Do I Have Too Many Clothes? (80/20 Rule, 4 Month Self-Study)

Too Much?

I have 96 articles of clothes. How many clothes do you have?

I know this because on June 15, 2019, I itemized everything I own into an Excel spreadsheet and started tracking my clothes usage every single day… Yep! I’m doing this!

To some, 96 articles might seem like a lot. It’s a pretty big number, and it’s almost hard to believe that we can have so much. It might seem that way until you count everything you own, and I mean that with love.

Some online blogs, like Recovering Shopaholic, have been kind enough to share how much clothes they have. This blog reports having the following number of clothing items in their household:

  • Man: 154 items, including shoes
  • Women: 315 items, including shoes

My 96 items do not feel so bad anymore, yet perhaps even I have too much clothes?!? Perhaps the data will reveal some hidden truths about my wardrobe and dressing habits previously unknown to me?!?

Here is a sneak peak on what is included in this article:

  • Why Track My Clothes Usage?
  • What Are the Results So Far?
  • Do I Have Too Many Clothes?
  • What Do the Results Say About Your Wardrobe?
  • YouTube Video
  • Want to Track Your Clothes Usage, Too?

Why Track My Clothes Usage?

This may seem like atypical behavior to many people, but there was a purpose behind it. The idea came about when I repeatedly read that:

“We wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time.”

-everywhere on the internet

I was looking into the 80/20 Rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, and this fact kept showing up. On the surface it sounds extreme, but possible. Either way, it caught my interest. I investigated deeper to see if I could find any data to support this claim.

The 80/20 Rule, by the way, states that 80% of our results come from 20% of our effort. This ratio does pop up all over the place. For example, you will see it in sales results, genetics and reproduction, and apparently in our wardrobes, too!

When I looked for the proof, I found nothing! Literally nothing scientific, quantitative, measurable, no numbers, no facts, just the same claim on blogs all over the internet.

Unsatisfied with what I found, or didn’t find, I decided to test it for myself.

The goal is to track my clothes usage for an entire year to see how the 80/20 Rule and my wardrobe perform throughout all four of the seasons. I figure that this is the most accurate way to assess the utility of my entire wardrobe.

I have completed four months already (time flies). Let’s take a look and analyze the results…

What Are the Results So Far?

Here are some basic facts to help you understand my wardrobe a little better:

  • Total articles of clothes: 96 (100%)
  • Socks: 23 (23.96%)
  • T-shirts: 17 (17.71%)
  • Underpants: 14 (14.58%)
  • Sweaters: 8 (8.33%)
  • Shoes: 8 (8.33%)
  • Accessories: 8 (8.33%)
  • Pants: 7 (7.29%)
  • Shorts: 5 (5.21%)
  • Dress Shirts: 4 (4.17%)
  • Jackets: 2 (2.08%)

That’s it. That’s literally everything I own in this world with respect to my wardrobe. I have travelled for years, so I am used to travelling light. To me, this actually feels like a lot. For people who have been settled in one place for many years, this will probably seem like very little. It’s all relative.

Yet knowing this at the start is important!

Why? Because even though I own very little, you will see that even I have excess clothes in my wardrobe, particularly socks, that I could get rid of and be just fine. I could even have fewer T-shirts and be just fine.

The underpants, however, stay. This is a laundry-delaying-luxury that I will never deny myself!!!

Back to the study: 20 percent of 96 items is 19.2 items. Let’s round this to 19 items for simplicity. This means that I will be measuring how frequently I wear the most frequently used 19 items compared to the rest of my wardrobe.

My 80/20 Rule Number for Each Individual Month:

Month 1 2 3 4
Individual Month 70.21% 67.83% 66.67% 62.56%

My 80/20 Rule Number for Each Cumulative Month:

Months 1 1-2 1-3 1-4
Cumulative Months 70.21% 64.52% 63.34% 60.13%

Graph Comparing the Two Data Sets:

As you can see, during a four-month period, I wore the top 20 percent of my wardrobe 60.13% of the time. That’s not exactly 80/20, but it is still a high number. I clearly have some favorite articles of clothes that I wear more than others…


You can see that my 80/20 number is steadily decreasing month-after-month. This 4th month saw a particularly sharp decline as far as individual months are concerned. The explanation for this is simple: it is turning into fall and I am wearing clothes that I did not need during the summer, such as my winter jacket and my thermal shirt.

