In today’s post, I will discuss how to tackle the enormous task of decluttering and purging when you are moving home. A new home is a fresh start: new paint, new rooms, a fresh take on arranging your old furniture. There is a joy in it, purging and paring down your possessions, packing up, moving, creating your new home. Moving can empower you to have a healthier relationship with your belongings. However, moving is rated as one of the top 5 stressful life situations. So, though it is a new start and a growthful experience, it won’t feel so wonderful if it’s weighed down by stuff you didn’t let go of before the move.

Moving home is rated as one of the top 5 stressful life situations

Now’s the time to declutter and purge your home—and I’m not talking about just sifting through items that clearly belong in the garbage can. I mean actually going through everything in your home and deciding whether it is needed in the next chapter of your life. Because when we move, we must physically handle each of our possessions 4 times (putting it in a box, removing the box from the house, bringing it into the new home, and unpacking and putting it away) it is without question, one of the best times to declutter.

My partner John, our cat Tadhg, and I moved to Ireland a few years ago to take care of my ageing father in Ireland. We packed up our house in Toronto and rented it out for the period of time we were away.

My father lived in a big old rambling house in Dublin and was developing dementia. I tried with all my heart and effort to keep him at home, but it was impossible. His physical and emotional needs were expanding by the month, and by the time 12 months had passed, I almost couldn’t leave the house for fear of something happening to him. And of course, it did (when I had popped out to get him the paper) – he fell and hit his head. The doctors wouldn’t let him return home afterwards – the house was not suitable for him. He had to go into a nursing home. We found a wonderful one in a lovely village in Dublin where he had friends and family close by.

I mention all this because I packed up a house in Toronto in the space of one year, packed my dad up, moved him to a nursing home, and packed up a 4000sq. Ft. house in Dublin and got it ready for sale. It was a lot of packing up!

Purging before you move is so important. It would be best if you gave yourself and those working with you enough time. The impact of not giving yourself the time to properly purge before a move creates a lot of stress, costs you more in moving costs, and will mean spending more time packing. The longer you have lived in your home, the more time it will take. It took me two months to declutter and purge my father’s house. If selling a home, I suggest you do the decluttering and purging a couple of months before putting your house on the market. Not only will it mean you are in great shape to pack up when the home sells, but you will also ensure your house looks, it’s best for potential buyers.

If you are still cautious about setting aside enough time to declutter and purge before your move, here are some motivating facts;

  • It will lower your transportation costs. More things to move will increase the total weight of the shipment, which will inflate the moving cost. Remember that your moving company will determine how much your household items weigh before charging you with the final bill.
  • You will save time and money on packing. My father had lived in the family home for over 50 years, and it took me about 2 months to properly declutter and purge – and I am a professional organizer! It made a huge difference when packing up the house however – I breezed through it because I didn’t have to sort through things and make decisions – I just focused on packing. Packing supplies and boxes really add up with a big move, so again, decluttering and purging first will really save you a lot of money.
  • You will save on storage space in the new home. It really doesn’t make much of a difference whether you are downsizing or moving up; you want your new home to breath and not be cluttered up with things you don’t want, things that are broken or outdated. It’s a fresh start when you move; leave space in your new home so that you can create new memories in it.

Where And How To Start?

Personally, I don’t believe it’s a good idea to pack and purge at the same time. My reasoning for this is that it breaks the focus, disrupts the home too much, and affects the decision-making process. How? If you are going through all your makeup to purge, and you know you have a box ready for packing – well, you have the opportunity just to put it all in the box and deal with it on the other end. Believe me, when you are unpacking a house, all you want to do is put things away. You will not want to go through things and do another purge. Not for a long, long time. Moving is exhausting and stressful. Be kind to yourself – do the purging on the front end – before you move.

