declutter-houseIt’s one of the first pieces of advice to someone planning a move: declutter your home and get rid of excess stuff. But that can be easier said than done. You don’t have to be an inveterate packrat to feel attached to your belongings and intimidated by the need to lighten the load.

Reducing clutters helps reduce moving costs—moving companies charge based on the amount and weight of what is being moved, and even self-moving is cheaper when you don’t need to move as much stuff. It can also help make you some money, if you find items you can sell. It also allows you to spend less time and money packing, storing, loading, or unloading a lifetime of stuff.

So how do you declutter before you move?

Be Focused

Don’t try to tackle everything at once. Either pick a room or a kind of item to go through each day. Many people find it useful to go room by room, while others will focus first on the furniture, then move on to technology, clothes, books, and so on. Whatever method you use, stick with it. One of the quickest ways to feel overwhelmed is to look at the overall scale of the project. Instead, make a point to only sort your kitchen one day, even if all the old DVDs in your rec room are nagging at you. You’ll get to them soon enough.

If your family or friends are working with you, make sure they also stay focused. You’ll get more accomplished if you take care of a room or item type together rather than being spread throughout your home trying to make judgements about several things at the same time.

Have Useful Categories

Sort everything into a few categories. It’s helpful to use colored post-its or other tags to keep things straight. The most useful classifications are clear-cut. For example, four categories that are hard to misunderstand are must keep, important, get rid of, and trash/recycle.

Items you must keep should genuinely be necessary for the new home, such as beds, couches, computers, clothes, toiletries, or food preparation. Be reasonable here—if there’s a chair that looks nice but no one ever sits in, does it need to be kept?

Important items might not be necessary, but are valuable in some way, either materially or sentimentally. This can include papers, books, jewelry, pictures, and similar items. However, it can be hard to let these things go, so ask yourself questions about each item. Are those pictures you drew in third grade still important? Can some of the books you haven’t read in a couple of years be given to the library or sold off? Have you even looked for that shirt in the past year?

Items to get rid of can be things that are still useful to someone, but you don’t need them yourself. You know you’ve been successful at decluttering if this category has nearly as much stuff in it as the things you’re keeping.

Some things just need to be put into the trash or recycled. This includes items that are broken, because they won’t be fixed when you move. Check to see whether an item is outdated, expired, or hasn’t even been taken out of the box.

Store, Sell or Donate?

If you have a storage unit, you may be tempted to fill it with everything you don’t classify as must keep or important. That’s not a good idea. Use storage to hold on to the items you would keep anyway, but don’t necessarily have room for in the new place, or will need to make special arrangements to transport. Remember, storage units are an additional cost, so using one to hold on to stuff you don’t need defeats the entire purpose of decluttering.

Selling items is worthwhile, assuming you have time to hold a yard sale or list your items online. Even if only some of the items get sold, that’s extra money in your pocket and less for you to move. Another option is donating items to charity or to friends. Many of the same sites that help arrange community sales can also be used to set up donations or giveaways.

Just remember, Gerber Moving & Storage is there to offer advice and move everything that you choose to keep.