There are two types of time it takes to declutter: time spent physically removing things, and time spent deciding emotionally what to remove and sorting.
The physical time spent decluttering varies depending on a few factors, including the size of the room, the size of the house, and the number of items that need to be sorted through.
A large room filled with your DVD and CD collection alongside old photo albums and clothes will take you longer than say, an under-stairs cupboard, much like a mansion will take longer than a bungalow.
However, these are not hard and fast rules. The amount of clutter itself is a significant factor in how long the process will take. A large room with a pile of old magazines that need to be removed will take far less time than a cupboard stacked high with old newspapers, shoes, and clothes.
Working on a timing principle of thirds, let us assume you will spend one-third of the time deciding what to throw out and sorting it into relevant piles, one third physically disposing of items, and one third procrastinating (the final third can also be eaten into by the first two running overtime).
In which case I’ve found that it generally takes roughly you roughly two hours to declutter a small room (40 minutes for deciding and sorting stuff into piles, 40 minutes for physically disposing items and 40 minutes procrastinating) and four hours to declutter a large room such as a kitchen or a living room.
You can opt to count the number of different sized rooms in your house to give you an idea of the total time it would take to declutter your entire house. For example, we have;
- Two small bedrooms – 2 hours x 2 = 4 hours (these are offices, not kids rooms if they were kids rooms I’d upgrade these to a large room and expect it to take us around 4 hours)
- One large master bedroom – 4 hours
- One bathroom – 2 hours
- One living room – 4 hours
- One kitchen – 4 hours
- One cellar – 2 hours
- One add-on – 2 hours
I, therefore, estimate it would take us around 22 hours to declutter the entire house – and remember, that’s decluttering, not cleaning. It’s easy to get carried away cleaning while decluttering. You can lose momentum when decluttering if you also clean as you go, however, if you do choose to do this remember to add on additional time (around one hour per room).
Truth is, most of the time spent on decluttering happens before you actually plan to do it. Compartmentalising items into essential, desirable, and a waste of space in your mind can take days, weeks or even years depending on how much emotional value you attribute to items and possessions. Ensure the actual decluttering process runs smoothly by knowing what you want to get rid of before you start.
Tips to make decluttering quicker and easier
Below are some tips I’ve found make decluttering both quicker and easier. Let me know in the comments what tips worked best for you and
Categorise New Items
Every time you make a new acquisition, categorise it in your head as one of three things: essential, desirable, and waste of space. This will help you to make the emotional decision to remove and keep the right items when the time comes.
Before you remove anything, make sure you have a system in place. I’d highly recommend using a very simple system: Sort, Stash, Trash. Simply separate items into stash and trash piles and treat them accordingly once completed.
To make your life much easier, take breaks as often as you can. Not only do breaks divide the actual work into manageable chunks, but you will look back on the experience more fondly and associate decluttering with a sense of calm, both during and after the fact.
Use An Area System
In a big room, divide the space into areas and work through them one at a time. If you try to sort too much at the same time, you will quickly become overwhelmed and those tea breaks will become stress-busters rather than pleasant interludes.
Make It A Game
No matter how old we get, we all enjoy playing games. If you don’t need to stack items neatly, or are throwing them out, set up an area to throw them into and play your own game of boules in the living room! Closest item to the coffee table wins.
Got a bored family member sat around? A friend at a loose end? Enlist their help, and turn the activity into one of enjoyment. You’ll be surprised how quickly decluttering becomes fun rather than a chore when it is a shared experience. It might even encourage other household members to be more circumspect when leaving items lying around in future!