Getting ready to move house is always a challenge. Having a solid plan can help keep you on target and make sure your move goes off without a significant hitch. Decluttering should be near the top of the list when you make that plan, so I’ve put together some pointers to help you with how to declutter when moving.
When used together with my other declutter tips, these ideas will help you make the move with less stress AND less clutter.
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Benefits of Decluttering Before a Move
I don’t know a single person in the history of ever who has said, ‘I’m so glad I didn’t declutter before moving. Bringing every.single.thing I own into this new space was the best decision ever.’
In fact, every person I know who has gone through a full-house move says, ‘I wish we had gotten rid of more stuff before packing up the house. I can’t believe all the stuff we’re unpacking now that we don’t need.’
Prevent that regret by decluttering before moving! Not only will you feel like you’re accomplishing a big task (you are!), but it also helps your local community when you declutter and donate.
Aside from having less work to do after the move, you can really minimize moving costs by decluttering. You’ll need fewer packing materials and there will be lower moving labor and transportation costs. You may even declutter so much that your moving truck needs are drastically reduced… which could potentially save you hundreds or thousands of dollars on a long-distance move.
You may not be able to do a perfectly complete job, but nothing is ever perfect when it comes to decluttering. 😉 Just remember, every.single.item you declutter when moving will make EVERYTHING easier later.
To keep yourself on track, print out this declutter checklist for moving:
Moving House Declutter Tips
First and foremost, don’t just start throwing things into boxes. Trust me on this!
I know you’re under a time crunch and your brain can’t stop spinning with the endless to-do list. Who can think about making decisions about all the little objects in the house?
It seems like it would be so much easier — and time-efficient — to quickly pack everything up and then figure out later what you really need for the new place, right?
But… no. Not only is packing up and moving out of your current home stressful, but you’re going to be exhausted when you reach your new house.
It’s highly unlikely that you will go through boxes to sort everything, find your treasures, and declutter the rest. Instead, you’ll probably shove most of the boxes into an empty area and either never open them or end up with a massive mess as you dig through clutter to find that one thing you actually NEED.
Here are some quick tips to keep in mind:
- Do a walkthrough to assess each room. Make notes as you go.
- Start decluttering the moment you find out you’re moving, whether the actual event will happen in 10 months or 4 weeks. You’ll just have to be more diligent about getting things done every.single.day if your timeline is very short. Sometimes that’s actually good… you learn to make decisions more quickly and become more efficient.
- Do at least one round of S.P.R.I.N.T. decluttering in every room. Still feel like there’s too much to pack? Repeat.
- For some areas, you may be able to declutter and pack at the same time. Note this on your walkthrough.
How to Declutter for a Move
Now, let’s talk about how to purge your house for a move in the best order of decluttering.
When you’re getting ready to move, think about how you want to feel in your new space. You may be thinking along the lines of fresh, light, and simple-yet-cozy.
Remember that ideal as you’re decluttering.
Get plenty of empty boxes for donations and black trash bags for what can’t be donated. And as I always recommend, get all of the donations and trash out of your home after every work session.
Ready? Great! Here’s the order of decluttering I prefer:
Determining a starting point is always the most challenging part of decluttering before a move. In most cases, the best place to start is in the garage.
The idea is to create a useful space for storing boxes and bins as you pack, and the garage is okay for very short-term storage.
Related: How to Organize a Cluttered Garage (great decluttering tips!)
If you have a basement, do that after the garage.
No garage or basement? Then just keep going down this list and work on the spaces you DO have.
I know… it probably hurts your heart to think about decluttering anything from your craft room. I put it second on the list because you’ll likely have to work on this room just a little at a time.
So start early, and pop back in here to do sessions in between decluttering the other rooms.
Most families have plenty of items to declutter in closets. More importantly, cleaning out closets gives you somewhere to store packed boxes if you can’t use a garage or basement. That way, you’re not always staring at all of those boxes if you have the luxury of being able to pack months in advance.
Decluttering your closets can be challenging, especially if you have been in your home for several years. Career changes, parenthood, and fitness hobbies can profoundly influence what is hiding in your closets.
Start with those shelves near the top, where the sweaters you wore three seasons ago still live.
Make sure to allow plenty of time. While you might be positive you can do your closet in a few hours, it may actually take days to clean out, purge, and rearrange each closet suitably. When you get done, you should have some extra room to store boxes as you pack.
Once you’ve decluttered the closets, it’s logical to finish the bedrooms next.
If you pulled a significant amount of stuff from your closet, chances are your dressers, bedside tables, and other storage will have the same issues.
