How to Declutter Before You Move

Take the stress out of packing and make it easier to organise your new home with some tips on how to streamline your possessions.

A messy cupboard that needs decluttering

Decluttering doesn’t have to be stressful
Image Credit: Getty Images

Congratulations you’re moving home, but before you pick up those paint samples and start mood-boarding in earnest, there’s packing to be done.  

And unless you’re tidying guru Marie Kondo, the thought of emptying kitchen cupboards, sorting the loft or clearing out the ‘monsters’ lurking under your kids’ beds is unlikely to spark feelings of joy.

You’re not alone. In a recent survey by online estate agent Yopa, 40% of homeowners cited moving and sorting through a house-worth of stuff as more stressful than having a baby (31%) or overcoming a divorce (34%).  

“One of my clients described it as the emotional effort of having to touch every single item in your home,” says professional organiser George Tanner, whose company Simplify by George, helps people declutter and sort their homes. 

The good news is George has seven easy-to-follow tips that will make decluttering more manageable and give you a head start in managing your move.  

So take a deep breath, make yourself a cuppa and let’s begin.

1: Upstairs or Downstairs?

“Where you start depends on when you start,” says George. “If you are just about to put your house on the market, focus on a downstairs room such as the kitchen or the playroom which will help make your home more attractive to buyers. 

“If you’ve already sold your house, start with the loft or garage or cupboard under the stairs. These areas can be quick wins. I guarantee the majority of items in there (with the exception of your car and the Christmas decorations) are things you no longer need. These are the places people store things ‘just in case’, like the spare DVD player that’s now obsolete.”

2: Start Small and Stay Focused 

Sorting out a utensil drawer

Pick out the utensils you use every day first
Image Credit: Getty Images

“The biggest mistake people make when starting decluttering is biting off more than they can chew, like emptying out a wardrobe at 8pm to complete before bedtime. After 20 minutes you’ll find yourself sitting on the floor in a pile of clothes that will end up shoved back into the wardrobe. This can leave you disheartened, demotivated and feeling like you can’t do this – but you can.

“Giving your declutter a focus will make it more achievable,” says George. “Pick out the clothes, pans, utensils, toiletries or toys you use and put them to one side. Then put the rest out on a table or floor in front of you. Ask yourself do you use these things? Do you wear them? If the answer is no, box them up for donation and recycling.

“There will always be things you are unsure of letting go. This can be especially true of kids’ toys especially if they’ve rediscovered them during the process. 

“A way to deal with these is to put them in a box and store them out of sight. If you or your children have not looked for any of the things by the time you're ready to move, it’s probably time to let them go.

“The good thing about this process is that what you’ll be left with is a set of your most used items,” says George, “so you’ll only be moving with the things you really need.”

3: Create a Memory Box for Sentimental Things

“It started off so well. One minute you were sorting through that kitchen drawer, the next you’re reading a card from an old school friend, an hour has flown by and the contents of the drawer are still all around you. 

“Creating a memory box is one way to reduce the chance of getting distracted from the task at hand. I usually recommend every person in the house has one,” says George. “It means you don’t have to worry about where the item should go which can stop you in your tracks and lead you to reminisce. Just pop it in the box until the job’s done.

“Afterwards you can reward yourself by going through the box – guilt free. Take as much time as you need, sit with anything that evokes emotion and think about where you want it to live in your new home.”

4: Say Goodbye to Knick-Knacks You Never Liked

“Most of us have an ornament or artwork in our homes that we don’t like or want but are afraid to discard in case we offend the person who gifted it to us. Don’t burden yourself by taking it to your new home. No one will question it if they don’t see it again,” says George. “Everyone accepts things can get lost or broken during house moves.”

5: Use Your New Floor Plans to Make Decisions About Furniture

A floorplan to decide where your furniture will go

Use the floorplan for your new home to decide what furniture to keep
Image Credit: George Tanner
“Use your floor plan to work out what items of furniture are going to work in your new home. Make a note of built-in storage, this will help you start planning too.

“Donate the items that no longer fit or you don’t need. There are plenty of charities that will collect furniture from your home. Local councils will collect large waste items too but lead times for collection can be long,” says George.

6: Make a Place For Everything

An organized desk drawer

Decide on a fixed place for where items belong
Image Credit: Getty Images

“One of the main reasons clutter starts to build is either because you have too much of something or you are not quite sure where to put it,” says George. “Having a clear place for everything you own will help you address this. It doesn’t really matter where that is – as long as it makes sense to you and your family. This ensures everyone knows where an item should go so there is no excuse for not putting it back there

“If you have items that float around your home, use your move to decide on a fixed location for them. Then when you pack, put them in the packing box allocated to that room and label it. 

“It means there’s less chance of you having a room of boxes in your new house that sit there for months, as you don’t know what’s in them and where to put them,” she says.

7. Keep Yourself Motivated

Moving home is a really exciting time. But getting organised is no mean feat so give yourself a bit of praise for everything you sort no matter how small.

“Think of the process as a chance to focus on what matters to you, choosing what stays and what goes can be an emotional release,” says George. “It’s not only a way to free up square footage but an opportunity to create some headspace for a fresh new life chapter in your life.”