Preparing for moving day – when you pack your entire life into the back of a van – is a lengthy process. One thing you should do sooner rather than later, and which can make each subsequent step in the moving process a lot simpler, is decluttering.

Think of it like this. By reducing the amount of stuff you have, you are reducing the number of boxes you’ll have to move. Which means you can save on removal costs (small lorries are cheaper than big ones) and on the cost of packing (if you’re using a professional packing service).

And, as a bonus: you will be ready to start your new life, at your new place, with less of that pointless baggage you’ve been carrying around, on your back, all these years. That’s right, decluttering is not just housekeeping. These 18 tips won’t just show you how to declutter your bedroom and your house – but how to declutter your life as well.

1. DO NOT declutter in dribs and drabs

Are you ready to declutter? Yes. But how quickly are you tripped up by the very next question: where to begin? A common pitfall is wandering around aimlessly and decluttering as you go.

Instead of decluttering a little bit here and a little bit there, we recommend doing one room at a time. This way you’ll see clear progress and not lose your sense of motivation.

 2. DO NOT go by someone else’s timeline

When we looked at the wealth of online articles on decluttering, they all recommended different time-frames. The famous Marie Kondo (a Japanese organisation consultant and author, who has sold millions of books on Feng Shui principles) claims you can only declutter properly if you take a week off work to do it.

Don’t have a week to take off? Or you’d rather use it to go abroad? No problem (so would we!). Instead, declutter for a few hours each day after work. But ask yourself: is it therapeutic to clean after work? Or will it stress you out?

You know how you work most efficiently, as well as what the least stressful approach is for you. In any case, go at your own pace. Don’t follow someone else’s recommendation.

 3. DO NOT rush it

Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Don’t cram your decluttering into a single session, as very few people have the energy and focus to spend 8 hours on anything (let alone decluttering). You’ll likely become frustrated and less efficient as the session progresses.

It’s much better to spend a few hours — 2 or 3 — on one project or space. This way you can pat yourself on the back and avoid burnout. Dana Buyers recommends starting small and “celebrating the victories” as you get rid of your things.

4. DO NOT buy boxes before you’ve worked out what to keep

Instead of buying loads of pretty storage boxes, decide what you’re keeping and what you’re getting rid of first.

There’s a rule in work that says a given task will expand the time allocated to it. And the same is true of clutter and storage. Cut your life down to size and then buy some nice boxes to pack it into. Don’t buy loads of storage and the fill it to the brim with … clutter.

5. DO NOT hoard everything

Decluttering is not just about addressing the problem when it’s got bad. There is also preventative decluttering and, like they say, prevention is better than a cure.

Let’s face it, most of us our hoarders. We just hate throwing things away.

  • We kid ourselves we might want to use that thingamajig one day. But, if you’ve never once needed it in the past 5 years or however long, you’re probably not going to need it any time soon. So it’s probably time to put that novelty body chocolate (with the nice wooden basting brush) in the bin.
  • Or we think about the money we spent on it. Yes, spending £29.99 on a spare electric toothbrush you’ve never used is a state of affairs to be deplored. But there are worse things upon this Earth, and remember: keeping clutter will only cost you even more by bumping up the cost of your house move.
  • Or we develop a weird emotion investment in it. In which case, you should pause and breathe deeply. No, your old toaster will not be lonely as it lies there, beneath the moonlight, in the nearest skip. Nor will your childhood toys, gifted to a charity shop, return to haunt your future dreams. If you are looking for a compromise, why give clutter that falls into this category to a friend or relative. This way, you’ll know that, if you’re missing it, you can pay it a weekend visit.

6. DO NOT donate rubbish

In the last point, we mentioned that if you have an item that you don’t use, you should consider giving it to a family member or friend. However, if it’s tat – proper hardcore tat – then you really do just need to dispose of it, however hard this be. This applies especially to anything that’s broken, and absolutely to anything that’s dangerous.

7. DO NOT start a new task before you’ve finished the last one

Complete each task – completely.

Once you’ve decided where something is going to go, take it there.

Never keep bags for charity or boxes for friends in your home to deliver later. Do it now. Finish the process.

If you’re donating something or giving something to a friend or family member, put the items in your car and make arrangements for dropping them off. You’ve done so much work getting this stuff ready to take out, don’t succumb with the finish line in sight.

8. DO make a list

Start with a goal in mind and put a plan together. Write down all the rooms in your house, or areas you want to declutter, then number them in the order you’re going to tackle them.