If you have children, you may have an even bigger issue. Decluttering children’s rooms provides a special kind of challenge.
If your children are young, try to enlist help from friends or family members. Ask if they can take the kiddos on a trip to the park or out to lunch while you work on the kids’ rooms. Throw away all of those hoarded Happy Meal toys and anything the kids have outgrown. Go through clothes and donate everything that’s suitable, and then pack anything that’s out of season — as long as you won’t need them before the move.
If your children are older, it’s time to teach them a valuable lesson about how decluttering works. Plan several hour-long time blocks where you go through everything.
If you aren’t the kind of parent who regularly declutters, be patient and kind. It will probably be difficult for your children to part with some of their clothes and toys, no matter how old and battered they may be.
Encourage them, and make sure they understand that they are creating room for new clothes and toys that they will get when you move. Of course, only promise this if it’s your actual plan. 😉
While you may not have as much luck decluttering older children’s rooms, involving them in the process will help them learn the importance of decluttering before a move.
Next on your decluttering list should be the bathrooms.
Do the relatively easy bathrooms first. You’ll give yourself a more manageable task and an effortless sense of accomplishment before you tackle more difficult rooms in the house.
Toss all of the expired toiletries, make-up, and first-aid items. At the same time, let go of any beauty tools you never use. (Come on, we’ve all bought a few.) Moving to a new home isn’t going to make you suddenly use that product.
Look through your linens. Do they need to be replaced? Don’t do it before the move, but add it to your list of things to do after moving.
If you’re upgrading or downsizing in the move, this is a great time to fill out your list of things you need or make sure that you don’t have more stuff than you have room for.
Living Room / Family Room
Decluttering the living or family room is either straightforward or really complicated for most families.
Either you spend a minimum amount of time there because you’re a very busy family (or everyone is old enough to be doing their own thing in their own rooms most of the time) — or you spend most of your time there, hanging out, watching Netflix, or playing video games.
If you’re hardly ever in there, then you may not need to declutter much. On the other hand, if you actually live in your living room, then it will be one of the rooms that requires extra time and effort.
Start with your bookcases. If you can declutter your bookshelves, then you may be able to use them as storage space while you pack more boxes for your move.
Move on to DVDs and video games — and CDs if you’re still living ’90s-style. If you have knick-knacks or collectibles, this is the time to go through your collection and make sure you still love everything you are holding space for!
How about those large pieces of furniture? Will they fit or match your new space? It might be a good idea to let them go a week or so before the move. Decide this during your initial pre-declutter walkthrough — that way you can plan more easily for the correct size moving van.
While I usually advocate donating… if your stuff is nice, you could try a simple Facebook listing to make a little cash. Just don’t get caught up in managing sales instead of decluttering.
Kitchen and Pantry
Decluttering the kitchen can be saved for last for a few reasons.
First, you’ll be using most of your kitchen stuff right up until the final days before you move, so you can’t really pack as you declutter.
Next, one of the most important lessons of how to declutter when moving is to eat up your grocery stash… So as you’re spending time decluttering your home, you’re working on the long-term goal of eating up the food in your kitchen and pantry.
Start with your small appliances. If you have duplicates of appliances like slow-cookers, make sure that you love them all and will have space for them in the new house. They will also take up quite a bit of space in your moving truck, so now would be an excellent time to purge.
Most small appliances are fairly inexpensive, and you can always build back up once you get settled into your new home. Additionally, if you’ve thought about replacing the rice cooker, slow-cooker, and pressure cooker with an Instant Pot, then now would be the time to declutter the single-use appliances. You can buy their new replacement once you get moved.
If you’ve got things like stock pots you swore you were going to use to make bone broth in when you bought them three years ago — and they’re still in the box, it’s time for them to go. If you do get around to making bone broth, one of your slow cookers or even your Instant Pot will do the job just fine. (By the way, this applies to ANYTHING — not just stock pots!)
Oh, and don’t forget to declutter the leftover container drawer. You probably have something like 47 lids and only 13 containers!
More Ways to Make Decluttering Easier
Concluding Thoughts on Decluttering for Moving
Don’t get overwhelmed at the prospect of decluttering your entire house JUST to get ready to move. Yes, it’s a big job… but you were going to have to touch every one of those objects anyway to pack them. This way, you won’t have to spend time and energy to deal with them AGAIN later.
Stick to your plan for how to declutter when moving, and you’ll be ready to Build Your Best Life when you reach your destination.
You’ve got this!
Need some ideas for what items to declutter first? Grab this list:
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