Organizing to Move: Key Tips

The key component to a smooth relocation is organizing before a move. I know it’s easy to say rather than do. And a lot depends on the amount of time you have on the front end. Confession, we weren’t always fortunate to have the time to organize first. Those moves were rough. Loose items falling off of the back of a pick-up truck rough.  

As I wrote and recommend in another piece, Moving and Packing Tips, use a spiral notebook to get organized and keep track of to do lists. I create my own lists based on our specific needs and use a flexible format. There are loads of moving checklists out on Pinterest. Use one as a reference and adapt it to fit your needs. 

In a pinch, because things change quickly, you can use blank pages from the notebook to write yourself or someone else a quick note. I love my iPhone dearly, yet it’s not always convenient or faster. 

A 6” x 9” notebook with pockets is large enough to write easily and small enough to toss into most bags. Binders have the flexibility to move pages around and add additional paperwork, preprinted checklists and tabs. Choose the format that’s best for you, and your work style.

First Steps: 

Start by thoroughly decluttering and purging. This makes organizing to move much easier. Go to the items that you don’t use, love and know what to do with first. You’ll have less to organize, less to move and less to unpack if you do this thoroughly now. This golden task will also save you both time and money on moving expenses. Per my tips in Decluttering Before Relocation, sort to make 3 piles: trash, donate, and recycle. 

After decluttering and purging, the next step is to sort before packing begins. There are a variety of ways to sort, either by person or by room and category. Relocate items to the room that they will be unpacked in before packing. Whether you’ve hired movers and packers or doing it yourself, sorting is a must. This will speed up the time it will take to unpack.

Also, go look at rooms and areas, such as pantries, the attic and garage, that have the most clutter. Decluttering these spots will require more time. Plan accordingly and give yourself the time necessary to do a thorough job. Again, head over this blog post for more suggestions. 

Packing and Materials:

Moving boxes that are the same size stack more easily on dollies and the truck. If you belong to an online community group, ask if anyone recently moved. They may have free boxes left over. And make sure any used boxes are clean. I didn’t, only once, and missed a few spinach leaves. They got packed in with a bunch of living room decorative items. 

Newspaper is great packing paper, though it runs the risk of getting ink stains on items. Or purchase paper from a moving company or supply store. Bubble wrap is an alternative, too.  I’ve also used dishtowels, table cloths and other soft items to protect dishes and breakables. 

Organize and pack items that you aren’t using first. Heavy items, such as books, should be packed into smaller boxes to keep them from getting too heavy to lift.

Stuff that’ll Move with You (not on the truck): 

Make another pile of the items that will remain with you during the move. Or if they are items used daily, keep them out wherever you use them and be careful not to pack them. More than likely these will go with you on the road or by air. 

Chargers and items that are used regularly should be packed in clear bins or bags so that they are visible and easy to find in the chaos. Start thinking about how you’re going to pack laptops, iPad and other technology. Entertainment, to help you relax and destress is important. A book and a deck of cards, perhaps.

Other necessary items that may be riding along with you are bedding and towels, toilet paper, tissues, a dish towel or 2 and some utensils. Pack cleaning supplies if they will fit, or buy them there. It will be good to run and errand and see a bit of your new place. 

Think about the number of days that you’ll be in the house before your stuff is delivered and what you’ll need. I swear by packing cubes when we go to the beach and travel and think the bigger ones could be useful when packing a full car. 

Other Important Items: 

A big mistake I made when organizing to move from Atlanta to Cincinnati was leaving my social security card in my dresser. In the chaos of getting estimates and having people in and out of our house, I completely forgot I had quickly shoved it there. I didn’t even realize it wasn’t with me until after we moved into our new home. Although there are a lot of good people out there and our movers have been great, this story could have gone in another direction even if the card had merely fallen out of the drawer. I freaked out when I found it. 

So, PLEASE pack ALL important paperwork such as passports, social security cards, wills, insurance policies, possible valuables, heirlooms, etc. carefully. Holy cow. I can’t stress this one enough or too many times. Find a good spot to start a pile and then on the day of the move, relocate it to a neighbor’s house. Or your car so that the movers don’t accidently put it on the truck. 

