I Tried the 90/90 Rule and Fully Decluttered My Closet in an Hour

published Jan 13, 2024
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Closet before organizing using 90-90 rule.
Credit: Jennifer Billock

Every morning, I spend way too much time standing in front of the bedroom closet, flipping through my clothes and trying to decide what to wear. I have a selection of shirts I love but never wear, several pairs of pants that might not fit anymore, and a dress that I don’t like but keep because I spent money to have it tailored — among all the other stuff in the closet, of course.

Quick Overview

What Is the 90/90 Rule?

Created by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus of The Minimalists, the 90/90 rule is a decluttering process that requires you to ask yourself two questions about objects you’re not sure about: Have you used it in the past 90 days? And if not, will you use it in the 90 days ahead?

This weekend, I decided it was time to clear out my closet clutter so I could spend less time pondering my outfit every day. It was the perfect time to try the 90/90 rule.

The 90/90 rule was created by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, who run The Minimalists together. It asks two simple questions: Have you used this in the past 90 days? Will you use it in the next 90 days? If your answer to both is no (with the exception of things like seasonal clothes, holiday decorations, or anything used only for a specific part of the year), it’s time to get rid of that thing. The 90/90 rule does not care about your feelings or the grand thoughts you have to enjoy more fondue parties or eventually wear that old T-shirt you love. It’s black-and-white. Did you use it? Will you use it? If not, say goodbye.

I needed that kind of uncaring clarity in my closet. My husband and I set to work, going through each item of clothing and deciding what to donate. We tried on everything that maybe fit; we went through all the drawers of socks and underwear; and we nitpicked everything sitting on the shelves and hanging on the doors. Any belt that was tearing or too big got tossed. Dress shoes my husband hadn’t worn in two years went in the pile. Shirts missing buttons, shirts that got pushed aside, pants that didn’t fit — all of it went.

Credit: Jennifer Billock

The whole process only took about an hour, and we ended up with two huge trash bags full of clothes to donate. Now, our closet is much more organized. We can both find things a lot quicker, and we both let go of delusions that one day we’d wear certain clothes again. And on the plus side, I found a stack of skirts I’d stuffed in the back of the closet that I forgot about, and I’m excited to wear them again.

On another day, while in a waiting room for a doctor’s appointment, I tried the 90/90 rule again, but on my phone. I cleared out any apps and games I haven’t used. And I have to say, I feel much lighter after the fact! It’s nice not to scroll through 10 pages of apps just to find the one I want.

I do have one small piece of advice for anyone trying the 90/90 rule, though. If you’re cleaning out a closet with your partner and they try to toss a shirt you like, don’t take it from them. My husband had three or four shirts to get rid of (including this fabulous warm and thick flannel button-down), and instead of putting them in the donation bag, I put them right into my side of the closet. The point of this exercise is to lose clothing, not gain clothing.

In the end, though, we do have a sizable new gap in our closet from unworn clothes going to the thrift shop. We also have fewer caps littering the closet doors, emptier drawers inside the closet, and a smaller pile of unpaired socks. In the next few weeks, I’m going to use this method to declutter the rest of the house.