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Bring or fling: 4 ways to downsize before a move

(Warning: This article may be disturbing for hoarders; please read with caution)

For most people, a new house is cause for great excitement and hopeful anticipation. The act of moving, however, lies somewhere between ‘root canal’ and ‘sleeping at the airport’ on the long list of life’s undesirable activities. One of the more agonizing aspects of changing locations is sorting through every possession big and small to determine what gets thrown away and what makes the cut for permanent residency at the new address. The conflict that results—internally and with one’s significant other—can be brutally disruptive, introducing a high degree of inefficiency that can bring your packing efforts to a grinding halt.

Consider the rules below in order to avoid this common moving malady; they’ll relieve the tension between your right and left brains, not to mention between you and your sweet petunia.

Opportunity knocks

Moving is a wonderful opportunity to declutter, especially if you have kids. Toys accumulate more diabolically than anything, and the chaos of the move introduces a big window for their mysterious disappearance. As a parent, you know what toys and stuffed animals your child can’t do without. Everything else can be grouped into that ever-accurate idiom, ‘Out of sight, out of mind’. A miscalculation may put you in the parental doghouse for a spell, but the tradeoff of actually being able to see the floor will be well worth it.

Reality vs. Frugality

Since moving can introduce high levels of stress to you and your family, it is usually in your best interest to make certain economic sacrifices in order to preserve sanity. For instance, consider the 10 year-old outdoor grill with a defunct burner and rusted cover. Sure, it still technically works, but since you’re buying a new house with a beautiful wood deck, it’s probably time to consider buying a new grill, even if it’s an expense that you don’t absolutely need to incur. Put the old one in the alley, not the moving truck, and say a fond farewell after offering thanks for a decade of tasty T-bones and killer kabobs.

Giving is living

Altruism is an effective antidote for personal stress, so when life gives you a U-Haul, make a trip to the Salvation Army. Before packing the truck with the stuff you want to keep, pack it with everything else and bring it to a donation center to benefit the less fortunate. Of course you can also simply barf all of your unwanteds onto the curbside for neighborhood scavengers, though the warm and fuzzy factor is considerably less in this scenario.

Clearly define memento

Life is full of meaningful memories and illuminating experiences, and as a way of holding on to them, we collect stuff. Whether it’s a trinket, t-shirt or tapestry, physical objects trigger the internal time machine that recreates—however fleetingly—those grand events and encounters, eliciting the sights, sounds and sensations that define each nostalgic segment of our grey matter. The problem is that we typically take more than one piece of each experience with us, and often they end up in a box in the basement or tucked away in a corner of the closet, never seeing the light of day until it’s time to move. In effect, these items become dead weight, making the endless search for space more difficult than it needs to be. When going through the knickknacks of your past, a few key considerations should determine whether they go in the box or in the trash:

  • If there is more than one memento from a particular experience, keep the one that represents it best and discard the rest.
  • Decide if the memento will have a realistic display area in your new home. If not, don’t waste the time and space.
  • Posterity may come into play, so there’s nothing wrong with storing mementos for one day reminiscing with your kids. But the shot glasses from Tijuana? They can probably go.

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