We Wear 20% of Our Closet 80% of the Time? (10 Month Study)

Do we really wear 20% of our closet 80% of the time? It’s an alarming statistic, to be sure. But could it be true? Well, I have been tracking my personal clothes usage every day for ten months to see if it is true for me. This is what I found out:

I wore 20% of my clothes 60.18% over 10 months. The highest percent for an individual month was 74.89%. Literally, I do NOT wear 20% of my closet 80% of the time; however, in the true spirit of the statistic, my clothes usage is indeed unevenly distributed and I wear the same 20% very frequently.

It’s been a fun 10 months. I have learned a lot about my personal clothes usage while getting good insight into what I need from my closet… and more importantly… what I do not need! I also crunched the numbers to see what an 80/20 closet would look like for me, and if it is realistic or not for others.

Let’s dig a little deeper to see what I have uncovered.

What is the 80/20 Rule?

The 80/20 Rule is also called the Pareto Principle.

It states, in a nutshell, that 80% of the results come from 20% of the causes.

The concept has been tracked back to Vilfredo Pareto, who in 1896 observed that 80% of Italy’s land was owned by 20% of the population. And it pops up everywhere:

  • 80% of sales come from 20% of the clients
  • 80% of complaints also come from 20% of the clients!!!
  • 80% of the views on my website come from 20% of the articles (pretty much true as of writing this post!)

You get the idea.

And apparently, 80% of the clothes that we wear come from 20% of the items in our closets…

My 80/20 Results After 10 Months: Fun with Numbers!

First, the dates of my 10-month study are from June 15, 2019 to April 14, 2020.

During that time, I tracked two different things:

  1. Data for each individual month.
  2. Data from Day 1 to the end of Month 10 as a cumulative result.

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%70.44%

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%60.18%

Graph of Above Data:

So, over the course of 10 cumulative months, I wore 20% of my wardrobe 60.18% of the time!

Still, it sounds like a high percentage, right?

You might also observe that:

  • It’s been about 60% from Month 4 to Month 10! It took four months of data collection and summer to come to its end, but my data eventually settled on 60%. Throughout all of fall and winter, my 80/20 number stayed a pretty constant 60%. Things tend to average out over time.
  • Individual months are more variable and have a higher 80/20 average! In the short term, my monthly 80/20 number reached a high of 74.89% and a low of 62.56%. It averages out at 69.71% for the 10 different months.

Fun with Numbers, Part 2!

Beyond how often I wore 20% of my closet, I also wanted to know how much of my total closet I wore to see if there was anything I really was not using. As before, I tracked two different things:

  1. Data for each individual month.
  2. Data for the cumulative 10-month period.

Percent of Total Closet Worn for Each Individual Month:

Individual Month53.61%54.64%56.70%68.04%60.82%65.98%74.23%64.95%58.76%55.67%

Percent of Total Closet Worn for Each Cumulative Set of Months:

Cumulative Months53.61%61.86%71.13%77.32%80.41%84.54%87.64%88.66%89.69%91.75%

Graph of Above Data:

After 10 cumulative months, I have worn 91.75% of my entire closet!

Of the 97 items in my (modest) closet, I have not worn 8 of them. Those 8 items are:

  1. A long-sleeved shirt I mostly use while hiking
  2. A sports jersey with mostly sentimental value
  3. A sports jersey with a lot of sentimental value I use while hiking
  4. A pair of dress pants I happen to not have needed during this period
  5. A pair of dress shoes I happen to not have needed during this period
  6. A pair of specialty hiking pants I only wear while hiking
  7. A pair of shorts that do not fit me anymore
  8. A nice tie I happen to not have worn during this period

So, I should go ahead and throw these out as soon as possible to de-clutter my closet and my life, right?

Perhaps, but not so fast… I could envision myself wearing much of these unused clothing items over time. They include specialty items that I would need to repurchase once I go hiking again or to a fancy event. And the items with sentimental value to me are worth the closet space they consume.

Aside from that, I wear everything I have. Some things I wear more than others, of course, and despite my modest closet I could probably donate a few items… but it seems like I am in good shape and I do not need to go out and buy anything else for my current needs. Nice!

The Results: In the True Spirit of the Statistic

I’m no dummy.

I know that when people say that we wear 20% of our closet 80% of the time, they are mostly speaking in hyperbole to bring attention to the concepts of wardrobe management, spending habits, de-cluttering your life, etc.

Still, I like hard data and the insights you can garner from it.

The hard data is telling me that I, even with a reasonably modest wardrobe of only 97 articles, wear the same 19 items a disproportionately frequent amount of time. Even if I had 100 more items in my closet, I suspect that I would stick to my go-to-favorites. I suspect, but cannot prove, that you would (do), too!

And that got me thinking…

My closet… in all it’s glory!

How Could I Get to 80%?

What would it take for me to get my closet usage to 80%?

First, my wardrobe consists 97 articles.

  • 20% of that is 19.4 items, or 19 items when rounded.
  • I currently wear this 20% of clothes 60.18% of the time.

I added it up, and:

  • I wear the top 36 items of my wardrobe 80.45% of the time.
  • 36 of 97 items is 37.11%
  • So, I wear 37.11% of my clothes 80.45% of the time!

WOW! Not THAT’s kind cool. I realistically could throw out more than 60% of the items in my closet and be mostly just fine. At the very least, I know what 36 things I need to bring with me on my next extended trip!

Let’s take it a step further… How many more items would I need to add to my wardrobe, and NOT wear them, for my current closet usage data to be 80/20?

Looking at the numbers:

  • I currently wear 36 items in my wardrobe about 80% of the time.
  • I want 36 items to be 20% of the total number of items in my closet.
  • That means, I would need 180 total items in my closet.
  • I would need to add 93 articles to my closet, and not use them for the last 10 months, to have had an 80/20 number!

To me, a wardrobe of 180 items sounds like a luxury. I could not even imagine having this much clothes with my current lifestyle, not to mention how much all of it would have cost me!

But still, I can imagine scenarios where people do have this much clothes… or more!

Maybe it is for work, or leisure. Maybe you have lived in the same place for 20 years and just collected it over time. Who knows?!? Everyone is different.

Regardless, these numbers make me think that an 80/20 closet is achievable, and that more of us probably have one than we care to admit!

More Details about My 10 Month Self-Study

I wrote all about the setup to this experiment in another article. In fact, it was one of my very first blog posts ever entitled Is the 80/20 Rule for Clothes Real? (1-Month Self-Study). Click to link to learn more and to see how it all started!

You can also go to my 80/20 Rule and my Closet Results Page on my website to stay up to date on everything related to this experiment.

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

Feeling curious? Want to know your personal 80/20 number, even for just a month? I made a template you can use based on the Excel spreadsheet I created for myself.

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

I publish content regularly on my Fat, Broke and Stupid YouTube Channel in addition to my website. You can watch my 80/20 Month 10 update video here:  

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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