I’m often asked how long it will take to complete an organizing task: organizing a garage, a kitchen, a closet, an office, etc. As with almost everything related to organizing, the only honest answer I can provide is, “It depends.” And it depends on a number of factors.
How much stuff is currently in the spaces you want to organize?
Rooms of the same size and same basic purpose may hold drastically different amounts of stuff. Drawers can be stuffed to the brim or only half full. Garages may have been unable to accommodate a car or truck for years or may have plenty of room for vehicles.
What kinds of things are in the spaces?
Papers take a long time to go through, because each paper must be reviewed, and each paper takes very little space. You’re making a decision about each paper the same way you’d make a decision about a shovel, a toaster, or a couch — but you won’t see results as quickly.
Also, sentimental items take a longer time to unclutter because of the emotions involved.
What kind of decision maker are you?
Some people make decisions quickly: Keep that, toss that, donate that. Other people need more time to make their decisions. Someone might want to tell me the story behind an object before deciding on its fate, and that’s perfectly normal and understandable.
How long can you reasonably work at an organizing task?
When organizing, you want to avoid both physical and emotional fatigue. Uncluttering involves making one decision after another, and you want to avoid decision fatigue — because that’s when you’re likely to make decisions you may regret later. If you find yourself dreading one more “keep or not” choice or your body is getting uncomfortable, take a break or just decide you’ve done enough for the day.
How many people need to be involved in the decisions?
If you live alone and can make all the uncluttering and organizing decisions, things are likely to go more quickly than if multiple people need to agree on the decisions — especially if the people involved have different organizing styles and will need to reach compromises.
What do you want your final organized space to look like?
A number of your organizing choices will affect the time required. For example:
If you’re organizing a new kitchen, do you want to put down shelf liner first? If so, it will take longer than if you decide you don’t need shelf liner.
Do you want all your books organized in a very specific order? If so, that will take longer than if you just want them in general categories.
How do you want to dispose of unwanted items?
The organizing project isn’t really done until the items you aren’t keeping are no longer in your space. If you want to sell them, that’s likely to take longer than if you choose to donate them. But very specific donation goals can take time, too. I know people who have kept things around for months because they wanted to donate them to a specific charity’s once-a-year garage sale.
Unless you need to clear out a space quickly, I’d generally advise working at whatever speed feels most comfortable to you. Once you’ve begun the process, and see how much time it’s taking you to do parts of it, you’ll have a decent idea how long it might take to do the rest.