How to Declutter Before a Move, Room by Room

“If you hug it does it bring you joy?” Marie Kondo, the queen of decluttering, has said. If you declutter before moving, you can get a better sense of your belongings and how many boxes you will need. You may not need as many as you think!

Start thinking about the space you have in your new apartment and how everything fits in there. You should also think about things that you haven’t used in the last year, any duplicates, or if certain things are past their prime.

The fewer boxes you have, the less expensive your move is, so plan to declutter as you pack. But where to even start? “When you are getting ready to move, you need to always be thinking, of less to move” Amy at NeededInTheHome.com reminds. “If you can get rid of it now, you won’t have to move it, unpack it, and find a home for it at the new place, so look for duplicates in type and toss, donate, or sell the extras.”

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How to declutter before moving

Whether you’re moving to a house in Philadelphia or in San Francisco –  or scoping out apartments in Omaha – a quick declutter is just a few steps away. Here’s a quick checklist of what to remember when decluttering and staying on task.

Make one box of your must-have essentials

Before you start packing and throwing things around, make one box your ‘essential’ box and add the things you need during and immediately after the move. Think phone chargers, bathroom essentials, a few kitchen things, and others. Set it aside before you start so you’re not running around looking for your deodorant while the movers are doing their thing.

Go room by room

Don’t overwhelm yourself, and make a plan to go room by room. Sarah McCorriston, owner of Nixxit, explains the important mindset to have when beginning to tackle decluttering, room by room. “When preparing for a move, focus on decluttering items that you haven’t used in the past year, are broken beyond repair, or hold little sentimental value,” McCorriston explains. “Streamlining your belongings not only lightens the load for moving but also creates a fresh start in your new space. Remember, less clutter means more space for new experiences and opportunities in your future home.”

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Bedroom and bathroom: “Decluttering the master bedroom and bathroom before a move should start with a clear-out of items you no longer love or use,” Brittany Kline, owner of The Savvy Mama recommends. “In the bedroom, focus on minimizing clothing by applying the one-year rule: If it hasn’t been worn in a year, it’s likely time to sell or donate it. For the bathroom, sort through toiletries and makeup, discarding anything expired or unused. Utilize under-the-bed storage containers to neatly pack away off-season clothing and linens, keeping them dust-free and organized.”

Amanda Huffman, with the Women of Military Podcast, echoes the same sentiment. “When working on decluttering the bedroom, I go straight for the clothes. If I haven’t worn an item in over a year, it is time to get rid of it,” Huffman explains. “If I find something with holes, very faded, or missing buttons it is also time to get rid of it. Make sure to check your dresser along with your closet, it is so easy to go through your hanging clothes and skip over everything in your dresser, but there are plenty of things you don’t need sitting in your dresser too.”

Living room: “A move is a great time to get rid of that old sofa that you can no longer stand and the clunky entertainment center that used to hold an old-style tube TV, Nicole Prom with TheWayItReallyIs.com suggests. “That’s what we did when we moved when our twins were 6 months old and our oldest was 2. If there are large toys or baby gear that your children no longer use, this is a great time to get rid of those as well.” Often, the living room accumulates clutter making it an ideal purging area.

Kitchen: When was the last time you looked at the expiration dates of things beyond the milk? Take a good look at your pantry to check on spices, canned goods, and snacks, and get rid of anything expired.

Don’t forget kitchen appliances as well. Trends come and go — pressure cookers, air fryers, spiralizers, and others are all over Pinterest, and you just had to have one. Now they are just taking up space. Do an inventory of your unused appliances, set them aside, and reach out to friends to give them a second life elsewhere.

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Schedule at least an hour a day to declutter

Going through your junk drawer can get frustrating, so to avoid procrastination, schedule an hour every day to work through your decluttering checklist. You can do more than that but set a timer to one hour to get the minimum done. Start with your closet and go through your clothes, knickknacks, and nightstands.

If you hit a nostalgic item, set it aside

The smallest item can lead you down a nostalgic rabbit hole and derail your day. It’s hard to give away something that holds such intense memories. Leave those decisions for last to avoid procrastination. It will keep you on task and give you more time to decide on them at a later date.

Consider your specific moving circumstances

Are you moving permanently or temporarily? Jackie Baxa, with Family Move Abroad, reminds anyone moving to take into account their specific journey, especially if they’re moving abroad and renting out their U.S. home. “Start by separating out clothing you know you’ll want to bring with you. Keep seasonal weather changes in mind, dress wear for special occasions, comfy clothes for long flights, along with sportswear like ski jackets or soccer cleats,” Baxa explains. “If possible, use this same pool of clothing to tide you over until departure day.”

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Reconsider your decor

Think about your dining set and your mattress — when did you get them? Is it time to replace them? What about your other decor? As Nicole Prom mentioned earlier, take a minute to examine if your home decor style is something you still identify with. This is the time to sell your furniture in your local neighborhood group or donate it to someone who will continue its use.

Take a break

Decluttering can be physically and mentally exhausting. Take the time to reward yourself after every room you complete. Make a nice dinner, see a friend, or buy a new piece of decor for your new place. Knowing that a reward awaits you can provide extra motivation to get the job done.

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It’s OK to hire a professional

Sometimes life gets in the way, your deadline is approaching and you still need to start. Decluttering services can help organize your things and downsize before the movers come. They charge by the hour and specialize in things like organizing your clutter, scheduling your bills, and helping you pare down your things.

Don’t procrastinate

No matter your approach, the most important thing is don’t procrastinate. Decluttering in a rush might be less effective, and you may throw away important things. Start early, at least two weeks before or shortly after letting your landlord know you’re moving out.

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Start your moving process with less clutter by decluttering first

Once you’ve gone through every crevice of your apartment, start listing things for sale and scheduling donation pickups (yes, even furniture!) so you’re ready for the movers. If it doesn’t give you joy or hasn’t been used in months, it’s time to send it away before your new apartment or home.

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