The Art of Decluttering

Honestly, we love moving house! We love moving house with kids, we love helping other people move house and we especially love unpacking at the new home. There’s something so cleansing in moving house – in having to physically touch every single item that you own in the world. Of having the rare opportunity to pack up your life completely and to visually see how much ‘stuff’ you’ve accumulated over the years.

When you move house you uncover things you’d forgotten about – things that had slipped down the back of drawers, items in boxes at the top of wardrobes or linen cupboards which are well overdue for a good declutter. So if you’re preparing or thinking about moving house in the next 12 months, here are our top tips to think about before you start frantically packing everything into boxes.

Unpacked Boxes from Your Last Move

It’s not just you, most people have boxes which they moved from an old house to the new house and never got around to unpacking. But just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s helpful! Open the box or boxes and take out every single thing and lay them out for you to see. Be ruthless. If you’ve got baby momentos or special keepsakes, instead of stashing them in a cardboard box hidden away, get a good clear container and keep them safe and together. But… remember to be ruthless. Once you’ve decided what items you definitely want to keep, then you’re ready for the big tidy.

Do a Big Tidy Before You Start To Pack

Once you know you need to move house, spend half a day tidying the house. Put things back where they belong, not only in the right rooms, but actually away where they belong. It may seem counterproductive when you’re going to pack everything up anyway, but being able to pack things like with like will make the unpacking so much easier. It will save you finding boxes to unpack mugs for the kitchen, headphones for the study and random tools from the shed. A box like this is overwhelming and frustrating to unpack. Trust us, your future self will thank you!

Declutter Before You Pack

When you pack to move house you touch every single item in your home. Don’t waste this opportunity, ask yourself, “will this item add value to this next stage of my life”. If you don’t declutter before you move, you’ll end up paying more in moving costs, spending time unpacking and then finding somewhere to store items that you just don’t need anymore. There’s nothing like the feeling of beginning in a new home without unnecessary clutter. It’s quicker to unpack and feel at home too.

Pack Like with Like and Label Clearly

Once your house is completely tidy (or as tidy as you deem possible), it’s time to start packing. But where do you start!? When you’re packing, if you think of your house in terms of categories, it will make packing much easier.

We always suggest starting with the easy areas that you know you won’t need for a few weeks. For us this has always meant starting with books. Then things like camping gear and other seasonal items. By packing boxes with one category only (books for example) unpacking is SO much easier. We recommend labelling boxes clearly on as many sides as you can.

As well as clearly stating what is inside, we also recommend writing which room you’d like the box to be put in when you’re unloading at the new house. This way if you have removalists or friends helping boxes end up in the right place and save you time. Don’t be afraid of having boxes which aren’t completely full either – if you fill a box 3/4 full of items to be put in the new laundry and there is nothing left to pack in that category, don’t fill it with random things for the sake of it.

You might save yourself a couple of boxes, but the hassle of unpacking random boxes isn’t worth it.

How To Pack

Think about getting large boxes for lighter items like toys, clothes or linen and a smaller size box for heavier items like crockery and books. I’m a huge fan of sticking with one brand so they are uniform in size and therefore easy to stack as you pack and fit into the moving truck. What is the best way to pack up breakable items? Newspaper tends to leave ink marks and tissue paper can be expensive. Our solution is to where possible use clean rags. Bunnings sell 1.5kg of rags for about $8. They will protect your breakables without leaving marks or costing a fortune. When you’re done you can donate them to a local painter.

Storage Area

Once you start packing, where do you put the boxes you’ve packed? Do you leave them in the room or move them somewhere central? Our advice is to always create a space in your home that becomes where you put things that are packed.

Firstly though, the space where you keep them must be completely clear to begin with, no use storing packed boxes in the spare room if you haven’t yet packed up the bed or emptied the wardrobe. If you have a spare room, consider packing that up first. Completely packed up. Bed unassembled, wardrobe empty, every single thing decluttered or packed. Then you have a whole room where you can store boxes once they’re packed. If you have a second living space you could use this instead (pack it up first). A garage could work well but remember that you need to pack the garage up COMPLETELY first.

