Before Josephine Baird moved from a four-bedroom house in Bourbonnais, Illinois, to a two-bedroom townhouse in Wentzville, Missouri to be closer to her daughter, she sorted through furniture, clothing, tools and memorabilia. The decluttering took months and required some tough decisions, but Baird was ruthless.
“I took it one room at a time,” she recalls. “I asked, ‘Do I need it? Have I used it? Am I going to pay to have it moved?’ ”
The process allowed Baird, 74, to scale down her possessions to the things she loved and wanted to use in her new home.
An estimated 22 million people moved in 2021 according to U.S. census data, packing up possessions and unpacking them in their new homes. Whether you’re moving across town, across the country or to the other side of the world, decluttering is an essential step. It can be especially difficult for older adults who are often moving from larger homes they may have lived in for a long time to smaller spaces.
“Older adults have had time to accumulate a vast amount of belongings,” says Jennifer Dwight, a Hawaii-based professional organizer with Ideal Organizing + Design.
Movers charge by weight, Dwight adds. So paring down your belongings before moving saves not only the effort of packing and unpacking items that you may not want (or need) in your new home, it also saves money.
Before you pack a single box, follow these eight tips to declutter:
1. Plan ahead
Your home is filled with kitchenware, linens, photos and tools that took a lifetime to accumulate. It’s going to take time to go through them and decide what to keep.
“If you start early, you can take it slow,” Dwight says. “Physically, it’s hard work but it’s also emotionally exhausting. It’s the equivalent of your life flashing before your eyes.”
Decluttering can take several weeks — or longer — and getting a head start will allow you to go through things carefully and decide what to pack and what to toss or donate.
2. Go room by room
Take an organized approach. It might be tempting to declutter a few drawers in the kitchen, a closet in the bedroom and a corner in the garage. But professional organizer Nicole Gabai, the founder of B. Organized and author of The Art of Organizing: An Artful Guide to an Organized Life, suggests finishing a single room before moving on to the next space.