How to declutter before moving house

So how do you declutter before moving house? In a nutshell: think it through and plan ahead. Be prepared and start early.

Early morning sunrise in California. declutter before moving
An early start in California by Allyndon. (CC BY-ND 2.0)

But first – feelings

We’re not all the same and both decluttering and moving affect different people in different ways. Although some people sail through in a very matter-of-fact way, other people get quite emotional.

According to Zoopla, homeowners move, on average, every 23 years.
That’s a lot of time to make memories and accumulate stuff.

Some people find engaging a professional organiser helps things run smoothly. We’re not emotionally involved and we have lots of useful tips and tricks to help.

Think about the big picture

Being clear about some of the good reasons to declutter is a great start. One good reason, for example, is that you will have fewer things to pack. Another reason is that you will pay less to move because there will be fewer things. And a third is that fewer things are easier to unpack and you’ll settle in more quickly.

Then think about life in your new home. Whether your new home is a caravan or a mansion, in town or at the beach, it offers an opportunity to live your life differently. It’s going to be a new chapter in your life.

Now consider what you’ll need, and what you’ll no longer need.

Thinking through the detail

Are you upsizing or downsizing? How many people will usually be living in your new home? How much stuff do you want to take with you?

With measuring tape and notebook in hand, go through each room in the old house asking yourself ‘What will fit my new life and home?’ Think about clothes and shoes, for example. Will you still need clothes for dogwalking or glamorous evening events or standard office clothes? How much kitchen equipment, cutlery and crockery? What about furniture? Take notes!

Three matching forks with bone handles. Declutter before moving
Three matching forks with bone handles – will they fit into your new lifestyle?

Then there are things that have been untouched for some time, perhaps even since the last move – often prime decluttering territory. Nobody really wants to move boxes of old paperwork – utilities bills from long ago, guarantees for electrical items now broken and thrown away, old bank statements that don’t need to be kept for business purposes. Some books may have had their time – novels bought for beach holidays, out-of-date reference books, cookery books without any recipes you want to cook.

Plan ahead, be prepared and start to declutter well before moving

Planning ahead means that you won’t forget anywhere. The loft, under the stairs, the shed, the big cupboard no-one ever uses: these are all common places that slip people’s minds.

Be prepared with:

  • boxes and bags, packing tape, labels, marker pens
  • a confidential shredding service if you have more than a few sensitive documents. Shredding takes time and domestic shredders have a habit of jamming
  • details of the charity donation centre or shop you want to use
  • details of the local recycling centre
  • a skip if you’ll be throwing out a large amount of stuff that can’t be recycled.
Piles of yellow skips. Declutter before moving
Skips on the bank of the River Wandle, with thanks to Stuart. (CC BY 2.0)

Start sooner rather than later. You’ll give yourself time to go through everything in good order. You’ll be able to work well without exhausting yourself.

A few decluttering rules of thumb

Focus on the area where you are working and don’t get distracted.

Remember! It’s not obligatory to take stuff you don’t need, want or use to your new home. Be ruthless, if necessary.

A tried and tested method is to sort into boxes. These are useful categories: keep; give away; recycle; throw away.

Good luck!