 20/20 decluttering rule won’t work in every scenario, it’s an impactful strategy to implement when you need to make quick decisions on what to keep. Put it to practice when sorting through small, everyday items.

 How to use the 20/20 decluttering rule in your space 

Tackling a cluttered room can feel overwhelming and intimidating, but using the 20/20 decluttering method can help you get started. It almost makes the chore feel like a challenge or game, and it’s specific enough that it will help you feel like you made some headway. This can encourage you to continue with your clean up process, and we all know a little motivation never hurts.

To use the rule, start by sorting through any items taking up surface space, like on countertops, desks, or tables. Look through that stack of books on your desk (you know, the ones collecting dust), the stash of haircare products on your vanity, or the clothes piled on your closet shelf.

Next, go through anything that’s tucked inside drawers, closets, and cabinets. Ask yourself if you really need 20 pairs of socks, duplicate office items, and a makeup bag full of old eyeliner. Odds are, if you follow the 20/20 decluttering rule, you’ll be open to letting some things go. This will ensure you have room for the items you really need — and it will make your home feel more functional and liveable on a day to day basis.

 When should you not use the 20/20 rule?  

Like many rules, there are exceptions on when you should and shouldn’t follow the 20/20 decluttering method. It’s best suited for people who have a hard time parting with basic items, and for those who aren’t sure how to start decluttering. 

The rule is not meant to apply to items that just need some attention in order to be put back into use. For example, fix the zipper on that bag you love or patch the hole in your favorite sweater rather than swapping them out for something new. Purchasing new items simply to replace others that can easily be fixed will be more costly and time consuming in the long run.

We know that decluttering can be tough, and that there’s often a fear of regret when it comes to getting rid of things. However, when you follow the 20/20 decluttering rule, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll miss anything you say goodbye to. Here’s to a cleaner, more organized space!

Kara Thompson

About me: 

Kara Thompson is a Denver-based journalist with over five years of experience writing lifestyle content. She has written for a variety of publications, including townandcountrymag.com, elledecor.com, goodhousekeeping.com, and Parents, where she covered all things home, food, fashion, travel, and holidays. During her time on staff at Parents, Kara launched her own home decor and organization column named Save My Space. In 2022, she left her full-time job as an editor and started her own writing, editing, and social media firm, Kara Thompson and Co.

Tennis, New York City, bourbon cocktails, and her sister's German Shepherd are a few of her favorite things.