Decluttering and Moving


A reader writes, “I am moving and I need advice on how to purge and move only what we need. We have lived in our house for over 20 years.”

Many people in my classes have been saying this too. They will be retiring shortly and want to be more mobile and/or closer to the kids.

But, the whole process can seem overwhelming. 20 years is a long time to accumulate stuff if you haven’t been regularly decluttering.

I would begin the process by picture the next part of life. What do you want from it? What kinds of things do you want to do? What is important to you? Do you want to pick up at a moment’s notice or entertain a lot or spend long parts of the day gardening? Will you be babysitting, having sleepovers with the grandkids, working from home?

Once you are more clear on the next stage, you can see if your possessions will help or hinder your vision.

Keep boxes or bags available for things going to charity. Many charities will come pick your items up.

Most electronics and cell phones can be sold online to be refurbished. Amazon, Nextworth, Best Buy, Gazelle.

If you feel guilt over wanting to get rid of something, but don’t think you should – it’s a pretty good guess that it can go. This is not the time to hold onto things from guilt.

You can get rid of some guilt quickly, by returning stuff you have borrowed from people.

Items “just in case” like extras and items you haven’t used but might one day, are good items to give away so you have more room.

This is a great time to let go of projects never completed because you lost interest. It’s a brand new start.

Release those hobbies you used to do, but don’t anymore. Only take with you, the hobbies you love.

If you start with your storage area, you can pack as you declutter. Put like items together, declutter what you don’t need or want and then label the box with the contents and room they will go in.

Next will be out of season clothes, gear, decorations, hobbies.

Piles of paper are great to go through towards the beginning. Most of us have paper we will never look at again. Go through 5 files or 1 pile a day during TV watching or waiting time. Then move onto magazines. You have permission to not even look at them before you recycle. If you really need the information, you will probably look online before going through the magazines.

Photos can be boxed up and stored out of the heat. Duplicates can be sent to other people. Bad pictures can be tossed.

Now you start in specific rooms, beginning at the porch or entryway. Declutter/pack/label, declutter/pack/label. Go through each cupboard, drawer, closet in the room. But, don’t hop all over the place or you won’t remember what you’ve already gone through. Plus, you won’t notice your progress.

If you find broken items, set a fix-it day to take care of them. Don’t move them when they are broken.

What are your best decluttering and moving tips?


  • Tika says:

    I have moved a lot!(18x) I HATE moving! 1.5 yrs ago we moved smaller (2700′ to 2500′) after 14 yrs with ALOT of closets. Before we moved I sorted & organized…I used up all those collected hotel samples, L/O bottles of shampoo & cleaning supplies, refrig & pantry stuff. Bought a mini 3 drawer bin for under sink for guest BR -resort quality samples, Medium bins for cleaning & laundry stuff. Before we moved I put IMPORTANT things into labeled categorized bins bec the new house didn’t have storage & so much easier to pull a labeled bin than riffle through boxes of misc stuff! Space Bagged linens to keep but not use in this temp little house separated from family heirlooms, binned purses by color/season. In the new temp place my husband added an upper shelf that looked just like the builder’s in pantry for big items like bread machine; shelf in laundry rm, more in ofc closet. I organized ofc supplies in labeled plastic 3 drwr components (no packing or unpacking)& shelves in BR art/craft rm for specialized labeled bins ALL pre-organized. Gorilla shelves in garage for the items you need/use but not everyday – wrap & bows & cards, entertaining platters & bowls, garden stuff. Of course that left me with 31 boxes of L/O – “life debris” papers, business files, stuff to sort… Yes, the move was grueling to do yourself at 60yo but everything was in a bin was organized & labeled, the added shelves in the temp sm. house did the job & easily removed. In a month we will be moving AGAIN to a house (1/2 the size & minus 1 garage) I will add shelves to closets too to utilize space. Bins are so easy to move!