Spend the time upfront decluttering and organizing to move so that you’ll have more time to spend recovering and settling in. This is a time for fresh starts and self-care. And if you find that you’re having a difficult time getting acclimated and connected to your new town, try our course. Or consider relocation coaching. 

RELOCATION RECOVERY is an affordable self-paced online course designed to guide you through the post-relocation period. It’ll help you thrive by showing you how to process your emotions, make friends and connect faster in your new place, and so MUCH more. For more information, read about it here or click here to go straight to the course. 

Decluttering Before Relocation

Moving is hard, and the overall process exhausting. Simply preparing to move is an overwhelming task. I’ve moved a lot, and know this too well. The last thing anyone wants to do is add one more task to the endless lists. Especially one that can be a big undertaking, such as decluttering before relocation. And let’s face it, you’ll need to create another list for decluttering.   

Depending on your moving timeframe, there may not be a lot of time available to declutter. On the other hand, sorting and decluttering before relocation can reduce the time needed to pack and unpack, as well as your moving expenses.

Another benefit of decluttering is that it can also decrease your level of stress.

When you finally get past the chaos of moving and into the nesting phase, imagine being in your new home, surrounded by only your favorite things. Or as Marie Kondo would say, the things that spark joy. Imagine having fewer boxes to unpack and things to put away. We had a lot more stuff, clutter, until we started moving (that story here), and having a decluttered home feels calm and inviting, much less stressful, to me.

To declutter in a methodic, less chaotic way before moving, schedule and block off time so that you can move quickly and with intention. The best approach depends on how much time you have, the size and number of rooms in your current home. 

There is no one approach fits all to decluttering before relocation. The most important factor is which feels best to you: most comfortable, fast and/or easy. Review how much time you have to declutter and plan out how you will move through your house and when. Decluttering while you pack is an option, too. I find that having a plan first keeps me focused and works best. 

A Few Thoughts Before You Start

Lean into the mess you’re going to make while decluttering. The mess means you’re making progress. Lean into the process, as well. You will probably have some emotions surface around decluttering and moving. What your feeling is normal (read more here).

Remember the more stuff you move with you, the more expensive your relocation costs will be. And more stuff requires more of your time to unpack and put it all away.  

Think about your new home and space. How will you be using it? How do you want to feel in the new space? Which items will help you use the space properly and help you feel a certain way: comfortable, cozy, active, peaceful, joyful or whatever feeling you desire in the space? 

Involve your family in this process. Consider who will want to go through their own things, especially if you have teenagers. Share with your children how donating helps people be able to purchase things at a much cheaper cost and keeps items out of landfills. 

Think about what you want or need to take with you, and what you haven’t used or worn in the past year. Also consider again about how much room you have and time you want to spend unpacking, sorting, or possibly donating later. Chances are good that you use less than what’s stashed aside. 

Don’t forget to go through drawers, too. Desks, dressers and kitchen. Dining room hutch and side tables. And especially those junk drawers. 

Approach 1: Go Through the Entire House, Twice

On your first walk through of your entire house, you’re going to declutter trash and items that can be recycled. Start with 2 garbage bags or boxes, one each for trash and the other for recycling. Have more on hand because these will more than likely fill up. 

Then go through the house a second time for all items in good condition that can be donated or given away. While it’s wonderful to pass items on to friends, it’s understandable if you don’t have the time and energy to sort and deliver. Donating is sometimes easier. 

Approach 2: One Room at a Time

The second option to decluttering is to go through each room one at a time with specific bags or boxes for trash, recycle and donate/give away. 

OR Declutter as You Pack

If you go this route, pull aside what you use first, what you want to keep and take with you, and evaluate what’s left. 

Recycling 

It’s important to know your local recycling guidelines. What can be recycled varies among towns and counties. One example is that the town next to ours accepts broken plastic toys. Please always confirm first. 

A few specific items and suggestions: 

Wire hangers can be returned to the dry cleaner. 

Check your local recycling for electronics. 

Donating 

If you have items to donate, look for a nonprofit that is meaningful to you. When I find a charity or cause that I want to support and they take donations of household items and clothing, I’m more likely to donate more. I’m likely to lose that “just in case I need it” mentality that I embraced for so long. Donations are also tax deductible.

