Decluttering in preparation for a move can be a daunting task. Selling your home (or downsizing for a loved one) is a stressful situation in and of itself, but when you factor in the act of sorting through all the things you’ve spent a lifetime accumulating, it can be a particularly emotional experience. Often, just getting started is the hardest part.
In this post, we’ll talk about how to get started with the decluttering process. We’ll look at all the various items you can start with when you’re decluttering, and in what order, including:
- Which rooms to declutter first
- Which items are worth keeping
- What to do with items you no longer need or want
Let’s get started.
Which Rooms To Declutter First
Once begun, half done—easy to say, harder to do! Getting started can be the toughest part of decluttering. If you’re having trouble getting the ball rolling, focus on the areas of your home that will be easier to declutter than others—areas where you’ll find obvious items you can do without. We’ll get to those in a moment.
Wherever you begin, plan to sort your belongings into four categories:
- Keep: Hang on to items that you actually use.
- Donate: Lower-value items that are still in good condition but that you no longer use, such as old toys or books, can be donated to your local Goodwill.
- Sell: Higher-value items that are in working condition can be sold online or via a garage sale.
- Toss: Get rid of anything damaged or that no longer works, especially if you don’t have immediate plans to repair it.
Let’s take a look at the areas of your home that are easiest to declutter.
Storage Areas: Basement, Garage, Attic
Some of the best places to declutter first are the garage, attic, and/or basement. These rooms are typically a catch-all for all kinds of junk you no longer need to lug around, particularly when you’re moving.
TSI TIP: If your storage areas are completely overrun with clutter, you may actually want to save these spaces for last and begin with spaces that are easier to tackle. With the other rooms out of the way, it may be easier to focus on sorting through the mess without worrying about all the other spaces you still have to get to.
Family heirlooms, artwork or sculptures, and anything you might want to pass down to family and friends in the near future can all be kept—although there’s no time like the present to give stuff away! It can be rewarding to see the people you care about and give items to enjoy their new treasures before you move away.
Storage areas are typically a gold mine of treasures that you no longer need but someone else might. Donate old furniture that still has some life in it, functioning electronics, games, toys, clothes, appliances, and anything else you no longer need.
More valuable items that you won’t use, like antique furniture or artwork, can be sold online or on consignment. Appliances and electronics that still work can also be sold, as well as any sports equipment or fitness machines that are still in good condition. You can also sell items you may no longer need once you move, like snow blowers, lawn mowers and gardening tools, boats, trailers, and bikes, and even cars and car parts.
Anything broken or falling apart should be thrown away. That includes old baby items or kids’ toys, broken appliances and electronics. You can also toss out old, rundown fitness equipment, rusty tools, and damaged furniture. Safely dispose of chemicals, paint, batteries, and other hazardous materials. You’ll also find old seasonal decorations you forgot you had, or crafting and scrapbooking supplies that just take up space. Throw it all away.
The next best place to begin the decluttering process is in your bedrooms because they’re usually filled with clothes, linens and towels that are often easier to sort through and pare down. Make several piles of outdated clothes or clothes that no longer fit, and sort them into “give away,” “donate,” “sell,” and “toss” piles.
Furniture you’ll use in your new location, clothes you’ve worn within the last year, and sentimental and valuable items, like jewelry and family heirlooms.
Some clothes can be given to friends and family. What’s left over can be donated to local thrift stores. While you’re working on decluttering the bedrooms, you can begin to comb through boxes that have been stored away in the closets and under the beds, which is where you may find old paperwork, books, games, and tchotchkes you no longer need.
Any furniture you no longer need or want, but is still in good condition, can be sold. The same is true for certain pieces of clothing like fur coats or shoes, as well as quality accessories like handbags or jewelry. The best way to sell these items is either online or at a consignment store.
You’ll find other items that can be thrown out or shredded, like old paperwork, receipts and bills.
Similar to the other storage areas of your home, you’ll likely find plenty of items you no longer need outside in the yard.
Valuable items like antique cars, boats, or trailers are worth keeping if you’ll be able to enjoy them at your new home. If you aren’t able to take these items with you, you certainly don’t want to toss them away. Consider giving them to family or friends, selling them now, or putting them into storage until it’s time to sell them.
Items in good used condition but which aren’t worth the hassle of selling or which can be donated. This includes patio furniture, outdoor rugs, umbrellas, garden tools, and planter pots.
Items worth selling might include lawnmowers, weed whackers, snowblowers, tractors, trailers, tires, motors, golf carts, bicycles, motorcycles, quads, trikes, BBQs, gazebos, and playground equipment. You might also be able to get some cash for scrap metal.
Anything broken or damaged can be thrown away. You might have to call professionals to take certain items away, like old wrecked boats and cars, or heavy items like bricks and patio stones. And you’ll also have to properly dispose of hazardous materials like gas and oil. Everything else can be loaded up and taken to the dump.
When decluttering your kitchen, you may find a balance of items to keep and things you no longer need.
Keep items that can be put to good use in your new home, like dishes, flatware and cookware, and newer, small appliances.
Moving is the perfect time to start fresh, so go ahead and donate old cookbooks, small appliances, and kitchen gadgets you hardly ever use. Also keep an eye out for duplicates (or triplicates!). You only need to keep one of each item—donate the rest.
Whether you host a garage sale or sell items online, you can declutter unused furniture like kitchen tables and chairs or storage cabinets and microwave stands. Next, sell off small appliances like toaster ovens, microwaves, or other gadgets you rarely use or simply no longer need.
Throw away anything broken or damaged. Any items that didn’t get sorted into the keep, donate, or sell piles can be thrown out.
Over time, we accumulate a lot of “stuff.” Sometimes figuring out how to begin to declutter can be the most overwhelming part of the process. It’s OK, you’re not alone. If you’re not sure how to approach the process of decluttering for a move, just start small and give yourself plenty of time. Begin in one room and do a little bit every day leading up to your move.
In some cases, seeking the help of a professional organizer can help you (or your loved ones) work through the decluttering process, especially if you’re moving long distance or downsizing. Continue reading more of our decluttering tips in the Ultimate Guide to Preparing for Your Move: Decluttering.
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