Simplifying Life With The 90/90 Rule For Minimalism

what is the 90/90 rule for minimalism


When it comes to getting rid of a ton of stuff at once, it’s pretty common for people to have no idea where to begin. I spend a lot of time searching for the best minimalist systems to make the process easier. The 90/90 rule is definitely at the top of the list of methods that simplify my surroundings.

ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

I’ve been following minimalist practices for over a decade now. I’ve recently fallen in love with the fast and simple way the 90/90 rule helps me get rid of things I just don’t use. I’d love to share it with you!

ryan mitchell simple living expert

What Is The 90/90 Rule For Minimalists?

What Is The 90 90 Rule For Minimalists

The 90/90 rule for minimalism encourages you to keep only items you’ve used or will use within 90 days. This minimalist rule is all about timing. When using the 90/90 rule to get rid of stuff, you’ll simply want to ask yourself two straightforward questions.

The 90/90 Rule Asks

Have you used this item in the last 90 days?

Will you use this item in the next 90 days?

The idea behind this minimalist practice is to get rid of the things that are not actively improving or serving your daily life. It was created by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, the founders of The Minimalists, and is fairly easy to start using.

small garage organizationBefore I discovered this method for carving through clutter, I still went through cycles of regular decluttering. I would take the time to go through my closet, my garage, or my office, and look for items I wanted to toss out. However, I often fell into the trap of keeping things around that I was saving for “someday.”

What the 90/90 rule does is ask you to honestly consider whether an item is actively serving a purpose in your life. It encourages you to toss out items that were only serving you for a specific time in the past, as well as things you’re keeping around for “just in case” — we all know those things can pile up.

declutter like a minimalist

The 90/90 Rule Is Built Around What Works For You

One aspect of the 90/90 rule that leaves a little wiggle room is the literal number of days you’re counting. The rule isn’t so much about tallying days as it is about bringing you to a place of intentional thought around when you last got use out of each item.

Your ideal number may be 60 days, 120 days, or even six months to a year. It’s also totally okay to choose one length of time the first time you use the rule, and change that amount of time in the future as your life and needs change.

You Can Pair The 90/90 Rule With Other Methods

One of my favorite things to do when I am using the 90/90 rule to get rid of my stuff is to pair it with other minimalist practices that complement it. Combining different downsizing and organizing methods sets me up with smart systems that make my decluttering process quick and efficient.

The four-box decluttering method is one that’s super easy to pair directly with the 90/90 rule. While the 90/90 rule helps you decipher whether or not you should keep or get rid of an item, the four-box method gives you an easy system for what to do next with that item whether you want to toss or keep it.

Oftentimes, when I’m trying to tackle a specific area of my home, I declutter room by room, item by item, and ask myself the two questions of the 90/90 rule. Then, I use the four-box method to decide where that item is going next. It’s a simple system that gets the job done quickly!

four box decluttering method

How To Get Rid Of Items With The 90/90 Rule

How To Get Rid Of Items With The 90 90 Rule

The 90/90 rule is easily broken down into two simple questions, that are easy enough to answer, but can be a little tough to stick to. There are a few things that I make sure to specifically consider when using this rule to make my entire process easier.

Always Think Ahead When Using The 90/90 Rule

One thing I always like to keep in mind when I am applying the 90/90 rule to stuff I want to go through is to always make sure that I am thinking ahead in a tangible way and not just estimating how far away 90 days is.

I always pull out my calendar and take a look at how far in the past and future 90 days actually is. I observe what events I had in the past 90 days and what events or seasons I have coming up in the next 90 days, and use this to inform my decision about the item at hand.

check your calendar

Consider The Specifics Of An Item With The 90/90 Rule

Another thing that I always do when using the 90/90 rule is analyze the specifics of each item that I am trying to decide to toss or keep. There will always be items that need special consideration.

favorite camping tentMaybe there is an item that you used in the last 90 days, but it was only helpful for one specific event or project. Give that up! Maybe you have an article of clothing that you wear often, but doesn’t quite fit the way it used to. Give that one up too.

There are some items that may not initially fit the bill of the 90/90 rule, but when given careful consideration, are still worth keeping around. This may look like your trusty camping tent you only whip out in the summertime, a favorite book you’re kept since you were a child, or the quirky birthday decorations you use each year. Give the specifics of each item your attention to make your use of the 90/90 rule most effective.

With The 90/90 Rule, Analyze Your Future Honestly

Another thing about the 90/90 rule to keep in mind is that analyzing the past is always going to be easier than analyzing the future, because, frankly, the past has already happened. Asking yourself whether you used an item in the past 90 days is a straightforward yes or no answer.

consider donating what you do not keepInquiring about the future is more of a guessing game, one often riddled with high hopes and ambitious intentions. When I’m using the 90/90 rule to consider what I’ll use in the future, I try to be fully honest with myself about my future plans.

I only allow myself to keep an item that I have specific, concrete plans to use, not loose dreams. For example, I might keep holiday-specific décor that I plan to use at an upcoming holiday party, but not a paint set I haven’t touched in years just in case I feel inspired to become the next Picasso.

Should You Try The 90/90 Decluttering Rule?

Should You Try The 20-20 Rule

At the end of the day, the 90/90 rule is an awesome system to use if you’re looking to get rid of a ton of extra clutter quickly. This rule truly allows you to look at things through the perspective of time, which makes it a lot easier to let go of things.

Your Turn!

  • How will the 90/90 rule help you get rid of things?
  • What specific items can you get rid of with the 90/90 rule?
  1. Another aspect of getting rid off good, usable stuff is the criterium, whether you can give it to somebody else who is happy with it or whether you have to bring it to a waste recycling point and just dump it a container. Selling or giving it to someone gives more satisfaction and makes it easier to part with something. In the back of your head is always the price you paid for it but forget to apply depreciation. For instance, I drive a 20 year old car but for me it is still worth the new price!

  2. Ryan, sounds like it’s just you and yourself? How about raising a family with this approach? Some may, but in a culture of obsessive consumerism (Amazon) how do you suggest getting to the root of the cause of clutter??

  3. Very good idea. I also like the examples you provide for perspective. This helps make minimalism seem less overwhelming.

  4. I’m in a very challenging position at this time, pertaining to getting rid of stuff. But this 90/90 rule is really going to HELP me!! Glad u came up with it!!♡♡♡

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