Clutter-busting: Eight tips for preparing for a real (or virtual) move.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: Eight tips for preparing for a real (or virtual) move.

Knowing my preoccupation with clutter-clearing, a friend emailed me a few days ago: “I am starting the great purge of our belongings in preparation for moving. What mantras should I be using?

Good question! Moving is a fantastic opportunity to tackle clutter. And even if you’re not thinking about moving, you might want to try the “virtual move” – you look at what you have, and ask yourself, “If I were moving, would I bother to wrap this in bubblewrap and stick it in a box? Or would I chuck it or give it away?”

Whether you’re really moving, or virtually moving, here are some questions to ask yourself, as you consider whether some particular piece of stuff is worth keeping. Remember, you have to be HONEST!

1. Do I actually use this?

2. If I get rid of this, and it turns out I need it, how hard will it be to replace?

3. How many of this object do I really need? E.g., how many coffee mugs do you actually use? Beware of what’s called the “maximum-use imperative” — the fact that people will often buy or keep something to accommodate a use that they need only rarely (like a dining room table big enough to seat the whole family, who visits once every two years). Also, although you may be tempted to keep every usable rubber band or every packet of ketchup that comes into your house, if you’re never going to use them up, get rid of the excess.

4. Does this work properly? If not, get it fixed, give it away, or throw it away.

5. At this moment, do I know how to operate this thing?

6. Am I keeping a gift out of sentiment or politeness, even though I don’t really like or need it?

7. Am I keeping something as a memento? That’s ok, but pick your mementos wisely. Try to pick things that don’t take up too much room. You don’t need lots of mementos from the same period of time. You can take a picture of something if you just want the visual cue, but don’t really want to use the thing — this is especially useful when the memento is large, say, your father’s desk.

Most important…
8. When in doubt, throw it out! (or give it away).

Tip: I find it’s much easier for me to get rid of things when I can envision that my things will be better used by someone else. So, as you prepare for your real or virtual move, take the time to identify destinations for your stuff. Do you know a family who could use your hand-me-downs? A thrift store that accepts used toys? Would you post a notice so that someone who wanted something could come take it? Etc.

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Other posts you might be interested in . . .

  • I have yet to go wrong with the ‘When in doubt, throw it out.’ It seems the resiliency of humans is actually able to overcome throwing away that high school pair of jeans 🙂

  • even as you speak, I am in the throes of a real, live, move. . . .
    My problem: getting stuff that I don’t use to someone who will actually use it. I became disillusioned when I found out how much of the stuff that goes to Goodwill is actually trashed – perfectly good clothes shredded for rags, for example.
    I try to remind myself that – even if something is useful and “perfectly good” – something that is excess and that I don’t use is no better than trash in my house.
    It doesn’t always work. . . .
    I liked what your last commenter said: It seems the resiliency of humans is actually able to overcome throwing away that high school pair of jeans 🙂
    good one!

  • Marlena

    If you’re concerned about what happens to donations at thrift stores… there is another great way to find a new home for your old stuff: Freecycle it!
    Freecycle is an online community where people are encouraged to offload even the oddest of items – just to keep them out of the landfills.
    We’ve posted everything from old deck rails to leftover landscape edging – with takers just about every time.

  • Jen

    I just went through a move, and gave an incredible amount away. Some went to Goodwill, some to Freecycle, some to Salvation Army, and some went to the “I sold it on eBay” store (I made almost $700 on stuff that was just sitting around). I found that as I was filling boxes, twenty minutes later I couldn’t even really remember what I’d put in some of them.
    It’s scary how much stuff I had accumulated in 15 years! And, it felt soooo good to get rid of it. I used to be afflicted with the concern about what would happen to the items, but decided that once I’ve determined I don’t need it, it shouldn’t matter to me what happens next (short of clogging up a landfill). It made it a lot easier to get rid of things, and I haven’t missed one item I got rid of.

  • phquaryn

    I donate a bag of clothes monthy, and I have yet to run out of clothes. My wardrobe is a bottomless well of stuff I never wear. There is a church group by my house that operates its own thrift store. They sell used things for cheap, of course, but they also just plain give things to people in need who don’t have the money, which is awesome. I know for a fact they gave a baby bassinet to a young mother gratis. If you don’t like Goodwill for one reason or other, check around for local places.

  • My friend – who moved 3 years worth of stuff in about a dozen boxes – hosts a “swap party” at least twice a year. She goes through her clothes that she doesn’t wear (along with books, CDs, etc), we go through what we don’t wear, and we all come together to swap! It’s amazing what I come home with, and how I still get that “new” feeling from my friend’s leftovers! Now if only I can purge as well as she does….

