How to Declutter Your Home Before Moving

Moving is a part of life, whether you’re a seasoned pro or this is your first move. Moving is also one of the more stress-inducing processes we deal with. However, it doesn’t have to be. One of the surefire ways to pack and unpack faster, save money, and ultimately make the move go just a bit smoother is to declutter your home before you move. Here is our guide to why declutter, where to start, what to get rid of and how, and more.

What Is Decluttering?

But first, what is decluttering? The answer might be obvious: It’s a physical process of removing well, clutter. As in: Things you no longer want or find useful. But it’s going beyond that where it gets tricky.

What, to one person, might look like a comfortable home may seem to another a hoarding nightmare. When one person can see 10 more good years of using that couch, another wants to call junk-removing companies right away. Then there’s the complicated matter of whether to chuck or to keep sentimental items, or items that make solid trash-pile candidates but are very expensive to replace.

What constitutes clutter is deeply personal, and your decision to keep or leave an item behind might be a complex web of personal financial circumstances, your timeline, your ability to organize and reflect, and much more. So, let’s start by tackling some angles one by one — the benefits of decluttering, where to start, and how to proceed.

Why Declutter?

Research has shown that a more minimalist lifestyle has many benefits, including fostering a positive relationship with your overall well-being. It can improve relationships, help us sleep better, be more productive, save money, and more. Studies have also shown that clutter in our homes has the ability to raise cortisol levels, which negatively impacts our health.

So, even if you’re not moving, you can benefit from decluttering. Think about it: it can save you the time you’d otherwise spend acquiring, organizing, cleaning, and maintaining your stuff. It can also save you money and decrease your stress. And, by consuming less stuff, you’ll be creating a more sustainable lifestyle, which will benefit the environment.

Decluttering before you move also means you’ll be packing less, and that’s a win right there. Another important reason to declutter is for selling your house. Decluttering and organizing your space will go a long way in appealing to potential buyers. When a home is clutter-free, buyers can focus on the actual home instead of the excess junk, accessories and overflowing closets

Decluttering and depersonalizing before you are ready to show your home to potential buyers will allow them to focus on the home, not your possessions. An important part of any staging process, decluttering will help the buyers see themselves living in your home. Less clutter inside a home also helps a place appear larger and cleaner, which should attract more buyers.

Why Declutter?

Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Start Decluttering

Before you make an inventory of hundreds or thousands of things you will either keep or not, ask yourself some questions:

  • What do I want my new place to look like? Think about the style and function of each room. Visualize your new home in detail. It might help make better decisions on whether the item would not fit into the picture.
  • What do I do with the things I am getting rid of? Selling, tossing, donating? Come up with the plan, even if you end up revising it later. If you’re tossing, are you just putting stuff out for garbage pickup, or do you need to hire a junk removal company to haul heavy items away? If you are donating, to which charities?
  • Do you really have the time and energy to sell your unwanted items? If yes, how? Through what channels? There are online markets and consignment shops, or you can have a yard or garage sale.
  • Are you giving any stuff away for free? Maybe invite friends and family to stop by to clear stuff away, or list it for free on Facebook Marketplace (it can be a good option for getting rid of bigger items).

Questions to Ask Yourself While You Declutter

When you get down to it, there are several questions you can ask yourself to help you decide whether the item stays or goes. Here’s a good start:

  • Will it fit in the new home?
  • Where in the house will it go?
  • Have I used it in the past year?
  • Do I have more than one?
  • Is it difficult or expensive to move?
  • Is it in good condition?
  • Does it work?
  • Does it need to be repaired?
  • Does it fit properly (clothes, shoes, accessories)?
  • Is it on-trend or making a comeback?

How to Declutter

  • Create and Follow a Timeline

    Decluttering and packing should ideally go hand in hand. Our Move Planner suggests ordering moving supplies six weeks before the move, strategizing your packing process five weeks before the move, and starting decluttering then.

    This means you can start using up refrigerated food and pantry items, host a garage or yard sale, donate and sell items, and decide which appliances to take. If you are moving appliances, schedule an appliance service company to come to your home prior to moving day to prepare all appliances for the move.

    You can also decide around this time what to do with plants and what furniture is worth moving. At least a month before the move, start packing and getting rid of hazardous materials you can’t move anyway.

    Need moving services? We're here to help!

    Get up to 4 free quotes from top quality movers
  • Come Up With a Decluttering Plan

    Hopefully, you’ve got some answers to the questions above and have a clearer vision of what your goals are. Some items, like big pieces of furniture, will take more planning to remove, so start thinking about not just what you’re getting rid of but also what your options are for removing them from your home.

    The general categories you’ll be looking at include:

    • Appliances
    • Books
    • Clothing
    • Decor
    • Gadgets
    • Furniture
    • Kitchen items
    • Paperwork
    • Toys
    • Outdoor items (patio, deck, pool, garage, yard, driveway)
    • Seasonal decorations
  • Set Your Decluttering Goals

    Keep yourself organized and accountable by setting some goals and sticking to them. They don’t have to be overly ambitious. It could be that you decide to fill up a certain amount of boxes every day, or reduce your clothes by one-fifth, or have everything you want to donate ready to go by a certain time.