Fire or police stations may take stuffed animals. 

Check your local recycling for electronics. 

Habitat ReStore and Goodwill will take your tools. 

Best Buy will take game consoles. 

Donating is now a habit, part of my routine.

I’m now in the habit of donating seasonally. My preference is to donate, rather than sell, and it’s faster and easier, too. Living in an uncluttered home with open space gives me a lighter, happier feeling, especially when I walk in the door. Having an entryway with space to put things down makes settling in more comfortable. I also find that uncluttered space gives me room to more easily clear my mind and focus, opening me up creatively when it comes time to write or brainstorm about a project.   

One last benefit (and shameless promotion) to decluttering before moving is that you’ll have more time to take Relocation Recovery. It’s an affordable, self-paced course that’s a fantastic guide to helping you settle in, explore and connect faster in your new place. More information can be found here and a direct link to the course here.  

Decluttering after Relocating, Twice

uncluttering

My journey into decluttering began after our last move six years ago. Decluttering should have begun 10 years earlier, before my family moved from Atlanta to Cincinnati. Instead we began the process after we moved for the 2nd time from Cincinnati to Charlotte. My husband, Dan, and I met and lived in Atlanta for 11 years, moving around locally. We rented an apartment and then a loft, bought a condo and then our first house when our son, Ethan, was born. Despite starting in small spaces, we began to accumulate more as the size of our homes grew. And although we moved previously, we weren’t entirely prepared for relocating our household across state lines.

I began decluttering because I was fearful of the unknown and needed help settling in. Nesting inside our new home felt comfortable while I worked through my grief. We left good friends behind again and I wasn’t ready to start the process of putting myself out there to make new ones. What if we had to move again? What if moving every few years was our new norm? I was doing my best to stay upbeat for the sake of my family and this kept me distracted from my loneliness and fear.

In both relocations, Dan moved 7 – 8 weeks early to start his new job. Ethan and I came to look at houses and explore the area a few weeks later. Dan handled what I call the front end of the move, all of the logistics related to the new house. I handled all of the logistics related to the back end. Finding the movers, organizing, packing, purging, cleaning, prepping the house to sell, getting the house cleaned when we are moved out, etc. There are pieces of this process that brought me down memory lane allowing me to grieve and say good bye a bit longer.

Baby and child gear, toys and clothes that Ethan outgrew were items that have consistently been easy for me to donate and pass along to friends. I also occasionally participated in garage sales with neighbors. I really thought that I was doing a good job all along of letting things go. However, I was still shopping on my lunch break and weekends regularly.

In the time between Dan accepting the job and moving, we didn’t go through all of our stuff thoroughly. I quickly donated what I considered at the time to be a large amount prior to both moves. However, the unopened boxes stored in the attic were harder to go through on my own, and we moved them, twice. Most hadn’t been opened since before our son was born. These boxes held things we thought we’d use again or weren’t really sure what to do with. The items I recall are camping equipment we swore we would use again, electronics, laptops, VCRs and big, heavy art history books from college.

When the moving truck arrived in Charlotte, Dan was at work. I made a spontaneous decision when those boxes that have moved 2 too many times were being unloaded. I guided the movers towards the garage. My husband wanted to park in the garage, so sorting through them properly would become a priority. It was a bit spiteful, yes. At the same time, I understood why my husband didn’t want to spend his hours away from work going through them. It took 6 months to get his car into the garage, and another 3 to get mine in.

As we sorted through those boxes in the garage, I began following The Minimalists and decluttered inside the house, too. Unpacking the kitchen, we realized that we had a shit ton (pardon my expression of truth) of utensils and started a pile to be donated. I had the same realization as I was unpacking a lot of décor, including pottery, mirrors, wall art, photos, etcetera. As I continued to go from room to room removing the excess, I also discovered that minimalism wasn’t for us.

Living in a warm and inviting home that expresses our personality feeds my soul and welcomes me when I walk through the door.

I thankfully found and started following Courtney Carver and Joshua Becker.

