Stepping Away From Stuff: Simplify During a Move

Bobby and I have this habit of moving every two years. It started 2 months after we were married in 2010, and we've kept it going ever since. Seriously.

I never moved growing up, so I had no idea how to go about it; I'm fourth generation in my small town--the first time I packed up my things was when I left for college. I also grew up in a home that was owned by my great-grandparents, then my grandparents, and now my parents. Sentimentality has a funny (but totally legitimate) way of convincing us we need things that we may not, which resulted in a habit of keeping way, way more than I really needed.

As broke 22-year-old newlyweds, Bobby and I were luck to inherit a LOT of hand-me-downs (legitimately everything in our home was given to us, with the exception of a TV stand, coffee table, and our master bed). Along with the furniture, I inherited more feelings about keeping EVERYTHING.

After our third move (the first that was within the same city limits, into the first home we owned outright, and done without professional help--or even a rented truck), we started to resent the sheer amount of STUFF we spent a month slowly moving 20 minutes away. Did we really need it all? We decided the answer was "no," so we started downsizing. Complicated by the fact that we had a brand-new baby--and all the 'new baby stuff' that comes along in the first year--we didn't make a ton of headway. Still, we felt the tug of minimalism on our lives, so during our fourth move two years later, we did some really hard work. If you're looking for a way to start, we found these to be great options:

  • Donate duplicate/unused furniture to your local ReStore
  • Donate unused clothing, duplicate pots and pans, unnecessary decor, and toys to Goodwill
  • Donate one of two cars to a local animal rescue (yes, really. sharing one car wasn't bad at all.)
  • Recycle or throw away anything that wasn't fit to be used by others (our sanitation engineers hated us during that time, but it was freeing to be rid of so much junk)

We tossed even more once we got to our new house. If you're in the process of a move, I highly suggest three steps to simplifying:

  1. When packing boxes, look at each item before you place it in a box. Have you used it within the last 3 months if it's a non-seasonal item, or during the season for which it's intended if it's a seasonal item? Does it hold any kind of special value or importance? Will you really miss it if you don't have it in the new house? If the answer is "no," donate or toss it.
  2. When packing from an attic, garage, or other storage area, consider the box of unused things you're about to move from point A to point B. Ask yourself the questions listed above. There is NO SHAME in donating or throwing away things you don't use, even if you've stored them for years. Better now than never!
  3. When unpacking, get rid of things that don't have a clearly defined "new home." The places this will have the greatest impact are in the kitchen and the bathroom. 

It's been a year since that move, and I really thought we'd made some headway on simplifying, until we "traded" two rooms in our house this summer to give T and the new baby a bigger shared bedroom. Our guest bedroom/home office serves as a storage area for a LOT of seasonal clothes, paperwork, and also random junk I toss in the closet/on the bed when I don't have time to deal with a specific item. It's also home to my Great Big Shame: I have two boxes of office supplies that, one year later, I still haven't unpacked.

Simplifying starts with a single step, but it requires follow-up. I realized I've fallen by the wayside, there, and decided to walk through my house, room by room, to see where else I could use some decluttering. Legitimately every room needs some love. So, I'm taking a new step and am working through each one. Over the next few weeks I'll keep you updated on the tricks I've found that have (or haven't) worked!

Are you trying to simplify or move toward a minimalist lifestyle? What do you struggle with the most?


Lindsay Sweeting was in the world of Marketing and Publicity in her previous life. These days you're more likely to see her running after her toddler than running a meeting, but she does her best to find time to create new recipes, come up with fun activities for her daughter, and write about the craziness that is life in the Sweeting house.

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