How To Declutter Your Home Before A Move — Without Losing Your Joy In The Process

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It's totally normal to have lived in multiple homes before you even turn 30. While a feeling of general rootlessness can be super stressful, the actual act of moving doesn't have to be. In Ali Wenzke's new book The Art of Happy Moving, she uses her reputation as "the Marie Kondo of moving" to provide step-by-step guidance and practical information on how to be happier before, during, and after a big move. Bustle's got an excerpt from the book below!

Wenzke herself has moved a whopping 10 times in 11 years, and has lived in seven different states, so she knows a thing or two about the stresses of packing up an entire life and transporting it somewhere new. In her book, she shares personal anecdotes from each of those moves, while offering checklists, guides, quizzes, and advice that will add a serious dose of preparedness to your next transition.

In the excerpt below, Wenke lays out her own method for tackling the big pre-move decluttering, KonMari-style. Whether you're making your own move this summer, or are just looking to revitalize the home you're already in, these tips will help you feel lighter and more organized in no time:

Start with the Heavy Items in Your Home

"Decluttering for a move is a little different than decluttering to “spark joy.” When you move, you need to consider if you want to keep large and heavy items because weight and size matter. One part of the equation is: How much do I love the item? The other part is: Is it better to sell or donate this item instead of packing it, moving it, and unpacking it?

So, you want to consider what items you love, but you also want to think about what you can use in your new space...

When Dan and I moved from Columbus, Ohio, to Palo Alto, California, our apartment size went from 1,200 square feet to 375 square feet. We chose to sell our leather recliner because (a) it wouldn’t fit in our California apartment and (b) moving and storing it would cost more than selling it and replacing it if needed. (In case you’re wondering, we never replaced our leather recliner.) On the other hand, we chose to keep our lift-top coffee table that doubled as our dining table because we loved that piece of furniture and it worked well in our little apartment.

So, you want to consider what items you love, but you also want to think about what you can use in your new space and how much hassle and money it will cost you to get your belongings there. I suggest the following decluttering order based on weight, ease of decluttering, and ability to sell the items.

Decluttering Order for Moving

  1. Books
  2. Magazines
  3. Furniture
  4. Sports equipment
  5. Shoes
  6. Clothes
  7. Kitchen appliances
  8. Dishware
  9. Decorative accessories
  10. Toiletries
  11. Toys
  12. Paperwork

Create Five Piles

To decide what to purge, the question you should ask yourself is: “What do I want to keep?” The question is not: “What do I need to toss?” With that in mind, write “Keep” and “Sell” on two pieces of paper and tape the signs to two empty boxes to help you manage the separate piles. Then, grab several garbage bags and make “Trash” and “Donate” labels for them.

Go through your items and as soon as you finish a decluttering session, take out the trash to make room to pack the remaining “Keep” items. For donations, itemize each object before bagging, then put the bags into your car right away so they’re ready to be taken to a donation site. (Later in the chapter I’ll give you more details about itemizing donations for tax purposes.) Schedule a pickup with a charitable organization for large donation items, but realize this can take two to three weeks. For items you plan to sell, take photos and put those items aside. Also, set aside “Keep” items you choose to display for the time being (either because you plan to sell your house or because it’s too soon to pack your coffee maker.)

Layout Every Single Item in the Category

In order to maximize the efficiency of this decluttering process, you don’t want to declutter room by room. Instead, like organizing consultant Marie Kondo advises, declutter by category. Here’s what you do so you can get rid of as much stuff as possible: Gather items from the same category and put them all in one place. Lay the items out together and examine them. This way, you’ll notice if there’s overlap or if there are items you don’t want now that you can see how many of that particular item you own. You get a free pass only on the furniture category since I would never ask you to squeeze all your furniture into one room to review it. That might be a bit much.

Seeing everything together at once clarifies how much you need — and how much you don’t.

Let’s say you are decluttering your T-shirts. Choose a place where you can display each and every T-shirt you own. Every. Single. T-shirt. Grab your T-shirts from your bedroom, your living room, your office, and your gym bag. After you lay out the T-shirts, you may find that you have six that you don’t really like or two that look identical. If you gathered thirty T-shirts from around your house, you might find that you wear only three or four of them. Seeing everything together at once clarifies how much you need — and how much you don’t.

For us, the book category is a tough one. My husband and I both love to read and must force ourselves to ask if we really need to keep everything. Not every single book I own brings me the same level of happiness. Civil Procedure: Theory and Practice, for one, doesn’t make me smile... even a little. Yet, for some reason, I lugged it across the country more than once, long after I finished law school. It did finally occur to me that I’d never, ever revisit the rules of civil procedure for a few good laughs or for old times’ sake. So, we sold this and other textbooks and donated the rest. We pocketed some cash and shaved easy pounds off the moving load.

From the book THE ART OF HAPPY MOVING by Ali Wenzke. Copyright © 2019 by Alexandra Wenzke. On sale May 7 from William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Reprinted by permission.