  • Start Sorting: Toss, Recycle or Donate?

    We recommend sorting your belongings into toss, recycle or donate categories. It’s an undertaking, but it will make your move easier.

    • Go through your belongings room by room. Open the closets and the cabinets, don’t skip any drawers. Get an idea of how much you’ve got and make notes of what can go.
    • Do a closet purge. If it doesn’t fit, is out of style, and/or you haven’t worn it in a year, get rid of it. The same goes for your children’s closets, linen closets and bathroom shelves.
    • Get rid of items you wouldn’t buy again. When deciding whether an item serves a purpose in your life, ask yourself whether you would go out and spend money on it if you didn’t already have it. If you wouldn’t, you likely don’t need it.
    • Make donation pickup arrangements. If you know you’ll be donating big items like furniture and rugs, schedule a pickup ahead of time so you can be sure you have an organization pick them up. Check out this list of charities that pick up your donations (like Salvation Army) so that you don’t have to worry about how you’re going to transport everything.

Start Sorting: Toss, Recycle or Donate?

Decluttering Tips for Moving

The general rule to follow is that you only pack what you want, need, and will use at your new house, but if decluttering still feels overwhelming, here are a few tips to break down the process into smaller, streamlined, and doable sub-tasks.

  • Trash what needs to be trashed first. If going room by room seems daunting, before you consider what goes into the “keep” and “donate” piles, start downsizing by trashing the most obvious items. Anything past its expiration date (medications, hygiene and beauty products, makeup, pantry food items, cleaning products), broken beyond repair, or just no longer wanted but not in good enough condition to sell or donate can go before you get any further.
  • Picture where the item goes in your new home. If you can’t, it probably won’t fit, or doesn’t go with the decor anymore.
  • Set a “maybe” pile. Not sure if you want the item? Put it in the “maybe” pile and decide later. Don’t get stuck on it, move on.
  • Don’t put off decluttering the most cluttered areas. It’s usually the garage or the attic, and will take a while to clear. So tackle them early.
  • Get rid of the old paperwork. Old receipts, checkbooks, old cards, magazines and newspapers can be shredded or recycled. Of course, keep the hard copies of important documents but anything you can keep in a digital version or any paperwork that is dated can go.
  • Donate your leftover perishable food. You can donate to a local food bank, or a non-profit like Move for Hunger will do it for you. Either way, don’t throw out perfectly good food.
  • Pack at the same time. All the non-essentials can be packed away ahead of time, like seasonal decorations and clothes, books, wall decor, artwork, and so on.
  • Factor in the new climate and geography. If you’re moving to a place with another climate, perhaps you won’t need your snow blower or surfboard.
  • Get your friends and family together to take the stuff they want. You’ll get to see them, have a fun little party, and your thing will go to a good home. Everyone wins.
  • Stop spending on more clutter. Declutter and pack first. You’ll have a better idea once you move and start unpacking what you need to buy for your new home.

Tips for Decluttering Your Closet

Yes, it can be a chore, but also a great opportunity to edit your belongings while you pack up your closet. Here are some quick tips on how to declutter your closet, step by step:

  • Get everything out of your closet. You’ll want to look at everything in your closet, even the things that are hidden and you haven’t seen in years. To make it less overwhelming, empty one section at a time. Suggestions: shoes only, or work clothes only, or accessories first, and so on.
  • Make a “keep” pile first. Anything that you are sure is a keeper goes into the “keep” pile. For example, your favorite clothes, clothes you wear often, and so on. The goal is to remove the definite keepers from the equation so you can move on.
  • Make the “toss” pile second. Next, make a “toss” pile with the items you’re sure you no longer want. This can include items you haven’t worn in a year, clothes that don’t fit you, clothes you always skip over, gifts you never wear, clothes that aren’t in good condition, or items you have multiples of.
  • Make the “maybe” pile next. The maybes will probably be the toughest to tackle, but just think about their value to you and be honest with yourself about whether you will ever wear them.
  • Pack what you don’t need now. Time to start packing! Start with seasonal clothes you won’t need to wear for a while, and anything you can wait to wear till after you move.
  • Sort the “toss” pile into the “throw away,” “donate” and “sell” piles. If you plan on selling some of your clothes, we covered this option above. The same goes for the “donate” pile. What doesn’t make into either pile, goes into the “throw away” pile. You can also include a “give away” pile if you want your family and friends to get some of your clothes and you think they’d want them.

Tips for Decluttering Your Closet

Tips on Decluttering Your Home Office

Just like with moving the rest of your home, some decluttering and downsizing are in order before you start packing your home office.

