How to Declutter Before Your Move

Moving can get expensive when you’re hauling a lot of stuff. It not only takes more time to load, but also requires a larger crew and bigger truck. All these add to your costs, which, depending on the size of your household, can be quite substantial. To keep things simple, it’s best to declutter before your move.

After all, no matter how frugal you are, every home could do with a little decluttering. We all have belongings we don’t need or never use. Moving is the perfect excuse to go through them and identify what’s really valuable and what you can do without. Here’s how.

Start Early

Decluttering is an involved process. Emptying closets, clearing out your attic, and going through old boxes takes a surprising amount of time, so don’t wait. Start early, at least two weeks for an apartment and four weeks for a house. 

Begin with rooms you hardly use ‒ attic, garage, basement, etc. These places will likely take more time and are almost certain to have a higher proportion of unused items. Once the most complex rooms are out of the way, you can move onto the rooms you use most (e.g. kitchen, bedroom, bathroom) and repeat the process. 

Schedule Time

No one has as much free time as they think. Between family, friends, and career, you won’t find time to pack unless you set it aside. An hour each day is good. It keeps the process moving without tiring you or interfering with your other responsibilities. 

Sort Items into Separate Piles

Clutter isn’t trash. Some of it might not be worth keeping, but some items can be sold or donated instead. Others you might not be sure about. A good strategy for decluttering is to place items into separate piles to keep track of where they’re going. 

You’ll need at least four: trash, donate, sell, and keep. Many people add a “maybe” pile as well, for items they want to circle back to later. Depending on your circumstances, a “storage” pile might be necessary as well. 

Stock Up on Bags & Boxes

Because decluttering is the first stage of moving, it requires many of the same supplies: boxes, tape, packing paper, and packing peanuts. A dumpster may also be helpful, if you’re decluttering a particularly big household.

If there are a lot of items you want to keep but don’t have room for, a storage pod might also be useful. Like dumpsters, they save a lot of time and effort. Rather than haul everything yourself, your moving company delivers the pod and takes it away once it’s full. They’ll deliver it to the storage facility, where it can be unpacked at your convenience.

Make Your Kids Part of the Process

If you have children, you’re probably aware they have toys they don’t play with anymore. However, they’d be understandably upset if you threw their toys out without talking to them. 

So before you declutter their room, sit down and explain the process to them. Tell them you’re moving and can only bring the toys they play with. Then sit down and sort through their toys with them. Ask “Do you still play with this? Can we give this to another kid to play with now?” 

Sharing is undoubtedly a familiar concept to them, so let your kids know that their old toys are being donated to make other kids happy. It’ll ease their sense of loss and make the process more rewarding. But remember that if there’s an old toy they’re really attached to, don’t fight them. Everyone has a few keepsakes they can’t bear to part with.

Be Honest

We’re all attached to our belongings. They bring back memories and make our lives better. But while that bread maker might be useful, how often do you use it? What about your treadmill? Or that cocktail shaker? If it’s only been once or twice, leave it behind. 

The same logic applies to souvenirs as well. The sunglasses you got at the airshow might look good, but how often do you wear them? Or that old Halloween costume? When was the last time you read one of the books on your shelf? Or watched a DVD? 

This isn’t to day that everything you don’t use has to be thrown out, but not everything has sentimental value. If you haven’t even thought about a keepsake for a few years, consider whether it’s a true source of comfort or nostalgia. 

If you’re still having trouble, ask yourself where the item will go in your new home. On a shelf in the basement, garage, or attic? A storage unit? Sometimes, if you’re moving from a large home to a smaller one, there’s no room for it at all (For instance, if you have two beds and only one bedroom) and the choice is practically made for you.

Remember Some Items Require Special Care

Just because it’s trash doesn’t mean it can be chucked in the bin. Some items require special handling. 


  • Electronics. Common electronics such as televisions, gaming consoles, and computers contain dangerous chemicals that can contaminate soil and groundwater. Rather than dumping them in a landfill, take them to a recycling center. 

  • Chemicals. Household chemicals like pesticide and bleach are too dangerous to be transported in a moving van. Bleach can be poured down the drain, but only if it’s been diluted with water. Your other chemicals should be dropped off at a hazardous waste center.

  • Expired Medicine. Expired medicines can be dangerous to children, pets, and the environment, which is why you should dispose of them at the pharmacy. 

  • Personal Documents. To avoid identity theft, anything with sensitive personal information (e.g. bank accounts, social security number) should be shredded rather than thrown out. 

  • Furniture & Large Appliances. Since hauling heavy loads is difficult and dangerous, it’s best to contact a junk removal service to dispose of them. 

Categories: Moving Tips