Organizing and Cleaning for a Move

Ten tips to make moving out--and moving in--easier

My family and I are preparing for a move. Now last time we moved we did not have time to prepare. A desperate situation made it a grab and go affair. We moved from a large house into a far smaller one and we still have boxes we have yet to unpack.

That was almost eight years ago.

Thankfully this time around we have a little more warning to prepare. In fact, we have yet to find the house we are moving to, but we want to move soon and are looking. This time, we’re taking a proactive approach to our packing needs. Unlike the previous move, we have no wish to take every knickknack and scrap electronic we had. I could swear we even packed up the trash!

To cut down on the clutter in our new home, this time we’re cleaning and discarding stuff before the move. Here are ten ways we’re getting ready to move without a lot of mess coming with us.

1. Bring Nothing New Into the House.
That means no paperwork, no new clothes—only food and consumables are allowed. My family and I are pack rats and hate to throw anything away without weeks of seeing it lie around on tables and chairs. That’s why this may be the most important new rule. It allows us to get rid of things without accumulating new things to take their place. While this rule is not good for the long term, we need it until we move.

2. Use It or Lose It.
If we haven’t used something in six months or more, it has to go. This is true for everything we own, from clothes to junk on the tables to electronics and toys. Face it, if you haven’t used it in that long, you won’t miss it.

3. Have Sacks in Hand.
This has helped me declutter the most. If I have a sack for trash and a sack to give away handy then it’s much easier to make a decision. I mean, everything has to go one of three places: away in a box to move, into a sack for trash, or into a sack to give away.

Occasionally I’ll run across something of value that I don’t want, like an old box of comic books or baseball cards; those I will set aside to see if I can sell. But I don’t even bother with things like clothes and shoes because it’s worth it to me just to get them out of the house. Every time a bag is full I take it where it needs to go--to my trunk for Goodwill or to the street for trash. That way I don’t look again and maybe pull something out that catches my eye. Once it’s gone, it’s gone for good.

4. Make Space to Go.
We had to make space for moving boxes before we could pack them. It was pretty easy to do in our case. I figured we could live with a living room corner full of boxes for a while if we had to, so I moved out some big furniture that was not going to make the move and gave it to some other family members who needed it. That way we both removed something and added space! It doesn’t look great, but it will do until the time comes.

5. Make One Trip at a Time.
In our case we are planning to move within the same city; our move doesn’t have to be done all at once. Instead, once we find the property we can move it one load at a time. This really helps when you have a lot of junk. You can focus on one area to move every day. Something like the kitchen or living room can be packed up with only the bare essentials left behind until the move is complete. That way you can get a lot done without having to commit to having everything done.

6. Mark Every Box.
I still have all those unmarked boxes from the last move. Who knows what’s in there? This time around we’re not playing roulette with boxes and trying to deliver them to the right room. Instead I am marking every box with the room it needs to go in as well as a list of the contents. That way there are no surprises or lost items in the move. Hopefully unpacking will be a breeze!

7. Move Furniture First.
I like to move the furniture first. Of course that means you have boxes of junk everywhere but it’s worth it to me to get the big stuff out and see the impact it makes on the space. When we get to the new house we can also freely move the furniture until we find a way we like it before bringing in all the boxes. Once furniture is in place it stays there, so I want to get it set up right in the first place.

8. Keep Healthy and Safe.
You have more health concerns than you think when you move. I’m allergic to dust; that makes packing and unpacking stuff that’s been hidden away for a long time hard on me. I invested in a mask for painting that filters the dust out for me and allows me to breathe. I also got goggles to keep it out of my eyes.

Drinking lots of water, especially if you’re carrying a lot and it’s hot, is really important. You should also take breaks to catch your breath and cool down. Do not try to move too heavy or too many items by yourself--if you hurt your back you won’t be good for anything. If you have a lot of heavy items you may want to think about hiring some help. I’m lucky; I can call on family. But if you can’t, there are many places you can get help for only a small amount of money and it saves you a lot of hassle.

9. Store Packed Boxes the Right Way.
The last thing you want is broken, melted, ruined or critter-infested belongings. Roaches are a big deal where I live, and I do not want them overrunning my new home. Climate controlled storage is your best bet, or just keep it inside your home, not in the garage or outside on a porch.

10. Clean Everything—Before and After.
Before you start packing anything, you should clean everything. That means dusting, mopping and so on. That way when your stuff gets to your new house it’s ready to go. Your new home should also be cleaned before the move to make sure the past owners did not leave anything behind. The seller is supposed to clean, but they don’t always do it.

This may be your last chance for a long while to get in those hard-to-reach areas like behind the refrigerator. After you move out of your home, do the new owners a big favor: clean up. It doesn’t have to be disinfected, but the carpets and floors should be cleaned, the walls and counters wiped down and so on. This is just common courtesy and is simple to do once everything is out of the house.

Moving is a lot of work, but I enjoy doing it right. I have the chance to remake my home and get rid of unneeded items cluttering up my life. While downsizing might not be in your future, think about whether you really need everything you’ve got. Is it necessary, or are you wasting time and effort on things that don’t add to your life? It’s good advice, whether you’re moving or not.

Linda Bailey of is a Texas-based writer who specializes in housekeeping, green living, home décor, and more. She welcomes your comments: b.lindahousekeeping @

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