How to Declutter Before a Move (2024)

By Amanda Lutz | July 31, 2023

Young woman organizing and packing books into cardboard boxes.

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Whether you’re going to the next town or across the world, moving can be arduous and costly. The more things you plan to take with you, the more you’ll pay for moving expenses, labor, storage fees, and more. Decluttering ahead of time can streamline the process and make settling into your new home even easier.

Here are some helpful tips for decluttering your home before a move to protect both your finances and your sanity.



Why Should You Declutter or Downsize Before Moving?

People have a natural tendency to accumulate material things over time. In addition to the things you use on a daily basis, you likely have plenty of sentimental items in your home, such as family heirlooms, decor, and knickknacks collected throughout the years.

This can lead to clutter, which researchers have found can increase cortisol levels and affect overall mental health. By decluttering before a move, you’ll give yourself an opportunity to start fresh in your new space without unnecessary or unwanted items. This is especially beneficial if you’re planning on changing up your new house’s decor.

Decluttering also lowers your moving expenses: The less stuff you have, the less you need to move. This can save you on both packing and unpacking costs, and might even mean that you can hire a smaller moving company and/or pay for fewer (or smaller) moving trucks.

Decluttering before a big move can also save you money if you’re planning to hire a professional organizer for your new home. Having fewer belongings to unpack and organize equates to less hours of work for your organizer and a shorter time before your home is settled.



How to Downsize and Declutter

Not sure exactly how to get rid of stuff? Here’s an overview of the decluttering process for the entire home with actionable tips for downsizing your space one room at a time.


The kitchen is the home’s central area and one of the most used spaces for families. Organizing and decluttering this space can be invaluable for packing and ensuring that your new kitchen is as organized and aesthetically pleasing as possible.

Some decluttering tips for this room include going through cabinets, drawers, and pantries to toss or donate items such as the following:

This is also the perfect time to go through kitchen items such as coffee mugs and water bottles. We tend to accumulate more of these than we actually need over the years. Donating the excess can clear up a lot of space.

Bedrooms and Closets

Even if your move is still months away, you can begin going through your family’s bedrooms and closets now. This is a great opportunity to clear out garments and accessories that no longer fit, bid a few pieces adieu, and even begin packing the things you won’t wear prior to your move.

You can follow these steps:

Out-of-season items in the “keep” pile can be packed away in space saver bags until it’s time to move. Anything you don’t want can be donated or sold to thrift stores or sites such as Poshmark.

Family and Living Rooms

These shared spaces are often a focal point of your home, but they can still be ripe for clutter. Downsizing and organizing these rooms will make moving easier and give your new space a fresh start.

Look through and declutter items such as the following:


The bathroom also tends to accumulate tossable items, such as old towels, half-used toiletries, beauty tools, and expired medications.

Go through your medicine cabinet, drawers, and shelves, and look under the sink. Toss anything that’s dried up, expired, or nearly empty. Beauty items such as makeup may not have a printed expiration date, but they still have a shelf life and can grow harmful bacteria over time. Be sure to throw out any old or questionable items you find.

Consider donating any unopened hotel or travel-size toiletries. Many shelters and nonprofits accept unopened containers and distribute them to individuals in need.

Linen Closets

Use this opportunity to clear out old linens, such as old towels, mismatched sheet sets, stained pillows, and torn comforters. You can use many of these items as packing materials. Covering your oak table with an old comforter is often better than a moving quilt, and things like towels can be used to cushion breakables in boxes. You can then donate the linens once you unpack in your new home.

Home Office

Depending on how often you use your home office, you may have more to declutter there than you’d think. Here are some things you may need to clear out:



Tips for Decluttering

Here are some more tips to get your home clutter-free and moving ready.

Start Early

The last thing you want to do when moving is wait until the last minute to get started. Give yourself enough time to slowly pack and get organized as soon as you know you’re moving.

If your move date is still weeks or months into the future, you obviously can’t pack everyday essentials just yet. However, you can use this time to declutter, organize, and pack items that are out of season or rarely used.

Keep Emotion Out of It

It’s easy to get emotional about your belongings. After all, these items once meant enough for you to bring them into your home. Getting rid of them can feel wasteful or sad.

It’s important not to spend too much time getting sentimental. Taking the occasional trip down memory lane can be fun, but it’s a distraction from the task at-hand. It can also keep you from being able to release items that no longer serve a purpose or aren’t necessarily worth taking space in your new home.

Use Rules

There are two helpful rules for decluttering: the 20/20 rule and the five-second rule.

The 20/20 rule can be used to help you make difficult decluttering decisions. If you’re stuck on whether to pack or toss an item, ask yourself if you could replace it for less than $20 and in less than 20 minutes. If the answer is yes, get rid of it. This rule is intended to help with many of those “just in case” items that we hold onto for years, but often go unused.

Next is the five-second rule, perfect for those items that have been collecting dust for a while. Give yourself until the count of five to identify the last time you used the item. Can’t recall? Toss it.

Create a Clutter Plan

Decluttering can be emotional but may also feel wasteful, depending on what you plan to leave behind. Having a plan in place for those items that don’t make the cut can help ease some of the guilt and make letting go possible.

Of course, some clutter simply needs to be tossed. You may be able to recycle certain items while others can go out with the usual trash. Large or bulk items may need to be hauled off by a junk removal company, bulk trash pickup service, or even taken to the city dump.



Our Recommendation

If you’re planning a move, downsizing should be one of the first things on your to-do list. Clearing unnecessary clutter means you’ll have less to pack and transport, reducing how much you’ll pay for movers, packing supplies, and even moving trucks. You’ll also have less to unpack once you arrive, helping you to get a fresh start in your new space. Make sure to start early and give yourself plenty of time to sort through your belongings.



Downsizing and Decluttering FAQ

What is the 20/20 rule for decluttering?

The 20/20 rule for decluttering states that you should consider getting rid of an item if it would cost you less than $20 to replace, and you could replace it in less than 20 minutes. If either (or both) of these apply, reconsider whether the item is worth packing and moving to your new home.

What is the 5-second rule of decluttering?

The five-second rule of decluttering says that you should get rid of an item if you can’t remember when you last used it within five seconds.

Is it better to declutter before or after moving?

It’s better to declutter before moving. This helps you avoid packing, transporting, unpacking, and organizing unnecessary belongings, saving you time, energy, and money on moving expenses. It can also be wise to do some additional decluttering after the move once you see how your belongings fit in your space and can identify what isn’t necessary to keep.

Where is the best place to start?

It’s generally best to start your decluttering in a space that you use the least. Whether this is your office, a guest room, or the garage, tackling a rarely used space gives you room to be honest and discerning. It also allows you to start packing without worrying that you’ll need those items before your move is done.