Should you buy it? Use the 45 Minute Rule

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I don’t think I’ve written a post on minimalism in years. My guess as to why is because once I adopted a life of less stuff, I really didn’t have that much more to say about it. I still have a sparsely decorated house and a half-empty closet, but at the same time this is the most I’ve ever owned and I’m hesitant to add to the collection. I am still striving to for that difficult balance of as little as possible with as much as I need. But I do have one rule that I adhere to:

The 45 Minute Rule

If you will not use an item for at least 45 minutes per day, you do not need to own it

I think this came from the book What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption but I also vaguely remember it in one of the Zeitgeist films on Netflix, so I’m not wholly sure. In any case, it’s served as a quick way to assess how much I will really use an item I want to buy. It’s particularly useful for those “novelty” gadgets you’re always tempted to get but can’t quite justify because deep down inside you know it will sit in a closet, but then you get it anyway hoping this time will be different. It’s not.

How much is 45 minutes per day?

That is 5.25 hours per week

275 hours per year

or 11 days per year

You’d be surprised what items you use for way more than 45 minutes per day: your furniture, television, coffeemaker. And you might be surprised at what you don’t: DVDs you’ve already watched, a fancy food processor, etc. Once I started looking at things, I couldn’t believe how much I owned, or rather how much I wanted, that wouldn’t serve any real purpose in my home.

Obviously you don’t wear all your shirts 5.25 hours per week but I bet you wear your favourite ones at least 11 days per year. Some items in your closet that you only wear a handful of times per year? Ditch ’em.

If you won’t use something for at least 45mins per day / 5.25 hours per week / 275 hours per year / 11 days per year, it’s probably cheaper to borrow or rent it.

Let someone else commit to ownership of a snowblower or Margaritaville Magarita maker, you can offer some cash to borrow it on an as-needed basis. There’s no reason to accumulate a huge collection of tools or kitchen gadgets or whatever else if you’re not going to get the use out of these you need to justify the price. One of the things I always think about is my snowboard: I own one but I’ve been pretty bad at hitting the hills the past few years. In the past 2 winters, I’m not sure I’ve even made it out 10 times! And yet there is a great snowboard and all my gear, cluttering up the cupboards =\ That is an item I’d probably be better off renting until I took the sport more seriously!

Obviously you should still buy consumables (food, soap, etc.) that you will use less than 45mins per day, but when it comes to reusable items, the 45 minute rule is one of my go-to decision makers.


16 Comments

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  1. What a great idea! I think it’s time I go through my cupboards and declutter all those gadgets I rarely ever use.

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  2. I do this. I go through my closet, pull out all the random tops I haven’t work in a while and think: If I had to choose between this top and [some random top] which one would I choose?

    Then I get rid of the one I don’t choose until I whittle it down by 50%.

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  3. Nice one. Haven’t ever heard of that way to look at things, but it’s an easy one to remember :)

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  4. Kristen

    I’d have to disagree when it comes to hair gadgets.. It takes me 5 minutes to straightener my hair, but those 5 minutes allow me to feel great for at least a full day.

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  5. This is great advice! I wish I’d heard it sooner. I’m going to start asking myself this question when I want to buy something I don’t necessarily need!

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  6. I love this and will definitely use this rule of thumb when going shopping. It’s similar to the question I ask myself when cleaning house–have I used/worn/looked at this in the last 6 months? If the answer is no, it’s going to charity. Helps to keep things relatively minimal.

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  7. Oh gosh! If I apply is rule my room would be empty. I’m an extreme hoarder and if I did apply this rule and sold what I don’t use I’d probably be able to clear my debt with the amount. Definitely a great tip to implement before de cluttering.

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    • Bridget (Author)

      Agreed!! It’s great for decluttering — it’s how I get myself to part with items of clothing where I’m like “maybe I’ll wear it…” just no. Better to have a closet and home filled with useful things!

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  8. I like it. I’m increasingly big on borrowing/exchanging/renting. Plus, you never have borrower’s remorse ;).

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  9. Laura

    I haven’t heard of the 45 min/day guideline. Different way of looking at things. I have used the 6 month rule though. Have I used this item in the last 6 months? Will I use it in the next 6 months? If not, it goes.

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  10. I try to be a minimalist but I do have a bunch of stuff in boxes in our two guest room closets. I keep telling myself to clean out the closets but I have been too lazy. Need to do this.

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  11. SP

    Waaaay to strict for me! Haha. I cook / bake every day, and every time I use certain things I’m so glad I own them (hello microplane grater for zesting!). I could live without them, but why? Not for me. Similarly, hair/make-up products, etc.

    I guess I like the idea of minimalism, but I can’t take the actions to the extreme.

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  12. That’s an interesting way of thinking about purchases. I’m a lot better at not hoarding anymore, and I love a declutter (plus I can sell what I chuck = kerching debt repayment) but I do still make impulse purchases. I’ll have to remember this!

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