If you've been near a TV in the past several years, chances are you’ve seen one of the many shows dedicated to decluttering and organizing, from Mission: Organization to Clean Sweep to Clean House. Though these programs differ, the basic idea is the same: a household in need of clearing out excess stuff and making better use of living space gets a visit from a professional organizer, usually with an interior designer, a carpenter, and other professionals also on hand to help out. In the course of the show, the person, couple, or family works with these pros to dig out from clutter, reclaim their space, and transform their home.
These transformations are pretty dramatic: for example, where once there was a master bedroom overwhelmed by unused kids' clothes and toys and sporting outdated furniture and décor, now there's a newly painted sanctuary with modern fittings, no children's clutter, and perhaps a new custom closet to boot.
I love these shows because they're a great source of inspiration—it's easy to see how different things can be with some time, effort, and good ideas—and because they've allowed millions of people to better understand the work professional organizers do. The downside, however, is that they can give an unrealistic sense of how long it takes to transform a space, what's involved, and what the process is really like. In fact, I've had many conversations with clients in which they tell me they were spurred to action by one of these shows, and in which I congratulate them on being willing to make the leap while also making sure they know that I'm not going to show up with a full crew and overhaul their house in a weekend.
It was a great relief, then, to read about a new offshoot of Clean House called Clean House Comes Clean. In one episode, the show's host and crew explained how long it really takes to create the transformed spaces shown at the end of each show. The figures were eye-opening: on average, the crew spent six days of up to 18 hours each working in a home. That’s 108 hours per crew member!
I read a similar figure on my colleague John Trosko’s blog, Organizing LA. In a recent post about
These figures aren't meant to scare you away from getting organized, or from keeping up with the organizational habits you’ve already started to build. Rather, I hope they bring a bit of realism to what can often seem like a fantastical process—radical home transformation in 60 minutes!--and give you a better sense of what that process is actually like. Sure, if you bring in a crew of organizers, carpenters, designers, haulers, and yard sale experts, and devote yourself to the task of overhauling your house for a week straight, you can achieve the same stunning results we see on these shows. But it’s just as effective to break that process down into manageable chunks that you can do bit by bit over time, without having to hire a multi-person crew.
I strongly believe that organizing doesn’t have to be (and often shouldn’t be) a radical process to be effective and rewarding. Whether you’re looking to overhaul your entire house or simply to make some organizational improvements in one particular area, breaking the process into reasonable chunks that fit in with the rest of your life will make it much more likely that you’ll succeed over the long term.