The 80/20 Rule

80-20 ruleEver heard of the 80/20 rule? An Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto, first talked about it roughly 100 years ago, when he observed that 80% of Italy’s wealth was in the hands of 20% of the population. Since then, the “Pareto Principle” has been found to have widespread applicability: in most situations, 80% of the benefits come from 20% of the causes.

There are many everyday examples of the 80/20 Rule.

  • We wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time.
  • We spend 80% of our time with 20% of our friends and acquaintances.
  • 80% of the benefit comes from 20% of the tasks we need to perform.

The Pareto Principle is enlightening to me when I apply it to my clients’ complicated relationship with paper.

  • We get 80% of the benefit from 20% of the mail that floods in everyday. The other 80% might as well go straight into the recycling bin.
  • We get 80% of the benefit from 20% of the papers neatly organized in filing cabinets, i.e., 80% of which will rarely get looked at again.
  • 20% of the documents strewn across our desks will give us 80% of what we need. How much clearer would our space be if we could identify and dump the other 80%?
  • 20% of our family photos capture 80% of our happy times together. What if we let the rest go?
  • 20% of our children’s school creations illustrate 80% of their talents and abilities. What if we tried to distill this 20% into scrapbooks for them and stopped wrestling with the other 80%?

I think Pareto was onto something here. Could it be that in any stack of ten papers, roughly two of them are truly valuable? Could we train ourselves to zero in on those vital two and let the other eight go without agony or regret? What do you think?

Still struggling? Professional organizers are compassionate helpers skilled at guiding their clients to zero in on that valuable 20% worth keeping, whether it’s paper, household clutter, or excessive time commitments. Use the Find An Organizer feature on this web site to locate an organizer near you.

Click on the title above to learn more about the featured author.

Suzanne Kuhn

About Suzanne Kuhn

Suzanne Kuhn is a Greater Philadelphia professional organizer with ACE Organizing in Southampton, Pennsylvania.
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