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Moving - How to Sort and Move - Moving and Sorting Your Things

Get Organized Before You Move


Before moving, it's a good idea to sort through your things so you don't end up moving stuff that you don't need and have never really used. Not only will it save you time in packing and unpacking, but it will also save you money; the more stuff you have to move, the more expensive it will be. This is particularly true for people who are moving to another city, across the state or across the country. Get rid of the things you don't want or need before you start packing.

Take Stock

  1. Take note of time-consuming areas.Keep track of the areas in your home where you'll need to spend extra time. Closets are prime spaces where most of us store things we don't use on a daily basis. In our house, the garage, den or home office, and front closet are spaces where we store lots of things that I'm sure we really don't need. Make note of these spaces to ensure you have enough time to go through them; if you leave sorting to the last minute, you'll find that you're packing up everything even though you know you don't really need it all.
  2. Make a list.Take time to go through each room, writing down the things that will stay and what you don't really need. I usually keep this list to the absolute essentials - the things I know I'll be moving. If I'm not sure, I leave it off the list and either decide at that moment if it stays or goes, or make a note to come back to it later. Try to be realistic. If you're moving everything yourself, then think about how much you want to pack and what you can fit in the moving truck. If you're hiring movers, remember that every box you pack costs money. Thinking practically can sometimes help in assessing what you need and what you don't need.
  3. Take inventory.Taking inventory is a little more detailed and time consuming than making a list of items that you think you'll be moving. If you have the time, it's a great way to determine how much stuff you'll be moving and what the possible cost might be. Sometimes if you know how much you'll have to spend, you'll find it easier to leave some things behind. You can read more about creating an inventory list in an article on home inventory how-to, which will also come in handy for insurance purposes.

Decide What Should Stay Behind

If you have an area of the house that you use for storage, or even spaces where things collect, like mysterious boxes that sit high up on the closet shelf, then it's time to start sorting and deciding what you really need to move and what should stay behind. It's not an easy task, but one that's necessary.

  1. Remove everything from the space. Take out all the boxes, the clothes, the shoes, the tools - everything. If you're sorting the garage, remove everything and place it in the center of the room or outside the space. Removing everything will give you a sense for the amount of stuff you have and what you really do need from that pile.
  2. Place the items into piles. Make two piles: "keep" and "don't keep". You can even go a step further and sort the "don't keep" into a sell or donate pile and a recycle pile.
    • What should go into the "keep" pile? To decide if an item should be kept or tossed, ask yourself how often you've worn or used the item in the last year. For clothing, it should have been worn at least 2 times to warrant keeping it. If you want to keep the item "just in case", then don't; usually that means you'll never use it and maybe someone else can.
    • What should go into the "donate" pile? Items that you haven't used or are unlikely to use and that are still in good shape, add them to the donate pile. Make sure the items aren't ripped or stained or broken beyond repair. If they are, they should be put in the garbage or made into cleaning cloths. Don't waste a charity's time by donating unusable items. For more information on where to donate items, check out the article on where to donate used goods.
    • What should go into the "sell" pile? This pile should contain items that you know you could fetch some money for, things that you can imagine someone else using. Take clothing to consignment stores; household items can be sold online or at a garage sale.

  3. Place all the donate or sell objects in separate bags or bins. Once you've placed them in containers, set the containers in a place where they will be out of the way, but not forgotten. Whatever you've decided to do with these unwanted items, add that task(s) to your list of things to do.
  4. Go back to your "keep" pile. Look at the items that you decided to keep. Go through each one to make sure you'll use it again. If you're hesitating, add it to the "donate/sell" pile(s). The things you want to keep, organize by type and select the appropriate sized boxes. For example, you may want to pack all the shoes into one medium-size box. Label the box with the contents and which closet or room it came from, i.e., "hall closet" or "bedroom closet".
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