Declutter and Downsize During a Move

Women sorting clothing in declutter and keep boxes.How to Declutter As You Pack

Among the perks of moving: You get a nice, fresh start. Your new start actually begins in your old home, though, the moment you pack that very first box. Think about it. Everything you pack here now, must be unpacked in your new home later, which makes packing a prime opportunity to declutter and downsize.

Here are some tips, compiled with the help of Aby Garvey, creator of online organizing workshops, to help set yourself up for a beautifully streamlined new beginning:

Rule of Threes

Always have at least three containers in play as you pack—a bag or box for donations (or your big moving sale), a bag for items to trash, and the box you’re actually packing. Truly consider each item as you go. If you don’t need it or love it, let someone else enjoy it.

Decisions, Decisions: what to keep and what to give

If you find yourself on the fence about item, after item, after item, create a fourth category: the maybes. As you fill each “maybe” box, simply label it with the location and a date six months or a year from now—whatever you feel comfortable with. Move it into storage, in your new home or in a rented space. If the date arrives and you haven’t once opened the box in search of an item, donate it and move on.

A Picture? Perfect!

The thing about keepsakes is you just can’t keep them all. If you find yourself with an abundance of sentimental items that you don’t actually use or actively appreciate, snap a photo. You’ll still get to admire it, should the urge strike, and in the meantime, it’ll be taking up space on a dedicated jump-drive or cloud storage rather than in your new home.

Person taking photo of a denim jacket.

Consider Cost of keeping

Look at it this way: Moving means you have to pay to keep your things. If you’re paying movers, the cost is in actual dollars. If you’re moving yourself, you’re paying in time and potential headache (or backache). As you pack, think, “Is this item really worth its cost?”

Imagine your new home

Think of packing as an opportunity to shape your experience of your new home. Consider both your new layout and desired lifestyle, and get rid of things that don’t fit either. Think: That oversized sectional, any evidence of a hobby that never took, or those fancy dishes that haven’t touched a dining table in a decade or more.

Easy Outs

If you’re having trouble getting started, target these easy-to-purge items to get the ball rolling:

  • Clothing that no longer fits, in size or style
  • Kids’ outgrown clothes and toys
  • Gifts you haven’t used (ditch the guilt, too!)
  • Broken items
  • Unfinished projects
  • Expired food, medicine and makeup
  • Paper work more than seven years old
  • Items still in the boxes from your last move 

Store Smart

Give yourself as much time as possible to pack and de-clutter, so you can do a thorough job. Start with non-essentials and personal items, which you can then box up and tuck into a rented storage unit, so you can better stage your home. (Contact EZ Storage to learn about options of all sizes.) The less cluttered it is, the faster it will sell, and the sooner you’ll get to that exciting fresh start!