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The 80/20 Rule Is The Time-Saver Every Homemaker Needs

collage of three images of a woman cleaning up around her house

What The 80/20 Rule Can Teach Us About Housekeeping

The story goes that one day, Italian philosopher and economist Vilfredo Pareto noticed that 20% of the pea plants in his garden generated 80% of the healthy pea pods. He observed something similar while studying production in a number of different industries: 80% of production overall came from around 20% of the companies.

The 80/20 rule is a generalization of Pareto’s observations, that 80% of results come from just 20% of the action.

So what does that have to do with household chores? Well, the 80/20 rule can help us maximize the results of the effort we put in around the house, helping us get more done in less time. By identifying the tasks that have the biggest impact and addressing those first, we can keep our homes clean without toiling for hours!

Related: 7 Ways You Make Cleaning Harder Than It Has To Be

phone showing a 15 minute timer

Applying The 80/20 Rule To Cleaning Up Around The House

If you’ve ever tried to speed-clean your home, you’ve probably noticed you can actually accomplish quite a lot in just 10-15 minutes. Having a time limit forces you to accept that you won’t be able to complete 100% of any task, which allows you to focus on doing “good enough” work in the time you have.

When I’m particularly short on time, reminding myself of the 80/20 rule helps me use the time I do have wisely. When you use this approach, you might be surprised how much of an impact you can make with relatively little effort!

4 Quick Tasks That Make A Big Difference

Here are a few examples of 80/20 rule-inspired tasks that make a big impact while requiring relatively little time and effort:

woman spraying a kitchen counter with a spray bottle cleaner

1. Clear Kitchen Countertops

I don’t need my kitchen to be spotless at all times, but it’s hard to focus on anything when my countertops are covered clutter. Even if the sink is full of dishes, quickly clearing clutter off the countertops feels like a big step in the right direction.

Related: The 11 Golden Rules Of Cleaning That Will Save You Time

made bed with lots of pillows

2. Make The Bed

If your bedroom is in disarray, take a minute or two to make your bed. Even if you’re in a hurry, it doesn’t take that long, and a freshly made bed will immediately make your bedroom look more put-together. Leave dusting and putting away clothes for another time!

Related: In A Hurry? 5 Cleaning Tasks To Prioritize (And 5 To Skip)

woman wiping a mirror with a microfiber cloth

3. Clean Glass And/Or Mirrors

This one might be a surprise, as not many of us include cleaning glass or mirrors in our everyday cleaning routines. But maybe we should, because it can make a big difference in terms of how clean an area looks!

So go ahead and wipe the fingerprints (and canine nose-prints) off your glass door or the toothpaste splatters off of the bathroom mirror. The area will instantly feel tidier and brighter.

Related: Make Your Glass Surfaces Sparkle With These Reliable Cleaners

woman picking up a blanket and notebook

4. Straighten Up

Even if you don’t have the time to completely clear off cluttered surfaces, taking a moment to straighten things out can give it a more orderly feel. Never underestimate the power of neat stacks of papers or neat rows of food items!

Related: 4 Easy 5-Minute Tasks That Will Get You More Organized

cleaning minimal living room

A Note On Minimalism & Other Variations Of The Rule

There are many ways to interpret and apply the 80/20 rule. The Minimalist interpretation claims that 80% of the time, we only use around 20% of our possessions. The implication is that we all own a lot of stuff we rarely use, and that getting rid of those items will declutter our homes and simplify our lives.

It’s an interesting thought, and certainly one worth thinking about (especially considering it’s a pretty spot-on assessment of how I utilize my purse collection). There are plenty of other variations on and interpretations of the 80/20 rule, so feel free to use any that are helpful to you!

How could you apply the 80/20 rule to your own housework?

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee


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