When’s the last time you did some decluttering? If you’re planning a move, you might want to consider taking the plunge to pare down your belongings. Not only can a large declutter before moving save you time and energy on both ends of your move; it can also help save you money. Why? The more stuff you have, the more it costs to move it. Plus, if you donate or host a garage or estate sale while downsizing, you can even pad your pockets with a little extra cash in the process. 

Looking for top tips on how to stay on track, on time, and feeling good through the decluttering process? You’ve come to the right place! We’ve teamed up with Maija Diethelm, a professional organizer with more than a decade of experience decluttering spaces, to share our best tips on going through your belongings so you can start fresh in your new place.

10 Pro Tips To Help You Declutter Before Moving

Even with all the benefits, decluttering can feel like a daunting task to undertake, particularly when paired with a move. The good news is it doesn’t have to be! Knowing when, where, and how to go through your things can help streamline the process, make it easier, and, dare we say, make it something you might even find a little fun. Here are our best tips on getting the job done. 

a woman decluttering her wardrobe

1. Get motivated

Real talk: Decluttering can be very emotional and overwhelming — especially if you’ve never done it before — so there’s no shame in needing a little motivation or inspiration to get prepared. Just remind yourself of how great it’ll feel to trim the fat on your belongings, save money, possibly make some money, and start fresh in your new space. You’ll be surprised how fantastic it will feel to free yourself from things that no longer serve a purpose in your life — or your house. 

plan ahead to give yourself enough time to declutter before moving

2. Don’t procrastinate — start early

According to Maija, one of the top mistakes people make when beginning a pre-move decluttering project is not starting early enough. “We always have way more stuff than we even imagine,” she says. Depending on the size of your home or apartment, you may want to start at least two, six, or even 12 months before your move. “That just allows the process to be a lot less intense and stressful.” 

3. Start with the rooms and things you use the least 

Get your feet wet by starting the decluttering process with rooms and stuff you don’t use that often. “I highly suggest you do not start with memorabilia,” warns Maija. “If you start with rooms that are less used, you have the time to go through all of those things — and you’ll likely get rid of one-half to three-fourths of it.” 

Starting with your basement, attic, or garage is a great way to train your brain to think about the value and purpose of your belongings. That way, by the time you reach the really important stuff, you’ll be a pro, deliberate less, and have your own process practically perfected. Plus, you can pack the items you’re keeping into boxes or plastic bins as you go, tackling two birds with one stone and with minimal disruption to your daily routines in the rest of the house. 

When you declutter before moving, don't get hung up on sentimental items.

4. Don’t linger on old memories 

No matter what you do, you’re going to end up sifting through emotional items — it’s unavoidable. Just try to veer back to the present if you suddenly find yourself on a trip down memory lane (trust us, it’s easy to do, especially if you’re doing the decluttering yourself). “I have many clients who were trying to declutter on their own, and they’ve been like, ‘I opened this box and I was there for two hours — all I could finish was this box’,” Maija says. “You pull out a picture and all these memories come up and you have to process all of that.” Fight the urge. If there’s really a strong connection, keep the item and dip into the nostalgia at a later date. 

use piles while you declutter before moving

5. Use the power of piles

One huge decluttering hack Maija uses with her clients is separating sorted items into different piles that determine their fate. Here are a few examples of piles you might want to use to categorize your things as you go through them:

  • Keep
  • Trash
  • Shred (think sensitive documents and personal records)
  • Donate or sell 
  • Storage
  • Recycle (this can be literal recycling or upcycling an item into a gift)
More of a visual learner? Check out this blog of our favorite videos of insanely clever organization tips and decluttering tricks.
Let the kids help with decluttering their own things.

6. Involve your kids with their things

While it may take a little longer, it’s important to involve your children in the decluttering of their own belongings — if you have the time and patience, that is. But how do you get five year olds to go through their prized possessions and decide what to keep? “Ask them,” says Maija. “Say, ‘Hey, do you still play with this toy? Are you ready to let this go and let another kid enjoy this, or do you still want it?’, and they are pretty honest.” Bonus? They’ll grow up with the emotional skills and know-how to declutter their own things later in life. 

schedule time to organize and declutter

7. Schedule dedicated time for decluttering 

Look, you’re likely not chomping at the bit to sort through all of your things, which is exactly why Maija recommends actually putting it on your schedule. In fact, she lists not scheduling set periods of time to declutter as one of the biggest mistakes people make. She suggests scheduling one to three hours of dedicated decluttering time on a weekly basis, preferably on a specific day of the week, every week, to create a routine. “Tune everything out — no appointments, no schedules, no nothing, and actually set that time,” she says. 

On crunch time before a move? “You’ll probably want to do it more like three to six hours at a time,” she recommends. 

a PODS portable storage container loaded with boxes and furniture

8. Use a portable moving and storage container

Make portable moving and storage containers like PODS your secret weapon when decluttering before a move. If you know you have a lot of things to go through, or if you’re downsizing into a smaller space but want to keep heirloom items or furniture for the future, consider having a portable container delivered. Simply load it up with items you want to store — either at your place or at a secure facility, like a PODS Storage Center. Alternatively, you can also use portable containers that stay in your driveway as long as you need them to load packed items for your move at your own pace. 

Maija says she’s used PODS in the past as a convenient way to temporarily store her clients’ belongings while they searched for a permanent place in a new city. “It’s a great option when you need time to declutter, pack, and then store your items because you’re moving but don’t totally know where you’re going to land,” she says. “I actually did that with a client.” 

Maija did the decluttering, had local labor providers load her client’s things into a PODS container, and then PODS stored his things for a few months at a nearby PODS Storage Center and delivered his container to him when he landed in his new permanent home. “It turned out to be a great situation and made total sense,” she says. “He was relocating for his career and was living in a new city but not in the official place he was going to live. He didn’t want to get all of his stuff and then unpack and three months later pack and unpack again. Using PODS was a lot less stressful because he had the time to look for a place where he wanted to live.” 

Professional organizer, Maija Diethelm
Professional organizer, Maija Diethelm
(Source: Maija Diethelm)

9. Consider hiring professional help 

If you’re still not sure where to start or just want (or need) some help, it’s probably worth adding a professional organizer to your team. Maija says by the time her clients reach out, they’re “really wanting help,” though she suggests not waiting until your wit’s end to seek someone’s help. Grab recommendations from family, friends, and neighborhood group sites like Nextdoor, and then do a consultation with the top candidates so you can get to know each other, see if you vibe well (you’ll be working very closely with them, remember), and get a feel for the scope of the project and their fee. 

10. Go through everything — and we mean everything

This can be a long process, but it’s worth it. Be sure to go through everything. Hit the cabinets from front to back, go through those junk drawers, reassess all pieces of clothing, gadgets, old boxes — everything. Leave no item unturned, unopened, or unsorted. Motivate yourself by knowing whatever you don’t go through now, you’ll have to move and go through anyway at some point down the road. It might as well be now, right? 

The payoff? “When you get to your new home, the items you put away are the things you want and need, as well as those that make you happy,” Maija says. “Decluttering ensures you’re only bringing the things you love and need to your new place.”

Once you know what you’re keeping, check out our Containing the Chaos blog, where you’ll find all things moving, packing, and home storage — from life-saving home organization tips to foolproof packing and moving hacks.  


Based in Los Angeles, Katherine Alex Beaven is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to the PODS blog. She has moved 20+ times because she loves to experience new places.