Decluttering for a Move: What to Get Rid of and Where to Begin

One of the best ways to ensure a stress-free move is to declutter your home. Decluttering is also a great way to honor the memories you made in your old home before starting a new chapter. Even if you don’t think your home is very cluttered, chances are you have at least a handful of things lying around that you could do without. The closer you look, the more you’ll find.

There’s no shame in realizing that your home has become a storage unit for broken, surplus, and expired stuff—it happens to everyone. You think you know how much stuff you have until it comes time to move it all to a new home. Suddenly, you’re surrounded by items you didn’t know you had or have never seen before. It’s as if your belongings multiplied when you weren’t looking!

The best time to get rid of all the excess is when you are preparing for a move. Getting rid of items you don’t want or need will save you valuable time, money, and effort. Decluttering before you move means you won’t spend time packing up things you no longer want or need. You’ll use fewer boxes, take up less space on the moving truck, and require fewer movers to help you get everything to your new home.

If you aren’t sure what to part with, follow our room-by-room checklists below. At the end of the checklists, we’ll also give you a few tips for getting started with decluttering.

Decluttering for a Move: Room-by-Room Checklist

The following checklists are organized by room to help you tackle the challenge of decluttering in a systematic way. The time it takes to declutter each room will vary by household, but we recommend spending about one week per room as a rule of thumb.

Kitchen

In the kitchen, you’ll want to get rid of anything that is broken, mismatched, surplus or simply never used. This includes:

  • Expired food
  • Sauce packets
  • Small appliances
  • Kitchen tools and utensils
  • Cookware
  • Plastic containers and lids
  • Water bottles and coffee tumblers
  • Old cookbooks

Expired Food

We all have a tendency to keep expired food without even realizing it. The most common culprits are things we don’t use very often, like condiments and sauces. (We’re looking at you, ketchup.) Anything that is expired may not be safe or healthy to consume, so it’s important to get rid of it before you move. Go through your pantry, refrigerator, and cabinets. Get rid of anything that is past its expiration date.

Sauce Packets

Is it just us, or do sauce packets seem to appear out of thin air? Gather up all those old packets and dump them. They’re probably expired anyway!

Small Appliances

Older appliances that are still in working condition should be thoroughly cleaned and donated. But anything that no longer works or has corroded or exposed wiring should be tossed out for safety. And by tossed out, we mean responsibly disposed of. You can even consider recycling old kitchen appliances such as microwaves, blenders, and toasters.

Kitchen Tools and Utensils

Kitchen tools and utensils are common items you may have collected over the years. To declutter these items, consider using Marie Kondo’s approach: gather all of your kitchen utensils in one place and sort them by type or category. This will allow you to see how many of each tool you have. You may be surprised at how many silicone spatulas, tongs, bottle openers (etc.) you’ve amassed. Really, how many measuring cups does one household need? Keep your favorites and donate the rest.

Cookware

Cookie sheets and baking dishes often make up the bulk of surplus cookware. Other items to look for and donate are lids that have no matching pots and the pizza stone you probably never use.

Plastic Containers and Lids

Lonely lids are also a problem when it comes to plastic containers. Attempt to match all of your containers with their corresponding lid, and you will probably find quite a few that no longer have a partner. Donate the containers that are in good condition, and consider recycling the rest. Check the bottom of your plastic containers for the recycling symbol and contact your local recycling plant or waste management department with questions. If your containers are Tupperware® brand, they may be covered under one of the brand’s renowned warranty programs.

Water Bottles and Coffee Tumblers

Whether due to changing fashion, new product design, or a simple fascination with liquid containers, many of us have a growing collection of water bottles and coffee tumblers. Keep the ones you use the most, and donate or trash the rest.

Old Cookbooks

Some people have a cache of cookbooks, others have stacks of recipes torn out of magazines. (And then there are those of us who have both!) However you’re currently storing your recipes, your collection could probably use a thinning out. A great way to declutter your recipes is to scan them and store them digitally. Of course, if you have heirloom cookbooks or recipe cards, we strongly suggest you keep them.

Living Room & Family Room

Living rooms and family rooms are shared spaces that collect items from every person in your household. Often, these rooms are one and the same so we’re grouping them together in this checklist. Take a look around these spaces and scan for items that are old/outdated, broken or that you simply no longer want. Decluttering your living room and family room before a move won’t just make your move easier, it will also bring a sense of calm to these active spaces in the weeks leading up to moving day.

  • Books
  • DVDs, CDs, VHS tapes, and cassettes (old media)
  • DVD and VHS players
  • Game consoles, gear, and extra controllers
  • Kids’ toys
  • Magazines
  • Pet toys and bedding

Books

Bookshelf that could use decluttering

We’re not suggesting that you should throw away or give away all your books. However, there are more efficient ways to store and access books now that we have e-reader technology. Books are heavy items to move and require multiple smaller boxes, which leads to more waste. Instead of moving an entire home library, consider looking for electronic versions of books you read often and donate the hard copies. Donate anything you don’t read or will never read to a library or local school. (Let’s be honest, we all have books on our shelves that are more aspirational than practical!) If you have special books that hold sentimental value, definitely put those in the “keep” pile.

