In the last few months, I have been working with a number of folks who are in the process of relocating, or who have recently relocated. This is atypical for me because I am not an organizer who specializes in moves, as some of my colleagues do. While these colleagues handle all the details of the move, my role in relocations is generally limited to “the stuff”.
In my mind, there are four major steps in a moving project that relate to stuff:
- Downsizing the stuff prior to packing
- Packing the stuff
- Moving the stuff
- Unpacking the stuff into the new home.
You might be surprised to see my number 1 step, “Downsizing the stuff prior to packing”. When I have helped clients unpack into their new homes, it is always clear who took the time to downsize before packing, and who didn’t. Many people feel that they are too stressed during a move to handle decisions about what to keep. They say, “Let’s just pack it all, and I’ll sort it out at the other end.”
That means that they are paying moving men to move more stuff than they need to, and creating more chaos at the receiving end than is necessary. They are basically postponing the pain. As my wise colleague Barbara Hemphill has said, “Clutter is postponed decisions.”
If you look at my four steps, there are two steps that require the judgment of the stuff-owner. Those are steps 1 and 4. Steps 2 and 3 are really not in the owner’s area of expertise. Who has the expertise needed for packing and moving? Why, the moving men of course! So why do so many people insist on doing all of their own packing?
When we last relocated 12 years ago, we spent several weeks reviewing everything we owned. Every drawer, closet, and cabinet got our scrutiny. We got rid of everything that we no longer needed. The day before the move, the movers came in and packed it all up. They brought their own boxes, tissue paper, and tape. By the end of the day, our apartment looked like a warehouse. It wasn’t the most restful night’s sleep we ever had, but at least we only endured one night of living with boxes.
The next morning, they came back and started the move. By early afternoon, we were in our new place and started the fun of unpacking. (You know that I mean “fun” sarcastically, right?)
If you are planning to relocate in the near future, start your downsizing now. Even if you haven’t found a new place yet, start reviewing your stuff as soon as possible. It will give you a clearer idea of how much storage space you need, and you will feel that you are already making progress on your impending move, even if you are still enjoying the “fun” of house-hunting.
Another advantage of downsizing first is that you can generate some cash to help pay for the move. Sell your unwanted furniture, your unworn jewelry, your unloved designer clothes and accessories. Get yourself a nice tax donation by donating to a thrift shop any items you can’t sell.