Preparing for a Move: How to Declutter & Minimize

family during a move, attempting to achieve minimalist decluttering

It pays to know the difference between your treasure and your trash, particularly when preparing for a move. No sense in hauling what’s effectively dead weight, right? But the process of determining—and purging—what doesn’t hold personal worth can carry a fair degree of uncertainty. Does this have lasting sentimental value? How much of something is too much? Won’t I need this someday? After all, you’re not just organizing random objects; you’re organizing your life.

But rest easy. Many have emerged from the decluttering process to report a sense of relief, even happiness. The reason is quite simple: less baggage, literal and figurative, sets you on the path to a more stress-free and satisfying move. To help you get started, we’ve listed a few decluttering tips, leaning toward the minimalist side of the spectrum, that may transform your life well after you’ve settled into your new home.

  1. Take advantage of expert advice
    Tidying up with Marie Kondo became an instant success when it premiered on Netflix in 2019, offering a deep dive into the expert’s unique decluttering methods. Marie, “the tidying legend herself,” walks viewers through the simple but powerful KonMari process, revealing one-of-a-kind methods for transforming overflowing dressers and piles of trinkets into fresh, clean space. Explore Marie’s blog here.

    The popular website and eponymous Netflix show The Home Edit also tackles clutter, offering tips to take any room from “Mess to Yes.” Founders Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin take on celebrities’ couture-packed closets, chaotic garages and more, all with a striking sense of color and style. A vibrant palette and valuable storage solutions take center stage in each of their projects, and every episode provides an easy-to-replicate recipe for paring down possessions and beautifully showcasing the treasures you choose to take to your new home.

    You’ll find more expert guidance here, in our article about the best home organization resources. Homes & Gardens also has some good decluttering tips on their website.
  2. Knock it out in a day, if possible.
    Stringing out the decluttering process over a prolonged period of time can lead to mental fatigue—I just want this to be done already! If possible, set aside one day to cover the house from top to bottom. Cue up your favorite tunes, brew a pot of tea or coffee and get in the zone. By the end of the day, you’ll be amazed by your home’s transformation, and remaining objects will be properly organized for a streamlined packing experience later on.
  3. Proceed by type of item instead of room.
    Form a game plan based on what categories of objects you have to sort (e.g., shoes, papers, books, memorabilia). A particular type of object may be scattered throughout the home anyway, so this approach enables you to gather everything into one central place, where you can then parse out what to keep and discard before moving on to the next item.
  4. Ask, “Is this item really necessary?
    Preparing for a move and tossing out unnecessary possessions can stir up more feelings than you expect, but if you can’t look at something and express unequivocally that it’s necessary to your happiness and well-being, get rid of it. Simple as that. Once you’re finished, it’s likely you’ll be less stressed and find yourself relishing a life filled with items that “spark joy,” as Marie Kondo would phrase it. This includes gifts from friends and family. Just because you don’t keep something doesn’t mean you didn’t appreciate the gesture. Or, as Mom always says, it’s the thought that counts.
  5. Sort remaining possessions with care.
    If you’ve been honest with yourself, the items that remain (i.e., what you’ll pack up for the new home) are made up only of what truly enriches your life. Thus, you’ll want to take the time to store these with care—both so that they don’t get treated like random clutter, and because it’ll make the packing and labeling process a cinch when it comes time to break out the boxes.
  6. Screen incoming items.
    Now that you’ve got the hang of this honest sorting process, apply it to all incoming items—anything from the mail to birthday gifts. When you’re preparing for a move, anything you keep is one more item to pack, so filter and sort accordingly.

    By dedicating a little time and sorting thoroughly, you’ll be well on your way to a smooth move. For more Moving Day preparation tips, check out the following list of handy articles!

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