Clearing clutter takes time. Excavating a neglected space can take an incredible amount of time. I remember spending two hours sorting the contents of three drawers for a client. Areas that melt down over time and become disorganized masses of stuff truly take more time to confront and resolve than most people have day-to-day and week-to-week. On the other hand, putting items back where they belong on a daily basis usually takes just a minute or two. Yes, you have to do it over and over again, day in and day out. But, doing that ensures that you don’t end up with a nightmare of your own making.
We all have avoided doing an unpleasant task because we thought it would take forever to do and we just couldn’t face it. When we finally made ourselves tackle the chore, we found that it took much less time than we expected.
I remember helping Elsa clear out a bathroom that she had neglected for months. It was loaded with a huge tumble of dirty clothes, cosmetics, toiletries and cleaning products on the floor and on every flat surface. It was also filthy. Dust and soap scum combined to form a grime everywhere that was truly off-putting. It was very difficult to face. It looked like a job that would take days to do.
Focusing on the big items first, the clothing and towels, we saw immediate progress. The task Elsa had avoided dealing with for a month was put in order in 45 minutes.
That kind of progress would not have been possible had Elsa been working alone. It did require a professional who knew where to start and how to make things happen quickly. But, this story clearly demonstrates that the timeline in your head, the one you form when you look at the mess before you and imagine the work that must be done, may not be accurate. If you use an effective process for clearing clutter, it can happen more quickly than you expect.