Bag hovering inches above the staircase, I felt a rip. The stitches started snapping in an uncontrollable domino effect around the circumference. After moving all day, I knew nothing could stop it.
Everything promptly tumbled and spilled down the stairs. I was no longer carrying miscellaneous household goods—just two useless, plastic straps.
I suddenly felt the weight of our possessions. Literally.
I’ve moved friends and family more times than I can count. Bottom of boxes have caved in, waffle irons have fallen on feet, and someone has sworn in exasperation, “Never again! Why do we own this anyway?”
Despite these aggravations, there is a joy that remains after every move. Paring down items, packing up, and moving are lasting, growthful processes. Moving empowers us to have a healthier relationship with stuff.
I’ve moved 15 times in my life—and enjoyed each and every new location I’ve been able to call home.
When we move, we are required to physically handle each of our possessions four times: put it in a box; take it out of the house; bring it into the new home; unpack and put away.
It is, unarguably, one of the best times in life to declutter possessions.
If you’ve got a transition coming up or are right in the middle of one now, here are six ways to declutter when you move:
1. Get started early.
Packing up a home (and decluttering along the way) always takes more time than we think, so get started earlier than you think. Moving is an important time to declutter. Getting started early will keep you from the familiar panic as moving day inevitably creeps up on you.
2. Evaluate everything.
The act of picking up, packing, and lifting full boxes can provide an appreciation for what we continue to carry. Moves prompt us to consider what we’ve taken for granted. These times allow us to question our choices—our ownership. To place that thing in a box means you’ll continue to carry it. So, ask yourself, “Why do I own this? What does this object provide me? Am I ready to continue carrying this?”
3. Scan for dust.
Rub your finger along your old tupperware, unused glasses, or that extra blender you never knew you had. Does it have dust? This simple trick is something you can employ to judge usefulness. To purchase something, make room for it, and then let it collect dust should tell you whether you need it. Dust is your friend when you’re looking to own less and lighten your load going forward.
4. Challenge tendencies to collect and hoard.
Living in a space for years allows you to collect and add. Moving allows us to challenge these urges—to avoid hoarding tendencies. At some point, everything must be considered. While this might be a hoarder’s nightmare, moving forces us to refocus on what we choose to collect (today and in the future).
5. Practice letting go.
It is important to realize that consumption can never be completely quenched. We have urges. Marketers will continue to try and sell you more stuff, too. But there is much freedom to be found in getting rid of stuff and consuming less. However, subtraction doesn’t tend to be a natural part of the process when staying planted and living in one place for long periods. Moving provides a natural reason to practice letting go.
6. Donate and sell stuff.
Every move I’ve ever completed included visits to Goodwill and other non-profit organizations. Additionally, secondhand stores allow you to make a little extra money from all we declutter. These opportunities keep us grounded and allow for more generous considerations. We’re thinking about others’ needs when giving—which has benefits of its own.
7. Embrace friends and family.
Moving involves great psychological and physical effort. Friends and family have always been an incredible help in these times. Surprisingly, allowing these people in allows for an accountability of our purchases. Family can be quick to ask, “Why do you have three remotes at the back of the closet?” They’re asking the questions we need to be asking ourselves, as well. Additionally, having help can provide an appreciation and gratitude for those around you—and the burden you’re asking them to carry.
My family and I have lived in our current house for ten years now. We’ve grown to appreciate less total square footage, and found ways to stay close to the value of minimalism.
But there’s nothing quite like moving to remind us of the weight of stuff.
If you’re happy where you are, great! In that case, consider looking for ways to regularly engage in these processes whenever you can. Evaluate, scan, challenge, practice, donate, and embrace—regardless of whether you’re moving next week or never again.