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How to Prepare for a Move

There are few things in life as mentally and physically exhausting as preparing for a move. Whether your new digs are clear across the country, or just a few blocks over, stepping back and surveying the scope of everything you’ll have to pack can stir a bit of panic. But fret not, movers among us! SmartMove has put together a comprehensive list of our top tips for preparing to move.

There are few things in life as mentally and physically exhausting as preparing for a move. Whether your new digs are clear across the country, or just a few blocks over, stepping back and surveying the scope of everything you’ll have to pack can stir a bit of panic. Questions you begin to ask yourself as you sort through your belongings might range from “Do I really need this?” to “What in the world even is this?!”
To be certain, if you’re like many Americans, you’ve managed to collect quite a few things over the years, and you feel the literal and metaphorical weight of all those things when you’re tasked with transferring them from one location to another. But fret not, movers among us! SmartMove has put together a comprehensive list of our top tips for preparing to move.

How to Declutter

Clutter. In one form or another, most of us have it. If you’re diligent about avoiding clutter, that might mean one miscellaneous box or drawer that’s getting increasingly hard to close. If you’re somewhere in the middle, it might mean that “junk drawer” hasn’t closed in months, and there are a few boxes in the basement, back closet, and attic to contend with. And if you’ve got a major clutter problem on your hands, there may even be rooms you haven’t used in years.
The good news is, the process for tackling your clutter can boil down to breaking out your belongings into 4 primary categories, no matter which of those groups you belong to:
  • What to Keep
  • What to Sell or Donate
  • What to Toss
  • What to Transfer

Marie Kondo & Clean Sweep

When many of us think of decluttering, there is one name that springs to mind more often than any other, and that name is Marie Kondo. An organizing consultant and author, Kondo took the world by storm with her wildly popular book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. More than just calling upon readers to have a hasty purge of their belongings, Kondo recommends being more intentional with the belongings you choose to keep, a great tip for those preparing for a move, as well as just about everyone else!
Marie explores how belongings themselves impact our lives, and calls upon readers to consider whether each item brings them joy in deciding if it’s worth keeping. Naturally, there are some things in our life that don’t elicit joy but are still essential. However, a good portion of what many of us own can easily be let go of without anything but a positive impact.  
But long before Marie Kondo was a household name, there was a television series called Clean Sweep that first taught many of us the importance of making piles! An organizational expert and author all his own, Clean Sweep’s Peter Walsh had homeowners remove everything from one or two rooms in need of decluttering, adding everything from knick-knacks to furniture to one of 3 piles – Keep, Sell, and Toss. Having the space set aside for each of these piles made the task move much more quickly, and we definitely recommend doing the same in your own space if possible!
Let’s take a closer look at tackling the 4 primary groups we’ve outlined above with our top recommendations for each…

What to Keep When You Move

  • Important tax documents and records. While you can probably shred much of the paper you’ve been holding onto, it is important to retain some especially valuable documents, including: tax returns and documents, pay stubs, vehicle titles, marriage licenses, medical records, birth certificates, death certificates, Social Security cards, loan documents, stock purchase confirmations, divorce decrees, and military papers.
  • Your favorite item in a particular category. Have 6 sets of bed sheets but one set is your hands-down favorite? Keep it. Have at least a dozen kitchen spatulas but always reach for the pink one with polka dots? Keep it. Have countless pairs of flip flops, but slip on the same pair every time you sneak out for the mail? Keep them. And so on, and so forth! As for what to do with the others, you can decide on that once you’ve secured a spot for all your faves.
  • Heirlooms and irreplaceable sentimental items. If you’re like many of us, you have a knack for attaching sentimental value to all manner of things. But among those myriad sentimental items are some that are undoubtedly more valuable to us than others. While we can’t often keep everything when we move, do save some space for the items you’d miss most if you were without them, even if you don’t “use them” every day.
  • Your child or pet’s favorite toy or blanket. Moving can be stressful enough for adults who understand everything that is going on, but it can be very jarring and upsetting for small children and pets. We understand that taking along every single toy they’ve collected over the years might not be an option, but moving time is not ideal for tossing their favorite bear or blanket – even if it is a bit worse for wear! As kiddos and pets adjust to a new space, full of new sounds, new smells, and new sights, they may look to these familiar items even more often than usual to restore a sense of calm and comfort. Be sure to include them in one of the boxes or bags that will be opened first to help that first night go smoothly.

