Use the Minimalists’ 90/90 Rule to Help Declutter Your Kitchen

updated Jun 7, 2019
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(Image credit: Minette Hand)

It’s amazing to me how quickly my kitchen gets cluttered. Even though I tend to use the same things every day — the same pots and pans, same dishes, same glasses — my cabinets are totally full. Part of it is that we love to entertain, so in addition to the everyday stuff, we need the party stuff, like the big salad bowl, and the serving tray, and the cool brass-plated silverware I found on eBay that lives in its own special, enormous box. Part of it is the kids’ stuff. And the backup kid stuff, that I hold on to just in case other, younger kids come over and we need different kinds of age-appropriate sippy cups. Add in all the tools and gadgets and kitchen linens and birthday candles, and it’s a slippery slope.

It’s daunting to think about weeding through it all, though. I don’t have any desire to touch all those things to see if they spark joy. I need a rule that’ll make it easy to make a quick-and-dirty decision over what stays and what goes to keep this space streamlined.

Enter Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, otherwise known as the Minimalists. These guys have come up with the 90/90 rule to help people like me plow through their stuff and figure out what they really need. It’s simple! You look at an object and ask yourself the following question:

Have I used this item in the last 90 days? If not, will I use it in the next 90?

No? Then it’s time to let it go.

Now Millburn and Nicodemus emphasize that it doesn’t have to be exactly 90 days — maybe for you it’s 120 days or six months. The actual amount of time doesn’t matter; what matters is that you make a rule and stick to it, because once you have a rule, it’s easier to make a decision.

For me, I’d probably need a longer timeline, like that six months, to include all my holiday serving stuff — I’m the old-fashioned type who opted for formal wedding china, and I’m absolutely not giving that up! — but just by making that rule, I can already think of three things to get rid of right now, like a bottle warmer we haven’t used since our “baby” stopped using bottles almost two years ago. Time to say goodbye!

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What about you, do you have any rules you use for deciding what to get rid of? Do you think they work?