Does the 80/20 Rule Work for Your Closet? (9 Month Study)

A sample of my closet.

Does the 80/20 Rule work for your closet? Some claim that it does, while skeptics like myself want some hard data to prove it one way or another. This is what I’ve found out tracking my personal clothing usage for the last 9 months.

I wear 20% of my clothes 60% of the time. Mathematically, the 80/20 Rule is not an exact match for me. My closet consists of 97 items. For those with much larger closets, it is certainly possible that the 80/20 Rule applies to you. More importantly, and more in spirit with the concept, even I have more clothes than I need, and I wear a small amount of it disproportionately frequently. Based on my results, it’s likely you do, too.

As with most things in life, there is much more to this story. Here is my story…

My 80/20 Rule Closet Story

Have you ever read or heard something and instantly thought to yourself:

There is absolutely no way this is true!

Me, during the first half of 2019

Well, that happened to me during the first half of 2019. I kept reading, over-and-over again, that we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time.

While I understood the concept and spirit of the message, the actual numbers just felt incorrect and off to me. Stubborn as I can be, I looked for something to prove this claim wrong, or right, or inconclusive, or anything… but I found nothing.

And that began my quest to find out for myself, with hard data, if I wear 20% of my clothes 80% of the time. I started tracking my clothes usage on June 15, 2019 and I have been at it for 9 months now. (June 15, 2019 – March 14, 2020)

Definition: The Pareto Principle

The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 Rule, states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

It’s actually a pretty awesome principle, it pops up all over the place, and you might be interested to learn more about it for other areas of your life. That’s what I was doing when this all started!

Many “fashion experts” have adopted the 80/20 Rule and boldly claimed in their articles that:

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

-people on the Internet

Let’s find out what I (a meticulous, non-expert) have found out so far…

The 80/20 Results After 9 Months: By the Numbers

Here are the results during my nine-month self-study. You will see the results broken into two different categories:

  1. My 80/20 number for each individual month. For example, I wore 20% of my clothes 73.03% of the time during only the 9th month of this challenge.
  2. My 80/20 number for each cumulative set of months. For example, I wore 20% of my clothes 60.39% from Day 1 through the end of Month 9.

My 80/20 Rule Number for Each Individual Month:

Individual Month70.21%67.83%66.67%62.56%68.16%71.76%71.58%74.89%73.03%

My 80/20 Rule Number for Each Cumulative Month:

Cumulative Months70.21%64.52%63.34%60.13%59.63%60.75%60.55%59.99%60.39%

Graph of Above Data:

So, over the course of nine cumulative months, I wore 20% of my wardrobe 60.39% of the time!

There you have it. The 80/20 Rule does not, mathematically speaking, work for me and my wardrobe over a 9-month period.

Beyond the overall results, you may also notice that:

  • My cumulative 80/20 number has been a constant 60% during months 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. Things often find a way of leveling off and averaging out over longer periods of time. This seems to have happened with my closet and my 80/20 Rule experiment.
  • My individual month 80/20 number is higher and changes more dramatically! One month is shorter than nine months. There is more variance in a shorter period than a longer period. In the short term, my monthly 80/20 number actually approaches 80/20 and reached a high of 74.89% during the 8th month.

The Percent of Total Closet Worn Results After 9 Months: By the Numbers

In addition to tracking my 80/20 number, I was also curious to know what percentage of my total wardrobe I actually wear. As before, the results are broken into two categories:

  1. Total percent of closet worn during each individual month.
  2. Total percent to closet worn during each cumulative set of months.

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

Individual Month53.61%54.64%56.70%68.04%60.82%65.98%74.23%64.95%58.76%

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

Cumulative Months53.61%61.86%71.13%77.32%80.41%84.54%87.64%88.66%89.69%

Graph of Above Data:

After nine months, I have used 89.69% of my entire closet!

Of the 97 items that I only, I have not worn nine of them. Those nine items all fall into one of the following categories:

  • Special sports/hiking clothes that I will wear eventually
  • Special occasion clothes I will wear at a special occasion in the future
  • One pair of shorts that no longer fit me because I lost so much weight

Otherwise, for my everyday needs, I have what I need and I am wearing all of it. Awesome!

The Results: In the SPIRIT of the Question

I might be fat, broke and stupid… but I am not an idiot.

I realize that when people online say that we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time, they mean it in the sense that we as a people, on average:

  • spend a lot of money of clothes… TRILLIONS of dollars, to be exact!
  • don’t use all of the clothes that we have in our closets.
  • can de-clutter our closets and our lives.
  • can donate extra clothes to people who really need it.
  • can spend (waste!) less of our hard-earned money on clothes.
  • can be happy and grateful for what we do have.

I started this experiment for a bit of fun, to fill in a data-gap I saw in the market, and to bring awareness to people’s lives about the importance of personal fiscal responsibility specifically targeted at our closets.

REMEMBER: Clothing companies, retail stores, and e-commerce websites have teams of people whose job it is to figure out ways to make us buy more of their clothes!

Perhaps just thinking about the 80/20 Rule and your closet, irrespective of whether the numbers add up or not, is enough to make us all more conscious of our clothes-buying, shopping, and general spending habits.

How Did I Track My Clothes for Nine Months?

I itemized my closet and made an Excel spreadsheet to track what I wore every day. That’s it!

In fact, here is the exact document I used to track my results:

Feel free to check the accuracy of my results, or just check to see how often I changed my underpants. It’s all in there!

Do You Want to Know Your 80/20 Closet Number?

I made a template you can use if you would like to do this experiment on yourself.

Download it for free here:

And please, reach out to me anytime if you need help setting this up. You can also share your results with me. I would LOVE to hear all about it!!!

My Fat, Broke and Stupid YouTube Video

Aside from my website, I also publish content on my Fat, Broke and Stupid YouTube Channel! Watch the video I made discussing the results 80/20 Rule Month 9 Results:  

Be sure to subscribe and hit the notification bell to be the first to see all of my update videos as they are published, and to support my channel and my work.

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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