According to The New York Times, the average American household contains 300,000 items, from furniture and bric-a-brac to toys and toothpaste. We often collect things mindlessly, filling shelves, closets, garages, and basements with a whole lot of this and a whole lot of that. One of the best things about moving is using the opportunity to choose what to take along with you. It’s an opportunity to start fresh, to rid yourself of the stuff you neither love nor find useful.
Here, then, is a five-step strategy for decluttering your home before you move.
1. Toss out the trash.
If you have a lot of stuff that needs to go to the dump, get rid of it right off the bat. Set aside a full day to go through your rooms, the basement, the garage, the attic, and other hiding places, and throw away everything that can’t be sold, given away, or recycled. You can order a Dumpster in a variety of sizes from your refuse service provider. Fill it up, and they’ll come back, pick it up, and take it to the dump for you.
2. Have a garage sale.
Once the garbage is gone, it’s time to decide what you’re ready to part with. Plan an epic garage sale, since it can be easier to part with your stuff if you’re going to make some money from it. Go through your house and start gathering things to sell. Think about the things you have too many of—dishes, linens, books, toys. Think about the things your family hasn’t used for years, such as camping gear, certain toys and tools, the waffle maker, and dusty sporting equipment. Look around at your decor, and do away with stuff you don’t absolutely love, like the hideous bookends you got as a gift 20 years ago or the plate collection that never really took off. Sell it all.
3. Donate to charity.
Whatever you don’t sell at the garage sale, give away. Invite friends, family, and neighbors over to go through the remnants and take what they want. Haul the rest to your local charity distribution center, or see if they’ll come get it. If you live in an urban area, you may be able to get rid of stuff simply by setting it out by the curb with a “FREE” sign on it.
4. Use your local online marketplace.
Local online marketplaces are great for getting rid of stuff charity won’t take or your friends don’t want. Chances are, someone out there has a use for your 20 empty coffee cans, the half-full bag of grass seed, or the pile of lumber stacked by the garage. You can give it away for free, or you can charge for it. The buyer typically picks up the item, although you can offer to deliver.
Now that you’ve pared down your belongings, getting organized will make the move easier. Clean out the junk drawers, organize your hobby stuff, go through all your papers, and put your closets, credenzas, cupboards, and cabinets in order. By the organizing stage, you’ve gotten used to letting go of things, and it’s probably starting to feel pretty good, so get rid of more stuff you don’t need as you come across it.
Decluttering and organizing your home before you move makes packing and unpacking easier and more efficient, and it ensures you start life in your new home armed with only the things you need and love.