How long does tidying up take?
February 26, 2019 7:44 AM   Subscribe

I'm moving, and want to use this opportunity to weed through my things. I haven't donated or thrown out anything for about eight years. I live in a 750 square foot apartment and while I'm not a hoarder, I'm a crouton petter, so I have many things. How long will this take?

I'll use the Konmarie method; I bought the book when it came out and actually boxed up a lot of clothing (the boxes are still in a closet...). For people who have done this, how long did it take you? How did you schedule it around your job? I live alone but chaos makes me nutty, and I work from home, so I'd like this to be as non-disruptive as possible. Also, my landlord is showing my place, so it can't be chaotic when he's here. I want my current place rented asap!

My new apartment is twice as big as my current place, but paying to haul a bunch of stuff I no longer use or need is not ideal. Any other tips for weeding out before a move are much appreciated.
posted by sockermom to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Expect it to take a solid day, with good help. Request help from friends and build in breaks, this is not a solo task for a crouton petter.

You get started now by taking the boxes to your donation center of choice after work one day. Put them in the car tonight if you have a car. Wrangle a friend’s car if you don’t have your own. Get them gone now before you ‘start.’ Celebrate this victory.

Then plan your upcoming day of sorting. Choose punctual friends. If you’re within an hour train of NYC I’ll come help you without judgment. Wash all your laundry in advance of the big day. Get sturdy boxes and a special color of tape that you ONLY use to seal donation boxes. Plan to put a little patch of special tape on bulky items for donation.

Choose a weekend day and let the landlord know that this ONE DAY is not available for showing.

Friend A (possibly 2 friends but no more) arrives at 10am, helps you do clothes until noon, you eat lunch together. Order food at 11 so it arrives when you’re ready to eat.
Friend(s) B arrives at 1pm, helps you do books or knickknacks or whatever until 3pm, you have a cup of tea with friend B, and a light snack
Friend(s) C arrives at 3:30 and helps you sort out expired foods and medicines until dinner time if time they’re able. You treat friend C to dinner, again, order in at an appropriate time so nobody is hangry.

As an alternative, each friend may be available for a few hours after work in different evenings. This drags things out and possibly decreases momentum but done is better than perfect so if evenings work for your friends, go with having help. Feed everybody. No more than two helpers at a time. That way lies distraction. 9 childbearing people cannot make a baby in a month, 9 friends will not sort your home in 2 hours.

One, some, or all of these friends might be generous enough to put your rejected items into their car and take them to the donation place of your choice. Have a designated place for the things to go immediately. You might have friends who are ONLY available to pick things up and take them where you want them to go. Enlist those friends as well.

Friend(s) D comes the next day to help you dispatch any remaining things. Whether they remain due to size of item, or the smallness of vehicles, the tight schedules of other friends, or you not having time to sort everything with friends A thru C the previous day is of no matter. The items may not linger. They need to get to their new people who need them.

If you can swing having a professional cleaner in the day after you let things go, do that. Otherwise, plan to give every room a good vacuuming and wiping down. There’s something really soothing about adding a bit of sparkle that way at the end of the process.
posted by bilabial at 8:11 AM on February 26, 2019 [13 favorites]

We live in a similarly sized place and it took us about 4-5 weekends. Sounds like you have more stuff than us, but probably not dramatically more.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:11 AM on February 26, 2019 [3 favorites]

As a very rough guide I'd plan on doing one room per day on average. You can easily divide this up over a longer period if, say, you do a few hours after work every day. Some dense or highly cluttered areas may take longer (I think it took me a whole day just to process my late mother's walk-in closet).
I bought the book when it came out and actually boxed up a lot of clothing (the boxes are still in a closet...).
As you allude to here, in my experience the hard part isn't just sorting and packaging the items you're letting go, it's actually completing their journey out of the house to their final resting place at the charity shop, electronics recycling center, etc. Or maybe you think "I bet I could get a little money for this" and start accumulating a whole other big "to be eBayed" pile. It's a separate big effort to schlep all the stuff out and transport it elsewhere so if you can get help with this part go ahead and do it—pay someone to pick it up, get friends to help, whatever. Otherwise the boxed-up items can follow along with you to your next house and that's not the outcome you want.
posted by 4rtemis at 8:15 AM on February 26, 2019 [9 favorites]

Your place should not be chaotic, but there can absolutely be boxes out and in various states of packing while they are showing the apartment. You can also have a pile of already packed boxes sitting somewhere as long as it is not blocking the view of any important things. Don't fill the bathroom with boxes, but you can put stacks of them in the corners of your bedroom and living room. Don't think the place has to be perfect.

