Before moving, it is a good idea to sort through your things so you do not end up moving stuff that you do not need and have never really used. Not only will it save you time in packing and unpacking, but it will also save you money. The more stuff you have to move, the more expensive it will be. This is particularly true for people who are moving to another city, across the state or across the country. Get rid of the things you do not want or need before you start packing.
Take note of time-consuming areas. Keep track of areas in your home where you will need to spend extra time. These are prime spaces where most of us store things we do not use on a daily basis. The garage, den, home office, and front closet are spaces where we store lots of things that I am sure we really do not need. Make note of these spaces to ensure you have enough time to go through them; if you leave sorting to the last minute, you will find that you are packing up everything even though you know you do not really need it all.
Make a list. Take time to go through each room, listing the things that will stay and what you do not really need. I usually keep this list to the absolute essentials – the things I know I will be moving. If I am not sure, I leave it off the list and decide at that moment if it stays or goes or make a note to come back to it later. Try to be realistic. If you are moving everything yourself, then think about how much you want to pack and what could fit in the moving truck. If you are hiring movers, remember that every box you pack costs money. Thinking practically can sometimes help in assessing what you do and do not need.
Take inventory. Taking inventory is a little more detailed and time-consuming than making a list of items that you think you will be moving. If you have the time, it is a great way to determine how much stuff you will be moving and what the possible cost might be. Sometimes if you know how much you will have to spend, you will find it easier to leave some things behind. You can learn more about creating an inventory list in an article on home inventory how-to, which will also come in handy for insurance purposes.
Decide what should stay behind. If you have an area of the house that you use for storage, or even spaces where things collect, like mysterious boxes that sit high up on the closet shelf, then it is time to start sorting and deciding what you really need to move and what should stay behind. It is not an easy task, but one that is necessary.
Remove everything from the space. Take out all the boxes, the clothes, the shoes, the tools – everything. If you are sorting the garage, remove everything and place it in the center of the room or outside the space. Removing everything will give you a sense of how much stuff you have and help you decide what you really need from that pile.
Place the items into piles. Make two piles: “keep” and “don’t keep”. You can even go a step further and sort the “don’t keep” into a “sell” or “donate” pile.
What should go into the “keep” pile? To decide if an item should be kept or tossed, ask yourself how often you have worn or used the item in the last year. For clothing, it should have been worn at least 2 times to warrant keeping it. If you want to keep the item “just in case”, then don’t; usually that means you will never use it and maybe someone else can.
What should go into the “donate” pile? Items that you have not used or are unlikely to use and that are still in good shape, add them to the “donate” pile. Make sure the items are not ripped, stained or broken beyond repair. If they are, put these items in the garbage or made into cleaning cloths. Don’t waste a charity’s time by donating unusable items. For more information on where to donate items, check out the article on where to donate used goods.
What should go into the “sell” pile? This pile should contain items that you know people would buy, things that you can imagine someone else using. Take items to consignment stores, sell household items online, or hold a garage sale.
Place all the “donate” or “sell” objects in separate bags or containers. Once in containers, set them in a place where they will be out of the way, but not forgotten. Whatever you have decided to do with these unwanted items, add that task(s) to your list of things to do.
Go back to your “keep” pile. Look at the items that you decided to keep. Go through each one to make sure you will use it again. If you are hesitating, add it to the “donate/sell” pile(s). The things you want to keep, organize by type and select the appropriate sized boxes. For example, pack all the shoes into one medium-size box. Label the box with the contents and which closet or room it came from, i.e., “hall closet” or “bedroom closet”.