6 Tips for Decluttering Before Moving

By Meela Imperato
Tips for Decluttering Before Moving

According to one mover’s estimate, it takes three to seven days to pack a four-bedroom house, or just six to 10 hours if you hire professionals. When you take a look around at your belongings, how realistic does that sound? 

One of the biggest challenges in the moving process is to avoid bringing your mess along with you. The cost of large-scale clutter isn’t just more to move—it’s time spent navigating, cleaning, and maintaining the space, as well as some guilt over half-done projects or gifts you feel obliged to keep. 

Decluttering before moving will boost your ability to organize a new home and reduce your moving expenses, but it can also set you up to create a home environment that supports your style, activities, and values. In some cases, decluttering might even lead you to consider when to downsize, which can be a strategic move depending on your lifestyle and future plans.

Moreover, if you’re considering a significant move, such as moving out of state, it’s crucial to plan and prepare adequately. For more insights, check out these tips for moving out of state.

Tip 1: Start Early

If yours is a ship-shaped home, plan out about eight weeks before a home sale or big move to sort through your belongings. If you’re someone who watches “Hoarders” as a cautionary tale, tack additional weeks or months onto that estimate. Trying to speed through the decluttering process means you won’t have time to make the best decisions on what sentimental items to keep and what to let go.

Plus, a side effect of waiting until moving day is ending up with boxes and boxes stacked in your new home or a rented storage space to go through later. Setting up a new home with a back catalog of items to sort can feel antithetical to the fresh outlook you’re seeking.

Tip 2: Create a System

Diving in without a plan may yield vague piles that you trip over a week later. Create an organized result with a detailed system: 

  • Start with the right tools—boxes, bags, labels, etc.
  • Set up a staging area to bring possessions and items to sort through
  • Bring together all of an item type to review at once (such as all of your winter clothing or all of your gardening supplies)
  • Separate into categories such as keep, trash, donate, and sell
  • Have a plan to carry out the trash and donate piles as soon as possible

Tip 3: Utilize the “One Year Rule”

Let’s face it—if you haven’t worn it, looked at it, used it, or read it in the last year, it may just be taking up space. Think seriously about how much stuff you want to take with you on your upcoming move.

Tip 4: Digitize Paperwork

Get rid of filing cabinets and stacks of yellowing photographs. Scan and save digital copies of: 

  • Loose photographs
  • Childhood schoolwork and art
  • Taxes and key financial documents

Tip 5: Enlist Help

You may already know whom to tap for help moving boxes and furniture, such as a moving company or family members, but what about the sorting and organizing process? Instead of brawn, look for: 

  • Experience with their own organizing projects
  • Enjoyment of decision-making and creating systems
  • Interest in shopping or volunteering at thrift stores
  • Hobbies involving collecting, sorting, and organizing

If you’re packing or sorting through items that belonged to family members, give them notice to participate, haul their boxes away, or acknowledge that their old toys, clothes, and media may be scrapped.

Tip 6: Donate, Sell, or Dispose Responsibly

As part of the preparation stage, do your research and make decisions on where and how to ditch your excess or unnecessary items. This includes: 

  • Your local hazardous materials disposal (paint, chemicals, electronic waste, etc.)
  • Whether you’ll need to rent a dumpster, order a special collection, or head to a drop-off 
  • Selecting a nonprofit to donate goods to and whether you need one that offers pick-up
  • Whether to use a Freebie App to offer goods to the public rather than donate
  • If you have the bandwidth to make selling your goods at a garage sale worth your time, and where

Leveraging a Residential Sale-Leaseback After Decluttering

If you’re on a roll, you can declutter your budget and your to-do list with a sale-leaseback. This is a home sale that allows you to remain in your home as a renter while offloading homeownership costs and worries. 

A residential sale-leaseback with a reputable company: 

  • Provides a guarantee you can stay in your home as long as you choose
  • Removes homeowner’s insurance, property tax, and repairs costs from your budget
  • Frees you from the work and worry over covered repairs and maintenance 
  • Locks in an agreed-upon rent and enforceable limits on future rent increases

You can also take advantage of a sale-leaseback as a short-term bridge from one home to the next and opt out of the hassle involved in a traditional sale.

Key Takeaways

Decluttering for a move involves setting realistic goals, starting early, and breaking it down into steps, rooms, and categories. Consider the cost of keeping or storing items and how they support your goals and desired day-to-day activities.

Explore a sale-leaseback if you need to reduce your project workload and simplify the sale process of your home, or streamline your monthly task list and housing costs.  If you’re considering a significant move, such as how to move to another state without a job, these tips can help you prepare and make the process smoother.


  1. Great Canadian Van Lines. How Long Does It Take to Pack for a Move?
Written by Meela Imperato
Senior Director of Brand and Content, Real Estate & Finance Journalist

This article is published for educational and informational purposes only. This article is not offered as advice and should not be relied on as such. This content is based on research and/or other relevant articles and contains trusted sources, but does not express the concerns of EasyKnock. Our goal at EasyKnock is to provide readers with up-to-date and objective resources on real estate and mortgage-related topics. Our content is written by experienced contributors in the finance and real-estate space and all articles undergo an in-depth review process. EasyKnock is not a debt collector, a collection agency, nor a credit counseling service company.