Having moved quite a few times in my life (four times to the other side of the world where taking much with me was an issue) plus having been put in charge of moving people out of their longest place of residence twice in one year, I’ve had to go through this process way more than I’d have liked to.
I guess I’m kinda an expert at it. At least I consider myself an expert when it comes to moving myself and my own stuff. Its a lot harder when the stuff belongs to someone else… well easier AND harder. I have no sentimental attachment to someone else’s stuff so its easy for me to pare things down, but I need to take their feelings of attachment into consideration while being practical. Easier said than done at times.
When I’m the one moving or de-cluttering the rules are easy. These rules apply to moving someone else just as well, but the choice on what to keep isn’t mine alone. I can basically distill it down two basic rules:
A. Throw out anything that’s expired or broken.
B. Donate anything that doesn’t fit, you don’t wear, use or need (ie have too much of).
So without further ado, here’s:
Zefi’s Guide to De-cluttering
1. One room at a time, one area at a time.
Don’t get overwhelmed, cause trust me, looking at a whole house that needs emptying is hugely overwhelming. Start one spot at a time. I always start where packing won’t affect my every day life. For example, I start with bookcases. Give away, donate any books, cds, videos, dvds etc that you no longer want. For decorative items use the ‘does it bring me joy’ method. If it doesn’t, out it goes.
As you move from room to room, wardrobe to cabinet, etc anything that is important and moving with you should go into a box, labelled, to take to your new place. Select a corner where you can start stacking ready to go boxes so they are easy to gather when the time comes.
I’ve always began packing way ahead of the moving date when possible so that by the time the removalists (or three friends with a wheelbarrow) arrive I have everything ready to go, even down to the boxes which go in my car and which I’ll need to make the new place livable straight away: coffee, milk, bedding, toothbrush etc
2. Wardrobes, clothes, linens etc
We all have clothes in our wardrobes that we don’t need or even wear. Especially given our current covid restricted lifestyles. Starting with one wardrobe at a time, one drawer at a time, go through with one thing in mind: do I wear this? Anything that doesn’t fit should go. Anything you like but never wear cause it doesn’t sit right or makes your butt look big should go. Frayed underwear – out. Bras with dodgey underwires – out. Socks with stretched elastic – out. Anything with shoulder pads – out. Ok, sure, keep a few skinny clothes in case you lose that weight, and a few fat clothes for those off days, some old t-shirts to wear when painting, but generally you don’t need 50+ jumpers and tops, 4 bathrobes, 6 jackets and coats, work outfits from our previous career and clothes you bought on holiday and never wore since.
Linen and towels are another thing most of us have too much of. How many sheet sets do you need per bed? I think 3 for each bed is more than enough. Maybe 2 for the spare bed. One to have on the bed now, one in the laundry basket waiting for the perfect drying day, and one in the cupboard as a spare just in case. Get rid of old sets and keep the ones you love the most.
Towels we want more than 3 of, but we don’t need to keep any ratty looking or stained ones. Pick the best, maybe even the matching ones, and toss the rest. Donate them to our local dog groomer or animal shelter.
Blankets, doonas, throws and things like that, I guess you know what you need and what you use. Be ruthless. Donate what you don’t need. There are plenty of places that will happily take warm blankets.
3. Cupboards, cabinets and other hidey places
Hall cupboards, bedside tables, cabinets, sideboards, etc. These places are usually crammed full of stuff. Again tackle these one at a time, starting with those you use the least. Chances are there are things in those places you forgot you owned, and fact is, if you forgot you owned them you probably don’t need them. Start there. Toss out old remotes you no longer have the TV for, chargers for old phones, anything that no longer works. Toss out old business cards and anything that’s no longer valid. Gather photos, photoframes and albums and deal with them separately. Those are a whole ‘nother story which goes under ‘sentimental value items’.
My favourite room to declutter cause its the easiest. First thing you do is toss out anything that’s expired. Go through your medicine cabinet and throw out expired pills etc. Ditto with your make up, hair care and body care products. Throw out old sample packs, remants of body washes and conditioners. Give away perfume you don’t use or just throw it away.
Seriously, if you’ve never done this you have no idea how freeing it is. I’m not saying be wasteful, give away things of value, but things not being used are wasted anyway and you don’t need the clutter.
Look at old brushes, curling irons, hair dryers, etc. Anything you no longer use, you no longer need. It should go. Same with anything that doesn’t work. Once that’s all gone you can pick and chose what you keep from what’s left.
A daunting job on its own but one I find easy enough. Even though this will most likely be the last room you tackle if you’re moving, you only need to leave out the basics you need daily. Start with the pantry and throw away any food items which have expired. Do the same in the fridge. That alone will make you feel brand new!
Then you can start tackling the cupboards. Throw away any chipped or stained cups, glasses or dishes. Get rid of any plastic containers that are stained, cracked or have lost their lid. You don’t need dirty old tea towels. No one needs a million empty jars or empty take away containers. Most of that can be donated or recycled.
Then there’s the utensil drawer, you know the one with the mess of ladles, spatulas etc. I once read a suggestion on how to deal with this drawer if you’re too chicken to just go through it cold turkey. Get a cardboard box and put it on the counter. Empty the drawer contents into the box. Every time you use an item from the box, put it back in the drawer. Get rid of everything that’s still in the box 1-2 months later.
6. Garage, sheds and other places
Follow the same two basic rules. If its expired, broken or you don’t use it, get rid of it. Chances are whatever you’ve got in storage out in the garage or shed isn’t something you need – if you needed it it wouldn’t be out in the shed, in a box gathering dust on a top shelf. For the things in the shed that you DO use, box them up and label them for the move.
7. Sentimental stuff
Of course this is the sticky bit. Those boxes of things which belonged to your parents, children, your own childhood etc. We all hold onto things for from our past and its hard to let it go most of the time.
I’ve gone through my own stuff many times over the years. And as I’ve gone through them again and again, I find I’m ready to part with things now that I’d held onto in years past. This time round I finally threw out all correspondance except that from family, mainly my dad. All my other letters (and I had TONS) are gone. I no longer need to hold onto letters from people I corresponded with who I lost touch with years ago.
What I suggest is to get rid of what you can and keep what you absolutely can’t part with. You don’t have to keep every teddy bear you ever owned for instance, keep your favourite(s) and rehome the rest. Gather all your photos and put them in boxes. Maybe down the track you can have them scanned, but if you’re like me, you’ll still want to hold on the prints. And if you’re like my mom and aunt, you’ll have a million framed photos on every wall and every flat surface in the house. My plan for this is to go through all frames and photos, select what to keep framed or re-frame and create gallery wall areas for mom in the new apartment, then put the rest in photo albums for her. AFTER I sort through all the other stuff in the house.
There is so much stuff. Which I plan to reduce by at least half.
Then again I am ruthless. I’ve had to be since I’ve had to sell or give away almost everything I owned at least twice in my life. Its not easy. I am a collector of stuff. I collect things I like and I collect things for creative purposes. Its not easy for me to give up holding onto things I WILL use one day, so I try to compromise. I keep less of everything so I have room for the things I need to create.
Hope this is helpful to anyone facing this daunting task.