Four Steps for Moving Stuff Out Before Moving In

I few weeks ago, I moved to a new apartment.  I’ve moved around a lot the last 5 years, living in 6 apartments with 12 different roommates.  In another 4 months, I’ll be moving again! It’s always been a fairly big ordeal to move, and I definitely don’t look forward to the hassles.

I haven’t exactly been moving around with just the shirt of my back; almost all the moves have involved lots of boxes, some pieces of large furniture, and a U-Haul truck.  Having shuttled around crazy amounts of stuff for years, I finally got sick of it. Which leads me to what I do enjoy about my apartment transitions: It’s an easy time to move stuff out before I move in to my new place. Here’s what I’ve learned and what I do for all my moves:

1. I’ve enacted a simple rule: If it hasn’t been unpacked since the last move, it goes. Somewhere in the middle of all the moves I realized that many things were never getting used no matter where I relocated.  Excess kitchen supplies, spare bike parts, and less-than-appealing decorations moved in a box and stayed stored in a basement until the next time around. I parted ways with a lot of this stuff since I no longer had the room nor desire to store it any longer.

Everything I’ve gotten rid of was either sold on Craigslist, given away to friends, or posted as “free” on Craigslist.  I hardly throw out anything, and that makes me feel good since I know that someone’s (hopefully) getting good use out of my stuff and it’s not in a landfill instead.

2. I don’t move larger items unless they’re really worth keeping. Anyone who’s moved knows that the big and bulky items are the worst to deal with.  I’m talking couches, mattresses, dressers, and tables.  They’re heavy and require (at least) 2 people to carry them.  They have be squeezed up small stairways, if they even fit at all.  They don’t fit into anything but a truck. I finally had enough of this, too.  I ditched my only dresser for simple closet storage.  I bought a much smaller work desk, which suits me fine since I’m no longer a student.  Result: my most recent move simply required a friend’s Jeep and half a day’s time.

I only take the big items that are either expensive to replace and that I know are crucial no matter where I live.  I’ve moved my queen-sized bed around with me, but I’ve given up on the elaborate wooden frame for a simple and collapsible metal frame instead.

3. I get rid of stuff while I pack.  I inevitably have to go through just about everything I own to pack it in a box.  Handling each thing allows for easy decisions to be made about what to ditch.  Cleaning out the closet yields lots of clothes and shoes that I haven’t worn in months.  Knick-knacks that have found their way into the corners of my room are tossed out, too.  I designate a box of stuff to get rid of while I’m packing and donate as much of it as is useful to someone else.

4.  I repeat step #3 while I’m unpacking. Okay, so this isn’t actually “before I move,” but it’s still part of the process. Any unneeded clutter-causers I might have missed during packing will be intercepted in the unpacking stage.

It’s also good to reassess the usefulness of items once I’m in my new space, especially when consolidating with new roommates.  A blender that was once crucial when it was the only one around isn’t as important when there are 3 of them between all of my roommates.  For personal items, there’s always things that won’t fit into my new bedroom or aren’t needed any longer.  If it’s something that can easily replaced in the future, I give it away or toss it out.

The object of this entire effort is to reduce clutter, so even if you don’t plan to move soon, there are still plenty of things that you can do to get rid of clutter.  While I hate throwing away useful stuff, I realize that it’s necessary, and I don’t think it’s do you or anyone any good by holding on to things you don’t need.

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photo by: bezoing

Get rid of what you own: Removing hundreds (or thousands?) of useless ‘things’ in your life

Earlier this year I became fixated on a mission to get rid of most of what I own.  This all happened when I discovered a concept that was new to me:  minimalism.  For those who are unfamiliar, minimalism basically means that you strive to own fewer things, have less of an impact on the world, and lead a simpler and more fulfilling life because of it.  One of the more popular minimalist ideas out there is only owning 100 things.  Feeling as though I had owned a lot all my life (I amassed large collections of CDs, books, DVDs, and other things before I graduated high school), my interest in lowering my “stuff” count strongly appealed to me.

I immediately searched for things to unload.  I picked on easy targets first, like clothing, extra office supplies, and books that I hadn’t touched in years.  I even got to into larger and more valuable items, such as listing a bike on Craigslist and putting my clothing dresser on the curb.  For a while, almost nothing within my grasp was safe.  I successfully eliminated a lot of stuff and that felt great.