Courtney Carver is best known for Project 333. For each 3 month season, you have a max of 33 items to wear including accessories, jewelry, outerwear and shoes. Since I’m a rebel and enjoy warmer winters living in NC, I altered the rules and created my own version, Project 250. I successfully reduced the items hanging in my closet to below 100, including scarves.

Twice a year, in fall and spring, I flip my clothes around so that I’m choosing from less than 50 items. I have held steady at 40 to 50 for a few years now. All items of clothing hung in my closet are included in this count: tank tops that I layer under shirts year round, nicer tees, blue jeans, shorts and scarves.

Project 333 does not include workout clothes, sleep wear or basically any items placed in my dresser so neither do I. I still have a lot of t shirts in my dresser because we are sports fans and travel, and now buy less.  Since my jewelry and shoes are fairly minimal, I don’t include those in the count. I don’t include outerwear either. I wear coats out of necessity, primarily on the soccer field in weather conditions of all kinds. And I don’t love any of them.

Through Joshua Becker, I was able to easily let go of what we weren’t using. The idea of having less to clean and less stress is very appealing. Since I wasn’t working for a few years, this was a good project that kept me focused. We had a lot of things that hadn’t been used in a while. Some were wedding gifts. Unlike the Beckers, we have kitchen appliances back on our counter tops because my husband uses them regularly and it also feels comfortable and welcoming. I later read and recommend Joshua’s latest book, The More of Less.

Our decorating style began to take on an uncluttered, airy vibe as I learned to love what we already have.

As I decluttered bookshelves, the dining room hutch and other flat surfaces, our house started looking spacious. I also felt lighter and energized when walking in the door. Our downstairs has an open floor plan and quite a bit of wall space that’s blank. I was tempted to buy some big pieces of art and immediately changed my mind. That would be more to move later, and I didn’t want more.

Although our house may not look like we’ve been decluttering, it contains only the things we love, our closets are only partially filled, the attic almost empty and the garage holds both cars with room to move around.

The last book I read most of (68% according to my Kindle app) was Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Removing what doesn’t spark joy is a simple concept that resonated with me. The rebel in me, however, didn’t touch each item, per her recommendation.

Books remain a really tough category for us. We moved a lot of books from our small house in Atlanta to Cincinnati. When we moved again, we sold and donated over half of them. We love to read and our closest library is 15 minutes away. Instead, we buy from Amazon, go to used bookstores and support 2 local bookstores here and at the beach. As I finish reading, my books go into 3 categories: books to keep that I love enough to reread, books to share and books to donate or sell. They just don’t move beyond our house very quickly.

This isn’t a story about turning into a minimalist.

The truth is our current house is big; 3500 sq feet big. The size of our house has grown with each relocation as we’ve moved further into the suburbs. Living close to where Dan’s job is important. With a shorter commute, we have more time together as a family. Over time, we figured out how to best use the extra space. Dan has a man cave with sports memorabilia; the workout room now doubles as a space for our teen to play video games and I am grateful to have my own office.

Decluttering with the goal of downsizing in the future is an ongoing soulful project, a work in progress. Dan and I aren’t in the same place in this process and that’s very okay. For a number of reasons, we aren’t ready to downsize and are leaving our timeframe wide open. When we decide to downsize, I strongly believe that we’ll work through the items in our home and easily make decisions together. I’ve grown to love his sports memorabilia, too.

I also still shop. The difference this time is that I don’t have the desire to buy, simply because I just don’t want more. I am intentional about how I spend my time and what I bring home. At the same time, it’s important to us to support local businesses and vendors. When we explore a new area or go to a festival, I usually have an idea of what I want to buy ahead of time.

This piece isn’t about minimalism because as a family we’re a team. My guys aren’t quite onboard. For me, it’s about peace in knowing that the things we own bring me joy. We won’t be moving an excessive amount of stuff next time, either. I’ve gained patience and recognize that we are all on our own journey. If we don’t downsize and instead stay in this house, I can live well with that too. I’m learning that it’s possible to live large with less and make our own rules, guidelines that work best for my family.

A home filled with happiness, that provides room to grow and thrive as individuals and together, is what have right here. That’s all I want. As well as a lot of love and laughter, and Dan’s cooking around our big table.

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