4 Tips for Paring Down Your Belongings Before a Big Move

March 28, 2017

In a few weeks I’m moving across the country—from a 1,400 sq. ft. house to a 900 sq. ft. apartment. Though I consider myself generally minimalist, my little family has lived in our home for almost four years, and some things... and stuff... and crap... have naturally accumulated over time. Now it’s time to downsize—to reevaluate what does and does not “make the move.”

Photo by Liz Johnson

At first it felt like a huge chore, like a million small yet annoying and potentially-backfiring-on-me decisions to make. But I shifted my mindset, and now I’m really excited about it. I’ve realized that moving is an opportunity to uplevel: to reassess what I own and edit out anything that no longer fits my life (or the new chapter I’m about to begin).

This is a chance to re-evaluate my wardrobe, my kitchen appliances and utensils—even my precious books.

Here are some things to remember as you pare down for a move:

Don’t think of paring down as something you have to do; think of it as a chance to start fresh.

Put another way: You get to move only your best stuff! This is permission to get rid of, say, that piece of cheap-ish fiberboard furniture you bought years ago for some weirdly specific use and have just been dragging along with you ever since. Or your old towel set that you kept even after you bought some new ones. Or your third set of measuring cups. You’ll know the unnecessaries when you see them.

Bye, DVD movie collection! Almost all of these were available via our online subscriptions (Hulu, Netflix, etc.). Photo by Liz Johnson

This is permission to just let go of things you’ve been holding onto out of obligation, or have simply been holding onto without much thought.

Just because you own it now, doesn’t mean to you have to take it with you.

Forget “sparking joy”—is this thing worth hauling across the country? Does it earn its keep enough to pack it, transport it, unpack it, then find a place for it in your new space?

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“therry/iStock Great put up, very informative. Buying a new home is stressful enough. When you start thinking about how to transport all of your endless stuff, it's no wonder you might fall into anxiety overload. ”
— Amory J.

Do you have multiples of it? Is it worn out, or has it been unused for more than a year? Does it have a place in your new home/chapter? Paring down now will save you time (and space) later. And if you’re struggling to part with an object of nostalgic value, remember: You can keep the memory without keeping the object.

Reap the rewards of living with less.

You’re not just throwing this stuff away (...right?!). You can sell things if you need/want some extra money for the move, or simply donate them if you’re just done with them. That’s my preferred method.

I also take comfort in knowing that all the items I’m donating are going to someone else who really does need and want them—it makes it easier for me to part with them, too.

How many grey tops do I really need? Turns out, not this many. Photo by Liz Johnson

Out with the old… and in with the new.

When I get rid of something practical, I start a running list (or even more efficient: an Amazon shopping cart) of things I’ll need when I get to my new home. Whether it’s a new broom, laundry detergent, a tupperware set, or nicer hangers (just to name a few), I don’t have to remember everything—but they don’t get forgotten either—and I can hit the ground running with new household essentials once I get to my new place.

Liz Johnson is the creative director at Braid Creative, and is currently based in Durham, NC.

Do you have any other tips for paring down or making a move more efficient? Share below in the comments!

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Amory J. May 28, 2017
Great put up, very informative. Buying a new home is stressful enough. When you start thinking about how to transport all of your endless stuff, it's no wonder you might fall into anxiety overload.
Jonathan S. April 27, 2017
Thank you Liz, for sharing this with us. Paring down things is one of the difficult tasks while packing for a move, I get confused with the things which is useful to me and which is not. Hopefully, after reading the above article, I will be able to help myself for cutting down less useful things from my stock while packing for my next move.
Crissianna S. April 8, 2017
Thank you, I needed that advice, getting ready to move myself, I still have three months
tamater S. April 2, 2017
Brings up the memory of helping a young lady move, years ago. I wasn't around for the pack-up, just the loading up, of my truck. She was a single mom with a 3 yr. old, and I took pity and offered to help her unpack and organize. Imagine my shock and amazement upon realizing that most of the stuff I'd hauled and was helping hump up the stairs was crap. And I do mean crap. Old medicine bottles, either empty or at least a year out of date. Boxes from outfits she got at her baby shower, with dusty, old squashed bows. And of course elsewhere, the old baby outfits. Boxes of food stuffs filled with the likes of Catsup with 1" left in the bottom, and cereal boxes all mostly empty!

I explained the things you mentioned above, and offered to help her on the front end on her next move, (and who would forget an offer like that?) which did come 2 years later.
Suffice to say that the good stuff learned about moving was handy in other areas of life, and today, we both laugh about that first move.
Your article was a good read.