What to Sell or Donate When You Move

  • Unneeded Furniture. If you’re moving to a smaller space, chances are good that you currently have too much furniture. Whether it’s a full bedroom set that’s occupying a spare bedroom you’ll no longer have, or something smaller, like an extra side table or accent chair, it can be quick and easy to make a few dollars selling online, or through a yard sale. Don’t have the time or energy? Not a problem! Many donation centers are happy to schedule a pick-up right from your home, helping you free up space and support a good cause, even if you don’t have a truck or extra set of hands.
  • Clothes and accessories. While you’ll naturally want to keep much of your current wardrobe when you move, since you’ll have everything out anyway, it’s the perfect time for a purge! We recommend creating a relaxing setting for yourself and spending time evaluating your clothes and accessories as you prepare to pack them. These deserve their own ‘keep’, ‘sell or donate’, and ‘toss’ piles. Something you’re unsure of? Add it to the sell/donate pile for now, and once it comes time to pack those up, you can make the final decision. At that point you’ll also have a better idea of how much you decided to keep, and whether you’ll really have room or a need for those pieces as well.
  • Unused items. Whether it’s a battery-powered desktop smoothie maker that’s still in the box, or a book you purchased years ago and have no intention of re-reading, moving makes the perfect time to unload items that we really, truly, definitely do not want or need, but that still hold value for others.
  • Items that don’t make sense for your new location. Moving is also a good time to think about items that are needed in your current home or location, but that won’t be needed once you move. If you’re moving to a warmer climate, this might include coats, heavy sweaters, snow boots, shovels, and skis. If you’re moving to an apartment from a home, this might include larger items as well, like a lawn mower, snow blower, or gas grill. 

What to Toss When You Move

  • Old papers, tests, and notes from high school or college. Unless you truly plan on revisiting your algebra homework from middle school, chances are good you can finally let that paper hit the shredder or recycling bin! For sentimental folks, we recommend keeping one or two small mementos that can easily fit in a box or scrapbook. Think along the lines of a classic brown paper book cover that your friends drew funny pictures on, or a fun-to-look-back-on note that your bestie slipped you before homeroom.
  • Outdated electronics. It’s time to face the facts. You haven’t needed any of those “what does this even go to” cables for the past 5 years, and you aren’t likely to need them in the next 5, either! The same goes for your broken tape deck, portable CD player, and that giant console TV that has spent more years sitting in the garage than it spent in the living room.
  • Outdated food. As you pack up your cabinets and pantry, take a few extra moments to look at the expiration dates. Many of us have quite a collection of expired packaged food, cans, and spices, and there’s no sense lugging extra weight to your new space. Before you toss the outdated items in the trash, make yourself a note of anything you’ll want to replace once you’re settled.
  • Items that need fixing or mending. If a formerly favorite dress has spent a year or more at the back of your closet waiting for the day you finally fix the hem, you can probably go ahead and toss that! Similarly, rethink whether you really want to bring along that umbrella that just needs a new strap, or those shoes losing their sole.

What to Transfer When You Move

  • Your cable and internet services. After a long, hard day of moving into your new space, you’re sure to be ready to unwind with your favorite shows, or share some pics of your new place with friends and family on social media. Be sure to transfer your cable and internet services ahead of your move so you can keep connected without a moment of downtime. And don’t worry – SmartMove can help!
  • Your utilities. In addition to ensuring you have your utilities set up in your new place before move-in day, including water, electric, and possibly gas, you’ll also want to be sure to transfer the utilities in your current location to the new owner, or your landlord, to make sure you don’t end up footing the bill for others’ utility use after you’ve handed over the keys.
We hope our recommendations for what to keep, sell, donate, toss, and transfer have provided you a sense of direction as you prepare to begin a new chapter. Be sure to check out all our helpful moving resources for additional tips, tricks, and considerations!
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