Moving is stressful, especially if you need to do it on a short notice. Part of the overwhelming logistics of moving is figuring out what to pack, or how to fit everything onto the moving truck at a reasonable price.

The solution to this is to focus on decluttering. According to Ann Zanon, a professional organizer, the average home could free up 20% of its space by tossing unused stuff. For moving, this makes packing easier, lightens the load on the truck, and saves you money. And like decluttering during any other moment in life, you’ll be glad you did it once it’s done.

When to Start

Since the items you will be throwing out will not be packed, decluttering should be one of the first steps in a move.

According to Georgetown Moving and Storage Company in Arlington, VA, you should start cleaning and decluttering 6 to 8 weeks before moving. This way you have a couple weeks of breathing room before you start packing 1 month before the moving date.

3 Tips You Should Know Before Starting


You can declutter efficiently and effectively if you remember these steps:

  1. Tackle one room at a time.

    1. Breaking the entire task of decluttering down to smaller ones makes it a realistic goal. Also, decluttering may involve multiple family members. Organizing room by room allows you to set a time that works for everyone.

  2. Start with large items first.

    1. The average cost of a move across states is $4,300. Moving within the same state is around $2,300. That’s a significant amount of money on top of the closing costs and down payment you already have. A large part of that moving cost depends on the weight added to the truck. If you get rid of heavy items you no longer think you’ll need in the new home, you can save hundreds on shipping. 

  3. Create piles for items to sell and donate. Throw away the rest. 

    1. Put items for selling and donating in a designated area, like the basement or garage. That way when you’re ready to take photos of items for selling or take items to donate to The Salvation Army, it’s all ready to go in one trip.

What to Declutter


Assessing what to throw away is dependent on your needs and situation. However, there are some common household items that tend to become excess junk. The simple rule is to toss anything that is unused, you don’t like or won’t fit in the new home.

In roughly this order, identify if your home has the following items you might not want to spend the money moving:

Old Furniture

When moving furniture, you must be familiar with your new home’s floor plan and have a tentative plan of where the large pieces are going to fit. This includes beds, couches, and chairs. If any of those won’t fit or are not a good match with the design of the home, then it isn’t worth your money to move them.

If you have a lot of furniture to get rid of, a used furniture dealer can take it off your hands quickly, albeit at a lower price than trying to sell it directly to locals.

Don’t forget any outdoor furniture as well. If you have a deck in your current home and don’t have one in the new home, your outside furniture will become clutter after moving.


Any appliances not included with the property can be sold. You may also want to throw out small appliances like toasters and microwaves that are old and buy new ones once you move into your new home.

Disposal Method: Sell on Craigslist or call a commercial junk hauler.

Old TVs and Computers

It only takes a few years for computers and TVs to fall behind current technology trends or see noticeable drops in performance.

Disposal Method: Some PC computers can have parts individually sold via eBay and TV’s are an easy item to sell on Facebook Marketplace.

Outdoor Equipment You Can’t Use Near the New Home

There might not be any point in keeping your surfboard if you plan on moving away from the ocean to somewhere inland. The same goes for other outdoor gear like skis, snowboards, surfboards, or camping gear that you are sure you can’t use anymore.

Disposal method: Sell online or give them away to a friend.

Decorative Pieces

You’ll want to treat these the same as your furniture. If you plan on a different interior design in your new home, then don’t pack artwork, curtains, baskets, ornaments, or anything else that would look out of place.

Disposal Method: Sell at a yard sale or toss them.

Seasonal Décor

Inspect your holiday decorations and evaluate if they are truly worth putting in the moving truck. Some families like to keep decorations fresh each year. Moving may just be the perfect excuse to buy it all new.

Disposal Method: If there are any decorations you haven’t used in the past year, throw them away.

Kids Toys

If your kids are older teenagers or you are an empty nester, you probably don’t need the Legos, kids’ bikes, and arts and crafts anymore.

Disposal Method: If you know anyone with kids or if you have grandkids, give them the toys. Otherwise, they can be donated to a local shelter or daycare.

Oil and Chemicals

Throw out oil and chemicals. Period. This includes paint, gasoline, pest killers, propane tanks, and anything that is highly flammable. You may want to consider keeping your cleaning solutions for the new home, especially on move-in day.

Disposal Method: Waste Management has several facilities in the DC metro area and offers services for disposing the above items properly.

Clothing That’s Never Worn

Many of us wear only 20% of what’s in our closet regularly. So, chances are your closet can use some decluttering. A guideline that some professional organizers follow that I like to observe is the One Year Rule – if you haven’t used it in over a year, throw it out.

Go through dressers and closets and find any clothes, hats, and footwear that doesn’t fit or you haven’t worn in over a year.

Disposal Method: Goodwill, The Salvation Army, a local thrift store, or clothing drop-off bins are perfect places for giving away clothes.

Newspapers and Magazines

Recycle old newspapers and magazines. You may also have a lot of books you longer need or want to keep. Just be careful before donating too many books as they tend to make great decorative pieces in living rooms and offices.

Disposal Method: Donate books to a local library and throw out newspapers and magazines.

Unimportant Paperwork and Documents

Shred any old paperwork that isn’t needed anymore. This could include copies of an old lease, old medical records, or any document that is out of date. If you think you may need any paperwork for future reference, you can scan it and save it to a hard drive or the cloud via Google Drive, Dropbox, or Microsoft OneDrive so long as it doesn’t contain confidential information.

Disposal Method: Shred or Scan and save to the cloud.

Food and Medicine

Throw away perishable items like food and medicine. This should be your last step in decluttering since you’ll need food in the house until the day of the move.

Disposal Method: Trash. Make sure to throw away medicine properly. The FDA has all the info you need on that.

Final Thoughts


Moving has a variety of options with different advantages and costs for each one. For far away moves across states, your large or heavy belongings, like furniture, can always be sold now and purchased again once you are moved in. You’ll just need to weigh that cost (and factor in the income you’ll earn from selling items) with moving it.

A good clean out should make packing less stressful for you in the weeks ahead. Though the above list isn’t exhaustive, hopefully, it provides a helpful starting point for when you get ready for your next move.

Michael Nokes works for Garage Design Source, a garage storage and organization dealer that serves the DC metro area. He enjoys sharing home organizing tips and helping others with decluttering. When he’s not working, he spends time with friends and family.