  • Lynne says:

    I really appreciate both the post, as well as the comment. I just retired after 34 years of teaching high school. I neglected my house as I sat up every night grading papers. My clutter drives my husband crazy, and I am now determined to get it under control.
    One suggestion I have: for the past 18 months or so, I have tried to have the Purple Heart truck out to the house once a month. I keep a bag to toss unneeded things into all month, and when it’s full, I go online and set up the appointment.
    Unfortunately, I just had back surgery, so hubby or son (who moved back in while he goes back to school) has to carry up a bin, and put it where I can reach it and go through it.
    I know I have some stuff from when the kids were little, but I realize now that toys and clothes move on. The future grandkids won’t want the stuff, so I need to donate it now.
    I also love the comment about crafts you’ve moved on from, because I’ve gone from needlepoint to counted cross stitch to paper crafts. Really need to get rid of the things I’ll never use!
    I cleaned out the tool drawer in the kitchen, and couldn’t believe that I had at least 5 potato peelers. I let my daughter pick through what she might want, and donated the rest.
    I thank you for the inspiration.
    Wish me luck!

  • G Peabody says:

    We had to clear out the family home of 30 years after our parents had passed away – and the house had to be sold. We found the right buyer, thankfully – however it was a 30 day closing! Before we moved anything – we did a walk-thru the house with post-it notes and pen in hand and tagged the larger pieces – designated them : keep, dump, donate, auction. Then we moved systematically thru the house room by room. We filled 2 dumpsters and had an auction sale. We did keep some family heirlooms. We rented a 10 x 10 storage unit – just in case. We taped off a 10 x 10 space in the main floor living room – and placed all the items for the storage unit in there. We managed to clear the house out in less than the 30 days – mostly working on the weekends (as we had full-time jobs). We had several days to clean the house before the closing date. We kept the storage unit for 3 months,then we cleared it out too – dump, donate, etc. You don’t need all that “stuff” after all. I guess we were motivated! We’ve all moved on with our lives. Now we look at “stuff” a lot differently!

  • Yvonne says:

    Oh Wow! I finally found what have been searching online forever for-this article. I will be moving in 6 mos. and although we have moved many times we usually had movers do the packing because the new jobs paid moving expenses. This time it’s just me and occasionally my college girls helping as hubs will be halfway across the globe working. We are staying in this area for the other part of his job so it’s just a local move-we rent (owner is selling the property). I just didn’t know where to begin! Hubs says just jump in anywhere and get it done. He sees it as jumping into a kiddie pool I see it as base jumping from the tallest waterfall!!!! I’ve watched movers pack and it always looks great while they are doing it but we’ve also run into idiots who have packed pipe wrenches with handmade spun glass Christmas ornaments! I think I can figure out NOT to do that. It’s more a matter of motivation (or is it procrastination/both ?) and like you say don’t jump all over the place; go room by room and finish that room before moving on. We may even be moving into a smaller place, who knows, so why not get rid of some of the stuff now. Our girls are in college now but still living at home with us, Hubs will be traveling back and forth to Europe for the new job, I can’t go all decorating-crazy like I used to (I’m often down with Fibromyalgia pain). So the part about lifestyle changes rings true in this case too with me. Someone else may enjoy the things I can donate. Thanks for this article of encouragement. If you have any other suggestions to motivate me I’m all ears!

  • Maggie says:

    When my mother-in-law passed away, unexpectedly, my husband and kids went through her house and just took tons of stuff to Goodwill. I know she would have loved to make some of those sorting decisions herself and I wanted to help, too, but they all know, I would have been less likely to just toss/donate.
    So, now, I want to start cleaning out my/our things before something happens and they toss everything I hold dear. Eager to see any comments about making this easier. We have been in our house for 41 years and it’s chock full of books and fabric, mine, and tools/car parts, my husbands. This is a daunting task.

  • Beth Dargis says:

    Maggie, I am sorry to hear about your mother-in-law. The best tip for you is noticing you are in another place in your life. So much of what you used to need and want you no longer need or want. You want to curate your possessions so you can take care of what is important to you at this time – not the past and not “someday”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *