Home Before Your Move How to Get Organized Before Your Move

How to Get Organized Before Your Move

by Ali Wenzke

Whenever I say there is such thing as happy moving, people give me the raised eyebrow. After moving ten times in eleven years, I can attest that happy moving is real.  The keys to a happy move are: (1) getting organized before your move and (2) decluttering. Chocolate helps, too. I gathered an army of professional organizers to help you get organized before your move so you can savor the happy moving moments. Pour yourself a mug of hot cocoa, sit back, and enjoy.

  1. To get organized before your move, start with a plan of attack

I love professional organizers because they handle decluttering with military precision. Cathleen Staley, owner of Simplify, explains that the first step in getting organized “is to make a plan of attack.” Autumn Nyby, a professional organizer for Space for Living Organizing, suggests starting a quick desktop filing system for papers you’ll need to reference throughout the move. These might be moving receipts or papers for your new home.

Nyby also recommends using a moving checklist and to add tasks to your list as you think of them. However, Nyby warns that “while it is important to get your paperwork and to-do lists organized in preparation for a move, it is not the best time to try to conquer a whole new filing system for any other disorganized paperwork.”


  1. Do a quick walk-through of your entire home before you begin to declutter

Ann Marie Guenther, professional organizer for That Girl Organizes, keeps it simple. She recommends walking through each room with a stack of Post-Its or painter’s tape. Then, Guenther says, “mark everything that is just ‘eh.’ If the tchotchke or piece of furniture is more worn out than your first car or you would never consider buying it again, these pieces are not going with you to your next home.” One quick walk-through will help you identify what items you love and those that can stay behind.

Use Post-Its to identify items you don’t love.

  1. Ask yourself these questions as you get organized before your move

Every professional organizer encourages his or her clients to consider whether an item is worthy of making the move. Here are some questions you can ask yourself as you go room by room and item by item.

Jessica Litman, founder of the Organized Mama, recommends you ask yourself:

  • Would you pay money for this item in a store right now?
  • How are you planning on displaying/using that item now?
  • What emotional value have you placed on said item and why?

Guenther says the item must fit into one of the following categories to be a keeper:

  • Do you love it?
  • Do you use it?
  • Do you need it?

Jaimie Altman, founder of JA Organizing, says “if you have multiples of an item, then toss the excess or donate it. There is no need to hold onto things because you may decide to use them in the future.” Nyby encourages you to question everything and to ask yourself, “Do I really want to move this?”

  1. Go with your gut feeling as you decide what to declutter

In Nyby’s experience, her clients sometimes feel surprised by how many items they decide not to keep. She encourages you to accept the change. “Go with that gut feeling,” Nyby says. “Think of this as a way to start fresh with items you know you couldn’t live without. Say goodbye to everything else.”

  1. For sentimental items, find a balance with the past and present 

On the other hand, you may feel emotionally attached to many items. Diane Boden, creator and host of the Minimalist Moms Podcast, describes how sentimental items are one of the toughest things to minimize. “It isn’t just the item itself, but the memory attached to the item,” says Boden. “The coffee cup from college, the Cabbage Patch doll (or maybe that is just me), the wedding dress, or your daughter’s artwork from preschool. The item stands as a trigger to memory.”

In order to combat our connection between our brain and the item, Boden suggests that we find a balance between the past and the present. “Recognize sentimentality as emotion. The pull is so strong, but many times is not rational or even helpful,” says Boden. “As you sort through these sentimental items, keep going through this process. You’ll be surprised what you can part with and how quickly you can get organized when you don’t have the weighty emotion of items you should’ve purged years ago.” There are also professionals that can help you through the decision of whether to keep or donate those sentimental items.

You can let go of sentimental items.

  1. Begin decluttering a few months before you move & use a timer

Nyby suggests you declutter for your move a few months before moving day, if possible. She recommends you go through small areas like a cabinet, shelf, drawers or even a corner of a room with a timer. “Set a timer to stay focused on that area for 15 to 30 minutes. Once the time ends, take a breather and move all your donations straight into your car,” says Nyby. “Depending on your moving timeline, you can focus on just one or two spaces a day.”

Start early and time yourself.


  1. Get free boxes online and from friends

Moving can be expensive, so find ways to cut costs whenever you can. Altman says to ask grocery stores for used boxes that did not contain fruits or vegetables and to save recycle paper for wrapping items. “There is no need for expensive moving supplies,” says Altman. Nyby recommends looking for free boxes in your area on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. “Then, you can give your moving boxes away for free in your new city,” she says.

  1. Use items around your home for packing

In order to save money on moving supplies and to pack items you need to pack anyways, be creative. Altman suggests using towels to wrap fragile items and to use laundry baskets when making a local move to carry items to your new home. Guenther says wrapping plates with paper or towels can be a cost-effective way to pack dishware, and linens can help cushion lamps and other fragile items. Staley recommends the use of plastic bins or suitcases to pack your items.

Use the items in your home for packing purposes.

  1. Start to pack your least used rooms & items first

Where do you spend the least amount of time in your home? This is where Altman says you should begin the packing process. “Start with the most unused rooms in the home and finish with the most used rooms like your kitchen and bedroom,” says Altman. In addition, Guenther recommends that you should pack your least used items first. “Pack off-season items and bless others with items you aren’t in love with,” says Guenther. “There is no need to pack, ship and unpack items you don’t like, need or use.” Staley agrees, “You would be amazed what you will uncover if you go room by room and eliminate what you have long since forgotten about.”

  1. Complete one room at a time when you pack

One tip that Nyby gives her clients is to break big projects into smaller chunks. This might meet mean working on something for just ten minutes and then stopping. “Usually, just getting up and moving is the hardest part,” says Nyby. Altman encourages people who are moving to “pack one room at a time, so it’s not overwhelming.” Staley agrees, “Complete one space before moving on or you will turn your house upside down and then have to live in the chaos until you move.”

Focus on one room at a time.

  1. Label, label, and label

According to Altman, a common mistake that people make when they move is that they don’t label their boxes properly. “Opening a box shouldn’t be a surprise. When the movers bring your boxes into your new home, they should know exactly where each box should be placed,” says Altman. “Having your boxes correctly dispersed throughout the house and knowing exactly what’s in each box makes unpacking that much easier.”

So, how do you label properly? Guenther suggests you write the contents of two to five items in the box. “You really don’t need a list of twenty as you’ll remember what was in the cabinet you packed,” says Guenther. “Use the fancy label tape (kitchen yellow) for each box pertaining to the room you are packing.”

  1. Number your boxes from 1 to 3 when you pack

Nyby recommends using a numbering system when packing your boxes. For example, number the box #1 if it includes your most important items. Then, number the box #3 if it contains your least important items. “When moving into your new home, a #1 box would go right into the room it belongs since it is the most important for that room,” says Nyby. “With #2 and #3 boxes, you can decide if you would like to have those boxes in the assigned room or in another spot (like a spare bedroom) to unpack slowly. For me, I love having only the big furniture in the rooms, leaving plenty of space to rebuild or move big items around without having to shuffle boxes. So, I have all #2 or #3 boxes in a spare room.”

  1. Use quality packing tape

If you spend your money on one item when you move, this is it – quality packing tape. Guenther recommends the expensive tape from Home Depot or the brown tape from Uline. (I’m a fan of Scotch packing tape). “You will find the tape the moving companies use at the online bulk office supplies stores,” says Guenther. “To not have the contents of your box fall out when you move the box from the truck to your home is priceless. Tape is relatively cheap, so use it.”

Buy quality packing tape and label everything.

  1. Try these other moving supplies, too

While all of the professional organizers recommended using what you have at home to help lower the cost of your move, here are some more of their favorite moving supply items:

  1. Consider hiring movers 

To help you organize before your move, you may consider hiring movers for the packing process. Staley says that “professional movers are best suited for fragile items, kitchens, and hanging things in a closet.” Here’s how you can hire a mover you can trust.

  1. Think about how much money you will save

The time you spend decluttering and organizing before your move will be well worth it. As one of Guenther’s clients told her after a move, “Ann Marie, you told me over and over not to take so much stuff because I didn’t need it. I didn’t listen. For what I paid to move, I could’ve sold almost all of it and repurchased brand new stuff.” Consider what items you love enough to bring into your new life with you. Donate or sell the rest to someone who will enjoy your furniture and dishware.



Professional Home Organizers

Jaimie Altman is the Founder of JA Organizing.

Diane Boden is the host of the Minimalist Moms podcast. Visit the Minimalist Moms website or follow Minimalist Moms on Facebook and Instagram. Listen to the Minimalist Moms podcast.

Ann Marie Guenther of That Girl Organizes is known as the face of Facebook in Chicagoland. Her team works one hour from Naperville in every direction and preaches that with That Girl Organizes you will get organized and stay organized because she organizes according to your learning style. Visit Ann Marie’s website or follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest

Jessica Litman is the founder of the Organized Mama. Visit Jessica’s website or follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

Autumn Nyby is a professional organizer at Space for Living Organizing and co-host of the A to B Podcast.  Visit Autumn’s website or follow her on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest. Listen to the A to B podcast.

Cathleen Staley is the owner of Simplify, specializing in all aspects of moving. Visit Cathleen’s website or follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

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Logan asem January 9, 2020 - 1:05 pm

You have given us a lot of great tips here (love the colour coding and the cutlery drawer tips), but your suggestion of placing books in suitcases is the best moving tip I’ve ever seen! Well done and I’m definitely going to remember that one!

Jason April 1, 2020 - 8:17 am

Excellent tips, thank you for this guide!

Shirl August 17, 2021 - 5:47 am

Any tips for the elderly living away from family who need to declutter to improve quality of life and to remove the distraction of clutter to improve motivation. When younger, used many of your recommended tips, but still
Have same needs but not same stamina.


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