You can’t do everything? And you may not need to.

The Pareto principle — also known as the 80/20 rule — is the theory that 80 percent of the effects in life are determined by 20 percent of the causes.

The theory came about in 1906, when Italian economist Vilfredo calculated that 80% of Italy’s land was owned by 20% of the population. And as he mulled this over, he started to see the pattern everywhere — from the business world to his home life. Observing his garden patch one day he realised, triumphantly, that 80% of his peas came from 20% of his pea plants. The unscientific conclusion being: That things in life are rarely distributed evenly.

More recently, Pareto’s principle has found popularity with life optimisation experts — like Tim Ferris — who look to Pareto to inspire efficiencies in business and personal life, mostly to help prevent wasting time on the wrong things, and start being more productive.

In the business world, Pareto is often spoken about with examples like this:

On analysing his operations one day, a fisherman realises that 80% of his produce is coming from 20% of his net locations. He has been working round the clock to set up and tend them all equally — but is exhausting himself out in the process. So he decides to focus all his energy on the locations yielding the best results, and ceases activity at the rest. By focussing more time on tending those areas, he goes on to increase his yield further, while simultaneously freeing up valuable time to actually enjoy life outside of work.
[Credit: HomeHero original]

Outside of the business world, the Pareto principle can be applied to how we manage our personal time, at home. The majority of us tend to thinly spread out our time over a variety of tasks in the home, the impulse being to get through the To Do list, rather than prioritise what matters over what doesn’t. Our tendency towards “busyness” means that we try to do it all, in order to have it all, while often ending up spending 80% of our time on chores and a meagre 20% on spending time with loved ones or pursuing what makes us happy. Failing to discriminate about how we use our time in the home leaves us clucking around like headless chickens, failing to prioritise that gratifying 20%, and ultimately not getting the satisfaction from our home life that we should.

But it just takes a few smart tweaks. Here are some ways to apply Pareto to how you manage the home — and your home finances — helping you cull the extraneous for the vital.

1. Declutter your wardrobe

How much time do you waste rummaging through your packed cupboards and drawers each morning, to find something suitable for the day ahead?

It is very possible that only 20% of your current wardrobe is worn, 80% of the time. The rest are things like wedding outfits that rarely get an outing, or items you ordered on but couldn’t be bothered to return. You spend time rifling through it the full selection every day, hopeful something new might present itself, but always seem to end up on the same small selection. So, in the interests of time, be brutal and declutter. Either get rid of that 80% or put the occasional/seasonal stuff into storage, saving you valuable time in the morning to just grab the old favourites — now in plain site — and go.

2. Cull the expensive 20% on your grocery list

When people are trying to save money on their food shop, they instinctively look to cull lots of the little things, like putting back extra vegetables or returning the impulsive treats like handfuls of chocolate bars. However, for a lot of us, the Pareto principle applies to the financial composition of your shopping basket, with 80% of the money going to 20% of the goods; high-cost items like meat and alcohol. So how about this logic? If you really do need to save on food, cut the meat and try a vegetarian diet for a week. Or embrace Dry January and cull the couple of bottles of wine you add to the end of the monthly Sainsburys delivery to save over £20 a week.

3. Outsource your chores

For many of us, 80% of our time at home is spent on dull admin like putting on yet another wash, hoovering, emptying the dishwasher and doing those things that need to be done. Which leaves 20% of your home time spent on catching up with a partner or playing with your children before bed, despite that being arguably the most important bit of the day and providing a much greater source of happiness and personal satisfaction. So change this, now. Outsource as much of that 80% chore time so you can spend more time on the things that matter.

4. Iron the 20% (that matters)

How many Sunday evenings have you spent ironing the weekend laundry, spending 30+ minutes on bedsheets and pillowcases, only to whizz through the workshirts and dresses for tomorrow? While the perfectionist in you thinks all items should be treated with the same level of care, it’s a waste of time to do it all. Outsource or compromise on the big jobs that take 80% of the time (sheets and duvet covers). Use services like Landrapp or Zipjet for shipping out your sheets for a wash and iron or, failing that, just go for an imperfect lifehack and hang them in a steamy shower room. You’ve now reclaimed the final moments of your weekend.

5. And finally, self-moderate

Focus on what is important, not what keeps you busy. Time is an asset you cannot get back. So practice a bit more mindfulness when at home to make sure you’re spending it on the things you should be. If ever in doubt, cull that 80%.

HomeHero is a digital home manager, taking care of your chores, bills, maintenance and admin, to free up your time for what matters most.

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