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7 Tips to Declutter Before You Move

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As the market slowly opens back up, a lot of people are ready to take the postponed step of selling their home or buying a new one. From a seller’s perspective, homes show better when they are neat and tidy. From a buyer’s perspective, unpacking will go much more smoothly if you only pack and move the possessions you truly want and use to begin with—not to mention decluttering before you move can cut moving costs.

If you have moved frequently over the years, chances are you’re a pro at this. But if you’ve been in the same house for a long time, possibly even raised a family there, you may have things you haven’t seen for years hiding in your closets, attic, basement, or garage. Even if you’re upsizing rather than downsizing, moving is the perfect opportunity to purge. 

Decluttering may seem overwhelming, but think of it as taking a trip down memory lane. If you have it, there’s probably a story behind it. Enjoy the memories as you sort through your possessions. Here are seven tips to help you successfully pare down. 

  1. Focus  You can’t tackle everything at once. Break it down. Make a list. Closets, basement, attic, garage. Then subdivide the list—master bedroom, junk drawer, storage cabinets. 
  2. Schedule Time  Block a morning or evening for each area on your list and set an achievable goal of when you can complete each. Giving yourself time will result in better choices as to what to shed and what to hold on to. 
  3. Vet  There are certain criteria that can help you decide whether to keep something or part with it:
    1. Do you like it?  If it was a gift that you have never liked, don’t keep it.
    2. Do you use it?  If you haven’t used something in the past year and can’t see yourself using it in the coming year, get rid of it. If you can’t use it anymore—for example VHS tapes when you don’t have a VHS player—send it off to a conversion service if it’s a family memory or put it in the pitch pile if it’s not.
    3. How many do you have?  Things like coffee mugs and water bottles tend to breed like bunnies, and we only tend to use our favorites anyway. Pack up the excess.
    4. Has it expired?  Even though dry and canned goods are often referred to as non-perishable, they still have expiration dates. As you go through your kitchen and medicine cabinets, check the dates and throw away anything that’s expired. Spices are notorious for taking up space beyond their useful life, which is generally two to three years for ground spices and four years for whole spices. If your ground spices have transformed into a solid clump, that’s a sign they’re past their prime!
  4. Separate  Trend from Style Yes, trends tend to cycle back, but if you’re holding on to your fluorescent top from 1985 or your disco-collared shirt, it’s time to say goodbye. Certain wardrobe basics, however, remain in style for decades. As you go through your closet, separate style from trend and revisit the “Vet” step. 
  5. Shred It  As a general rule, documents older than seven years can be shredded. If you don’t have a shredder at home, places like the UPS Store offer shredding services at a low cost. 
  6. Decide Where It’s Going  Based on value, you may want to go the route of resale, consignment, or donation. If it’s not something of value, see what you can recycle before trashing it. 
  7. Don’t Overdo It  It’s always deflating to have to repurchase something you gave away in a streak of aggressive decluttering. Worse yet, to pitch that widget just to figure out what it went to a week later. If you’re unsure, put it in a “maybe” pile to revisit after your decluttering project is complete.  

Right now, New York is asking residents to refrain from making in-kind donations due to the risk of spreading COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be prepared. When the time comes, those donations will be more meaningful than ever. Keep places like schools, daycares, libraries, and animal shelters in mind when you’re compiling your gently used items and tag bags and boxes for easy sale, consignment, or donation in the coming months.

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