Many things which cannot be overcome when they are together, yield themselves up when taken little by little. ~ Plutarch
Ask anyone who has moved and they will tell you that it is never too early to start preparing! Moving can be very stressful and can create friction within your household, particularly if a lot of loose ends are left until the last minute. Moving is rated one of the top 5 stressful life situations by HealthStatus.com.
The longer you have lived in your home, the more time you should plan for preparing to move. It’s common sense – how can you expect to sort through 30 years of accumulated STUFF in just a few months!?
If you are a minimalist, your job will be much simpler, but most of us accumulate as much stuff as will fit into our space without even realizing it. Below are eight suggestions to reduce the stress of moving.
1. Abandon Accumulating
If you reduce the number of objects that you bring into your home between now and your move date you will have less to evaluate. Of course being mindful of what you bring in is wise at any point in your journey, but it is especially important to pay attention when preparing to move.
The only exceptions are packing boxes and tape if you plan to do any packing yourself. I find that many people underestimate the number of boxes they need and end up running out to buy more boxes multiple times. Afraid of buying too many? U-Haul allows you to return unused boxes, so not to worry. You will need your receipt so I recommend taping it by your front door.
2. Establish clear criteria for what to keep and what to let to
For example, you may decide to move with only books that you actually intend to read within the next six months. Or you might choose to leave behind furniture that no longer brings you joy. It may help to download our free “Personal Criteria for clutter reduction” PDF to guide your decisions.
When we were packing to move, I discovered that a part of the fees charged by the moving company was based on the weight of the objects in the truck. That helped me make decisions about letting go of things that were heavy and that I did not love or use! My neighbors were very helpful in picking up things we no longer wanted when we posted them on our neighborhood listserv. One helpful resource for considering what to discard before moving can be found HERE.
3. Make a central list of projects with action steps
This is not the time to jot down your ideas on the backs of envelopes or in the margins of a newspaper. Find a central place or an organizing tool that will allow you to collect all of your to-dos in one system. Click To Tweet If you are a fan of lists, a paper list, a spiral notebook or a spreadsheet will work just fine.
If you are not a list-maker, use a paper or digital mind map or a large paper pad. The key is to keep all of the action steps in one place and make it accessible to all of the members of your household. One client whom I supported through two moves had a spiral bound notebook that she and her husband both used. The only challenge was that when time got tight, all three of us were frequently asking “where is the book!?” But it still worked!
Another client was proud to show me her large pad with several to-do lists which supported her and her husband during their move. This one was always easy to find!
Digital options for capturing your moving plan:
- Spreadsheets – a very simple way to create lists is to create a spreadsheet in Excel, Numbers (Mac) or Google Sheets. All of these allow you sort by any column in the spreadsheet. Information to include might be: the task, the person responsible, a target date and a column to indicate whether the task has been completed. One big advantage of using a Google sheet is that it can be shared with others.
- Applications for task management. There are many applications that allow you to manage tasks or to do lists on your digital devices. Here at Mindful Decluttering & Organizing, we use a fantastic web-based product called Asana to keep track of our to-dos. The basic version is absolutely free and is quite adequate to meet most people’s needs for planning a move. You can create projects with individual action steps and assign them to specific people in the family. If one family member gets swamped the assignments and deadlines can easily be changed. I love the email alerts that remind me when I have not yet completed a task.
4. Declutter your storage spaces first
Decluttering storage areas will be easiest because much of the stuff in storage spaces is seldom used and will therefore be easier to make decisions about. We recommend preparing to move by first decluttering and organizing your attic, garage, or basement.
Bonus: After you have decluttered these areas, you will have space to store boxes that have been packed and labeled.
In the photo below, we began with the client’s shed, which created space in which to store things during the showing of the home.
5. Create a system for identifying the final destination of each large item
I worked with a lovely woman who was moving to an independent senior living community. This client was lucky to have two daughters who lived in town and supported her in the process. One of her daughters purchased colored dots such as these and came up with this system of color coding each item in the house:
- Yellow – going to her new home
- Green – recycling or donation
- Blue = Trash
The dots were helpful for larger items that were spread throughout the home. For collections of smaller items, we created “zones” in the home where we gathered things that were to go to specific locations. Community Forklift is a fantastic organization for donating tools and building supplies in the DC metro area. See below how we created a zone for objects to be picked up by Community Forklift volunteers.
Additional stations were created for treasures to be offered to the two daughters, donations for a local thrift store, and items that were in the “undecided” category.
6. Arrange a donation pickup (or several!)
Do yourself a favor and set up donation pickup dates with Salvation Army, Community Forklift or your favorite donation organization. Setting these dates both saves you a trip to drop off your items, and gives you a deadline by which you must make progress in your decluttering.
Besides, by donating items to an organization that helps others, you can feel good about letting go of your things.
7. Label. Label. Label!
Use sticky notes, masking tape, painters tape or other inexpensive labeling products to make note of any items that have been packed or zones you have created. This will not only help you to remember where to stash things but will allow others to help you out.
This also makes it much easier to unpack when you arrive at your new home. When your boxes are clearly labeled with their contents and the rooms they belong in, it’s easy for your movers to place items and for you to unpack them!
8. Get the support you deserve
Friends may be happy to help, but not at the last minute and with little notice! 🙁 It helps to plan ahead and offer pizza!
And we at Mindful Decluttering & Organizing are here to support you in person or virtually. Watch this short video of our founder Pam virtually supporting a young woman in going through memorabilia in preparation for her move.
Other important things to allow time for:
Choosing a moving company
Choosing a moving company is a big decision and you will want to interview more than one company. Get recommendations from friends and neighbors if you can. Once you have a few companies to consider, you might also find the moving companies comparison chart included in this article helpful.
Change of address
You can either pick out a change of address packet at your local post office for free, or you can change your address online where they will charge you a $1 verification fee.
Updating credit cards
As soon as you have an address (even if it is not permanent) change it with at least one of your main credit card providers. If you are not not changing all of your cards at once, make a checklist so that you will know which ones you have changed.
Switch your utilities
Brendon DeSimone, author of Next Generation Real Estate, recommends “As soon as you have a closing date, call the utility companies and set up a service switch.” This and other helpful moving tips can be found in a helpful Moving Checklist from Good Housekeeping.
Choose an internet provider
Though you will not be able to set up service with an internet provider until you are in your new home, it won’t hurt to do some research and make your decision without rushing.
Moving is a fantastic time to get clear on your goals and values and remember what is truly important to you (hint: it’s probably not the majority of your stuff!).
It is also helpful to have a deadline (donation pickups and ultimately, your moving date!) and a pressing reason to make decisions about stuff that has been tying up your mental energy for years (whether you are aware of it or not!) This Decluttering Your Home Checklist from ReloMoving offers a room by room approach that you may wish to consider.
If you give yourself ample time, get the support you need, and break large tasks down into manageable action steps, moving can be an excellent opportunity for growth.
We wish you all the best during this exciting transition!
Discover more ways to mindfully declutter your home or office here! >>