DVDs, CDs, VHS Tapes, and Cassettes (Old Media)

It’s common to collect a lot of entertainment items such as movies and CDs over the years. Are there any that you are willing to part with? With the advent of streaming services such as Netflix, Pandora, and Spotify, it’s not necessary to keep large physical collections of music and movies anymore. These are some of the easiest items to declutter before a move. Donate your old media to a library or thrift store. If you have any collector’s editions, it might be worth posting them on Ebay.

DVD and VHS Players

Since you’re already clearing out your old media, you won’t need those old media players! You also won’t need all the cords and cables that come with them. Declutter these items before you move and you’ll thank us. Seriously.

Game Consoles, Gear, and Extra Controllers

If you have kids (or you’re just a kid at heart), you probably have a stash of video games that you can retire from your collection. Just like with old media players, this means you’ll also be able to get rid of all the extra cables and ancillary components that go with your old game systems.

Kids’ Toys

Kids accumulate a lot of stuff. They also go through phases and outgrow things quickly. Anything your kids have outgrown can be donated to benefit another family. Help your kids understand how donating their toys can help other kids experience joy. Also, let help them see that they’re making room for new items so they don’t focus on missing what they are giving up.

Magazines

If you have one or more magazine subscriptions, then you probably have a collection of old magazines you don’t need anymore. Consider converting your subscription to a digital subscription (most publications offer this now), and recycle your old issues. If you’d rather find creative ways to use them, check out this article from NC State University.

Pet Toys and Bedding

Is Fluffy’s favorite toy falling apart? Has the scratching post seen better days? Pets are hard on their stuff. Rather than taking all the old toys and bedding with you when you move, declutter it until you have just a couple of items for each pet. You can (and probably should) get new items to replace the old ones.

Bedrooms

Bedrooms are some of the best places to do major decluttering before a move. Closets and dressers become storage areas that are often inaccessible because of the sheer amount of items they contain. It’s good practice to go through our clothes, shoes, and accessories at least once a year to clear out anything we no longer want or need.

  • Hangers
  • Clothes and shoes
  • Jewelry and accessories

Hangers

Who doesn’t have more hangers than they know what to do with? Extra hangers make for great donations to friends, family, or thrift stores.

Clothes and Shoes

Anything that no longer fits, you haven’t worn in over a year, or you simply no longer like or want should be donated. Find a textile recycling dropoff in your area. Feeling crafty? Repurpose your old clothing! Looking to make a little money on like-new clothing or shoes? Take them to a consignment store.

Jewelry and Accessories

Jewelry and accessories go out of fashion quickly, so there’s lots of decluttering potential here. Keep your special pieces of jewelry, but consider brightening someone else’s day by donating the pieces you no longer wear. Jewelry, along with gently used handbags and belts, can also be brought to a consignment store.

Bathrooms

Like kitchens, bathrooms accumulate items with a shelf life. This should make it easier to declutter your bathrooms before moving. If it’s expired or past its prime, get rid of it.

  • Expired medicine
  • Toiletries
  • Old cosmetics and beauty supplies
  • Beauty tools (makeup brushes, combs, hair dryers, flat irons, etc)

Expired Medicine

Your medicine cabinet, vanity drawers, and under-sink storage are likely filled with expired Asprin, ointments, and prescription medication. You definitely don’t want to keep these items in your house, much less move them to your new home. Be sure to get rid of expired medicine responsibly—don’t just flush it down the drain or dump it in a trash can. The Drug Enforcement Administration has helpful information on how to properly dispose of medication.

Toiletries

Toiletries may not have an expiration date on them, but there are definitely things you don’t want to pack and move. Almost-empty containers of lotion, liquid soap, and toothpaste can go. Extra (unused) toothbrushes and floss, however, you should probably keep for future use.

Old Cosmetics and Beauty Supplies

Yes, cosmetics and beauty supplies do have a shelf life! Most items will begin to grow bacteria, especially if exposed to heat and moisture. Keep these items far away from your skin, and definitely declutter (dispose of) them before you move.

Beauty Tools

Most households only need one (or maybe two) hairdryers, flat irons, and curling irons. Any more than that is probably excess that can be donated. Combs and brushes can also accumulate over the years, so consider decluttering these items before you move as well. Makeup brushes should be kept clean, and if they’re past their prime or just too dirty to thoroughly sanitize, then consider getting rid of them.

Linen Closets

Is there anything more comforting than a neat and tidy linen closet? Decluttering your closets before moving is a great way to bring a little bit of serenity to your daily life. Linens that you don’t want to get rid of can be used to pack fragile items for more efficient packing.

