Reader Katie submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:
My husband and I will be moving apartments soon and could use some help thinking through the cleaning/uncluttering, packing and unpacking process. The new apartment will be close to the same size as the old one (possibly a little smaller, depending on which one comes through), but our current place is extremely cluttered with a lot of misused space and even boxes from our last move that we have never even touched (in 3 years — I know, I know — you’re going to tell me to get rid of them without even looking in them!). We are looking forward to starting fresh in a new place and doing some necessary uncluttering in the process, but we don’t want to delude ourselves that it will be an easy process, as we both have clutterbug and procrastination tendencies. What tips do you have that might help us in the process of decluttering and packing up our old place and getting an uncluttered start in the new place??
I don’t know who thought it was a good idea to tell people to get rid of unopened boxes, but it’s some of the worst advice I’ve ever heard. And, I’ve surprisingly heard it a great deal. When I was going through my major uncluttering project, I became fed up with the process and tossed out a number of boxes I hadn’t opened since my move. Inside those boxes were my social security card, birth certificate, and my passport. Throwing out those boxes was a huge mistake and the paperwork was a hassle to replace! One thing you can be sure of is that I will never tell you to blindly get rid of unopened boxes. I don’t wish those repercussions on anyone.
My advice to you is to unclutter twice. It sounds like a lot of work, and I won’t lie to you, it is. However, you will be so amazed by the results that your hard work will be worth it. You will love your new place and really enjoy living in it.
Start by sitting down with your husband and mapping out the life you want in your new space. This vision will be your motivation as you go through this uncluttering process.
The first wave of uncluttering will come when you’re packing up your things. Start by packing up those objects that you won’t need over the next couple months — winter clothing (assuming you’re in the northern hemisphere), cold-weather supplies, and holiday decorations (if you have such things). Ask yourself: 1. Did I use this in the past six months (or however often you are expected to use it)? 2. Do I plan to use it next winter (or whenever you would customarily use it next)? 3. Do I love it enough to go through the hassle of moving it? 4. Does it pass the red velvet rope test? 5. Does it reflect the remarkable life my husband and I desire?
At this point, get rid of anything that doesn’t meet all five of these criteria.
Label boxes clearly with the room where they’ll be stored and the contents of the box. Use smaller boxes instead of co-mingling contents that will be stored in different rooms. A label on a box might say: “Front Closet — Winter Coats” or “Basement Storage — Christmas Decorations.”
As you continue to pack your boxes, work in a way so that the things you use every day are the last to be boxed and loaded into a moving van. This way, they’ll be the first to be unloaded and unboxed when you move into your new space.
The second wave of uncluttering will come when you’re unpacking your things. As you’re putting things away, remember that everything you own must have a space (“a place for everything, and everything in its place”). Anything without a proper space will need to go.
A great tip I picked up a few years ago is that as you’re unpacking, be sure to flatten every piece of newspaper and box that you used. This way, you’re guaranteed not to miss anything while unpacking and it makes recycling or selling these materials simple.
Remember, too, that unpacking isn’t a race. Give yourself time to make informed decisions about your things. Set up your bed, kitchen, and bathroom first and then work out from there. Agree to unpack 10 boxes a night (or more) until you’re all moved into your new place. I actually envy your situation a little — you’re going to have a wonderfully uncluttered home when you’re finished!
Thank you, Katie, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column.
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