We live in a time of great economic uncertainty and rapid changes around the world. No matter where you’re located, the cost of living is probably rising. Housing, in particular, is becoming less affordable. Fewer people enjoy the luxury of being able to buy properties and design their homes from scratch. More often, you’ll find that people are aging in place or buying older homes and making changes over time to suit their needs.

Improving a home is rarely a frivolous endeavor. When done properly, you can significantly improve your quality of life. At the same time, some projects, such as remodeling, can be fairly expensive and present considerable disruption to your everyday routines. This is one activity where a trial-and-error approach is something few can afford. So how do you achieve a big impact with minimal investment?

Identifying the key areas

The Pareto principle, also called the 80/20 rule, is widely applied in fields like economics, business, and management. It tells us that 80% of our results come from 20% of the work we do. Those numbers, of course, aren’t necessarily accurate – that’s beside the point. The main lesson is that outcomes are unevenly distributed and not always proportional to the inputs.

Going around your home, you can probably find evidence of the Pareto principle in the relationship between the design of your living space and its effect on your quality of life. Unlike people who have to live in apartments or tiny houses out of necessity, homeowners tend to have more areas that wind up being under-utilized. People leave their basements unfinished; entire rooms are dedicated to storage. Some rooms enable essential everyday functions – the bathroom and bedroom, for instance, as well as wherever you tend to entertain guests. The kitchen, serving a dual purpose, is particularly important – duly earning its reputation as the heart of any home.

Making high-impact changes

The exact number doesn’t matter if, for instance, 60% of your home is unused compared to 40% that consists of common areas. Even if you flip those numbers around, that unused space is not pulling its weight. Your essential maintenance activities, such as cleaning or HVAC repair services, are already being extended in part to keep those underperforming rooms on par with the rest of the house. After all, you can hardly let a room fall into neglect, growing stuffy and moldy while the rest of your home is picture-perfect. Is it really worth investing in a full-scale remodel to improve those areas?

The sensible approach would be to focus on the most heavily-utilized areas of the house when making improvements. Better lighting would work wonders for any part of the house, and it certainly makes a great impression in photos or when you bring people over. But you’d get more bang for your buck daily if you allocated your resources in this aspect towards additional windows for your home office, or voice-controlled smart lighting for your bedroom.

Speaking of guests, how often do you entertain people in your home? It’s fun to have an outdoor lounge area by the pool, but if your most frequent visits occur on Thanksgiving, that sort of improvement can hardly be a priority. A better idea would be to invest in the kitchen. Check if some appliances could stand to be replaced, or the storage upgraded. It will help you with the daily task of preparing meals, which also happens to be important when people are coming over.

Tending to the rest

If you focus on the parts of the home that harbor essential functions, you can safely invest in improvements that will prove rewarding day after day. Does that mean you should leave the other areas of the home unattended? Certainly not – after all, the Pareto principle still implies that these minor areas are responsible for a share of the outcomes.

Instead of simply throwing money at issue, a better approach would be to find ways that help you integrate these unused spaces into your life. Rather than use a spare room for storage, you can start to clear out the clutter and convert it into an art studio or similar craft room where you can practice your hobby of choice or work on personal projects. Try to learn more about bodyweight exercises, and you can use the extra space to function as a home gym.

By using the Pareto principle as a guideline, you can give every part of your home its due attention and prioritize how you allocate limited resources of time, money, and effort. That way, you can maximize results and transform your living space towards enriching your lifestyle each day.