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Preparing to Move: 10 Places to Lighten Before You Pack Up

Moving:  whether it’s across town, or across the globe, it can be a time-consuming and expensive ordeal.  Fortunately, with some planning and preparation, you can make it easier on yourself.  In helping clients get organized before moving, and helping folks get settled in and organized after moving, these 10 places are common trouble areas that need time and attention.

Of course the biggest tip is to begin as soon as possible, but that’s not as helpful as knowing what to organize for your move, as soon as possible.

One basic strategy is to make sure you are not taking along items that are no longer useful to your new home.  Where to start? Spend a couple hours on each of the following categories, and within a couple of weeks you’ll have lightened your load significantly:

  1. Clothing.  Let go of anything that doesn’t make you feel good. Better yet, give it the “ex test”: would you want an old flame to see you in it?  Things that haven’t fit in over 3 years are not worth moving to your new house.
  2. Paperwork.  Anything that is unnecessary or you can easily access online if you need it can be recycled or shredded. Take this time to locate your critical documents like titles, passports, insurance, tax docs, birth certificates etc. Keep these with you when moving, don’t pack them.
  3. Pantry items.  If you don’t know the last time you used a particular spice you probably won’t need it in your next home. For lots of tips on spices, see our post on spice organizing.  
  4. Gifts people gave you that you never think you’ll use.
  5. Single purpose kitchen items.  Are banana slicers, melon ballers, and avocado scraper thingies really what you use when you’re on a fruit kick?
  6. Books.  Are you a re-reader who constantly loans out their library to others? Hint, if you don’t refer to your bookshelf as your library, you might not need to haul all those books with you.
  7. Incomplete projects that no longer interest you.  Unfinished projects can weight us down, literally and figuratively.  That electronic gadget you said you’d re-solder, the Etsy-inspired craft you haven’t gotten around to…  There are some really neat places that help art supplies get into the hands who need them. SCRAP in San Francisco is a great place to donate art supplies.  
  8. Plants.  Find homes for them well in advance of when you need to move.  (Hint: a friend who has admired your Spider Plant might be the perfect person to gift it to now!)
  9. Tools.  Let’s face it, a lot of us are not as handy as we think we are, or think we should be.  Or would be, if we had the time. Perhaps you bought a miter saw for use on one project, and it’s been collecting dust ever since.  Keep in mind that many urban areas now have tool libraries, so if you do end up needing something again, you won’t necessarily need to go out and purchase another.  
  10. Games.  Which ones are you tired of?  Which ones never get picked when the gang gets together to play games?  Keep your favorites, let go of the rest.

Bonus Tip:  Untangle your junk drawer.  Purging all the odds and ends will be very satisfying. Don’t worry, twist ties will find their way back in your life at your new place.

It may seem like a lot of work to go through your things and decide what to toss, but it’ll make your move less expensive, save you time packing and unpacking, and eliminate the task of finding a place to put unwanted items in your new place.

Finally, one self-defeating phenomenon to be aware of: simply by getting rid of something, you’ll naturally be thinking about it and may well think of lots of good uses for it.  Don’t be fooled! This is a time to let your history be your guide, rather than your imagination. If you haven’t been using it, just let it go.  Want to know more about this phenomenon?  Check out this book for insights on how we delude ourselves in many fascinating ways.

2 Comments
  • Adrienne Davis

    June 17, 2019at3:58 pm Reply

    This will be a helpful reference list as we prepare for a move next month. Thanks!

  • Christopher Shields

    June 20, 2019at7:47 pm Reply

    Hello Emily,

    Having just gone through a move myself, I can attest that your tips really pay off. It’s easy to approach a move like it’s a big mountain… but tips like yours help break that mountain up into more manageable pieces. I loved what you said about books, bookshelves, etc. If you don’t truly have a library, why not donate to one? Keep up the great articles!

    Thank you!

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