  • Just knowing you’re going to move someday puts a limit on the potential use of a possession. It isn’t cost-effective to take most things with you when you move, so you can ask, “Is there a realistic chance that I will use this before the next time I move?” The more honest you are in the decisions you make now, the easier it will be the next time you move.

  • Jaydee

    Yea! I went through all my pens (I have a pen and paper fetish, I think) and threw away every one of them that didn’t work…I am so proud of myself. Thank you for the kick start…..And it is on my agenda to go through all my clothes. Like most people, I find myself washing the same clothes each week with very little variation, so why, why, why, do I have closets full and drawers full of stuff I am not wearing? Ha…and all that I don’t wear is newer and in better condition. Guess I just like the feel of old clothes better.

  • The reason that Goodwill, Salvation Army and other thrift stores often end up shredding clothes (or exporting them in bulk) is that there is a limited after-market for clothes. Things with spots and tears are simply not bought. To raise money, these charities need to operate like businesses, which means putting on display things that they can re-sell. Otherwise they are using floor space (which they have to pay rent for) to basically display people’s junk.

  • Lou

    I am going to have a baby in a couple of weeks and purged at least 15 boxes of junk from my house. Some went to the women’s shelter thrift shop, other things just went to recycling. The baby’s room used to be a storage room so we had to dispose of a lot because there just isn’t room. It was very freeing to think I won’t have to deal with that clutter anymore and I will be able to provide a simpler, more focused life for my baby.
    Now I am trying to convince family members to only buy neccessities for the new baby. Books are great but there are only so many toys and doo dads that we actually need.

  • I think I’ve taken on cleaning out for a move as a hobby by now. Over the past three years I’ve moved from the east coast to the west coast and back. On the last move I was determined to get rid of as much as possible. I sold things on craigslist, and gave things away.
    To get rid of multiple items I used the “30% rule.” Gather all of one item and then get rid of 30%. It’s harder than you think!
    Now I’m helping my dad get ready for a move. I warned him I’m a pro now, so he’d better be ready to work! 🙂

  • Tanya

    I LOVE decluttering tips! (I think I may be creating a new clutter pile at home of clippings with declutter tips!!!!) I love the idea of pretending you are moving to get yourself into the right mind set.
    I think Michael above has an excellent point to keep in mind too. If you don’t want an article of clothing because it has a stain, no one else will either. Some old clothes are just trash. The Salvation Army is an excellent place to donate good used clothes too!!!

  • Jaydee

    I heard someone say the true spirit of giving is to give something away that is still important to you. Not to knock giving away what you don’t use, that is a great endevour as well, but hand over a favorite, relish the difference in how you feel about it.

  • Boy did I learn from this, boy do I relate to this…boy do I need to actually follow this!! I think we have about 10 stubbie holders in our house but only two of us drink…and the neighbour usually brings his own!

  • Once in a while I like to place things in a slightly different ‘spotlight’ that usual,
    You would say that you better beat ‘Clutter’ to be ‘Organised’, that’s what seems to be Logical.
    Don’t you think?
    People who have read my post ‘Logic is overrated’ will love this….,
    ( ,
    Because maybe ‘logic’ is deceiving you.
    Here below I have a link for you where you can find some interesting notions about ‘Clutter’ from somebody that IS highly Organised but is NOT at all really preocupied with ‘Clutter-clearing’,(as you can see on a photograph of him sitting at his desk)
    You can find it at:
    All the Best,
    To your Happy Inspiration,

  • It really depends on the person what is the most important to them. But it is important to become aware and then make an informed choice about what is important to you.
    Nice Article.
    Restaurant Coupons, Freebies and More.

  • Helene

    I saw my life coach today – been seeing her for quite a while with the goal of cleaning up my room – and she challenged what was my idea of waste. It is a waste if it is sitting on the bedroom floor and nobody else is using it. It is a waste if it is not fulfilling its purpose.
    In my case I don’t think anybody has a use for the junk I keep. So it has fulfilled its purpose and now is the time for it to go where it needs to go next.
    So I stepped out and threw out that mending that’s been hanging around for 5 years. (My kids don’t fit into those clothes anymore and they are all worn out anyway or are too hard to fix.) And I threw out 11 years of tax papers too. Ouch!!!(Actually I started shredding them but the shredder kept jamming so I burnt them – sorry environment!!)
    And there is a sense of relief even if it it accompanied by pain!