9. DO ask yourself: does this have a function?

Seriously, do you really need all those DVDs? Sure, you probably watched The Lord of The Rings trilogy that your dad got you at Christmas. But, after that, did you ever watch it again? Or any other DVD for that matter? Don’t you usually just watch Netflix, anyway?

The same goes for all those CDs. When was the last time you put a CD into your CD player? Do you even have a CD player? Does your stereo even have a CD tray?

Floppy disks are a definite “no”.

It’s time to be honest with yourself about what you use around the house on a regular basis. The Minimalist blog asks: “What unnecessary things are you holding on to just in case?”

Non-functional objects come in all shapes and sizes. Common candidates include:

  • Obscure kitchenware, like oyster shuckers, salmon whisks and novelty egg poachers
  • Your 5th mug and above
  • Old-fashioned clothes, clogs and bodkins
  • Magazines more than 4 weeks old
  • Uncomfortable furniture you only ever sit next to

10. DON’T keep clothes you never wear

To identify wardrobe pieces to clear out, hang all your clothes with the hangers in the reverse direction. After you wear an item, return it to the closet with the hanger facing the correct direction. After six months, you’ll have a clear picture of which clothes you can easily discard.

11. DO ask for another perspective

It’s my home and my things. No one else will understand, right? Wrong. Change the perspective. We are blinded by our emotional attachment to useless objects, hell, we’re blinded just by habit.

Perhaps all it needs is for a friend or work colleague to come round for you to realise that having a trampoline in your living room is kind of inefficient …

12. DON’T be a sucker for nostalgia

It’s that old chestnut again. Getting attached to useless, worthless, waste-of-space objects because of stupid emotions.

If it’s trash, grit your teeth and get rid of it. Keeping trash is a symptom of pathological hoarding, so it may taste bitter but that’s because it’s medicine. If you need a nicotine-patch equivalent, why not take a photo of the object before you cast it away? That why, just like Jack from Titanic, it will always be alive in your memory.

13. DON’T forget to organise your make-up bag

We all have that purple eye-shadow that we are never going to use. Or that old mascara that’s all dried up (or that foundation that was never really our skin tone). Most women (and men) struggle with this decluttering tip because these are things we’ve spent our hard-earned cash on. As well as things that we bought to make ourselves more beautiful – so there’s an opportunity cost locked up in there as well.

But, with the increasing popularity of the “natural face”, this may actually be a blessing in disguise. Or you can just hotfoot it over to Boots to buy some more. Either way, get rid of all that dry, sludgy rubbish in your bathroom cabinet and start afresh!

14. DO use your imagination

Most people’s imaginations sit there as a second appendix. But if you set yourself the challenge of maximising space in your house, then you’ll soon get those old grey cells firing again. And the joy of invention and problem-solving will offset some of the pain of severance.

15. DON’T think after you’ve organised your space you’re done

You’re probably here in the first place because you’re not very good at throwing things away. Or you’re addicting to buying junk in the first place.

Now, once you’ve organised everything you’re going to feel great. But remember: there is no autopilot. Have a system in place to decide what new things to buy and when. You may want to operate a “one in, one out” policy so that the amount of stuff in your house remains constant even as you keep on acquiring things.

16. DON’T go too far in search of perfection

Remember good is good enough. Your house will never look like a catalogue because you actually live in it – take time to appreciate how far you’ve come. You will ultimately be disappointed if perfection is your goal. Create a space that works well for your needs. That is success.

17. DON’T forget to simplify your personal life

Obviously, you want to see friends and family, but decluttering your mind is the key to decluttering your space. Don’t overload your diary – it’s OK to say no to non-essential things.

It’s also okay not to answer a call. It’s okay to delete social media apps if they’re taking over your life. It’s okay to want to be alone. It’s okay to just do nothing and lounge around in your pants.

Check out zenhabits.net for extra help on how to declutter your personal life.

18. DO remember that there’s always paid storage …

We’ve saved this one to the end because it’s kind of cheating. If you genuinely have to much stuff in your house or your room, and it won’t fit in the loft or the cellar, you can pay a professional storage company to look after it for you. If you’re London-based, you might  want to check out the top 20 storage companies in the capital.

But you’ll obviously be paying for the privilege of keeping your clutter and saving up those difficult decisions about what to keep until later – so tread carefully.

Moving house soon? Compare the best home removal companies using buzzmove. Get up to 6 free quotes from trusted movers.