  • Linens (towels, blankets, sheets, quilts, and comforters)
  • Craft and sewing supplies

Linens

Old linens make for excellent donations to animal shelters. They also make great cleaning rags and paint drop cloths! (This will come in handy if you’re planning to stage your house and need to repaint walls.) Look for ways to declutter your linen closet by repurposing your old linens or donating them before you move.

Craft and Sewing Supplies

Unless you plan to have a designated craft room in your new house (or crafting is your hobby), then you probably won’t ever use all the craft and sewing supplies you have tucked away. Rather than simply throwing these items out, consider donating them to a local school, camp, or non-profit.

Garage

The garage—aka the storage room—has a reputation for being jam-packed with all the stuff you should probably get rid of but are keeping for some reason. Use extra discernment when decluttering your garage before moving, with an eye on how much space you’ll have at your new home.

  • Tools and hardware
  • Construction materials (plywood, insulation, etc)
  • Gardening supplies
  • Camping gear
  • Parts to appliances you no longer use
  • Yard décor
  • Broken items
  • Party supplies
  • Kids’ toys
  • Extra car parts
  • Miscellaneous

Everyone’s garage looks different, but for almost all of us, the garage is where we put the things we don’t know what to do with. Carefully evaluate everything you’ve been storing. Anything that hasn’t been used in years can be tossed or donated. Broken items (you know, the ones you’ve been meaning to fix but haven’t gotten around to it) should also be tossed or donated. Freecycle is a great way to keep all of this stuff out of landfills and give it a new chance at life.

Home Office

  • Old documents
  • Old electronics
  • Instruction manuals

Old Documents

With everything digitalized nowadays, it’s not always necessary to keep physical copies of documents. While there are exceptions (birth certificates and social security cards, for example), most things can be transferred to your computer or an external hard drive for safe keeping. Any documents older than 7 years are not necessary to keep around. Consider getting a shredder or taking documents with sensitive information to a place like UPS, which offers shredding services.

Old Electronics

Technology is constantly evolving so most of us have old cellphones and other electronics gathering dust in a drawer. Do you really need them? Most electronics can be sold or recycled for their parts.

Instruction Manuals

Giving away lots of electronics or appliances? Make sure you’re not keeping the manuals. If you’re donating items that are still in working condition and you have the manual, go ahead and donate the manual as well. If you are keeping manuals for items you no longer have, then definitely recycle them (if you can) or trash them (if they’re not recyclable).

How to Start Decluttering for a Move

Now that you have your checklists, it’s time to get started! The best place to start decluttering is in the room that contains items you use the least often. This allows you to fully pack or get rid of items without the anxiety that you will need to unpack and use something in the near future. Below are a few more tips to help you on your decluttering journey.

Start Early

As soon as you know you’ll be moving, it’s a good time to start the decluttering process. Don’t try to do it all in one day; start a few months in advance and take your time in each room. It’s a lot less stressful if you give yourself plenty of time to get it done. You’ll also be able to make better decisions and give each item fair consideration instead of ultimately throwing everything in a box to take to the new house because you’ve run out of time.

Prepare

Have plenty of heavy duty trash bags on hand, as well as some moving boxes. You’ll want the trash bags for anything you don’t want to keep and boxes for the things you do want to keep, as well as anything you plan on donating. A shredder is very handy to have for documents older than seven years that you don’t need to take with you. Also, be sure to have plenty of packing tape and packing paper for anything that needs to be wrapped up.

Divide & Conquer

While you’re working on a room, have three piles: keep, toss, and donate. (You can also start an optional fourth pile for anything you’re not sure about yet.) When you’re done with the room, look back at the piles and see if you’d like to make any changes – maybe you’ve decided don’t want to keep something after all and would rather donate it – and then pack them up in their respective bags/boxes.

Be Discerning

It can be very tempting to keep everything. An important thing to keep in mind while decluttering a home for a move is to think about how often you really use an item, where that item will go in the new home, and whether you love it or not. Anything you haven’t used in the last year should probably be tossed or donated, as it’s not likely you’ll need it now if you haven’t in over a year. When it comes to things like décor or clothing, ask yourself if it’s something you truly love. If you don’t have strong feelings about it, get rid of it. Remember, anything you take with you will take up space in the new home. If you don’t love it or need it, leave it behind so you can make room for things you do really want or need.

Keep It Going

Even after you’ve decluttered every room, feel free to add things to each pile as you begin your packing. You may change your mind about certain things as you go or find items as you start packing that you decide you don’t want to take with you after all.

Wrap-Up

So there you have it! Your ultimate guide to decluttering for a move. If all this talk of packing and moving has you stressed, allow us to handle it for you. Megan’s Moving offers premium, full-service moving packages that will make your move a whole lot easier. Get a quote today!

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