Moving is an exciting time, but we all know that it’s stressful too. Let’s face it—nothing makes you want to stick your head in the sand like the prospect of packing an entire house.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can make the packing process easier by decluttering first. When you have less stuff, you have less to move. Plus, you’re starting life at your new place with a fresh slate.
I’ve moved all the way from the US to Australia, and trust me, your future self will thank you for clearing the clutter! Here are my top tips on how to declutter before moving.
How to Begin Decluttering For a Move?
I know that decluttering can feel overwhelming, especially when you’re moving to a new house. The clock is ticking, and your list of things to do is getting longer by the minute.
But before you dive in, my best advice is to slow down. It might feel counterintuitive when you’re itching to get things done, but I promise that a bit of planning will save you time and energy in the long run.
How to Decide What To Keep When Moving?
Let’s start by thinking about what to keep when moving. Most people don’t have a strategy, and instead, they just go through things one by one and make hundreds of individual decisions about what to get rid of.
It’s exhausting, and many people run out of steam. They end up giving up and tossing everything into random cardboard boxes. Don’t do this.
Instead, start by thinking intentionally about what you want your new home to look and feel like. After all, any move is an opportunity for a fresh start—so why not make the most of it?
The best way to do this is with a simple exercise. Imagine you’ve hired an interior designer to decorate your new space, and now you’ve got to provide a brief. Think about the style and function of each room. (Ideally, write this all down.)
When you’re done, you’ll have a powerful vision of your new place—and you can use this to create simple rules about what to keep. For example, if you pictured an inviting living room with clean lines and a crisp, coastal feel … then maybe your collection of souvenir shot glasses should stay behind.
Pro Tip: Be as specific as possible with your brief. Imagine someone else is decluttering for you. What would you tell them about your preferences?
What to Do With Things You’re Getting Rid Of?
The next bit of planning I recommend is deciding what to do with the items you’re decluttering. This is important because a lot of people get stuck here. They agonise over every item (“Should I sell this? It might be worth something? Or maybe I should just donate it?”), and this is incredibly time-consuming.
If you don’t want this to happen to you, sit down and plan first. Here are some things to think about:
Do you have enough time to sell things? I know it’s hard to give away something you paid good money for, but remember that time is money too. If you’re in a time crunch, making a blanket decision not to sell anything can make life a lot easier.
If you want to sell things, how will you do it? I recommend writing a specific plan that includes how you’ll sell things, how much time you’ll invest, and how long you’ll try before pulling the plug.
Here are a few ways to sell unwanted items.
- Yard sale / garage sale — you can sell a lot in a short period of time but be mindful that people are usually looking for bargain prices.
- Facebook Marketplace / other online markets — these are an easy way to move larger items (like furniture), and you can command higher prices than at a yard sale, but it’s a lot more time-intensive
- Consignment shops — these shops sell your goods for you, but they usually take a large percentage of the profits in exchange. Keep in mind these shops will only accept things in good condition.
If you’re not going to sell things, I found that listing stuff for free on Facebook Marketplace is a simple way to clear big things quickly. (I once got rid of an unwanted dining table in under an hour!) Alternatively, you can ask if a family member wants to take anything or donate to a local thrift store.
There are no right or wrong ways to get rid of your stuff. But what’s important is that you make a decision, decide on a plan, and then stick to it.
Time to Start Decluttering
Now that you’ve got a better grasp of what you want to bring into your new home and a plan for what to do with your unwanted goods, it’s time to start the decluttering process.
Here are a few simple tips that will help you:
Take out the trash
Grab a few trash bags and find anything that belongs in the bin.
Go through the medicine cabinet and look for anything that’s past the expiration date (pills, makeup, beauty products, etc.). Do the same in your kitchen pantry, and check out this list of surprising household items that expire.
You can also declutter old magazines, anything broken that you’re not going to repair, random papers, old sheets … and, well, trash!
Follow your brief
If you did the interior decorating exercise mentioned earlier, keep it handy and refer back to it while decluttering. If you feel stuck about whether or not to keep something, ask yourself, “Does this follow the brief?”.
Related Post: 4 Thoughtful Questions to Ask When Decluttering
Everything in its place
Another easy tip is to think about where you’re going to put things in your new house. Consider the size of your home, storage areas, and how much space you have.
If you can’t picture exactly where you’re going to put something, then odds are you’re just putting clutter on the moving truck. You’ll have to deal with it eventually, and in the meantime, you’re only increasing your moving expenses.
I know it can be hard work, but this is the perfect opportunity to get more done in less time. Don’t double handle your items. Clear them now, and you can start enjoying the benefits of decluttering right away.
Think about your routines
Whenever I’m packing (whether it’s for a big move or a short trip), one thing that I do is to walk through my everyday life and think about my daily routines.
For example, I’ll do a mental walk-through of my children’s bedtime routine as I pack, making sure that I have everything I need AND that it’s all together.
This is helpful for two key reasons. First, it means that all the essentials I need are easy to find, and I can put the kids to bed or make dinner without having to unpack a million boxes.
But perhaps more importantly, packing this way helps highlight what’s really essential—which is helpful for decluttering. You notice what you use regularly and what you can probably live without.
Don’t get stuck
Decluttering before a move is a bit different from regular decluttering because you’re racing the clock. Of course, it’s always best if you can start early instead of leaving things to the last minute. But if you’re running short on time, the most important thing is to avoid getting stuck.
“Stuck” is what happens when you come across something tricky, like sentimental items. Suddenly, all your momentum disappears, and you don’t know what to do. It’s mentally exhausting, and it’s hard to get yourself motivated to declutter again.
So how do you avoid getting stuck? By setting a timer and using a maybe pile.
Set a limit (say 5 minutes per item), and if you feel stuck with an item, put it in your maybe pile and deal with it later. I know this might feel like double-handling (and it is), but I think it’s worth it to avoid losing your momentum—especially when you’re in a hurry. Just keep going!
Related Post: 10 Simple Decluttering Tips For When You Feel Stuck
Once you’ve decluttered the majority of a room, you can go back to the items in your maybe pile. As I mentioned, these will usually be sentimental items or things that you’re keeping “just in case”.
I’ve written a decluttering guide that has detailed instructions on how to handle these hard to declutter items—and you can get a free copy by subscribing below.
Stop buying more clutter
This is a bonus tip for anyone who needs to hear it. If you’re preparing for a move, stop shopping and bringing new things into your home. Declutter first, get a grasp on what you have, and then if you need something, buy it at the new place.
More Decluttering Tips + Resources
Decluttering before a move has some unique challenges, but it never hurts to go back to basics. If you want to learn more about how to declutter, here are some helpful resources.
- How To Declutter Your Home: 9 Tips to Help You Clear The Clutter
- How to Declutter When You Regret Spending Money
- 5 Helpful Decluttering Checklists For Your Home
- 23 Decluttering Ideas That Will Create Space In Your Home + Life
Did you find these tips helpful? What advice would you offer someone decluttering for a move? Let us know in the comments!