Try smaller categories, like just shirts instead of all clothes at once.
posted by soelo at 8:20 AM on February 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

As a very rough guide I'd plan on doing one room per day on average.

Except that using the KonMari method you don't do things by location, you do them by category. You never take apart a whole drawer or room at once - you do "office supplies" or "electronics." Or even smaller sub-categories like "pens and pencils" and "random adapters and chargers." Aim to do one whole category (however you define it) at a time and put it away in one session. Figure out how much time you need and choose the size of category accordingly.

So my experience is that it's not especially disruptive because you can do it without making a big mess. The biggest mess is the pile of stuff that you have to recycle/rehome/throw out. And you'll need a staging area but a big enough piece of floor or table works, and you really only need the staging area while you're actually going through the things (and again, plan to do small enough sessions that you have everything put away at the end of the session).

I live in a 1,000 sq ft apt and I'm pretty minimalist and I find a big category ("clothes") takes me about 2 hours on a weekend morning and a small category ("shirts") a half hour between dinner and bedtime but YMMV.
posted by epanalepsis at 8:27 AM on February 26, 2019 [5 favorites]

The KonMari method was very helpful for my particular set of issues around things, which is why I talk about it all the time, but one of its drawbacks is that it is not fast. Depending on what you have and how you feel about your belongings, you might need a day for some of the five categories (clothing, books, documents, komono [random crap], sentimental items) if you have a lot or are very attached. It's not about sorting by room.

The last time I packed for a move (post-KonMari), it took me two full days and I was kind of an emotional wreck at the end of it--so much stuff!
posted by betweenthebars at 8:31 AM on February 26, 2019 [4 favorites]

Best answer: For what it's worth, combining KonMarie with packing for a move made it go much faster for me than otherwise, because the mentality of "what do I want to bring?" was easier to get into than the "sparking joy" thing. A couple weeks out from the end of my lease, I had a tall, tidy stack of boxes, large items, and non-essential furniture taking up about half of the front room of my one-bedroom apartment, and therefore everything else (besides daily-use stuff) obviously needed to make its way to Goodwill. It wasn't how I'd want to live all the time, but it also wasn't chaotic by any means. After I'd made my selections, the place got emptier day-by-day, and cleaning at the end was a cinch.
posted by teremala at 8:40 AM on February 26, 2019 [7 favorites]

Best answer: The five KonMarie categories (clothes, books, paper, komono, and sentimental) presume big blocks of time. I found success brainstorming many many smaller categories (table linens! cook books! baking gear!) and then grouping them according to degree of difficulty/time. Big factors here included a) how much stuff in the category; b) extent to which the items were already together instead of scattered all over the place, and; c) emotional burden. That way I had a list for small chunks of time after work, or a weekend morning, or a whole day.

In your case, since you’re moving, I might attack easy categories where when you’re finished, you can pack the keepers immediately, like the table linens example. Having these lists meant I could choose something that appealed to me in the moment instead of procrastinating to avoid whatever was next on the master KonMarie list.

Enjoy! You really will feel lighter.
posted by carmicha at 8:46 AM on February 26, 2019 [6 favorites]

The Netflix TV series shows a count of the days in some of the footage in each episode. Obviously those families had TV production deadlines lighting a fire under them, and potentially could have taken time off of work, had some help, or arranged their schedules to finish in a certain timeframe because someone was making a TV show about their progress. But you could definitely use those onscreen day counts as a rough guideline.

The first day counter I really noticed while watching the show went much longer than you'd think. Less "weekend" than "month".