Here is some additional data:

The Percent of My Total Wardrobe Worn for Each Individual Month:

Month 1 2 3 4
Individual Month 54.17% 55.21% 57.29% 68.75%

The Percent of My Total Wardrobe Worn for Each Cumulative Month:

Months 1 1-2 1-3 1-4
Cumulative Months 54.17% 62.50% 71.88% 78.13%

Graph Comparing the Two Data Sets:

As you can see, in the 4th month alone I wore 68.75% of my entire wardrobe, which reflects the changing weather and need for more layers against the cold weather.

In the last four months, I have worn almost 80% (78.13%) of everything I own at least once. That’s pretty good. I suspect that this number will continue to creep closer to 100% over the course of the full year and through all four of the seasons. We will see.

Do I Have Too Many Clothes?

First, let’s look more closely at the clothes that I have NOT worn so far. They are mostly cold weather items which I will probably be wearing this winter and also specialty items such as:

  • Nicer dress pants
  • Specialized sports clothes
  • Specialized outdoor clothes

So, I am doing pretty well. It looks like I am on track to wear just about 100% of my wardrobe over the course of the year, although this is yet to be confirmed. There is one exception, however… socks!

Most of my wardrobe consists of socks! About 24% of it in fact. And of the 23 pairs of socks that I own, I have not even worn six of them at all.

Please note that I did not buy all of these socks. They have been mostly generous, awesome and deeply appreciated birthday and Christmas presents over the years. It is a luxury I deeply cherish, but at this point it is unnecessary. I could easily get my personal wardrobe from 96 items to 90 items just by donating these socks to someone who needs them more than I do.

To be clear: Fewer things in this world make me happier than putting on a new, fresh pair of socks. It’s like walking on a cloud. I will always welcome them into my life. I just need to find a helpful way to contribute my underused and good-condition socks.

What Do the Results Say About Your Wardrobe?

You have been given a transparent view into my wardrobe and my dressing habits. I have shown how I can live comfortably with 96 items of clothes, how I am using most of them, and how even with relatively few items I still wear 20 percent of them about 60 percent of the time.

Now imagine I had 154 items or more. Would I wear those extra items, or continue to wear my favorites every day? If so, my 80/20 number would probably be much higher than 60%, right?

Now think honestly about your wardrobe:

  • How many items do you have?
  • How many items are NOT being used?
  • How many items do not fit you anymore?
  • How often do you wear your favorite sweatpants, T-shirt, socks… etc.?
  • Is there anything you actually still NEED, or are your clothes purchases motivated by something other than need?
  • Why would you continue to buy clothes if you already have everything you need?

These are by no means easy questions to answer. They require some honest reflection about your wardrobe, your dressing preferences, and your shopping habits.

From time to time, we all think about our wardrobes. We might even recognize that it can feel like a mess. But how many times have you actually calculated all your items? How many times have you thought deeply about:

  • your shopping habits?
  • why you do the things that you do?
  • what cues trigger you to go buy more clothes?
  • how much money you are actually spending?

I never used to think about this. Now, I do! My hope is that more people will look to their wardrobe as an opportunity to save some money, and to develop better personal habits in all areas of their lives.

Making personal change can be scary and difficult. You don’t have to change everything overnight. Maybe the first step can be to just make sure that you have all of the clothes that you NEED.

After that is taken care of, are there any opportunities to de-clutter your wardrobe and contribute to others with your extra wardrobe items?

YouTube Video

I made a corresponding YouTube video about this topic to accompany this article. Take a look, and hear more about this topic directly from me.

Want to Track Your Clothes Usage, Too?

You can also consider tracking your clothes usage just like I did. Like I said in the intro, I itemized everything I own into an Excel spreadsheet and tracked its usage daily.

I still have that Excel spreadsheet, and I made a TEMPLATE Excel spreadsheet that you can download and use for yourself. It may need to be modified based on your wardrobe, and there are some instructions in the document to help you do that. The formulas are already included.

If you need any help with this document, get in touch with me through my contact page and I will happily walk you through setting everything up! Download it here:

Until next month,

I wish you all the best.

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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