by Susan McCarthy
Everyday practice: Engage in maintaining the spaces you declutter so the clutter doesn't come back.
When we finally decide that it’s time to declutter our homes, we want to see fast results that will keep us motivated. But, sorting through every object we own can be draining. At the end of an hour, we may feel more frustrated than inspired … so much more to do!
How Much Do You Have to Declutter?
Of course, there is no one answer to the question how long decluttering will take. A professional organizer may estimate ten hours for a room; however, how much stuff do you have? Have you decluttered here and there through the years? Even if tabletops, counters, and shelves aren’t laden with objects, how much stuff is stored (or crammed) in drawers, cabinets, and closets? How many rooms and spaces do you need to declutter?
If you’ve never really decluttered in the past, or you have a lot of small items to sort, you’ll need more time. My parents’ home was a hoarding situation. Although the house was a small 800-square-feet, there was an attic, basement, two-car garage (with additional attic space), porch, and shed to clear. My brother and I probably spent a couple hundred hours emptying the house, which included a yard sale and multiple trips to donation centers.
What Rooms Are You Decluttering?
Decide what room you’ll start in. You can go for some easy wins when you start. Decluttering bathrooms, the foyer, a hallway closet, a guest bedroom, or the laundry room will take less time than, say, the garage or attic … unless that guest bedroom has become the catch-all for everything you didn’t want to decide what to do with in the past.
However, the guest room that hasn’t been used and won’t be use immediately, could take a lot of time yet leave you feeling as if you’ve accomplished nothing. One of the reason so many books on organizing start in your closet is because you start every day in this space.
You may think it is selfish to start with this space, particularly if your kitchen, dining room, and family room are cluttered; however, starting your days with an organized closet could be just what you need to get inspired to tackle the next task.
What’s Your Timeline?
If you are downsizing because of a move to a smaller home, or because you are being relocated across country for work, then you may have a tight timeline to work with. Although you may declutter obvious clutter with no trouble, if you can’t easily make a decision with an item, chances are you’ll take a lot of stuff with you thinking that you’ll decide what to do with it when you reach your new home.
On the other hand, if you are staying in the same home, but you want to simplify and give yourself more space to move around, then there is no rush and you may devote more time to mulling over items. And, honestly, 15-minutes here or an hour or two there won’t feel overwhelming, but it will add up over the months.
I’ve seen quite a few people on private Facebook minimalism groups admit that it took them a couple of years to minimalize their belongings. So, if you feel like you should have got more done this past weekend, remember, you did enough.
Where Might You Underestimate the Time Required?
If you plan a yard sale, you’ll need time to price items and set up the sale as well as manage the event and clean up after the sale.
If you plan to sell items online, you’ll need to take photos, write descriptions, answer potential buyers’ questions, and schedule time for buyers to come to your house or plan time to pack items and take them to the post office.
If you will sell items on consignment at different stores, you’ll need to contact the store owners or managers, bring in your items, and retrieve what doesn’t sell within a certain timeframe. You may be dealing with different stores, so you’ll need to research the proper location for clothing, furniture, antiques, or jewelry and track what you bring to each place.
If you are donating items, do you need to bring them to a donation box or center or schedule time for a group to pick up items at your home?
You could use A Year of Decluttering’s daily tasks to remove some of your clutter so that when you have more time to work in a room, you’ll have already cleared a vast assortment of things which will help speed up your process. Remember, unless you must move by a certain date, you don’t have to declutter your house in a week or a month. And, by decluttering now, by your choice, you’ll have an easier time packing should the need arise sometime in the future.
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Susan, chief (and only) organized squirrel at A Less Cluttered Life, pursues learning, practicing, and sharing information about the everyday habits that can lead to living a better life.