After a bit, it grew more difficult for me to get rid of more.  I’ll admit I never thought I’d make it down to only 100 things (at least at this stage in my life), but I did manage to get rid of several hundred items from my life.  In reality, 100 things wasn’t the mission from the start. The real idea was to simply have only the things I need and get rid of the rest.

More than 6 months later now, I’ll admit that I’m still not perfect when it comes to the random items I have laying around.  Sometimes I do feel a sentimental attachment to random college mementos.  Other times I literally don’t know what to do with stuff (like the stack of blankets in my closet), yet feel bad throwing it out.  These types of things pose a challenge to my basic mantra of “if I don’t need it, get rid of it.”  However, the transformation that I’ve gone through is definitely valuable and something that a majority of people could easily implement in their own lives.

I doubt that we will ever be a society where everyone owns less than 100 items.  We’re not even close to that right now.  Rather than striving to meet the 100 things challenge, I think there is certainly a middle ground that can be achieved on a large scale.  To do this in your own life, here are some strategies that I’ve developed or read about in other places:

1. Realize that it doesn’t matter how much you spent on an item in the past. It’s value to you now is what really matters. This is a classic case in almost everyone’s junk-filled lives. From my basic understanding of what economists refer to as “sunk costs,” the price you bought something for doesn’t matter after the purchase is made and can’t be undone.  What really matters is the item’s value is to you now.  Yes, you may have spent $120 on that leather bomber jacket in your closet.  But if it hasn’t left the hanger in a couple years, it’s really not worth anything to you and should be sent of to Salvation Army.

2. Rely on your instincts in deciding if you truly need it. When I’m deciding what to get rid of one item at a time, I pick something up and then think about what immediately comes to mind.  If I immediately decide it’s junk, I get rid of it and move on.  If I know I need it or use it, I put it in a pile I will most likely keep it. If I hesitate, that usually indicates it’s something I think I might need but really don’t.  Most people are probably biased towards keeping things rather than towards dumping them.  To me, this is a simple way to recognize and conquer that bias.  If you’re on the fence, it’s most likely not worth keeping.

3. If unsure, give yourself time to decide by putting the item aside and attempting life without it first. Once you know you no longer need it, toss it then.  This goes with #2 and can be used on those middle-ground items.  If you’re unsure that you really need it, store it somewhere out of plain sight but in a place you can remember.  If you need it, you’ll know where it is.  If a month goes by and it hasn’t been used, it should probably be thrown out.

4. Realize that you don’t need to keep every single item associated with every memory. Again, this one can be hard, especially for the sentimentalists.  Perhaps it’s a doll you were given as a child or a souvenir from a trip you took.  Whatever it is, you have some sort of emotional attachment to it.  Let’s be realistic: you simply can’t keep everything that you have this attachment to.  There’s simply no way to even keep track of all of these things.  I know this may sound harsh but saving things in a box that you only come across every few years does not serve any value to you.

Instead of keeping items as memories, find value in photos, videos, or journal entires instead.  These can be at least as valuable as your item, but only take up space on your computer’s hard drive and not your closet.

5. If it can’t be sold for more than $20, don’t bother with it. I’ve sold lots of things on eBay and Craigslist that I didn’t need, and I’ve made a good deal of money doing this.  But there’s been a lot of different stuff that has been difficult for me to sell.  For example, I’ve had rugs or other small tables that just aren’t worth much in the second-hand market.  I’ve put them on Craigslist only to get many tentative buyers that don’t come through or no real interest at all.  Don’t waste time trying to sell things that don’t sell! My rule is if I don’t think I can get at least $20 for it, I don’t bother trying to sell it.  It just isn’t worth my time (especially considering most people haggle anyway).  If you have spare time, perhaps you can move your limit down to $10, but make sure you aren’t spending hours on menial sales.

6.  Sell, donate, or give away stuff instead of trashing it. If you feel guilty about throwing things out, you’ll feel better knowing someone else will use them.  Sell what you can or eBay or Craigslist.  Salvation army takes just about all clothing plus a wide array of other items.  If it’s still usable but selling or donating won’t do, put it out on the curb and advertise it on the “free stuff” area of Craigslist (I’ve literally had people pick up items within minutes of listing them online).

All of these tips can be taken in small steps; there’s no need to tackle your whole house or apartment in one day.  I recommend starting in easier areas, such as closets, storage areas, or junk drawers.

In the end, the actual number of things you own doesn’t really matter.  100 is more or less a benchmark and useful for comparing what you own compared to others.  It’s simple to find things to get rid of and you’ll feel the relief of having less clutter and more space for you instead of for your stuff.