When it comes to making improvements, if I have the resources and energy to do it all at once, I do. Impatience and a secret (because I'm ashamed of loving this) sense of drama is behind this choice. Once I make a decision, I prefer to get it done. I love the "bigness" of doing something in a magnificent swoop of activity.
Many, many bloggers recommend giving yourself anywhere from a year to three years to reach the minimalist/simplified/decluttered point where you feel comfortable. I think of it as finally ending the purging stage and entering the maintenance stage. Naturally everyone will have to continue to periodically rid themselves of the the old, the no longer useful, and the unwanted, but with the right limits put in place and rejecting wanton consumerism, it should be the work of a few moments, rather than a year.
I do understand the value of a steady, calm, and methodical approach to decluttering. However, when I finally stepped back and let myself really see how our things were strangling the life out of me, how I was unable even to complete the most basics of tasks, much less anything for myself, because every corner of our house was choked with the unnecessary, I felt like it had to be taken care of immediately. Everyone's situation is unique, and everyone harbors within themselves different capabilities. While I have been almost obsessively tidy and spare my entire life, even after marriage and our first child, somehow I simply lost it after the second baby. It's not that I didn't try, or that I stopped caring or morphed into laziness. I realized that I am only capable of managing so many people's things before it gets out of hand. Some people can manage ten people's worth of possessions; others cannot even manage their own. For me, without conscious minimalism, three was that number. A four person household clarified the issue - we had to reduce absolutely everything.
If I had made this decision before the second child came along, I might have taken my time with decluttering. Back then I was able to do what it took to run the house and still have time for myself. But after our indescribable first year as a family of four, and then almost an entire second year attempting a return to normalcy as well as beginning new adventures such as homeschooling - I knew that to live the way we wanted to, things had to go. And they had to go fast because I would not willingly spend one more minute frustrated, exhausted, and defeated. So, after all these years of being an unwitting and sometime minimalist, I began to purposely go in that direction. It was May of 2010 and I think I should be finished sometime in February of 2011. That's nearly a year as it is. If I had taken my time, with two children always at home and everything else that needs doing, I think it really would have taken me around three years and that would have just been more of my life devoted to shifting around useless bits of stuff while feeling depressed at my inability to get anything finished.
I'm not advocating doing it my way. I'm advocating doing it your way. You might find that you are comfortable with your household duties and amount of free time, but still wish to live a downsized lifestyle. Blasting through your belongings like a tornado might not be for you. On the other hand, if you're finding that your things or your family's things are seriously hampering your life, it might be time to get rid of your extras, and call everyone together and have a talk about priorities, the environment, your faith - whatever minimalism/simplifying means to you and your family, and see if you can't work out some kind of plan of attack.
Yes, there is something to be said for giving yourself a chance to inculcate good habits during the year or more it takes to clear out your belongings. It's why the tortoise wins the race; he doesn't get burned out sprinting to the finish line. However, I believe that vigorously attacking those items and getting rid of them quickly, and experiencing the incredible difference it makes in your life will probably be more than sufficient inspiration to keep up with the maintenance.
I'm the Hare, who are you?