A new way of looking at letting go: the 20/20 rule

As a professional organizer and minimalist coach for the past 20+ years I have learned a thing or two about why letting go scares people.

I think the answer to why people are afraid is layered and deep. It is often related individually to a person’s past experiences with stuff. But in general, it feels safe to say that letting go is rooted often in a fear of opening up to why you own so many often-unnecessary physical things and consistently harbor ineffective, sometimes self-deprecating thoughts.

The why can be deep, thought-provoking, and heavy.

It can feel unappealing to dig and face fears, for good reason. And it is a necessary evil to address if your goal is to live your life free of clutter in all aspects.

One thing I often hear from clients is that they are afraid they will declutter something they will then need. It is probably the most common fear I hear and it occurs because the mentality of keeping something just in case takes hold. When you think this way, all of sudden letting go seems ridiculous. When you give your fears top billing and allow excuses in, you can and will justify keeping anything because you might need it, someday.

The reality is, there is a reason it is giving you pause in the first place.

Instead of thinking you might need it, reverse the thinking and see things differently – that you feel a need to address the clutter for a reason. You can also use what The Minimalists call the 20/20 rule for decluttering. This simple rule will put the fear of getting rid of something you think you might need to bed.

The Minimalists explain this rule here. In a nutshell, they say,

Anything we get rid of that we truly need, we can replace for less than $20 in less than 20 minutes from our current location. Thus far, this hypothesis has become a theory that has held true 100% of the time. Although we’ve rarely had to replace a just-in-case item (fewer than five times for the two of us combined), we’ve never had to pay more than $20 or go more than 20 minutes out of our way to replace the item.”

Doesn’t that feel good to know?

There is no reason to fear that you will be left without something you need. So you can more freely let go.

Truthfully, you know what you need. And it isn’t more stuff, more to contend with, to clean, manage or maneuver around. You don’t need a life that feels like an obstacle course. What you need is a clearer understanding that you have enough, and that you have what you need already. Lightening your load and letting go helps you gain that clarity. It is a positive way to make room for things.

Deep down, there is a very real and good reason you are contemplating your clutter. You must remember that. Maybe it is because you feel stuffed. Or that your life feels a little out-of-control.

You might feel unfulfilled or unprepared. Or tired of juggling too much.

You might want to excuse these feelings because digging into the why is too painful. Or feels like too much work.

But you deserve what is on the other side of the pain, the work, the clutter.

You deserve to live a life that doesn’t feel so heavy or taxing. And it starts with your willingness to see first that you deserve to feel better. And then that you have the ability to do what is necessary to create a life you love.

Let go to let in life.

Use the 20/20 rule. And find some peace and comfort knowing that you will never really be left without what you truly need.

Face your fears, and despite them, let go anyway.


If you need support in facing what scares you, finding your why, and letting go in order to create a life you love, let’s talk!

  • Jacquelyn Phelps

    Boy! Does this resonate! Last week, I needed an old social security number on it, but I realized that I had shredded all the out dated tax returns in an effort to lighten the load in the files. So, no old W2 was available. And the last job I took had the wrong social security number on it. I caught myself saying “I wish I’d never shredded those old tax returns.” Then, I realized that that wasn’t the answer, and I’d have to wait for a corrected W2. I can’t say it made me happy, but I was comfortable with the decision. Junk is junk, and clutter is clutter. There’s only so much paperwork the filing cabinet and the house can hold.

Leave a Comment

Get In Touch

Send me an email and I will get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt

Start typing and press Enter to search