Planning a move? It’s only natural to want to move only things you really care about and want to have in your new space. According to a recent national survey by Wakefield Research for SpareFoot, more than half of Americans describe their home as cluttered and 61 percent believe moving is the best opportunity to declutter.

Professional organizers are often brought in to help declutter or organize a move, so I asked some of the folks I met at the recent National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) conference to share some of their best tips. They all agreed that the most cost-effective way to simplify your move is to declutter before you pack.

“It costs about $50 to move a box of stuff that can probably be replaced for less,” said Virginia Brown.

Wall with boses labled and ready fpr shiping

“Whether your movers are charging by the hour or by the pound, moving more stuff just costs more,” said Leslie Gail of Declare Order. “Before you start packing a room, scrutinize every cabinet, closet, and drawer. Discard, recycle, and donate as much as possible. It will also result in fewer boxes to pack and then unpack at the other end!”

Tatiana Knight suggests using the move as a catalyst for a fresh start at being organized in your new home.  

“Remember that the less stuff you own, the less you have to take care of,” said Knight. “Shedding your excess possessions can be hard at first, but helps you feel lighter and freer in the end.”

The professional organizers shared their favorite tips for decluttering around a move.

Start Early

It takes time and planning to incorporate a decluttering process into your moving schedule. Professional organizer Seana Turner suggests starting early. Decluttering takes time, she says, especially if you don’t want to feel pressured.

A yellow sticky note is written something on the desk with a ball pen aside.

Chunk it Out

Focus on one room at a time, says Robyn Reynolds, and start in areas of your home that you use the least. This way you have full access to the areas that get used all the time for as long as possible.

Set Deadlines

Like any project, decluttering before a move takes a certain amount of planning. Block out working sessions on your calendar to go through certain areas. You’ll also need to leave time before the move to have large items you are discarding hauled away.

Hunt and Gather

Set aside an area for items you don’t want or need anymore. Examples of these items are clothes, electronics, food, gifts, and printed materials. It’s easy to get rid of food or medication that’s expired. If you have food that’s not technically expired, but that’s been sitting around the pantry for over a year–toss it!

“Pack your unwanted and unneeded items into boxes that are labeled with actions to take before the move–this includes burning or shredding, selling, donating, and gifting to friends and neighbors,” said Regina Lark.

“My favorite method for purging is to separate things into categories so you can see the total amount you own and decide from there,” said Knight. “For example, gather all the picture frames from various areas of the house and then look at the entire collection together to decide what to keep. Ask yourself if you really need, use, or love each item. Picture where it will go in your new home.”


If there’s too much to do and you feel pulled in a million directions, you may want to consider getting some help.

Portrait of a beautiful young businesswoman sitting in the office and phoning at mobile phone.

“Professional organizers can help make decisions about what to take and what to leave behind, how to decide what’s of value, and what to do with what’s no longer needed,” said Kristin Bertilson. “For clients that are downsizing, I encourage them to start living in that smaller space within their current home to help them decide what they can do without.”


For those that are downsizing especially, it can be hard to pare down as much as you’d like amidst the stress of the move. You might also have your kids things and need to hold on to them until they can come home and go through their stuff.

At SpareFoot, over half of our customers are looking for storage around a move. Our recent Storage and Moving Survey found that 44 percent of people store items outside the home, either in storage or at a friend or family member’s home.

“When a situation arises where you decide to pay for storage, set a firm deadline for when you will empty the space,” said Knight.

Size Matters

Getting rid of larger items can be tricky, since you often have to find a way to move and transport them if you no longer need them.

“A great way to sell furniture or appliances is to ask the new buyer or neighbors if they are interested,” said Knight.

Senior woman sitting on sofa with dog, smiling

“Many non-profit organizations will pick up donations, but they often ask for two weeks notice,” said Turner.

You can also post large items to sell or for curbside pickup on Craigslist. If you end up with an excessive amount of trash and need to dispose of it quickly, Knight suggests calling a bulk pick-up service.

Jodi Holzband


  1. One of the biggest motivators for decluttering comes from preparing for a move. I see this regularly with my organizing clients. Decisions that they’ve previously been challenged with become easier when they’re in transition. Perspectives shift, minds open, and letting go becomes the norm. It’s quite amazing to see.

  2. I always see moving as an opportunity for a fresh start. Our last move was our biggest ever (from a house to an apartment), and despite the amount of stuff we didn’t take with us, we still ended up with more than we needed in our new home. Now that we have less storage space, we’re much less inclined to let it build up.

  3. Moving is such a great motivation for decluttering! You don’t realize how much you have until you have to pack it all up and then unpack it all!

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