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How to Declutter Before and During the Big Move

Americans are increasingly aware of the massive amounts of clutter in many of their homes. And for a lot of people, moving is the perfect opportunity to go on a search-and-destroy mission with a trash bag in hand. The target? Excessive stuff, in all of its many forms.

Going into your big move with a strong decluttering plan is one of the best ways to make it a painless process. It means both less packing and less unpacking, and it will help you create a more streamlined and functional space in your new spot. Dig deep and get a fresh start with these 10 tips for decluttering before (and during) your big move.

Declutter Before and During the Big Move

1. Start early

Your decluttering project is more likely to succeed if you start it well in advance. Depending on the size of your home and how many possessions you have, your timetable might need to start anywhere from two weeks to a month or more in advance. Make a list of essential decluttering tasks and set specific dates and times for working on these projects if possible.

2. Check the expiration date

It’s common to have expired food, medicine or other consumer products in your home without even realizing it. Thus, when you’re going through your kitchen and bathroom, be sure to check the expiration dates on everything you pack.

Chances are strong that you’ll run across some past-date items that you can throw away without a second thought. Cutting down the clutter and staying safe at the same time sounds like a win-win to us.

Check the expiration date

3. Only keep one of most items

Many people keep multiples of items they only need one of, and these multiples are the perfect place to start clutter-busting. This is especially common when partners move in together, so think about whether you really need both of those vacuum cleaners.

Broken and obsolete electronics are another big source of clutter. Ask yourself whether you’re ever really going to repair that coffee pot that you’ve already replaced or use that old phone again. If the answer is no, recycle them or throw them away.

4. Clean out your closet

Admit it: There are some clothes in your closet that you know you’ll never wear again. That’s why a closet clean-out is a big part of the moving decluttering process for most people.

One common method is to use colored trash bags to create separate bags for keeping, selling and donating. If you’re planning on selling a lot of clothes, try to start early so you don’t have to bring clothes to the new house that you’re just going to sell.

5. Don’t get a storage unit unless you really need one

Renting a storage unit long-term to store extra possessions should be the last resort. Don’t use it as an excuse to avoid trimming down your clutter — that’s just transferring the clutter to somewhere else.

You’ll still have to deal with it eventually, and you’ll be adding the extra monthly expense of paying for the unit in the meantime. Do the hard work of decluttering now and enjoy the pleasure of letting go.

6. Pack and declutter at the same time

If you’re already sorting through books, clothes or other possessions, you might as well get them packed up! Have packing boxes ready at your side as you work, and put whatever you decide to keep directly into the box.

You’ll be amazed at how much time you can save on packing when you make it part of the decluttering process, and you’ll also likely end up reducing the amount that you need to pack.

7. Consider the ‘one year test

There’s no one-size-fits-all rule for when it’s time to throw something away, but the “one year test” is one rule of thumb that many people use.

It’s simple! If you haven’t used (or even thought about) something in a year or more, strongly consider selling it, donating it to charity or throwing it away. This is most applicable for clothes, but it can apply to things like tools, electronics, cookware, fitness gear and almost anything else other than essential emergency supplies.

8. Ask yourself if there’s any furniture that you might rather replace

Eliminating even just one big piece of furniture can make your move a lot easier. So, if that couch really isn’t in the best shape anymore, or you’ve been considering replacing your mattress for some time, it might be time to pull the trigger and get rid of these things now.

The old furniture can easily turn into future clutter when you decide to replace it later. If you do move your mattress, remember to grab a plastic mattress cover to keep it clean.

9. Digitize sentimental papers and photos

Lots of people keep old sentimental photos and papers around in hard copy. While you’ll no doubt want access to these, they also might take up a lot of space, so consider digitizing your sentimental papers and uploading them to a cloud storage service for future preservation instead.

This way, you’ll keep them safe from potential damage as well as save yourself from lugging around a box of your child’s old school work papers every time you move.

Digitize sentimental papers and photos

10. Work by categories rather than by rooms

Here’s one tip you might have heard from cleaning guru Marie Kondo: It can often be more efficient to tidy things in categories (such as linens or electronics), rather than one room at a time.

This is especially effective when moving because some things in the same room will be ready for packing before others will. Thus, by focusing on items in one category, you can see exactly how many of something you have, pare down unnecessary possessions and plan how to move it more efficiently.

When your belongings are unpacked at your new house, you’ll be glad that you gave yourself a clean state by decluttering. Clearing away the old makes room for the new, and it gives you the widest possible range of options for organizing and decorating your new spot in a way that you love.