So, planning is key. Small furniture can also be stored in this area once emptied or no longer in use (think lamps, bedside tables, coffee tables).

Pack Like a Tortoise

Slow and steady wins the race, so don’t leave all the packing till the last week because you’ll end up skipping the tidy and decluttering and moving things that you don’t need anymore. Most people, whether renting or buying, will have at least 4 weeks lead time on moving house. Use this time well. One week to tidy every space in the house. Use week two to pack anything that you know you won’t need for a while. Week 3 is getting serious, leave only the absolute necessities and enjoy living simply in the lead-up to the move. Week 4 is packing all the final things and finalising your move.

Forgotten Details

How will you manage clean vs dirty clothes during the move? What will you do with food that needs refrigeration? Who will look after pets? Will you be able to quickly find clean sheets and bath towels for your first night in the new house? If you’ve packed in categories, finding clean sheets and towels shouldn’t be difficult… but imagine if you don’t label clearly or pack sensibly! We try to keep on top of washing as much as possible in the week leading up to the move, but always plan on moving with a full dirty clothes basket. Simply because all sheets and towels end up in there on the morning of moving day so we don’t stress about moving dirty clothes, just make sure to keep them contained in a hamper and then once the washing machine is connected you’re ready to go.

We always try to ‘eat ourselves out of house and home’ before we move – clearing out the freezer, pantry and fridge as much as possible to avoid having to move food. We also suggest leaving the fridge plugged in until the last moment and having it as one of the last things on the truck. Then it’s unpacked first at the new house and plugged in straight away. Don’t leave food inside while in transit though because you don’t want to have to clean up spilt milk!!

Your Move Team

Whether you rely on the good will of friends or hire removalists, planning move day well can make a potentially stressful day run smoothly. Make sure you feed all those helping with the move – organise pizzas to be delivered to save you time and effort. Since all your glassware will be packed, you may also like to buy some bottled water for everyone helping to keep them hydrated throughout the day. Plan a super easy dinner on night one (we always have take-away) so you don’t have to worry about cooking (or finding plates and cutlery!) Decide what are your non-negotiable unpack items. Do you need to have medications easily accessible or do you want everyone sleeping in an assembled bed? Do you want all large furniture items in place before the day is done? Once the highest-priority items are unpacked anything else is extra. For us, we always have one ‘manager’ at each house on move day.

If the thought of unpacking seems overwhelming to you and you’re worried you’ll unpack in a rush and put things in all the wrong places, you may benefit from hiring a professional organiser to join you in unpacking. The benefit of having a professional is that we can instinctively guide where the best places to keep items will be. Helping people unpack in a new house is so rewarding because we know it will save them time and money in the long term by getting it right from the beginning.

Final Details

One of our best pieces of advice is to have a grocery delivery made to your new house the day after your big move. Coles & Woolworths both have delivery to most suburbs and by having them scheduled to deliver even just the basics you’ll settle more quickly into normal routine in your new house.

Cleaning of the old house is a job that most people dread… so don’t do it! Pay someone else to do it who won’t also be trying to unpack and settle in their new home. If you can’t afford a professional cleaning service, consider hiring someone you know who might like to earn some extra money.

I hope that these tips and tricks from us will help make your next move smoother and more enjoyable. You may not end up loving moving house as much as we do, but you may come to dread it a little less 🙂 Enjoy the Freedom!

Amy and Kirsty are the owners of The Art of Decluttering, a leading Professional Organising business in Australia and host of the hugely popular podcast of the same name. As well as physically decluttering with clients, the mindset and habit changes that Amy & Kirsty teach are life transformational and will change the way your home runs forever.


Story shared from Genworth’s It’s My Home magazine.

Photo by lassedesignen