Decluttering Simplified: Mastering the 90/90 Rule from The Minimalists

Discover how the 90/90 rule from The Minimalists can transform your decluttering process, making it simpler and more adaptable to your lifestyle.

Decluttering Simplified: Mastering the 90/90 Rule from The Minimalists
Photo by Samantha Gades / Unsplash

It's spring, time for some cleaning. Having two young kids means constantly removing the old for the new. Skipping part one means the house is quickly taken over by unused clutter. In the world of decluttering, strict timelines often make the difference between keeping a barely used item and making the decision to let it go. The 90/90 rule, developed by The Minimalists, offers a balanced approach to decluttering that accommodates both frequent and infrequent uses of your belongings.

What is the 90/90 Rule?

Originating from the minimalist lifestyle advocates known as The Minimalists—authors of books, creators of documentaries, and maintainers of a successful blog—the 90/90 rule is a guideline to help you decide what stays and what goes. This rule asks two critical questions about each item in your possession:

  1. Have you used it in the last 90 days?
  2. Will you use it in the next 90 days?

If the answer to both questions is "no," then it might be time to consider letting that item go.

Flexibility Within the Rule

What sets the 90/90 rule apart is its adaptability. While the standard timeframe is 90 days, you can adjust this period based on your specific needs. If you're feeling ambitious or pressed for space, tighten the timeframe to 60 days. If the process feels overwhelming, extend it to 120 days, allowing more room to evaluate each item's utility and emotional value.

The Benefits of Applying the 90/90 Rule

The beauty of the 90/90 rule lies in its simplicity and psychological ease. It reduces the stress and indecision associated with decluttering:

  • Reduces Clutter: By regularly assessing what you use, you prevent unnecessary items from accumulating.
  • Manages Sentimentality: It provides a rational approach to objects that may have sentimental value but are not frequently used.
  • Adapts to Lifestyle Changes: Adjusting the timeframe allows the rule to adapt to different lifestyles and decluttering paces.

Real-Life Application: Closet Decluttering

A prime example of where the 90/90 rule shines is in managing your wardrobe. Clothes that haven't been worn in the last three months and are unlikely to be worn in the next three can be donated. Obviously, you want to make exceptions for seasonality, don't throw away your pants every summer.

Here's how I do it. I hang most all of my clothes. When I'm hanging clean clothes I put them up on the right side of the rail. Every 90 days or so I review what is on the left side of each rail and most of it gets donated.