The show also frequently depicts people staying up late into the night working on their piles of stuff, which is probably not something you're going to want to do unless you leave it too late and are scrambling to finish up so you can meet your move-out date.
posted by the milkman, the paper boy at 9:32 AM on February 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

the boxes are still in a closet...

Then I predict it's going to take forever...

We're doing it at the moment (from a starting point worse than yours) and it's taking what seems like forever. We devote one day a week to it, we buy decent (Really Useful Boxes) stackable storage boxes (double as moving boxes) for what we're keeping, we get the rubbish bags and the charity shop bags out of the house as soon as possible (I bet that's how you ended up with a closet full of boxes you've already thrown away once), and we just. keep. going. To be honest, I could see us doing a Konmarie pass after we've done the bulk of the work - at the moment, I couldn't get all the items of <category> in one place at the same time. Just getting to the point where I know all the sewing hobby is in those boxes will be a big win.
posted by Leon at 10:26 AM on February 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

(We have 64 litres of silk. Can you believe that?)
posted by Leon at 10:31 AM on February 26, 2019 [3 favorites]

Best answer: When I was in a similar situation (small apartment headed into a larger one, using moving as an opportunity for the KonMari method), it took me about 6 weekends of work, with occasional weeknight stints as well. I used the book to make myself a checklist -- so, for instance, in the book, the category "Komono" is broken down into several subcategories (kitchen, bathroom, electronics, etc.). I listed these individually as tasks and then did my best to work through them in order. As I went, I got a better sense of how much time to allocate for each. For me, the time allocation was roughly as follows for each of her five big categories (YMMV):
- Clothing - only took one solid weekend
- Books - also about one weekend (but I had a ton of books -- about 20-25 bank boxes full)
- Papers - took me about one weekend day once I had them all collected
- Komono (miscellaneous) - this was a doozy. Kitchen alone took almost an entire weekend, probably because I was packing as I went and the fragile stuff took extra time to wrap. I'd say I spent at least 2 weekends plus some weeknights on this category.
- Mementos - took about a weekend.

It will be a complete mess while you're sorting, but it's generally possible to wrap up chunks of your sorting and clean up at the end of each weekend, especially if you're packing as you go. In order to avoid living in constant cleaning clutter for 6 weeks straight (my landlord was showing my apartment, too), I learned to allocate specific time each weekend for getting rid of the stuff I'd decided to pass on. This was actually one of the harder things to manage, since I was trying to dispose of each item appropriately -- ie, dividing up things for the dump, for recycling, to sell to the thrift store, to donate to the library booksale, etc. -- and each of those locations had limited hours, especially on the weekends. If I missed my window for getting to the dump (or the Goodwill or the library drop-off point or whatever), I'd generally stow the boxes/bags in my car so that (1) they wouldn't be cluttering my living room, and (2) I could drop them off during a lunch hour during the week.
posted by ourobouros at 10:37 AM on February 26, 2019 [5 favorites]

I should also say: doing this before a move was GREAT and I highly recommend it, despite the challenge. It was the least stressful move I've ever had, by far.
posted by ourobouros at 10:47 AM on February 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

I had a one-bedroom apartment when I did KonMarie with not that much stuff nor am I a crouton petter. I think it took around three weekends. I saved "sentimental" stuff, mostly photos, for after the move because it was pretty time-consuming/draining for the volume. It was helpful, and I've kept it up.

It really does work better if you do categories as chunks, so I'd start with a weekend day for clothes and see how that goes. Ideally the first one, so you'll have the second one to wrap up / clean up as needed. Take the boxes to donate away first, so you have some space to cram stuff away if you can't finish and need to make the place presentable. Don't look in the boxes! You haven't missed that stuff since you boxed it up, just get it out of the house.

It'll probably be slow going at first as you get used to the method. Given your constraints, it might be worth looking into a professional organizer for a few sessions?
posted by momus_window at 12:10 PM on February 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

Can you phone a friend or professional? The timeline all depends on your emotional attachment, issues around scarcity, what-ifs, etc. The thing that will speed things up the most is someone overseeing your decision making.

