Use the simple rule 20-20-20 to declutter your unwanted items from your living space without professional organizers to create a clutter-free home.
What is the 20/20 or the 20-20 rule?
First, we need to understand the 20/20 rule before we can understand the 20/20/20 rule.
The 20/20 rule is a genius invention by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus from The Minimalists.
This simple rule is if you can replace something you are decluttering in less than 20 minutes for less than $20, you can declutter it. There’s more to how to put this into practice, so stand by, but I LOVE this rule for the items we are waffling about.
I know it can seem hard, but remember, you are doing this because you have too much stuff, right?
Ok, so then what is the 20/20/20 rule?
In 2020, Gabe Bult made a YouTube video where he added another 20 to the rule.
He added 20 seconds for digital things. Smart! He took the already simple 20/20 rule and said “What about those apps I have on my phone for stores and things that I never use?”
He decided that if he could download the app or access the digital content in less than 20 seconds, he would delete the item to see if he needed it later.
I bet if you pulled your phone out, you would see SEVERAL things that you don’t regularly use. Here’s my phone:
Ok, so in addition to the 72 emails, and 75 Slack messages I need to get to, I had 9 applications I was not using. This doesn’t even include the ones I’ve squirrelled away in folders!
Decluttering process and 20/20/20 rule
Here’s how to use the 20/20/20 decluttering strategy to declutter your entire home.
Now I like to use a minimalist approach.
Now, the first step is always getting set up, choosing the right spot, and asking the right questions.
I have all of that in this post (and I’ll link below as well), but a quick synopsis is asking yourself: Do I use it? Is it sentimental? Do I like it?
Starting with everyday items
If you are working through your garage or your household items:
Pick up the item. Maybe one of those coffee mugs you never use and ask yourself “Am I using this?”.
You’ll answer no, then ask “Do I like this?”, no.
Is this sentimental? Considering it’s your average mug and you’ve got 21 more in your cupboards, the answer is no.
This is the easy part! You don’t need to tuck it away back in your cupboard, use this simple rule of decluttering and it it in your box.
This works great with everyday items that have been collecting dust for years!
Now I know you might be like, “Does this rule work when I’m going through things with sentimental value?”
The 20/20/20 rule and sentimental items
Sentimental items are different and don’t often fall under the 20/20/20 rule. It’s hard to replace sentimental things because we have emotionally tied feelings and meaning to objects.
I consider myself a Minimalist Lite I keep some things! I have kitchen items like a pasta roller and 2 KitchenAid mixers. I use those things for my grand creations, HOWEVER I don’t keep anything that is not serving me and that I’m not using.
I also don’t believe in decluttering everything. I keep some sentimental things from my childhood, and early romance with my husband, and I have kept my kids’ cute baby shoes–I even have a small bin of their artwork.
So in my opinion, the 20/20/20 rule does not apply to many sentimental things, UNLESS they truly can be replaced for less than twenty dollars in twenty minutes! In which case, is it really sentimental?
The purpose is not to repurchase things
If you’re looking around a cluttered room that has piles of things on valuable spaces and you’re thinking “OK, so declutter it, and then buy it again?” No! The point is that we are letting things go. We MIGHT need it one day…MAYBE, but probably not.
Of all the things I’ve ever decluttered, I only once repurchased something. It was a set of 2-litre canning jars that I used to make Kombucha. And you know what? I do NOT regret decluttering them because, for a full year, they were not kicking around threatening to shatter.
We are decluttering things to have a more peaceful, clutter-free and tidy space.
This is where this incredible 20-20 decluttering rule or 20-20-20 rule is at its finest!
So, we keep what we USE (like really, you need to be using it, not aspiring to use it).
We keep artwork we like and that is not cluttering things up
We keep sentimental things (not too much, check out this video)
The “I-could-use-it-one-day” or Just in case items are PERFECT for using this tactic.
Say you’re decluttering your kitchen drawers and your kitchen cabinets. You start pulling things out and realize you have a nice pile of things you haven’t used for over a year.