  • Take an honest look around and see how you can lighten your load. Is there any obsolete or broken equipment? Any books, manuals or reference materials you can let go of? Any working electronics you just no longer use? Office furniture that you don’t want to move? Be ruthless and toss any old pens and pencils, outdated calendars, old planners, and dated computer equipment.
  • Gift, sell or donate unwanted items. Many charities do accept things like books, electronics and furniture, but check first.
  • Recycle and shred your paperwork. Next, shred any documents you no longer need that contain any personal or sensitive information; recycle any paper that doesn’t.
  • Digitize your paperwork. As part of lightening the load, you can scan some documents and store them in digital format.

Additional Tips on What to Get Rid of in Your Home

Here are some more ideas on what you can probably easily let go throughout the rest of your home.

  • Living room

    • Furniture (if it’s damaged, doesn’t fit in your new home, or cheaper to replace than move)
    • Obsolete electronics
    • Rugs (if they’re old or won’t match the decor in the new house)
    • Old magazines
    • Old books (you don’t love or plan to read in the future)
  • Kitchen

    • Unused or broken appliances
    • Old cutting boards
    • Old mugs
    • Multiple and unused utensils
    • Damaged pots and pans
    • Burned and stained pot holders
    • Raggedy, stained kitchen towels
    • Expired food
  • Bathroom

    • Raggedy towels and bathmats
    • Expired medications
    • Unused toiletries
    • Old makeup
    • Old or unused cleaning supplies
    • Toilet plunger
  • Laundry room, garage and basement

    • Old, broken appliances
    • Unused sports equipment
    • Old seasonal decorations
    • Hazardous materials
    • Tools (if they’re old, broken, or never used)

Additional Tips on What to Get Rid of in Your Home

The 4 Don’ts of Decluttering

Saying goodbye to things you’ve loved and had for years is not going to be easy, even for the most hardened minimalists out there. But just because it’s been in your home or homes for a long time, or you’ve used it at some point, doesn’t mean it currently has any value. The four general “don’ts” to go by are:

  1. Don’t keep anything you haven’t used in a year and don’t plan to use anytime soon. It might seem a little extreme to some of us, so you can stretch a year into what makes you feel more comfortable, but the point is, if you’re not using it and don’t plan to, why have it?
  2. Don’t keep anything you wouldn’t buy again. This is to determine how useful it is in your life and whether you need to keep it.
  3. Don’t keep anything that doesn’t make you happy. You know the KonMari Method: If it doesn’t spark joy, why keep it? Photographs of your exes, clothes that don’t fit, gifts you don’t like—none of these things lift you up or spark joy in your home.
  4. Don’t keep anything just because you think you should. Don’t let the guilt guide you.

Hiring a junk removal company

It can take a lot of time to clean spaces like garages, basements and attics. Let a professional junk removal company do it for you. Keep what you want, and the rest can go. They’ll dispose of the trash, clean up, and even donate items to local charities. Not only you won’t have to lug unwanted heavy items like a mattress or a couch, but you’ll be also free to focus on other tasks.

Perhaps your furniture is in terrible condition or maybe your old clothes are simply irredeemable. Whatever the case, you may not be able to donate or sell your belongings. In this case, we recommend using one of these four junk removal services before moving.

Not quite ready to get rid of your stuff?

Sometimes you’re just not quite ready to say goodbye to those useless yet sentimental items. Fortunately, you always have the option to place your belongings in storage before, during or after a move. To find self-storage in your area, use’s Storage Center. Just type in the zip code or your city and state of residence and click the “find storage” button. will pull quotes from the closest storage unit facilities near your new home to compare. For more tips, read our first-timer’s guide to renting a storage unit.

Not quite ready to get rid of your stuff?

Frequently Asked Questions About Decluttering

  • How do you declutter before moving?
    Start by going through your belongings room by room, sorting items into “keep,” “donate,” “recycle,” and “throw away” piles. You can also make a “give away” pile if you plan to give your stuff to family or friends, and a “sell” pile. Box any keepers that you won’t need till after the move. Figure out the plan for donations and selling — which charities you’ll donate to, where you’d sell your stuff. You can also hold a garage/yard sale to get rid of some of the items that way.
  • Where in the house should I declutter first when moving?
    Start with the less-often-used rooms first (the guest bedroom, the attic, the garage) and things you won’t need till after you move, like seasonal clothes, books, non-essential kitchen items, home decor, etc.
  • Should I declutter before or after moving?
    You’ll save time and money by decluttering before you move. The less stuff you have, the less you’ll need to pack and haul to your new house.

The bottom line

Ultimately, cleaning out a home before a move is about holding on to the things that bring happiness into your life so that you can bring them with you on your next chapter, and leaving behind the things that don’t. You don’t have to be an avowed minimalist to edit down your belongings. Follow your heart, be realistic, and think of how much easier your move will be if you have less stuff to pack up and deal with.

Ready to move?

So you’ve purged those unnecessary belongings and started packing. Now it’s time to find a moving company to help with the heavy lifting. Fortunately, those in need of moving day assistance can find a reliable moving company through’s extensive network of movers. Our website makes it easy to find and book the best moving company for the job. All relocation companies in our network are licensed and insured, so you can rest assured that your move will be in good hands. Good luck, and happy moving!

How to Declutter Your Home Before Moving
Scroll to top