You may think decluttering is merely tidying away items that are lying out. But decluttering is much more than putting things where they belong. Whether you’re moving down the block or across the country, decluttering should be an important first step in the moving process. The best way to declutter before a move will vary depending on your family and your lifestyle, but we have some good suggestions that will help just about everyone.
First, clutter is not just on your counters and flat surfaces. It is in your closets, basement, attic and cupboards. The first thing you need to do is figure out what you have. We recommend a room by room process, completing one room and moving on to the next. You’ll want four boxes or bins: Ones for items to donate, one for items to fix, mend or alter, one for items that can be recycled, and one for items to be thrown away. Label them. You’ll also want a pen and a pad of sticky notes for anything that is too big for your containers.
Start with the things that are visible and begin asking questions. Are they in good condition, or can they be fixed? Do you use them? Do you like them? Are they worth moving? Once you get through those questions, you should be able to make a decision on the item, and move it to the proper box. If you decide to keep it, put it back where it belongs.
Items that should always be recycled or disposed of include broken items that can’t (or won’t) be fixed, items that are unsafe, damaged, or that no one will want. Really old phone books, magazines and textbooks, broken sports gear, toys that are missing parts, and outdated electronics are examples of things that should be disposed of rather than donated. And most of your miscellaneous paper that is clogging up drawers (excluding important financial files and vital records) can probably be shredded and recycled.
Items to donate or sell include clothes you no longer wear, towels and linens you no longer like, furniture hand-me-downs that you don’t like but you have hung on to, and any items you’re hanging onto because you feel like you ought to. That includes Grandma’s silver that you never use and actually kind of hate, and anything you hang on to because it was a gift, but it’s not your style.
If you find items that need special cleaning, mending or other care should get their own box. But if you put items in that box, give yourself a deadline to get them taken care of, and if you haven’t done anything about them, then probably they should just be donated or recycled.
As you fill boxes, move them to a staging area and get a new one. Try to finish a room in an hour or two, and don’t think too much about items. If a decision on something is really difficult, put it aside and move on to another item, then go back. Recycling and trash should be gotten rid of as soon as possible, but it will make sense to hold onto items you’re donating and schedule one pick up.
Why donate? It reduces the number of things you have to move, reduces the amount going into landfills, and may be tax deductible. Plus, you’ll be helping strangers in need. An organization like the Salvation Army will sell your gently used goods at low prices, allowing struggling families to save money on clothes, toys and home furnishings. They then use the proceeds to fund needed social services and outreach in communities across the country.
One final tip: Declutter early in the moving process. The more ruthless you are, the less you’ll have to pack, and the less you have to move, the less your move will cost. And packing will be much easier if you’ve gotten rid of stuff in advance, but if you’re like most people, you may find that as you pack, you find more items to get rid of. You can make a final run to drop of donations the day before the movers come.