If you do it dispassionately, you can do it in one to two weekends.
posted by MountainDaisy at 12:38 PM on February 26, 2019

I did the clothes, books, CDs and bathroom stuff, so not the full Kondo.

My experience was that it took me a half day each time to sort stuff in each of the above categories but then seemingly forever to dispose of the stuff I decided to discard. I used to be a crouton-petter but something really clicked after reading Kondo's book and I now gladly let go of stuff - but I feel guilty for environmental reasons about just throwing stuff away. It's hard to find new homes for some of my things, we don't do yard sales where I live (not the US) and nobody seems to want certain things, like mugs.

One thing I did and recommend was to do set up a give-away party where I laid out the books I no longer wanted (good or even great books that no longer gave me pleasure, no junk) and had friends come in for pizza and cake. They took several dozen books. Then I took six huge boxes to the library.

Another bit of advice - used stuff is not worth a lot of money. Maybe it's different in the US but over here, trying to resell stuff is a huge pain and not really worth the effort. I'd donate, donate, donate.

Also, paying someone to help is money well spent.
posted by M. at 12:44 PM on February 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

Marie Kondo's idea of "quick" is 6 months (her idea is that you don't have to do the marathon multiple times so in comparison to your entire life it's short). I'd say work backwards from your move out date and plan each category for specific days.
posted by divabat at 12:58 PM on February 26, 2019 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The strategies that have helped me the most with crouton petting during moves or general cleanouts:

-for clothes I use the 'get rid of half' method: pile up all the clothes that don't fit you or you can't remember wearing, and commit to getting rid of half. I always end up getting rid of more than half, because I gave myself permission to keep a few for silly reasons.

-put 3 big boxes in each room: throw away, give away, and I Don't Know. This gives you the leeway to keep packing and sorting until the IDK box is full, instead of petting each crouton. You can also play 'get rid of half' with the IDK box, over multiple rounds!
posted by nakedmolerats at 2:16 PM on February 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I've been doing this since the 20th of Jan, and I'm about half way through paper. Mostly after work and on the weekend, an hour or two at a time. I've been doing it in very small sub-categories though, in order to avoid making a terrible mess, and also going super slowly as I don't have a deadline. I'm also letting myself dither about decisions if I'm not sure. If I had a deadline, I'd probably just err on keeping most of the "ugh, I don't know" stuff, and knowing that I'd probably chuck it when I unpacked.

If I were moving, I would pack as much as possible as you finish each category (books, for example, and hobby stuff, and out of season clothes). If you get through books and you're running out of time, I would skip papers and do them when you unpack. Papers don't weigh much individually, but can take quite awhile to go through. For komono, start with the categories where you know you'll be getting rid of a lot of volume, or are hard to pack. Kitchen stuff, for example. You may not make it to sentimental, but I wouldn't sweat it.
posted by kjs4 at 11:23 PM on February 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: This is all super useful, thanks! I was able to weed out shirts and sweaters yesterday after work and boxed up two boxes, along with the 6 boxes of various stuff that already existed from the last time I did this. I also watched some of the show while I worked and my home looks more like the "after" pictures than the "before" pictures by a mile, so I think this will be OK.

I scheduled a donation store pickup for a few weeks in the future of my estimated number of boxes, so that's all taken care of as well.

I don't plan on weeding out papers or books, because I'm a professor and that would be a literal nightmare, but I do have a lot of clothes and a lot of strange kitchen stuff that I can focus on.
posted by sockermom at 11:05 AM on February 27, 2019

I don't plan on weeding out papers or books, because I'm a professor and that would be a literal nightmare

On the contrary, that is the best reason to do this! My .02, but I work at a university and sometimes help retiring faculty clean out their offices. This is the saddest, most depressing job -- usually they have been retired for decades and are only leaving because their bodies will no longer keep working. The accumulated books and papers of a lifetime in academia can also literally crush you. I strongly encourage you to think of Future You and keep on top of your collection. Make it only things that truly spark joy.
posted by epanalepsis at 10:13 AM on March 7, 2019

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