The 80-20 Rule of Gardening

I am a devout proponent of the 80-20 rule in all things. Life has taught me that it is really true that you can achieve 80% of the results with 20% of the effort. Life has also taught me that seeking perfection is a mugs game – just when you think you’re almost there, something changes and you aren’t. Perfectionists can keep their perfection; for me, near enough is good enough.

Honestly, if I’m ever offered a choice to go hard or go home, it’s a dead cert I’ll go home. At which time I’ll open an inexpensive bottle of red wine, pick up a good (or at least not bad) book and thank my lucky stars that I’m not one of those who are out there going hard. 20% effort is plenty.

This attitude to life is ideally suited to the garden. As I look around the grounds of the Richmond farm there are conservatively 7000 things that need doing. Before I get overwhelmed and hide under my bed, I’m taking a step back and looking for that 80% bang for my 20% buck. This has found me focusing around the house; cleaning the verandah (removing 50 kilo bags of fungicide and 220 litre drums of mystery acid, ripping down vines, sweeping, scrubbing, stacking, storing….), pulling up the worst of the invasive weeds from the front bed, finding the old path under the overgrown shrubbery, removing metres of ratty clothes lines and dozens of old clothes pins from the balustrades, … just taking one thing at a time in order of their visual impact.

And it’s working. I’m seeing amazing progress after just a few days work.  Here’s the front of the house after clearing the porch but before I started cleaning up the” walkway”.


Here it is part way through. Lookie, stepping stones – in the wrong place and overgrown, but still, stepping stones.



And here is my front walkway after a bit of hard work.



It’s definitely not done. There are more weeds and pruning and plantings and…. But that 80% result means I can now walk up to the front door without dodging weeds and rubbish, I can sit on the verandah and actually not worry about getting covered in some crud, I can look at the house and see a home. Not bad for 20% effort.

For those perfectionists who aren’t convinced that I should ignore the 20% of results that take 80% of the effort, not to fear, it’s still there waiting for me. In fact, when I finish my first 80% I will look at the remaining 20% and tackle 80% of that. This process will have me creeping towards perfection. Which I’m convinced doesn’t exist so I’ll just keep on creeping and enjoying my method of minimal effort for maximum results. The 80-20 rule rocks!


About Laura Rittenhouse

I'm an American-Australian author, gardener and traveller. Go to my writing website: for more. If you're trying to find my gardening blog, it's here.
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6 Responses to The 80-20 Rule of Gardening

  1. Max says:

    Boy do I wish I could convince Karen of the wisdom of your philosophy.

  2. that looks lovely and inviting now!

  3. vuchickens says:

    Love that philosophy! And love your new walkway. 🙂

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