First things first, you need to inventory everything you own. Create a digital spreadsheet, download an inventory app, or just crack open a notebook and write down all your possessions.
Call us new-fashioned, but we think that tracking your inventory digitally is better than doing it in a notebook for two reasons:
- You won’t ever misplace your inventory if it’s stored in a digital cloud.
- You can just copy and paste a digital inventory into a moving company’s website when you gather quotes.
The best way to get an accurate inventory is to literally walk through each room in your house and write down everything you see. This can be tedious, but you’ll thank yourself later.
Begin making your inventory by looking through your storage. If there’s something you don’t need or use every day, it’s probably lurking in your attic or garage, so consider starting there.
After you’ve documented everything you have in storage, work your way through the rest of your home and make a note for every sofa, bookshelf, nightstand, dish, and sweater. Leave no closet or junk drawer unopened. The more thorough you are, the fewer surprises you’ll run into later.
If you’re already familiar with the layout of your new home, this is also a great time to plan which rooms your things will live in post-move. Planning ahead like this will pay dividends when you’re unloading, trust us.
2. Pack and label as you go
While you’re making your inventory, pack things you already know you’re going to keep but won’t need until after you move. This is a great time to box up books, seasonal clothing, and memorabilia.
Getting these items packed away early will mean less work down the road, and it will also help you stay organized. As you’re packing, label all your boxes so you remember what’s in them and where they should go when you unpack them.
It’s also smart to pick an out-of-the-way place to store full boxes as they wait for moving day. You can stack them in your garage or closet, but if you want to get them out of the house for when you’re deep cleaning, renting a temporary storage unit is a smart option.
Is a storage unit worth the cost?
Renting a storage unit might just seem like an extra expense, but if you need a convenient, secure place to temporarily stash your stuff while you work, a storage unit might be worth the cost. Also, a lot of self-storage companies give you a steep discount on your first month of rent. Public Storage will even give you your first month of storage for a dollar.
Once you’ve written your inventory and packed everything you know you’re keeping, it’s time to decide what to get rid of.
Go down your inventory and color-code or make notes of things you need to keep, things you want to keep, and things you’re holding onto just in case. If nothing on your inventory fits into any of these categories, you can probably just get rid of it.
If we’re being honest, most of the “just in case” stuff can usually go as well. Will you ever really need a third waffle iron?
If there’s an item or two you’re on the fence about, it can be helpful to think about it like this: if it’s been a year since you’ve needed it and you don’t see yourself needing it in the next year or two, just ditch it. The obvious exceptions are keepsakes and other items with sentimental value.
Once you’ve separated the wheat from the chaff, sort everything you’re ready to part with into two different categories:
- Useful or expensive things
- Broken or useless things
Once you’ve sorted everything, you’re ready to move on to the next steps.
4. Sell valuable or useful items you don’t want
Not only can decluttering save you money on moving costs, it can earn you a little extra money as well. For every item you’re getting rid of that’s useful or valuable, someone out there might want to buy it.
If you’re not in a hurry, you can sell these items online through eBay, Facebook Marketplace, or a local classifieds website. Selling online can take a little while as you make listings and wait for offers to roll in, but it gives you the best chance at selling everything you’re getting rid of since a lot of people will see your stuff.
If you don’t have the time to sell your old belongings online, put on a garage sale or yard sale instead. This will go much quicker than selling online, but it means you probably won’t be able to sell everything.
5. Donate whatever you can
After you’ve sold off as much as you can, it’s time to donate whatever you have left that someone else might need.
Start by just asking your friends and family if they want anything you’re getting rid of. Chances are, somebody you know would gladly take some of the clothes, dishes, or furniture you no longer want, especially if you’ve taken good care of it all.
Next, you can donate everything else to a charity, thrift shop, or donation center. In fact, there are actually a lot of charities that pick up donations for free, meaning one less chore for you.
Keep in mind that some charities only accept certain items. They’ll usually have their donation guidelines listed on their websites, though, so you can check before delivering your donation or scheduling a pickup.
Don’t forget the donation receipt!
Items you donate to thrift shops and charities can be claimed on your taxes. This means that any donations you make will equal a bigger tax return the following year. You just need to ask for a receipt for your records each time you donate.
Now that you’ve sold or given away the good stuff, it’s time to throw away the unsellable and non-donatable items.
There are three ways to do this:
1. Take your junk to a landfill
If you want to save money by doing all the work yourself, you can load your junk into a pickup truck and take it to a local landfill. To be environmentally friendly, separate out the recyclable materials beforehand and take them to a recycling center instead.
If you don’t have a pickup truck handy, you can rent one from Lowe’s or Home Depot for a reasonable daily rate.
If you don’t want to cart your junk away yourself, you can rent a dumpster instead. You’ll need to make space in your driveway for it, but once your dumpster is in place, you can use it to throw away any useless and broken items.
Once your dumpster is full, the rental company will come pick it up and haul it away for you.
3. Hire a junk removal company
The most convenient option is hiring a professional junk removal company to take your junk. With this option, you get trained professionals to do all the heavy-lifting, driving, and dumping for you. Why break your back dragging a busted fridge through your house when a team of burly College Hunks can do it for you?
This convenience does come with a price, though. Hiring a junk removal company is much more expensive than driving your junk to a landfill yourself. Luckily, most junk removal companies will give you a free quote so you can find out what the service will cost before making your decision.
What to do with hazardous materials
While most everyday items can be thrown away no questions asked, there are some materials that require special disposal. Things like asbestos, paint, vehicle batteries, and pesticides have specific EPA requirements for disposal, so most junk removal companies won’t take them. Learn more by checking out our guide about what junk companies will take.
7. Optimize space in your new home
Now that you’ve curbed the clutter, it’s time to make an action plan for controlling it after you move. Otherwise, you’ll need the Marie Kondo treatment all over again.
As soon as you have the keys to your new home, outfit the closets, bedrooms, laundry room, and kitchen with space organizers to accommodate all your stuff post-move.
This is where the planning you did while making your inventory will pay in spades. Looking over your list, make sure that every room will have all the shelving, racks, and wall hooks it needs to store things. If you need to get an extra shelving unit or some other space organizer, buy it and assemble it ahead of time.
Not only will space optimization make unpacking go a lot quicker, it’ll guarantee that your home stays neat and devoid of clutter for as long as possible.