Unclutter with the 20-20 Rule

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How do you unclutter your home, your business or your life? The secret is to use the declutter 20-20 rule. If you’re not familiar with it, you’ll love how much easier the 20-20 rule makes uncluttering decisions. And if you are familiar with it, we all need a reminder of the power of this organizing tip.

No matter how much you have, there’s always something that needs to be decluttered. Making the decisions on what to keep and what to let go can be difficult. Using this unclutter 20-20 rule is a big help when you deal with those what-if-I-might-need-it-someday items.

shelves with clothes folded on them with title text reading Unclutter with the 20-20 Rule

Often people want to jump straight to organizing and putting items away. It’s not useful to just shuffle clutter around and look for ways to organize it. You’re not truly organizing, you’re just moving clutter around and placing it in new bins or locations.

The first step of organizing is to declutter. It is always the first step. What exactly is decluttering or uncluttering?

What does unclutter mean?

Unclutter means to remove clutter, to distinguish the necessary and valued items you want to keep as opposed to the items you don’t need.

Many people use the terms unclutter and declutter interchangeably.

Other people feel strongly that there is a difference between the two terms, explaining that declutter is to remove items and unclutter is to straighten or tidy up items.

Declutter has become more popular in recent years, but both are commonly used.

Pile of brightly colored clothing with yellow shoe on top

Unclutter with the 20-20 Rule

There are many different categories of items that people find challenging to declutter.

left image clothing scattered on shelves, right image clothing neatly folded on shelves

What is the 20-20 rule for organizing?

Many people have trouble holding onto items “just in case I might need it.” They keep imagining situations when an item might be needed in the future. You know, just in case I might need it sometime in the future for something I can’t identify, but… I might need it.

The guidelines for the unclutter 20-20 rule is that if you can replace an item in 20 minutes or for $20 or less, you can let that item go.

  • Can you replace the item in less than 20 minutes?
  • Can you replace the item for less than $20?

The 20-20 decluttering rule is a big help in deciding what to keep and what to let go for all the what-if items.

How to use the 20-20 rule

To start decluttering, be sure to check out this intro and free decluttering checklist.

  • Separate items into categorizes of like items
  • Evaluate every category to decide if you need and want to keep the group of items.
  • Evaluate every item within a category to decide if you need or want each item.
  • When struggling to decide whether to keep those what-if-I-might need it-someday items, use the 20-20 rule.
    • Can you replace the item for $20 or less?
    • Can you replace the item in 20 minutes or less?
    • If you answered yes to both questions, then unclutter the item and let it go because you could easily replace it if you do need to in the future.
    • If you answer yes to one of the questions, think long and hard about whether you really need to keep the item for a just-in-case situation.

I’ve worked with many clients where this unclutter 20-20 trick is the light bulb moment for them. When they are staring indecisively at an item trying to decide if they might ever need it in the future, we simple ask the 2 20-20 organizing trick questions and most often the answer whether to keep or let the item go is suddenly easy to see for them.

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