Is the 80/20 Rule for Clothes Real? (1-Month Self-Study)

Have you ever heard of the Pareto Principle?

It is more commonly known as the 80/20 Rule, and it claims that 80% of our results come from 20% of our efforts.

This principle is found in all aspects of our lives. This includes, but is not limited to: nature, reproduction, geography, distribution of wealth, economics and finance, business, and so on.

Some people even claim that we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time!

I wanted to see if it would apply to me and my wardrobe, so… I itemized every article of clothing I own and tracked its usage throughout an entire month.


Watch the results! There is more information in the blog post than the video!

Experiment Setup

  • I created an Excel spreadsheet.
  • I itemized every article of clothing and accessory I own.
  • I made columns for the date.
  • I put an “x” for whatever I wore or used on that day.
  • The amount of time I spent wearing each item was not considered. Only usage or non-usage per day was tracked.
  • The clock reset when I woke up. If I wore underpants to bed and woke up wearing them (usually the case) then they also counted for the new day.
  • I created Excel formulas to calculate individual item usage over the month.
  • I used that number to calculate the percentage of times I wore everything in my wardrobe.

That’s it!

Fun Facts

  • Most used item: My blue flip-flops. Worn 29 of 30 days.
  • Category which has the most items: Socks, at 23 pairs.
  • Most days wearing the same T-shirt in a row: Seven… yup!
  • Longest stretch without wearing socks: Nine days!
  • Total number of clothing items I own: 96 items.
  • Total number of items used this month: 52 items. (54.17%)
  • Total number of items not used this month: Do the math…
The 20% most commonly worn clothing that I own… 19 items.

The Results

I wore the top 20% of my wardrobe… 70.21% of the time!

Download and Verify

Full transparency… here is the actual Excel spreadsheet I used for the experiment. Download it for FREE. Use it to do your own experiment, or just to make sure that I crunched my numbers correctly:

Practical Applications

The first time I told a friend that I was doing this experiment his immediate response was to laugh and say that it was useless… thanks! He might be right, but maybe not:

Minimize Travel Packing Space and Weight: Do you overpack when you travel? Me, too! Looking at the results, I can numerically see what all of my most used clothing items are. The next time I travel, I can focus on those 19 items while complimenting them as necessary. Maybe I need a specialty item for a kayaking trip… fine! Otherwise, I probably do not need it.   

I Have Too Much Clothes Right Now: I have way too many socks. 23 pairs are unnecessary. I probably have no need to buy any other clothes in general, too. I have more than enough to meet my current needs. Instead, I can save my money or reinvest it in other ways.

Time to Donate: I can clearly see which items I could probably donate to charity without even missing. Good condition socks and T-shirts immediately come to mind while looking at the data. So long as I can get past any sentimental value, I will be able to further declutter the house and contribute to someone who might need and use this mostly unused clothes.

My Methodology / Experiment Notes

I’m sure I could make this experiment more scientific. Maybe instead of tracking just daily usage vs. non-usage I could track the total time spent wearing everything… I could, but that is a bit beyond the usefulness of this experiment. I just wanted to get an idea of how close I would get to the 80/20 Rule.

I work at home, so my day-to-day wardrobe needs might not represent your professional suit-and-tie needs. It also means that I can wear pyjama-bottoms to work if I want to, and yes, on rare occasions I want to! While it may not reflect everyone’s wardrobe, I suspect that no matter the circumstances, the results will surprise you.

One month is also a pretty small sample size. It has been mostly spring here, and my winter clothes are stored away in a box. Is that fair for this challenge? My suspicion is that over time things will balance. But I might be wrong. The only way to find out is to continue the experiment, right?!

I have every intention of doing just that! Expect an update to see how things progress…

Other Experiments

Do you like experiments and challenges? If you are like me, then you freakin’ love them!

I spent a month working on a 100 Pushups a Day for 30 Days Challenge. I had a minor back surgery during the challenge, which made it a little unique. If you are curious to know the results and what an average person can accomplish doing pushups every day for a month, click HERE to read the Blog Post. Below you can also watch the YouTube video I made documenting the experience and results.

Many more experiments and challenges in the works!

Next Steps

  • Leave a comment below and let me know what you think of this experiment.
  • Consider doing this challenge yourself.
  • Download this FREE Excel spreadsheet to begin tracking your results. 
  • Once finished, post your results below. I would love to hear how close you came to 80/20.

Good luck, and thanks for reading my blog post and watching my YouTube video. It means a lot! : )

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Jack Clancy

Everything I do is focused on this concept: "To inspire personal change, so that together we can become the people we wish to be."

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