10 Things You Should Declutter Every Time You Move

By Kristin Granero
Kristin Granero
Kristin Granero
September 26, 2021 Updated: September 26, 2021

The moving process certainly has a downside—namely, the physical and financial burden of having to pack up and transport all of your stuff. The upside is that it presents the perfect opportunity to reassess your belongings and break free of what no longer suits you or the life you’re looking to create.

Whether you’re making a concerted effort to downsize or just want to better strategize, read on for what to consider when deciding what to leave behind. You’ll lighten your load and set up your future home for success in the process.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed or having difficulty navigating the clutter, try implementing the four P’s: Prioritize what you use most; patch up what requires only minor upkeep; profit off of items that are no longer of value to you, but could be to someone else; and purge any unnecessary items that are left over.

Expired and Unwanted Foods

Spoiler alert: There’s a good chance that a lot (or at least some) of the food you’ve been keeping is expired, which makes now a great time to clear out your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. Challenge yourself to make the most of what’s still good before you leave (it will be like your own season of Top Chef), and avoid waste by gifting any surplus items to a local food bank.

While you’re in the kitchen, take stock of dinnerware, pots and pans, and other kitchen gadgets. (Elena Zajchikova/Shutterstock)

Cookware and Appliances You Don’t Use

While you’re in the kitchen, take stock of dinnerware, pots and pans, and other kitchen gadgets. Try to recycle items that are no longer of value (such as mismatched food containers or broken appliances) and consider donating or selling any new or gently-used-but-still-operating extras. One person’s dust-covered teapot is another person’s treasure!

Old Cleaning Products and Personal Care

The products we use to maintain ourselves and our homes have a tendency to pile up over time. Weed out old toothbrushes, loofahs, and other sponges, which tend to be breeding grounds for germs.

Of what remains, get honest about what’s actually serving you from day to day. The lipstick you had to purchase in every shade but only wear one? The window spray you bought on sale that never ceases to streak? If it’s been shoved in the back of your cabinet or you don’t plan to use it soon, lose it. (Some beauty brands will even recycle or offer rewards for your old containers.)

Worn Bath Towels and Mats

Keeping a few spare towels around can pay off (laundry day, pool season, and unexpected guests come to mind), but once they get to a point where they’re tattered, torn, or no longer absorbent, it’s time to part ways. The same goes with dirty and distressed bath mats that can’t be resuscitated with a good cleaning.

Comforters and pillows can collect dirt, dust mites, and mold, and should be replaced more frequently. (LuFeeTheBear/Shutterstock)

Old Mattress and Pillows

One should never underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep. If your mattress is beyond its lifespan (the average is seven to 10 years) or no longer provides the support you need, consider an upgrade for your new home.

Comforters and pillows, which can collect dirt, dust mites, and mold, should be replaced more frequently (allergy experts have suggested anywhere from six months to two years), especially if they can’t be properly washed in between.

Consider donating or consigning items of clothing that haven’t been worn in the past year, and filling in any gaps with staples that will stand the test of time. (Anna Kraynova/Shutterstock)

Clothing and Accessories You Never Wear

Take command of your closets, along with any dressers and seasonal bins, by evaluating clothing and accessories based on condition, fit, practicality, and wearability (including how well an item goes with your current lifestyle and aesthetic). As a general rule, you may want to consider donating or consigning items you haven’t worn in the past year and filling in any gaps with staples that will stand the test of time.

Furniture and Decor That Won’t Fit in the New Place

Moving bigger pieces can require additional resources, so you’ll want to weigh them more heavily when deciding what to keep. We suggest replacing worn, uncomfortable, and ill-fitting furnishings, along with anything that could cause a potential safety risk (such as broken or recalled fixtures), with investments that will not only look good, but also last.

Breathe new life into old books and extra supplies by selling or donating them to a secondhand store or nearby school. (donatas1205/Shutterstock)

Office Supplies and Paperwork

Ah, the dreaded document stack. Stop (or at least reduce) the paper trail by tossing, recycling, or shredding anything you’re unlikely to read or need down the line. Streamline clips and mementos by sorting them into labeled folders or binders, and breathe new life into old books and extra supplies by selling or donating them to a secondhand store or nearby school.

Outdated Electronics

Similarly, now is an ideal time to cull through that electronics or tools drawer. Set aside any essentials (you can always use a backup screwdriver or charging cable), and look into wiping personal devices. Some electronics companies offer recycling options, whereas safe, useful tools may be welcomed at some secondhand stores or your local branch of Habitat for Humanity.

Old Sports Gear

Lastly, you’ll want to have an honest look at sports and recreational gear. When is the last time you threw or kicked around a ball? Will you be as likely to use that jet ski or kayak when you no longer live close to the water? If you don’t have imminent plans to put old hobbies back into practice, look into donating equipment to local sports teams or summer camps to put a smile on someone else’s face.

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