Organizing projects can vary wildly in the length of time it takes to complete them and usually people err on the side of allowing too little time for a project. However there are a few personality traits and preparation tips that always make for a faster finish. A young couple recently called requesting my services to organize two garages. I told them that a typical garage can take up to twelve hours, but that we would start with a standard four hour session. We ended up almost finishing both garages in three hours, and could have been done with both in four if we had had a handyman there to do a couple repairs and didn’t have to wait for a few supplies, like an extra shelf, to be purchased.

What makes the difference between a project that takes three or four hours and one that takes multiple sessions? The couple in the example above had a lot of things going for them. Most importantly, they had discussed their goals in advance and were clear on what the garages’ functions should be; they just weren’t sure how to get there. The visioning portion of a project and getting into agreement (if there are two or more people using the space) can take a lot of time. If it is done before the organizer shows up, it saves at least an hour, sometimes more.

Both husband and wife in the example above were unusually decisive but at the same time were open to suggestions and willing to try things, so we were able to move quickly. Both were definitive about what they wanted to keep and what could be let go.

Plenty of shelving units were already in place, so we were able to simply move them around to make the space fulfill their vision. They also had extra plastic bins available that we could use to organize items into. In this case, the shelving was my favorite style to work with, the Metro-style steel wire shelving with adjustable shelves. The only thing that would have made the process even faster is if all the shelving units had been on wheels, since we had to empty and move three units.

Using clear plastic bins instead of cardboard boxes in the garage helped a lot too, since we could see exactly what was in a bin without having to open it and dig through it.

Sometimes (almost always, actually) purchasing shelving and containers in advance can set the process back, because an organizer can suggest just the right style and size of containers and shelves for your storage needs, but in this case, we got lucky since they had just the right stuff, and we zoomed along.

Another important factor in quick results is willingness to work. Both husband and wife kept their phones turned off and jumped in to lift and move items. We even moved a piano—no kidding. They had gotten a babysitter for the time of the session and there were no pets. You’d be surprised at how much time a dog in the room can subtract from the organizing process. If this had been a timed event, we couldn’t have planned it much better.

There will always be things left to do at the end of the session because it’s impossible to know exactly what will be needed in any reorganizing job until it is almost finished. In this case we needed a one additional shelving unit, a rail to hang a few things on, and a handyman to bolt a cabinet to the wall so it could be filled. If we hadn’t been able to move the piano, we would have needed to hire help for that, etc.

Having a third strong, energetic person at an organizing session is a help when there is lifting and moving to do. Even in an office or closet organizing session, a third person can help by shredding sensitive documents, folding or hanging clothing, bagging donations, etc. The only downside to a third person when organizing is if they are not on board with the vision for the project. Arguing and too many opinions about the process definitely slow it down, so getting those discussions out of the way first is crucial. Ready, set, go!