You think, “ok, I can declutter this,” but then you think “WAIT! What if I need this one day?”
A-ha! That is the great thing about the 20/20 rule, if it’s something like a sushi rolling mat (ahem, speaking from recent experience), you probably will never replace it!
Using the 20/20/20 rule throughout your home
You can use these decluttering rules throughout your home!
Even the Apple TV in your living room might have apps that you haven’t used since the last Olympics! Can you redownload that application for less than 20 seconds? Yes? Yay! Delete them and download ’em again if you think you’ll use them again!
What about the bathroom vanity? Do you have expired lotion in there that you haven’t used for what seems like decades? Declutter them and if you ever need it again. Take your cute little tush to the store and buy a brand-new item that is nice and fresh.
Did you ever buy one of those dog or cat hair catchers? I did and guess what? I never used it! So, that sucker could be replaced (it won’t be) for like $5 Canadian! It’s a goner!
What about cleaning supplies you don’t use anymore? You can safely recycle them at many municipal centers. It is SO nice to have less stuff in the laundry space.
Do you have more laundry baskets than you need or use? Go ahead and donate them to an animal shelter! Are they broken? Recycle them!
What’s on your nightstand? On my nightstand, I found a wooden foot roller. They’re great for massaging your feet AND I didn’t use mine. Could I replace it for less than $20? Yes! Donated it!
How about old novels and books you’re not using? If you’re not planning to read them again, I say donate!
The closet is also another fantastic place to look at putting the 20/20 rule into place. If you’re anything like me, you can find a medium navy turtleneck that is suspiciously like a similar item, the dark navy turtleneck!
These duplicates can make it very easy to declutter. Marie Kondo would be so proud of you.
You can send that dark navy one to the thrift store because it kind of looks black, doesn’t it?
How many items are in there that you don’t use, and that could be replaced?
Clearing out your closet can have a positive impact on your mental health when you open those doors in the morning to find a nice tidy space.
If I had a dollar for every time my kids told me I recycled a cord they needed, I’d have about $4. That’s less than $20! AND it means I’ve saved the stress of looking at a jumble of cords in my drawer. Sadly, this process needs to be repeated since we live in the digital era, but I’m ok with that!
Sure, you might think there is an extra cost that comes with it, but I don’t even think I had to replace those cables after all! I think the kids managed to make do with something else.
Pop open that laptop and look at what applications you don’t use anymore. Declutter old recipes you don’t use.
It’s so lovely to have fewer things on my desktop home screen. *sighs with relief*
20/20/20 rule and your mobile devices
A great way to spend an evening is to slowly work through your phone, iPad, and more!
Cuddle up with a family member, throw a fun movie, and go through your apps and photos.
I like to go through my photos about twice per year. I delete duplicates, notes and the like.
As mentioned above, reviewing which apps and accounts we are using is a great way to reduce that digital clutter.
Also, consider if you’ve got subscriptions that you’re not using. Are there mailing lists you don’t want to be a part of? You can always resubscribe if you decide to (in less than 20 seconds I bet!).
Digital clutter seems to be an increasing cause of stress in recent years, so why not just work at your own pace and declutter some of it?
The 20-20 rule and minimalist living
Part of why I am Minimalist Lite is because I’ve realized how much better life is now that I’ve embraced the minimalist lifestyle. I starts when I’m BUYING things.
I work backwards and ask myself “Will I be decluttering this?” and ask myself if I can “replace this for $20 in 20 minutes?”
Remember, there are no wrong answers, but you want a tidy home and you want less stuff around cluttering up your space right?
By using this rule as you declutter your own home, you’ll find it can help with those confusing items you’re not sure about. Of all the declutter rules, this is one of my faves!
For more decluttering tips and my whole process check out these blog posts
A to Z Minimalist Home Decluttering Strategies 2024 — What’s the best way to declutter your home? I’ve got you covered with a system that is SUPER easy and makes decluttering a breeze! Before I decluttered my own home, it was so frustrating. I spend so much time shuffling things around trying to “organize”.