Start with the no brainer decisions:

Because you will be living in your home when you declutter and purge, and you won’t want to disrupt your lifestyle and comfort, it’s a good idea to start with the no-brainer decisions – any items you don’t feel any special connection to:

  • pieces of furniture
  • electric appliances
  • kitchenware
  • pantry
  • bathroom items
  • tools

Move on to the more personal items:

  • Shoes (winter, summer, indoor)
  • Books (novels, manuals, cookbooks, textbooks, children’s books)
  • Electronics/gadgets (phones, tablets, chargers, cords, etc.)
  • Gardening equipment and supplies
  • Clothing (winter, summer, indoor)
  • Linens and towels

Leave items with emotional and sentimental meanings to the end:

  • Children’s toys
  • Children’s memories
  • Items in the attic or basement storage
  • Ornaments
  • Papers

The Key is to keep the project manageable

Whether you approach it room by room or by category is really a personal preference. In my dads’ home, I did it room by room as the house was so big, it was the most efficient way of doing it. However, in each room, I worked by category. That is to say; I went through all the books one by one, then I moved on to ornaments. The packing up will happen after the decluttering and purging process, so if you do not let something go, leave it where it is or at least in the room it was. This step is purely about purging before the packing. The key here is to keep the project manageable by breaking it up into parts – either by category or room. You will feel like you are making headway every time you finish a category or room.

Once you have finished for the day, take everything you have collected and let it go. It is so important, particularly when preparing for a big move, to get as much out of the house as you work through it. You will be surprised how many bags of stuff you will remove a day and how little difference it will make. But it will become overwhelming if all the stuff that is to be let go of is left hanging around in the house.

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 What To Keep And What To Let Go Of:

While decluttering before a move is a huge task and may seem overwhelming, there are some guidelines and questions to help you with the decision-making process.

Purging criteria:

  • Broken and worn-out items – cannot be donated or sold.
  • Clothes or shoes you will never use again.
    • Don’t fit
    • Outdated
    • Never liked them anyway
    • Sad memory attached to it
  • Items passed their expiration date.
  • Duplicate household items.
  • It’s amazing how books collect in nooks and crannies of the house. There could be old textbooks, children’s books, novels, coffee table books, address books.
  • Forgotten items. During the decluttering process, you most likely will uncover things that you have long forgotten about. The fact that you have forgotten about their existence is a clear sign that you don’t actually need them in your life now.

Purging questions:

  • When was the last time you wore or used the item?
  • Do you love the item?
  • Does it fit properly?
  • Do you know who owns it?
  • Is it in good condition?
  • Does it have sentimental meaning and importance?

Create a donation pile, a trash pile, and a consignment pile.

If the item is gently used– put it in the “donation” pile. Ensure each piece can be used, that it’s in good condition, and that it’s been well cleaned. If the clothing is on-trend and/or a valuable designer item, put it in the consignment pile. These large bags are great for putting your donation items in.

A note on electronics and appliances:

Most organizations accepting donations won’t accept appliances or electronics that don’t meet today’s safety standards. If the item is outdated, missing parts, or broken, you probably won’t be able to donate it either. Quite often, they won’t accept electronic and electrical items that are over 5 years old. For instance, donation sites such as Habitat for Humanity won’t accept TVs, microwaves or dishwashers older than 5 years. Most big box stores have haul-away programs. For example, Best Buy and Staples will accept most electronic and electrical equipment for recycling.

A note on emptying your pantry:

When you move across the country or the world (like I did to care for my father), you generally don’t move your food with you. Throwing out non-perishable food that is still good is wasteful. So many people are desperate for good, healthy food right now. Move For Hunger might be a great solution for you! They will take your non-perishable food and donate it to local Food Banks. They work with the leading moving, relocation, and multi-family industries across Canada and the U.S. to provide their customers, clients, and residents with the opportunity to donate their food when they move. 

For more information on decluttering check out some of my posts:

And don’t forget to check out my Pinterest Board for more tips and suggestions on getting ready for a move!

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Decluttering And Purging Before You Move